Consultations are oftentimes done well. They have the information, it is presented clearly, no decision has been made by the council beforehand and real options are given. Sufficient copies of the consultation are produced in paper form, and online, and it is well-publicised with a long enough period to allow everyone with an interest to, well, actually be consulted. Then, on the other hand, we have councils – and, of course, others – who appear to think that the best way to consult is to put their proposals in the hardest to understand terms possible, with the rosiest picture of the end result given, and, presumably, a firm hope that everyone will be fooled. Sometimes it is also abundantly clear that minds have been made up beforehand. These organisations, it can appear to the disinterested observer, make a travesty of the consultation protest and are doing it only to pay lip service to their legal obligations.

For an example of a consultation done badly, you need look no further than LiveWire in Warrington who have made their consultation so flowery that one needs a deep critical analysis to actually understand what is being proposed. The sad fact is that, of course, in the end, no-one is fooled by these exercises in public relations. If they’re fooled at the time then they’re jolly well not fooled when the library they’ve gone to for years suddenly has a padlock on it. For instance, compare the LiveWire papers with the newspaper report which makes it clear at least five branches are under threat (I actually think it’s seven, by the way: five possibly to volunteers and two are being turned just into book drops). Indeed, it only causes more anger amongst those who care for the service and make it harder for them to have a reasonable dialogue which, considering LiveWire want to pass five libraries to volunteers, is not a sensible thing for them to have done. These pseudo-consultations are almost anti-public relations.  They make everyone dislike and distrust whoever writes them.

So, if you’re looking to cut your library service soon, please tell the public that. Make sure people understand why you’re doing it and what the real options are, not just the ones you fancy. Use clear language. Give the public the respect they deserve (they pay your wages after all) and, who knows, something good may come of it.  They may actually come up with ideas that can help or make such a fuss that you realise how important that library is to the local people. Because, you do want to know that, don’t you?  You don’t want to be thought to be deceiving them or discounting them, do you? Do you?


National news

  • Libraries Change Lives 2016 shortlist announced – CILIP. “Those of us who visit libraries will know the benefits of time out with a good book, but increasingly public libraries are showing their capacity to encourage public health and wellbeing. The 2016 shortlist for the annual CILIP award for best practice in UK library services recognises library services that are reaching people in the community to help people self-manage their heath conditions and actively promote a healthy way of life.”. Shortlist is Norfolk with Healthy Lives, Renfrewshire with Skoobmobile (mobile library for early year’s wellbeing), Sefton with recording memories of those in care homes.
  • Stronger, more resilient communities: how libraries deliver – Libraries Taskforce. “Below is the icon we have created to symbolise this outcome.” Examples include Coventry celebrating diversity, Northampton community activities, Middlesbrough library/community centre, Sheffield awareness days for local groups.
  • V for Volunteer – a dystopian reality – A Medley of Extemporanea. Dawn Finch interviews an anonymous museum volunteer who makes clear that volunteering, without support, is deeply problematic. Numbers of volunteers are severely down over a few years as people discover it’s real work or go off to do something else, council fails to support. Volunteer thinks best thing to have done, had they of known what they do today, would be to have campaigned harder to keep paid staff. Questions long-term future of museum, how repairs will be funded and thinks they will need to introduce charging soon.

International news

  • USA – Could ‘big data’ have saved ancient civilizations and can it save us? SAP Community Network. “There is such an abundance of data that we don’t yet know if it will actually hinder us more than help us. We could be suffering from debilitating information overload. Big data and digital technology is moving us into totally unchartered territory. We’re just beginning to understand how we can use all that data to improve the world and human lives. Rather than just feeling smug about its ability to help us live better, we have to also be wary of following a path of self-destruction. We can’t simply dismiss doomsday believers as “negative” or “gloomy” thinkers.”.  Looks at ancient examples of loss of data.
  • USA – Late UNH librarian leaves $4 million to school he worked at for almost 50 years – Boston.com. “Late University of New Hampshire librarian and alumnus Robert Morin spent almost 50 years of his life cataloging books, writing short descriptions of DVDs, and entering ISBN numbers of CDs at the Durham campus’s Dimond Library. Morin, who died last year at the age of 77, was known to “live simply,” so few knew he had quietly amassed a $4 million estate.”

Local news by authority

  • Argyll and Bute – Julia Donaldson writes to Sturgeon in ‘dismay’ over librarian cuts – Herald Scotland. “Julia Donaldson cautioned against a decision to remove the librarian at Oban High School, in Argyll and Bute, to budget constraints writing of her “dismay” after learning of the move from distressed pupils. The pupils wrote to the author pleading with her to intervene prompting an open letter from the former Children’s Laureate to Nicola Sturgeon, also know to be an avowed book lover.” see also Julia Donaldson protests to Nicola Sturgeon about axing of school librarians – Guardian and Donaldson criticises school library cuts in Scotland – BookSeller.
  • Darlington – Library report – Darlington Council. “It is now clear that what had been previously described as a covenant in the statutory declaration more accurately should have been a reference that Crown Street was held on trust for the purposes of a public library.” … “It is officers’ view that while the legal challenge is defendable, given the risks, expense and delay created by litigation and the developing situation since June, a more considered response is to continue the development of the proposals for the Dolphin Centre, carry out further focussed consultation on the service in this location and then for a more detailed report to be presented to members. At the same time the Cabinet as trustee can meet to consider the implications should the library service relocate to the Dolphin Centre and the future of the Crown Street building.”
  • Darlington – Plans to close Darlington library may be ‘set aside’ following legal challenge – Northern Echo.  “Borough Council has announced plans to “set aside” their contentious decision to close Crown Street Library. On the day the authority was due to respond to a legal challenge in relation to the historic library, a lengthy statement was issued saying a “fresh decision” would be made in around three months. Councillors attending a cabinet meeting next week (Tuesday, September 13), are set to approve the proposal to postpone the relocation of the library to the Dolphin Centre.” … “Although the Council is confident that it has grounds on which to defend the legal challenge, it is keen to avoid the substantial cost to the public purse a full judicial review hearing would incur and the delay that would be caused. In light of the issues relating to the Crown Street building and the threat of a judicial review, together with the planned further consultation, it is being recommended that Cabinet members set aside the decisions made in relation to the library service.”
  • Gateshead – Gateshead’s libraries should not be run by ‘amateur’ volunteers, campaigners say – Chronicle Live. “It was suggested by cost-cutting Gateshead councillors that libraries across the borough could be staffed by volunteers. But anti-closure protesters say volunteers are “amateurs” without training or experience, and that the facilities need to be properly staffed.”. Consultation running until October 8th.
  • Herefordshire – Library campaign group says fewer people are using libraries due to cut in hours – Ledbury Reporter. “Joint Action for Herefordshire Libraries (JAHL), which represents library users throughout the county, recently submitted a Freedom of Information request to find out how Herefordshire Council cuts have had an impact on library opening hours. It revealed that ten years ago libraries around the county opened for more than 407 hours a week but by 2015/16 they only opened for 253 hours, a drop of nearly 40 per cent.”
  • Lancashire – Councillor slams building closure consultation as ‘a sham’ – 2BR. “Conservative Councillor Terry Hill, who is also Ward Councillor for Whalley, believes the planned closure of more than 100 buildings in Lancashire was decided, even before the consultation went live. He’s shared his views in response to the closure of Whalley Library. He claims the decisions have been made with political motives, and that most of the libraries and children’s centres earmarked for closure are in non-labour areas.”
  • Lancashire – Show support for libraries plea from campaigner Jane – Lancashire Evening Post. Library user “protesting outside county hall in Preston and is urging members of the public to attend two key county council meetings to show the strength of feeling against proposed library closures.” … “Jane, who organised a Save Our Library petition which gained nearly 4,000 signatures, said: “The more members of the public who want to attend or watch the meetings on webcam at 2pm the better.”
  • Lincolnshire – Uncertain future for Caistor Arts & Heritage Centre – Market Rasen Mail. “After receiving a Big Lottery grant of £430,000, the creation of Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre was one of six projects featured in the BBC’s Village SOS programme to revitalise rural communities.It is one of only two of the projects still running, but now the future is looking uncertain. “.  Lacks funding.
  • Pembrokeshire – Go digital at Pembrokeshire libraries – Tenby Observer. First Click.
  • Pembrokeshire – Power to approve £3.4m library, gallery and cafe in Haverfordwest granted – Western Telegraph. “The site will become home to the new county library, art and exhibition gallery, play and learn facilities, a tourist information centre, and coffee shop” … “The new library will feature a number of glazed reading pods which will extend onto the overhanging walkway by the river. ” … “The £3.4m scheme, supported by Welsh Government funding of £285,000, will feature a ‘ground-breaking’ partnership with the National Library of Wales. “
  • Staffordshire – Staffordshire libraries get Great War puppy book exclusive – Leek Post and Times. “Now, following a kind donation of 20 copies of the book by The Friends of Cannock Chase, Staffordshire Library Service now has additional copies in all its libraries.”
  • Wakefield – Library closes for refurbishment after asbestos find – Wakefield Express. “Wakefield Council planned to shut Ossett Library on September 10 for nine weeks whilst refurbishment work took place. But it brought forward the closure after the asbestos was found during preparatory work.”
  • Warrington – Fate of town’s libraries uncertain after public consultation launched – Warrington Guardian. 30-day consultation, “Since 2010, library visits have decreased by an average of 32 per cent at all libraries in Warrington with the exception of integrated hub libraries in Orford and Woolston which have seen visits increase by an average of 96 per cent over the last six years. ” … “The company will spend this month speaking to residents about plans to shut libraries in Stockton Heath, Penketh, Lymm, Culcheth, Warrington Town Centre and Padgate. “
  • Warrington – Libraries / Modernisation Consultation / Proposals Warrington Livewire. “The 30 day public consultation into the proposed changes to their library and learning offer in Warrington will run from 5th September until 4th October. The neighbourhood wellbeing company has had success in increasing participation and memberships in integrated library sites since it took over the management of 11 libraries in Warrington in 2012, but stand-alone library sites have continued to see a decline in lending and memberships in line with the national trend. Since 2010, library visits have decreased by an average of 32% at all libraries in Warrington with the exception of integrated hub libraries in Orford and Woolston which have seen visits increase by an average of 96% over the last six years. As a result of this and funding cuts to library services from central government, LiveWire and Warrington Borough Council are looking at alternative ways to improve library and learning provision so it is cost effective and more accessible.”