In an interesting piece, the chief executive of the Tinder Foundation – which is deeply involved with libraries – suggests that some libraries should close if they are not doing a good job at being community hubs. I’m going to doubtless cause shock and heart attacks from some of the readership of this blog (so if you’re of a nervous disposition, look away now) by agreeing to some extent.  Some libraries are in the wrong place or are too little used. Times change, places change and library provision should change too.

However – and you just knew that was coming – there is a world of difference between such cases and those libraries which are only not fulfilling a vital role in their community due to progressive hollowing out over the years. Just have a read of the shameful case of Birmingham’s Sutton Coldfield Library described below by a user who emailed me its story. Or have a look at the repeated deep cuts to the book-fund of Warrington’s libraries that is now being used by the trust running them, LiveWire, to justify closing them rather than seek equal cuts to other services it provides. Many libraries which are fighting closure, or are looking worriedly at their usage figures, are that way due to have successive cuts to their funding, to their staffing, to their maintenance, to book-fund or to their opening hours.  In such cases, the guilty party is most definitely not the library and they should be supported to the hilt.



  • Bookbenches – to encourage reading and library presence in towns.

National news

  • Amazon – how can you compete? – CILIP. “Well, you can’t. So don’t. Why bother competing on shipping when the book your customer wants is only 5 minutes walk away? Why compete on range when your customer only wants good books that they will love? Why compete on price when you can offer something no one else has? There are lots of things that Amazon can’t or don’t do: discovery, community, curation, trust, rarity, immediacy – a list of things that libraries happen to be very good at.”
  • Books on Prescription: How bibliotherapy can help save your practice time and money – Reading Agency / National Association of Primary Care . 17 page booklet. “It outlines the evidence-base for bibliotherapy as a model of treatment, how this model fits with the greater emphasis on social prescribing, and provides data to show how Reading Well has helped a great number of people already” … “Along with The Reading Agency, the NAPC is exploring ways whereby pilot sites across England can start to critically measure the full impact on the welfare and wellbeing of patients with mild to moderate mental health problems who are referred through to this scheme. This represents a new type of integration within our community: an association between public services which has rarely previously existed.”
  • Boots once had a library – Skegness Standard. “My recently published book, Lipsticks and Library Books, tells the story of these libraries and recounts many entertaining anecdotes from former staff and customers”
  • Scotland’s Man Booker contender speaks out over library cuts – Scotsman. “Graeme Macrae Burnet described them as an “incredibly valuable resource” which should never be seen as an “added extra” when public services are targeted for savings.The Ayrshire writer, shortlisted for Britain’s most prestigious literary prize with only his second novel, said he owed his interest in books to his local library in Kilmarnock. He revealed that he chooses to work in Glasgow’s libraries rather than from home to try to avoid any distractions and said they were providing an increasingly vital role for local communities.”
  • Where’s Wally? Fun Run 2017 – Literacy Trust. “Join hundreds of others to walk, jog or run your way around Clapham Common, dressed as the well-loved children’s character Wally, and help disadvantaged children gain the literacy skills and confidence they need to succeed. “
  • Why some libraries should close – Tinder Foundation. “Tinder Foundation’s Chief Executive, Helen Milner, explains: “I agree with the view that we must protect essential services, knowledge and education for those most disadvantaged in our communities. I agree there is a wider, long-term impact if we don’t. I don’t agree that libraries should receive an automatic ‘get out of austerity-free’ card, merely on the grounds of being libraries.””

“In face of less and less money, we need to consider that those libraries need to close. It’s time funding was channelled to the libraries – and other community organisations – really playing the role of community hubs … I love libraries. But I love them when they’re fulfilling their potential. When they are not, I believe they are bringing the institution down.” Helen Milner, Chief Executive, Tinder Foundation.

  • Why Tom the librarian reaches the parts other librarians cannot reach – ITV. “Tom Colloff drives a mobile library van around Harlow in Essex lending books to people who cannot get to regular libraries. Tom received the ‘Mobile Library Champion of the Year’ award, in part for efforts to build relationships with people living at the local Women’s Refuge. Cllr Anne Brown, of Essex County Council, said: “Mobile libraries are only as good as the people who deliver the service, and in Tom we have someone who embodies excellence – the ability to adapt and tailor the service to meet the needs of different communities, the dedication to become a part of the Harlow community, and the deep understanding that for some the mobile library is a lifeline.””

International news

  • Canada – Fight to keep library open continues for Fogo Islanders – CBC News. “People on Fogo Island will have to travel 11 hours — including a ferry trip — to borrow a book if their library closes. The Fogo Island library was one of 54 libraries slated to be closed when the province announced back in April it would be closing more than half of Newfoundland and Labrador’s public libraries.”
  • Eire – Galway libraries may face future without staff – Connacht Tribune. “A public meeting has been called for Monday in response to the move to roll out an unstaffed pilot project taking place in three libraries in Offaly and Sligo to Ballinasloe and Oranmore libraries.” … County librarians says ““There’s a bit of a misconception about this with people thinking it will lead to unstaffed libraries. It’s to add extra hours. It doesn’t mean we’re going to reduce staff,”. Local poet says ““The spin is that this hare-brained scheme does not affect staffing levels. Balderdash. Surely the whole psychology behind it is to cut costs by getting rid of library staff.”
  • New Zealand – Deborah Hill Cone: Library cost-cuts cultural vandalism – New Zealand Herald. Auckland: “Who knew the “improvements” people wanted from libraries were to cut jobs and opening hours? The council has just announced it is cutting more than 50 library jobs before Christmas, shutting 31 libraries between Christmas and New Year for the first time and making staff work at two or more libraries. Excuse me while I find a soft spot to have a rage seizure.”
  • USA – Falling Short of Their Profession’s Needs – Inside Higher Ed. “In recent decades, library and information studies have focused on the information that libraries provide, shortchanging other key roles they play” … “until LIS educators teach library reading and library as place in their professional programs at the core level, and until LIS researchers ask questions about what users learn from their interaction with libraries and determine how that learning fits into their everyday lives, both are addressing only a fraction of what libraries actually do for their patrons. And both are falling short of their profession’s needs.”

Local news by authority

“… I live in Sutton Coldfield and this is a classic example of a vibrant library being gradually reduced so greatly in terms of stock, space and staffing that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that usage has fallen. Of course it is an affluent area, except that if one looks closely there is a part of the population that is not, the affluent bit is Four Oaks and Mere Green which will continue to  be served by Mere Green Library ( though to a a lesser extent, as this is a much smaller facility and narrower range of stock).

So the centre, to which there are good public transport links and where people can combine a visit with other purposes in the centre, will not be served.  A suggestion (by a local councillor) is to put it in the Town Hall, itself a real issue at the moment anyway in terms of management, repairs and running costs, but this is out on a limb and with no decent links except the railway (buses and car parking more important, I would say) and goodness knows how anyone thinks this could work without massive alterations to that building.  This would not be the right kind of shared service anyway.

And guess what, Sutton Coldfield  library was closed for ages when asbestos was discovered, then finally re-furbished and re-opened though it has been reduced in size – removal of reference library and separate exhibition space which was hired out as well as offering a good space for children’s activities – and massive reduction in stock, not only general reference (inevitable) but the excellent music library (recordings and scores) and the local studies collection and of course fiction and non-fiction lending across the board.

So no thought as to why the reduction in use has happened nor forward planning when it was closed. The centre where it is situated is clearly expensive and needs a commercial concern paying rent there, but the library should share facilities in another town centre venue as part of the shopping centre.  So it is good that the BID is getting interested at least.

Birmingham – Extract of email received by Public Libraries News on the proposed closure of Sutton Coldfield Library.

  • Buckinghamshire – Chalfont St Giles Library celebrates its 50th birthday in style… with a cake and balloons – Get Bucks. “The County ran the library from 1966 until November 2006 when it was closed together with seven other small County libraries. With village support the Friends of the Library re-opened the library with volunteers in January 2007.” … Volunteer chairman says “Last Saturday we had many well wishers into the library, most of whom enjoyed a slice of our 50th birthday cake. Overall I’m optimistic for the library’s future. “”
  • East Riding of Yorkshire – Future of library service and multi-service centres – ERYC statement – HU12. “We have listened to people’s views,” says Darren Stevens, head of culture and information at the council. If agreed, the recommendations will save the council around £1.2 million, from the combined library and customer service budgets. According to the council statement, the savings would be achieved without closing a single library or multi-service centre or the mobile library service.” … ” the Cabinet is being asked to consider three recommendations: Retaining a library or multi-service centre in every town and larger village in the East Riding but with reduced opening hours; Retaining a mobile library service across the East Riding but with a reduced level of service; Retaining both libraries in Bridlington, but reducing the opening hours.”
  • Herefordshire – Council to explore whether relocation of Leominster Library would be ‘financially viable’ and useful to community – Ledbury Reporter. “A business case will be developed to see whether the relocation of Leominster Library to an extended leisure centre is ‘financially viable’ and useful to the community. That was one of the developments agreed by councillors last week when they also pledged to maintain opening hours at county libraries while investing in them to bring them up to date. Last week’s cabinet meeting heard consideration will be given to the possibility of relocating Leominster’s Library to the town’s leisure centre.”
  • Manchester – Iconic BookBenches heading to Manchester to inspire a city of readers – Manchester City Council. “As part of Manchester City Council’s Read Manchester campaign with the National Literacy Trust, benches shaped like open books will be decorated by local schools and community groups, and displayed in public venues to help spark the city’s interest in reading. The year-long Read Manchester campaign was launched back in June this year in partnership with the National Literacy Trust, and with the backing of Coronation Street actress Jennie McAlpine who joined youngsters at the launch in Manchester Central Library to see one of the BookBenches for herself.”
  • Powys – Authors condemn plans to shut Hay-on-Wye library – BookSeller. “Authors including Joanne Harris, Kathy Lette and Robert Harris have slammed proposals to shut the library in Hay-on-Wye as “blasphemous” and “disastrously short sighted”.”
  • Powys – Exclusive: British authors condemn ‘blasphemous’ library closure in Hay, the ‘town of books’ – I. “The UK-based Australian novelist Kathy Lette branded the threat to close Hay library “blasphemous”. “How can the country which gave the world its greatest literary giants…keep closing libraries, let alone in a town famous for the literati?” the author asked. “Keep this up and you’ll become a nation of the illiterati,” she warned”
  • Sheffield – Volunteers need a chance – Star / Letters. “Our volunteer run library holds a weekly event where adults can drop in for a chat and take part in craft activities. His librarians sign post homeless people or people who run the risk of eviction or have health problems to the appropriate services for help. We volunteers can do this by finding out where the help is and advising them where to receive the help, we have telephones and the internet and we have done this.”
  • Somerset – North Petherton library cuts prevented – This is the West Country. “it has been agreed that North Petherton Library will retain its current level of service and opening hours. It took several meetings between County Council officials and members of North Petherton Town Council to reach the agreement, but Cllr Bill Revans said he was delighted with the outcome. Cllr Revans said: “It is brilliant that we have been able to” … “The library will also now act as an information hub for the Town Council, in return for our financial support.”
  • Walsall – Walsall council seeks to close all but one of its 16 libraries – Guardian. “The council fully appreciates that the Art Gallery and libraries are much-loved by those that use them however, like many councils across the country this authority can’t ignore the fact that savings have to be made. This is why we will be consulting with our public on all the budget options. No final decisions have yet been made, nor will they until we have listened to our residents, service users and partners alike to find the best available options for these services.” … “A petition protesting against the closure of the art gallery and libraries, which says that shutting them down “will destroy the atmosphere of many surrounding communities”, has already been signed by almost 2,500 people.”
  • Warrington – Library closures will make town a ‘national laughing stock’ says Latchford author – Warrington Guardian. “Award-winning writer Gill Hoffs said that after Warrington was named as the worst town for culture in the country by the Royal Society of Arts last year it would be foolish to get rid of our libraries too. ” .. “Now LiveWire are trying to do this – have they learnt absolutely nothing? They’re looking to make Warrington a national laughing stock rather than a jewel in the north west.” “
  • Westminster – CILIP urges Westminster to rethink library cuts – BookSeller. “The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has called on Westminster City Council to halt proposed cuts to the library budget of £750,000 a year “until a proper public consultation has been carried out”. The plans will see the equivalent of 17 and a half full-time staff roles lost. In an open letter, Nick Poole, the c.e.o. of librarians body CILIP, has written to Westminster Council chief executive Charlie Parker with concerns about the proposals and the impact it will have on communities and the local economy. Poole expressed his “profound concern” about the proposals, arguing that the libraries in Westminster are “some of the best in the country, helping 140,000 people to set up a new business, [and] tackle social isolation and exclusion”. He added that the libaries are “cultural beacons in their communities providing space for exhibitions and performances, access to reading and unique archives”.”