Suffolk Libraries, one of the poster boys of innovation in the UK, is facing a cut to its budget. I can imagine some would see this as a vindication of their dislike for libraries being run by a non-profit trust. I, however, see things differently. All authorities, or many of them, are facing such cuts and the news from the Autumn Statement appears to suggest that this is not going to change any time soon.  However, while council-controlled public library services have to just accept the cut and hope for public protests, Trusts can be a little more active in their defence and the news from Suffolk shows precisely this. No council library chief could comment in a way that the Chair of the Suffolk Libraries board has. This gives such Trusts more defences than a traditionally run service. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, especially if they’re Leisure-dominated and thus (at least in the case of Warrington LiveWire) seemingly ignorant about libraries and willing to sacrifice them to protect their leisure arm. And it doesn’t mean they’re always nice, as the staff at Devon Libraries Unlimited are discovering, with their Saturday enhancements being taken away. But Library- run Trusts do have their strong suits. And this is one of them.


National news

  • Alan Bennett interview: “One of the real regrets in my life is that I have never kept a donkey” – Big Issue. ” Bennett has been active in the campaign to save local libraries and a supporter of Occupy’s campers at St Paul’s. Education is the issue about which he’s most passionate. That students are “saddled with these enormous debts is just monstrous”. It is, he believes, “the mark of a civilised society that you do not think, who’s going to pay for my education?””
  • Nicola Sturgeon ‘dares’ kids to write reviews and leave them inside library books to encourage reading culture – Daily Record. “She met pupils who are taking part in the First Minister’s Reading Challenge, which aims to encourage reading for pleasure among P4-7s and support schools, libraries and communities to build “reading cultures”. Since its launch in September, 70 per cent of schools in Scotland have signed up to the Reading Challenge, with more than 180,000 reading passports for pupils already ordered.”
  • Nielsen LibScan Public Library borrowing data Period 9 (to 10 September 2016) – Nielsen.”Library loans for Period 9 of 2016 (ending 10 September) were down year-on-year by 18.5% overall. The total library loans during these 4 weeks was 5.6m. Unusually, it is the Children’s category which has suffered the most year-on-year with a decrease of 19.9% when compared with the 4 weeks to 5 September 2015. Total Children’s loans were 2.6m for Period 9 2016 against 3.2m in the equivalent period of 2015.
  • School libraries are a good thing: it’s official – Guardian. “This week, the children’s laureate Chris Riddell, backed by all eight former laureates, called on the Department for Education to stop the cost-cutting which has caused the loss of hundreds of school librarians who, he argued, “promote reading for pleasure”. As a parent, I want my children to simply enjoy reading and not worry about getting words wrong … given to 700,000 reception age children in England this term as part of the reading charity BookTrust’s Time to Read campaign to encourage parents to read with their children.”
  • Taxing questions for the chancellor to consider – Guardian. “We should be mortified that the UK ranks at the bottom of teenage literacy league tables among 23 developed nations. Our economic success hinges on a workforce with advanced skills, yet we are failing to develop basic literacy skills among young people. Public libraries provide everyone with equal opportunities to develop a love of reading, access books and develop vital literacy skills. Local economies receive £5 for £1 invested in library services. Yet since 2010, more than 340 libraries have closed and a quarter of librarians have lost their jobs. Addressing the UK’s literacy and skills crisis is critical in order to deliver economic growth and provide greater equality of opportunities and improved life chances for all. We call on the chancellor in the autumn statement to provide local authorities with emergency relief funding for public libraries on a needs-assessed basis as a matter of urgency”. Various Lords have signed the letter.

International news

Local news by authority

  • Barnsley – Libraries review – Barnsley Council. “The first stage of the review is a six week period of engagement in October and November 2016. This will help us to understand your needs. Tell us how you use libraries and what will be important to you in the future. We have a statutory responsibility to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for local people, but in the context of changing demands, advancing technology and reducing budgets there is a need for change in coming years.”
  • Bristol – Big decisions tough choices – Bristol Council. “People have high expectations and often care greatly about associating a specific service with a specific building, such as ‘My Library’. We can’t afford gold-level services or to keep all our assets” … “we must move away from a preference on dedicating buildings like libraries and community centres for single services. This may mean more community hubs with mixed uses and more access to convenient online services, rather than keeping all our library and Citizen Service Point buildings.”

“People have high expectations and often care greatly about associating a specific service with a specific building, such as ‘My Library’. We can’t afford gold-level services or to keep all our assets” – Bristol Council describes having a standalone local library as “gold-level”.

  • Bristol – Corporate Strategy – Bristol Council. “We will be exploring options such as: • Community groups to run local community hubs which include library services; Running some services from shared buildings; Developing an alternative model to run the remaining Bristol City Council owned libraries as a Trust or a Mutual; The level of savings will depend on the approach taken.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Chester Library drop-in sessions will reveal more about its new home – Chester Chronicle. “Residents are invited to drop-in sessions to find out more about the exciting changes taking place with Chester Library between now and the opening of Storyhouse – the new £37m theatre, cinema and library space.” … “Visitors will be able to find out more about the new Storyhouse library including the dedicated children’s library, complete with an arts/crafts messy play area and a storytelling room; dedicated family and local history section; improved digital facilities and services; flexible event spaces; increased opening hours and opportunities to get involved.”
  • Devon – Developers’ boost to help with library move – View News. “Friends of Ottery Library have received a welcome boost after receiving £1,000 towards the imminent relocation. The donation came from house builders Persimmon Homes, who gave the money to help the library move from its current location to the former NatWest building which is currently being renovated. The library has been in its current spot since the 1970s but does not have wheelchair or pushchair access and has inadequate space for books.”
  • Coventry – Budget: Coventry council admits it can no longer protect most vulnerable – Coventry Telegraph. “The city council will have shaved £650million from its spending in 2020 compared to 2010 as £120m of central government funding is pulled as a result of national austerity measures.” … “These latest cuts follow the news that hundreds of children with physical disabilities and learning difficulties face cuts to school transport, while library provision is also set to be massively cut”

““If austerity continues, we will only be able to deliver statuary services by 2020.” I think this means “statutory”, which would be amusing, it wasn’t so terrifying – Ed.

  • Edinburgh – Final mystery book sculpture settles at Edinburgh Central Library – Edinburgh Council. “Created by an anonymous sculptor, the Butterfly Tree and the Lost Child is one of numerous intricate artworks to have appeared around Edinburgh over the last five years. The 2m tall tree, accompanied by a small paper child holding a book, features butterfly-shaped leaves made by members of the public from as far afield as Spain, Greece and the US, contributed after the artist made a call-out for donations. First unveiled at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (external link) in August, the work has been donated to the Central Library, where it will be kept on permanent display on the windowsill of the staircase leading to the Reference Library.”
  • Essex – Libraries across Essex to support the Big Knit – Essex TV. “Residents can help this year’s fundraising drive by joining Knit and Natter groups at libraries across Essex, knitting mini woolly hats in aid of Age UK Essex. Teaming with drinks brand Innocent, each hat donated will be placed on a bottle of Innocent Smoothie and sold, with 25p going to Age UK Essex. The deadline for contributions to the 2016/2017 campaign is Friday, 20 January, with the aim of beating last year total of 11,000 hats.”
  • Essex – Library to reduce opening hours – council calls on volunteers to help secure its future – Maldon Standard. “Writtle library will be operating reduced hours from this Friday 25 November. The changes come following a decision by the Post Office to move their service elsewhere in the village. Cllr Brown, Cabinet Member responsible for libraries at Essex County Council said: “Following the Post Office’s decision to move their counter away from the shared building, we will be changing the opening hours to ensure we can continue to man the building six days a week.”
  • Lancashire – LettersBlackpool Gazette. “Coun Fail and his colleagues point out their need to maintain statutory obligations … It seems odd, therefore, that they are closing libraries all over Lancashire when they have a statutory obligation to provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service” under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. Coun Fail’s comment that an “adequate service level” is being maintained, is I suggest, not a satisfactory statement to those users of Thornton, Cleveleys, Northfleet, Frackleton, Lytham and other libraries that have now closed. “
  • Liverpool – Opera exhibit in tune at Central Library – JMU Journalism. “The world’s longest touring opera had a musical opening at Liverpool’s Central Library in ‘The Carl Rosa Opera Company’ exhibition this weekend” … “Music graduates and students from Liverpool Hope University performed recitals on the opening day of the exhibition.”
  • Pembrokeshire – Library set to continue to open – County Echo. “St Davids Library is to continue opening on Saturday mornings until the end of January, thanks to its team of volunteers. The library has been opening on Saturdays between 10am and noon since the beginning of the summer holidays, in addition to its normal hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The trial will extend until 28 January and a decision on whether to continue will be made later. George Edwards, library operations manager for North Pembrokeshire, said the extra hours had received strong support from the community and St Davids City Council.”
  • Scottish Borders – Job cull looms at Live Borders – Peebleshire News. ” charitable trust which, just six months ago, took control of the museums, libraries, community centres and public halls previously run by Scottish Borders Council is seeking to cut its 400-strong workforce in a bid to save cash. Live Borders, which also operates 14 major sports facilities including six swimming pools, is inviting staff to apply for voluntary severance or early retirement deals.”
  • Sheffield – Chinese plan to turn Sheffield Central Library into five star hotel Star. “Should the project go ahead, the Graves Gallery would remain, most likely moving to the ground floor, but the council would move the library service to a more modern home elsewhere in the city centre. The council says that, without using the money from China, it would need to spend around £30 million of taxpayers’ money to revamp the building to 21st century standards.  Sichuan Guodong’s plans for a £30 million residential development off West Bar, near Aizlewood’s Mill, along with an education partnership and trade deals with two Chinese cities have also been revealed in a report ahead of a cabinet meeting on November 30.”
  • Suffolk – Suffolk Libraries face £230,000 budget cut as bosses call for more public support to save all 44 branches – Ipswich Star. “Suffolk Libraries could face a £230,000 reduction to their budget from Suffolk County Council (SCC) in 2017/18. Its current budget of £6.14million has already fallen from £8.9m in 2010/11. Library bosses last night reiterated a commitment to not closing any of the 44 libraries in Suffolk or reducing opening hours. But they admitted they would need more of the public’s “extraordinary” support to retain services.” … “Under the proposals, the library budget would fall to £5.91m – a 34% fall since 2010/11.” see also Fresh fears over future of libraries as Suffolk County Council budget cut proposals revealedBury Free Press.

“We pledged to work constructively with the council on the longer-term future of the county’s library service and offered them a plan in June in which we suggested ways we could save money over a longer period, and which would allow us to keep library opening hours intact,” he said.“Five months later, it’s disappointing to see that the council’s budget proposals do not reflect the alternative plans we presented. The larger sums required will almost certainly mean we can’t carry on providing the library service in the same way.” Tony Brown, Chair of Suffolk Libraries Board [saying things no chief librarian in a council could say – Ed.]

  • West Berkshire – Library campaigners warn: ‘Don’t be fooled’ by consultation – Newbury Today. “Campaigners fighting to save Hungerford Library have urged residents not to fall into what they perceive as a district council trap. The public has been given three options to tick in the latest consultation and campaign leaders fear that being tempted to tick the least bad of these would count as a de facto vote in favour of a purely volunteer-led service. West Berkshire Council recently opened the second public consultation following the completion of a needs assessment by consultant Red Quadrant. Option A states that, while Newbury Library would remain, the other seven branch libraries would be run by staff working alongside community volunteers. A campaign spokeswoman, Helen Simpson, said: “Option B would leave two branch libraries with a single member of employed staff supported by volunteers, the rest solely run by volunteers. “Option C would leave seven branch libraries run solely by volunteers…” … ““We are saying tick none of the boxes on offer because the council will be expecting you to choose option A.””
  • Wigan – £1.4m cuts need to be made to borough’s library services – Leigh Journal. “the libraries consultation, which launched last Monday, aims to find ways to improve the current service and make it more efficient and effective for the future. Libraries have been shutting all over the country but all 15 in the borough have remained open and the council says it is not proposing to close any. It added that ‘careful spending decisions and listening to resident feedback’ has enabled it to ‘retain vital services’ such as libraries and school crossing patrols. But the council admits it needs to make cuts of £1.4 million for the borough’s library services to continue.”