The libraries minister has visited Lancashire to have a look at the library closures by that council. It’s a Labour controlled council and I understand the closures were all in Conservative-controlled areas so that may have been a factor as well as the anger of public who felt that the consultation was one in name only.  Reports of his visit are widely differing, with some thinking that he’ll step in while the council itself has apparently used it as an opportunity to show off how “comprehensive and efficient” they still are.  They’re also still happily selling the already-closed library buildings.  Soft or hard, his visit is the first real test in terms of how interventionist or not this minister will be.  We’ll know soon enough.

One of the most botched proposed cuts to library services by leisure/library trust LiveWire, coupled with one of the angriest and loudest responses by library users, has been in Warrington over the last few months.  I know from colleagues that it is being used almost as a case study in how not to do it.  I’m therefore delighted to see that these cuts looks like they’re going to be reversed, with Warrington Central Library staying open (the original plans was for the magnificent Victorian building to be closed and the library service moved into – yes – an ex shoe shop) and several branches which had been slated as being replaced with book collection lockers (yes, lockers) staying open.  The devil is the detail, though, and nothing is confirmed as yet. Possibly ironically, last week, the protests started hitting the fan in Bath where the council released a similarly deceptive consultation about “modernising” its library (mainly by closing the big central library in the busiest part of town).  One hopes councils (and trusts) learn one day to be honest with the public about what they’re doing but there’s little sign so far.

Finally, one of the most amazing things to watch has been the difficult and acrimonious passage that Open+ and similar technologies have had in the Republic of Ireland.  Introduced with barely a whisper of complaint in the UK, all hell has apparently broken loose in Eire about it, with the latest being an ex-minster publicly calling the system “daft”. Meanwhile, in Wales, the Vale of Glamorgan announced last week they’re be introducing the technology, to a positive response so far in the press.


National news

  • 2016: The Year of Partnerships and Purpose – Society of Chief Librarians. “2016 has been a year of innovation and partnerships in public libraries. It never ceases to amaze me how much we achieve above and beyond expectations. We could fill pages with the work and successes of our Universal Offers this year alone, but in the spirit of one of my New Year resolutions I will keep this message short and sweet.” Includes Celebrating Shakespeare, Summer Reading Challenge, Reading Well, Taskforce and Cracking the Code.
  • Call for papers – CILIP. “It has never been more important to secure a positive future for the library, information and knowledge sector and the communities we serve. We will do this together by understanding the big future trends and planning how we can identify opportunities, successfully adapt and influence the outcome; and develop our skills and ability to innovate and create services that meet current and future needs. We want delegates to leave the CILIP conference with insight, inspiration and practical skills to positively secure the future.”
  • Let’s not be led any further up the garden bridge – Guardian. David Mitchell “Public libraries are closing. That’s the clincher for me. For others it might be the parlous state of the NHS, student tuition fees, or the ease of getting across the Thames with the currently available crossings. For me, it’s libraries. Probably because, like the bridge, they’re something some people argue are unnecessary: they say they’re used less, and that the internet renders them obsolete as a way of freely accessing knowledge.” … “Libraries symbolise a commitment to learning, community and equality that can no longer be taken for granted. At this dark, divided time, we need those symbols to stand, not be converted into flats. The price of a magic tree bridge could keep hundreds of them open for years. That realisation would spoil my enjoyment of a new, slightly leafier view of London’s river and its gleaming banks.”
  • Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group to re-launch – BookSeller. “Politicians across parliament are to assemble to re-establish the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) later this month, with support from librarians’ association CILIP. But while library campaigners have welcomed the move, some doubt that the group will implement “actual concrete action”. The Libraries APPG will work to provide information and opportunities for debate about the “important role libraries play in society and the economy”, when it relaunches on Tuesday 31st January. The group intends to “highlight the contribution that a wide variety of library and information services make”, including those in the public, school, government and health sector, colleges, private companies and university libraries, and promote and discuss themes in the wider information and knowledge sector including the impact of technology, skills and training, professional standards and broader issues.” [Includes comments from myself, Nick Poole and Desmond Clarke – Ed.].
  • Library cuts harm young people’s mental health services, warns lobby – Guardian. “Professional body Cilip highlights work helping troubled youngsters and warns that reduced funding will shunt problems on to NHS and police ” …”Public libraries’ significant role supporting the mental health of young people risks being undermined by swingeing budget cuts forced on local authorities, the head of their professional body warned this week. He added that, if funding is not protected, the work of libraries as frontline information resources for young people in need will be pushed on to the already overstretched police, health and social services. It is estimated that one in 10 UK children experience mental health problems, as do one in four adults. Nick Poole, head of the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals (Cilip) providers, told the Guardian that cuts to local library services would “continue to bite the availability of dedicated resources such as advice on anxiety, stress, exams and bullying”.
  • Reading between the lines: what’s going on with our libraries? – Unison. Looks at library cuts, moves to mutuals and pay reductions. Survey of local libraries included: “What is going on with your local library? Has it closed down? Are people campaigning to save it? Or is it going strong?
  • Sector forums: Taskforce Q&A and more workshops added – Libraries Taskforce. New sessions added on “Evidence-based, long-term and sustainable planning” and “Commissioning”.
  • Speak Up for Libraries Conference 2017 – Booking now open – Speak Up For Libraries. “On 18 February 2017 Speak Up for Libraries will be holding this year’s national conference on public libraries.  It will bring together library campaigners, union members, library users and library workers.”
  • Travelling Librarian Award – English-Speaking Union. £3000. “The Travelling Librarian Award builds relationships between library and information professionals in the UK and their counterparts in the US and across the Commonwealth. Participants undertake a professional development study tour to explore areas of their professional interest through visiting relevant libraries, information centres and associated agencies.”

International news

  • Eire – Mary O’Rourke on staffless libraries: ‘Whose daft idea was this?’ – Irish Times. “In an open letter, the former minister advises against cuts to a vital community resource” … “So what happens when there are staffless libraries? There is no conversation, there’s no exchange of views, there’s no hello, goodbye, how-are-you? There are none of the normal pleasantries that one goes through before you ever get to talk about a book with a librarian. ” … “I cannot see how this bodes well for the library system of Ireland. Of course county councils have to make cutbacks. We all understand that. But whoever said the cutbacks had to be expressed in the realm of staffless libraries? Whose daft idea was this? ” see response by minister at Staffless libraries ‘not there to replace workers’ – Simon Coveney – Irish Times.
  • USA – The 4-year-old girl who has read more than 1,000 books – Independent. “Now 4 years old, Daliyah has read more than 1,000 books and has managed to read certain college-level texts. And the preschooler’s skilled reading and passion for literature impressed even the leader of the nation’s library, Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress. On Wednesday, Hayden hosted Daliyah at the Library of Congress, giving the 4-year-old a chance to shadow her as “librarian for the day.” Wearing her glasses, pink dress and matching pink bow, Daliyah walked the sprawling hallways of the world’s largest library and sat in on executive roundtable meetings — as any high-profile librarian would do.”
  • USA – Libraries Join National Initiative To Transform Public Housing into Book-Rich Environments – School Library Journal. “families living in HUD-assisted housing, home to nearly four million children. The work will be done in partnership with public library branches, which will distribute the books. Each library will receive a set of books from the National Book Foundation, which will be donated by publishers. Penguin Random House is contributing 200,000 books; Hachette Book Group and Macmillan Publishers are also making large donations. The number of books in each set will depend both on the needs of the housing community being served, as well as the capacity of that particular local library to process the books.”
  • USA – Public Libraries in the Age of Fake News – Public Libraries Online. “Librarians, especially public librarians, are often asked whether libraries are still relevant due to the accessibility of the Internet. These questions aren’t necessarily mean-spirited; many are genuinely curious why anyone still needs a library if they can access limitless information on their smartphone or computer. The truth is, access to the Internet means nothing if someone is unable to discern between fact and conspiracy theory. Librar­ians can help patrons learn to make that distinction. Essentially, without the appropriate information and media literacy skills, the Internet cannot always meet the needs of the user.”

Local news by authority

  • Bath and North East Somerset – Fight over the future of Bath Central Library – ITV. “It’s a purpose-built library for the people of Bath in the heart of the city. But now the council wants to move it to another building as part of cost-cutting measures. It’s something that’s upset many residents and authors, who say it will result in a vital community hub being lost.”” Includes video interview with library campaigner.
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Modernising library services in Bath and Midsomer Norton – Bath and North East Somerset Council. “Following the success of the joint library and One Stop Shop in Keynsham, plans have been announced that will also see Bath’s Central Library and Midsomer Norton Library modernised to reflect the changing way people use the library service.” … “Councillor Martin Veal (Conservative, Bathavon North), Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “The plans we are putting forward will ensure that B&NES residents have access to a modern library service which is both sustainable for the future and fits with the way in which people are now using library services.”
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Volunteers and parish councils could be asked to take on running of Bath libraries – Bath Chronicle. “There are already four community-run libraries, three of these being Larkhall, Combe Hay and Southside and it is community-led approaches which have been identified as a way of alleviating the cash-strapped council.” … “The spokesman said: “We have been discussing options and have asked for communities to consider a variety of community-led library approaches. These range from parish councils taking on the library function to volunteer groups being set up to take on this role.”
  • Birmingham – 6,500 sign petitions against closure of Sutton Coldfield’s library – Birmingham Mail.
  • Birmingham – Thousands back ‘Save Sutton Coldfield Library’ campaign as petitions go to Birmingham City Council – Royal Sutton Coldfield Observer. “Sutton Coldfield resident and Library Lobby campaigner Zoe Toft said: “I was delighted to see four petitions presented in support of Birmingham libraries and opposing the proposed cuts – over 6,500 signatures show that people really care and value their local libraries and I hope Birmingham City Council (BCC) will hear their voices. “I’m very grateful to all the volunteers who put in hours of their own time to collect the signatures and talk to their fellow residents about the proposed library cuts. Seeing the community come together over this has been something to take great heart from.””
  • Brighton and Hove – Children to be fined for late library books – Argus. “It was agreed last night to raise income from children who are behind with their library books but the move could cause parents to discourage their youngsters from using libraries, a councillor has warned. onservative councillor Garry Peltzer-Dunn called on the council to rethink plans which would see children charged late fees for the first time in nine years. But Cllr Peltzer-Dunn, who said there should be “no obstruction” to reading for young people in the city, was unsuccessful with an amendment to drop the plans as it was voted down by Labour councillors.”
  • Cardiff – How the people of Rumney have saved their library – twice – Wales Online. “One of the most vocal groups was Community Action for Rumney Library (CARL). While the Labour-run council backed down on their hugely controversial plans, there were still worries about preserving library provision. In summer 2015, the council began work on a new hub. But the campaigners from CARL were adamant they wanted their building to remain open. Along with Rumney Forum, they asked people what they wanted to see, with the most commonly suggested items being for a community space and coffee shop.” … “Inside will be Wales’s first Library of Things – where people borrow items instead of books – as well as a book library, coffee shop, play area for under five’s and rooms for hire.”
  • Coventry – ‘I hate those who destroy healthy trees’ – Coventry Telegraph. “Earlsdon is the third most used of the district libraries with 123,555 visitors compared with 111,181 at Tile Hill and 100,479 at Stoke, yet both of these libraries would continue to be run by the council as “core libraries”. The proposals also envisage maintaining a further five libraries (all with far fewer visitors than Earlsdon) as ‘partnership libraries’ run by a mixture of council employees and volunteers.”
  • Croydon – Councillor has had 300 books taken from book ‘exchange’ – Inside Croydon. 300 books simply taken from Little Free Library and not replaced. “. The book “exchange” on Surrey Street is just a couple of minutes’ walk from the Croydon Central Library, which has an established system of exchanging books and other media, which has stood the test of time. And which usually ensures that its books are indeed returned for the use of others.”
  • Darlington – Darlington’s future library plans detailed as councillors prepare to approve closure of Crown Street building – Northern Echo. “The closure of the historic Crown Street Library and the £1.7m relocation of many of its resources will usher in a new era for the town’s library services, according to a report from Darlington Borough Council (DBC). ” … “If proposals are approved by council members, Darlington’s mobile library will close, Cockerton Library will be community-run and the town’s central library will be relocated from Crown Street to the Dolphin Centre. “
  • Darlington – Library Service – Darlington Council. “Storage of library books and the Local Studies resource will be within the Dolphin Centre, Bennet House adjoined to the Dolphin Centre and office accommodation on Beaumont Street within the Multi Storey Car Park.”
  • Fife – Papers axed at Fife libraries – Fife Today. “Libraries in Fife are to drastically cut back the number of newspapers they stock each day, reducing to just a single daily paper and one weekly. The service previously in place meant that libraries offered a wide range of local and national newspapers to visitors, but the latest cutbacks will mean that in some libraries only a single local weekly will be available.””
  • Lancashire – County council and Westminster have “wrecked” our library service – Pendle Today. “Regular users of Burnley Central Library’s community history section have slammed Lancashire County Council for closing it and transferring the service to “a small corner of the library”.  Burnley’s main library, in Grimshaw Street, closed the doors of its reference section, which occupied the whole of the basement, at Christmas to the shock of many who have used it including students and pensioners.”
  • Lancashire – Former Library, 294 Garstang Road, Fulwood, Preston PR2 9RX – HDAK. “On behalf of Lancashire County Council. Purpose built former library premises suitable for retail, restaurant, office or medical use.” Fulwood Library still for sale, regardless of the library minister’s visit, although the sale does include a “clawback clause” of 50% of any profits from the site if it is resold.
  • Lancashire – Hurry up call in battle to save libraries – Blackpool Guardian. “The bids, by Thornton Gala Committee and UR Potential respectively, remain with County Hall officials. But Coun Kay is concerned the clock is ticking and those groups who have been lined up to use the centres could begin to look elsewhere. She said: “We need answers. They have made a decision on some but it is a drip, drip, drip. “We have groups lined up not only to take over the libraries but to use them.”
  • Lancashire – Libraries minister visits Lancashire over cuts – BookSeller. “The DCMS declined to comment on the meeting when asked by The Bookseller, saying it was a “private” affair, but added that the minister’s visit was “to discuss and question the authority’s existing and future plans for its library service” and meet local representatives who had concerns about a library’s closure. Wilson also met with representatives to discuss the closure and impending sale of Whalley Library, which was put up for sale after the council failed to find voluntary groups to run it.” see also Lancashire – It might not be the end for Whalley Library – 2BR..
  • Lancashire – Minister meets leader about libraries’ future – Blackpool Gazette. “County Coun Jenny Mein was cautiously hopeful that some extra funding may be available following a visit by minister Rob Wilson.” … “The VIP visit followed a call by Ben Wallace, Wyre and Preston North MP for the Government to intervene and “call in” the council closures and investigate whether it is meeting its legal obligations under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. ” … “A Department of Culture spokeswoman said the visit was: “to discuss and question the authority’s existing and future plans for its library service” and meet local representatives concerned about a library closure.”.  [Council says everything is great despite all evidence to contrary – Ed.]. see also Minister visits Lancashire to investigate library closures – Lancashire Evening Post.
  • Lancashire – Ministerial Visit sets precedent – LinkedIn. “It was the first investigatory visit by a Government Minister under the terms of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act introduced by the Labour Government of Harold Wilson in order to promote Public Education. Under the Act Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons’ in the area that want to make use of it. Rob Wilson described the investigatory visit as “groundbreaking” and that it was “the first occasion a Government Minister had had to carry out an investigatory visit to a single public library where a decision had been taken to close it and put it up for sale.” Rob Wilson communicated to the attended participants that the Save Whalley Library Campaign and Ribble Valley Borough Council through their extensive campaigning to keep Whalley Library open and the official complaint set out in a Letter about how the consultation process was handled by Lancashire County Council sent by the Joint Leaders of the Save Whalley Library Campaign, Ribble Valley Borough Councillor Ged Mirfin, who represents the adjacent Ward of Billington, Brockhall and Old Langho and Neil Martin, the President of the Whalley Lions, as “setting a precedent” and that as a Minister he had to take account of such a mass expression of public opinion about the alleged failings of a tier of local government.”
  • Lancashire – Support Silverdale Library – Facebook. Confirmed that Silverdale will go volunteer.
  • Lancashire – Why are our libraries closing? – 2BR. “First, the announcement of the sale of Whalley Library, which occurred just before New Year’s Eve. Also, we’re very grateful to Nigel Evans MP who has reacted so swiftly to make Rob Wilson aware of the impact of the sale of the library going forward. “County Councillor Albert Atkinson wrote to Rob Wilson pointing out that if the library was sold that is it, that is effectively us as a community losing any access to the library building.””
  • Lincolnshire – Volunteers needed for new Holbeach library – Spalding Today. “The library, currently in Church Street, will be moving into a new home as part of a major project by Lincolnshire Co-op to create a hub of community facilities on the site of its food store in Fleet Street. The new library will have a stock of over 4,000 books. These are provided by Greenwich Leisure Limited, which is a staff-owned co-op and the UK’s largest leisure charitable social enterprise responsible for managing libraries across Lincolnshire on behalf of Lincolnshire County Council”
  • Manchester – Citywide libraries survey reveals progress – MancLibraries Blog. “The Public Library Users Survey was carried out across Manchester’s 22 public libraries over a one-week period in October 2016. 93.3 per cent of 4,750 people surveyed gave their local library an overall rating of either ‘good’ or ‘very good’ – a 4.5 per cent increase on the result of the last survey in 2012.  It is the highest overall satisfaction figure recorded since Manchester-wide library surveys were first conducted in 2002.”
  • North Yorkshire – North Yorkshire library could close this year without volunteers – Darlington and Stockton Times. “Stokesley Library will close this year unless more volunteers step forward to help run it. It is one of 21 North Yorkshire libraries due to be handed over to the community in spring after the county council announced it could no longer afford to run them due to budget cuts. But the community charitable group in the process of being registered to take over the running of Stokesley Library says it is in desperate need of more volunteers to avoid the resource being closed. North Yorkshire County Council ends its management of the centre in March/April.”
  • North Yorkshire – YP Letters: Cameron and Osborne to blame for library woes – Yorkshire Post. “The main reason that our public libraries are suffering today is because of one government – the Tory dominated coalition of 2010-2015 – and two men, David Cameron and George Osborne. whose savage cuts and careless economic policies set in motion this current and ultimately avoidable scenario, a scenario ignored unfortunately by the present Tory administration led by Theresa May. They are the ones who should hang their heads in shame when fingers are pointed and people say what happened?”
  • Sandwell – Banish Blue Monday with Sandwell libraries – Sandwell Council. “Sandwell libraries are running lots of inspiring events from 16-23 January to encourage positive thinking on what has been identified as one of the most miserable days of the year. Events include well-being sessions, gentle yoga, catching a classic comedy film, relaxing with a Reiki taster session or simply sitting back and enjoying a cup of tea with toast and a natter”
  • Sandwell – Volunteers and activities put Sandwell libraries among the best in country – Express and Star. “The borough came third out of 36 metropolitan authorities for the number of books borrowed and, with more than 1.7 million people through the doors, it had the fourth highest number of visits. Figures for 2015-16 released by the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accountancy also show Sandwell had the fifth highest use of computers and was the tenth highest for inquiries. It had the second highest number of volunteers after recording 16,820 volunteer hours during the year.”
  • Sheffield – Library visits in decline across Sheffield, but one branch is bucking the trend – Star. “Visitors to Sheffield’s council-run libraries have plummeted by a quarter in the last two years, but there is one branch which is bucking the trend. Highfield Library welcomed 67,596 people through its doors in the 2015/16 financial year, eight per cent more than in 2013/14.”… “During the same period, footfall at Sheffield Central Library’s lending department slumped by a third, from 298,267 to 198,907. Most council-managed libraries in the city saw at least a 20 per cent drop in visitors, and the picture is a similarly gloomy one for libraries in much of the country”
  • Sunderland – Have your say on the future shape of library services – NE Connected. “The number of people visiting libraries in the city has halved in the last four years. At the same time the number of people accessing services digitally is continuing to rise. This reflects the situation nationally with fewer people using traditional library services.”
  • Swindon – £81k cash bid to boost library reach – Swindon Advertiser. ” successful, the bid for £81,000 would be used to deliver Libraries Unbound, a project aimed at taking modular and flexible library services to communities in place of static libraries. The borough’s libraries strategy, which will see the number of council-funded libraries reduced from 15 to just five, also cut the funding for Swindon’s mobile library service.” [It’s very unclear what the new scheme would actually be – Ed.]
  • Swindon – Library campaigners call for minister to step in – Swindon Advertiser. “Library campaigners are calling on the government’s libraries minister to visit Swindon and intervene in plans to cut the town’s library service “before it’s too late”. The Save Swindon’s Libraries campaign has now submitted representations to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport over what they see as a flawed consultation and unsatisfactory proposal from Swindon Borough Council. Similar representations from campaigners in Lancashire led the minister, Rob Wilson MP, to visit the area in person earlier this week.”
  • Torfaen – Torfaen libraries threatened with 2.5 day service reduction – BookSeller. “Two libraries in Torfaen, Wales, could see their book loan services reduced to just two-and-a-half days per week in order to help make £250,000 worth of savings, the South Wales Argus has reported. As part of a savings exercise for the 2017/2018 financial year, Torfaen Council has proposed to reduce the library services in Blaenavon and Pontypool to two-and-a-half days and to reduce Cwmbran library service to four days. The proposals would see all three libraries using self service facilities.”
  • Warrington – Library campaigners angry after LiveWire introduces new membership scheme – Warrington Guardian. “New membership options introduced by LiveWire, which mean residents have to sign up for leisure facilities when they apply for a library card, have left protestors angry. LiveWire, which runs both libraries and gyms, has replaced their membership scheme with three new options – starter, saver and select. To join a library, people must sign up for the free ‘starter’ package which gives them a dual libraries and leisure card. The card also includes a three day gym trial and other offers.”
  • Warrington – No libraries to close in Warrington – Warrington Worldwide. “… All libraries will remain open in some form, including the main central library which will also become a heritage hub. Plans to relocate the library to Golden Square have been dropped. While the findings of the draft consultation document have still got to be rubber stabbed and presented to the borough council’s Executive Board next month (February), all existing areas served by a library will continue to have a library, while locker schemes will be introduced in the Westy, Fairfield and Howley areas, where there is currently no library provision, while Great Sankey and Bewsey and Dallam will gain library services via new community hubs. If the Executive Board approve the proposals which follow a public consultation by library operators LiveWire, Warrington will see an increase from 11-13 physical library sites, plus two with lockers. While some savings will be achieved it is not expected to be the full £300,000 being sought by the council.”