It was lovely to see two library people receiving honours. Ciara Eastell, head of Devon non-profit Libraries Unlimited and past president of the Society of Chief Librarians – who coincidentally I went to library school with (Sheffield, class of 93-4) – and Desmond Clarke, ex publishing boss and now national library campaigner. Both have done what they can for public libraries.  I was less happy to see the ex-boss of Warrington Livewire, which is currently devastating its libraries, also receive an honour.

Normally at this time of year I would do a post on the major trends in public libraries in the last year but I see Leon has beaten me to it.  I recommend it to you.  The only things I would add to it are Open+/remote-controlled libraries, which are really taking off this year, for better or for worse and the rise of parish/town councils paying for libraries, often by raising their parish rates.  This last represents a possible ray of hope for libraries as parish/town councils are not limited in the same way in raising council tax than larger councils. I can foresee hundreds of libraries moving from the county/borough councils to smaller, more atomised, local authorities in order to take advantage of this and it represents a get-out clause for the Government which is otherwise tied to austerity and localism.


National news

  • Beevor knighted in New Year’s Honours – BookSeller. “Veteran library campaigner and former publisher Desmond Clarke receives an MBE for services to the British Public Library Service and to Literature”
  • Communities needing libraries as much as ever – Guardian / Letters. “Simon Jenkins says “Our libraries are in trouble …” (22 December) and suggests the solution is to make them places of “human congregation” run by town councils and other neighbourhood groups. Our local library is already a place where many groups meet and a variety of services are provided. It also performs a public good in providing computers and internet access for those who cannot afford their own – many more people than you would think.”
  • Libraries are dying – but it’s not about the books – Guardian / Simon Jenkins. “But what sort of library are we defending? I’m not sure the fault in this lies with that easy target, the government, nor even in the once-gloomy fate of the book. Last week I was in my excellent local library and it was near empty. The adjacent Waterstones was bursting at the seams. I know it was Christmas, but something tells me there is a problem with libraries, not with books. When an institution needs a luvvie-march to survive, it looks doomed” [Libraries are always at their quietest at Christmas so this appears to be a case of a well-meaning observer using a misunderstood fact – Ed.]

“The library must rediscover its specialness. This must lie in exploiting the strength of the post-digital age, the “age of live”. This strength lies not in books as such, but in its readers, in their desire to congregate, share with each other, hear writers and experience books in the context of their community. Beyond the realm of the digital oligarchs, the big money now is in live. “

“Ailing libraries and churches should merge. They should be removed from their present owners and managers, and be vested in neighbourhood parish and town councils, as is common on the continent. These councils should have power to levy a local tax (with voluntary opt-out) for their support. There will be thrills and spills, but local responsibility is the only secure way forward – and it would raise money.”  Simon Jenkins

  • Libraries Deliver: Ambition sector forums – more information on the workshops – Libraries Taskforce.  Explanation on what will be involved in the workshops and where and when they will be.  First come, first served.
  • Library books expenditure by councils falls to as little as 5p per person – AOL. “Freedom of information requests were sent to 46 councils in some of the biggest cities and counties in the UK, of which 42 replied. In Birmingham, the country’s second largest city, spending per person had dived by 79% since 2011-12, with residents having just 19p each spent on their reading, down from 91p. This is still more than double what residents of Newcastle receive, as the city council forked out only 9p per head on books for their libraries in 2015-16. But both are overshadowed by the London borough of Redbridge, where spending dropped 97%, leaving each person with less than 5p for library reading material, instead of the £1.70 being spent four years earlier.” see also Library budget cuts ‘lead to vicious circle of decline’ – Morning Star [Including quote by me: interestingly, the reporter did not say she was from the Morning Star – Ed.] and Cash-strapped councils are spending as little as 5p per person on library books – Mirror.
  • Local government, fire and police chiefs honoured in 2017 New Year honours list – Guardian. “Ciara Eastell, the former president of the Society of Chief Librarians, receives an OBE” …
  • Pat Kane: The legacy of our libraries is too precious to lose – National. “A democratic, free, non-market, non-judgmental space. Perhaps no surprise, some might say, that libraries are an easy target for shutdowns and closures. ” … “First, we need to create a “national library app”, which gives certified citizens free access to all e-books published in the Scottish domain – a requirement which we would make of all content publishers operating in Scotland, independence giving us jurisdiction over media regulation. (I speak as an anxious Kindle user, who loves the private library he’s amassing in his pocket, but currently can’t share it with anyone.) Second, we should look to how the Scandis and Nordics are redefining the role of libraries. From 2014, Swedish libraries were compelled by national law to “promote the democratic development of the society by contributing to the dissemination of knowledge and freedom of opinion”. In the same year, the amendment to Paragraph one of the Norwegian Library Act read: “The public libraries should serve as an independent meeting place and forum for public dialogue and debate”. “
  • Pride and Prejudice Named UK’s Favourite Book – Society of Chief Librarians. “More than 1800 library staff and library users voted for their favourite book in the Society of Chief Librarian’s LovetoRead book poll, which was open for the month of November 2016. Participants were asked to name their favourite book, and the top 10 according to number of votes are:” [This is a really disappointing number of respondents for a national poll. I hope lessons have been learnt to help improve the impact of any similar initiatives in future – Ed.].
  • Review of Public Libraries 2016 – Leon’s Library Blog. Includes Ambition document “My own view is that the report failed to encapsulate the aspirations of the profession. What we got merely reflected existing government policy and advocated the views of a minority of vested stakeholders, with the early optimism being replaced by crushing stoicism and an uncertain future of continuing funding cuts.”; Libraries Taskforce ” In my opinion the Taskforce is precisely that: a group ‘tasked’ with delivering government policy around localism and devolution, and papering over the cracks caused by the continuing decrease in government funding to local authorities.”; Library Ministers “Faced with major cutbacks in places such as Lancashire, the minister emulated his predecessor and took a non-interventionist stance. Then again it would be a brave politician that challenged his own government’s policies that have basically starved councils of funding.”.  CILIP; “From being  perceived as soft on library closures we have seen quite increasingly strong statements against closures, hollowing out, and the loss of paid staff. An extensive round of media coverage was undertaken to promote the value of libraries, and councils challenged where cuts appeared draconian”

“Sadly, the medium term future appears bleak for public libraries: a lack of national strategy, a dearth of leadership, continuing funding cuts, and a non-interventionist minister hardly provides a genuine ‘ambition’ for libraries. That libraries will survive into the future in some form is a given. What form that takes and whether as a service it will remain ‘comprehensive and efficient’ remains to be seen.”

  • Sell coffee to survive, libraries told – Times. “Libraries should incorporate post offices and coffee shop franchises and explore links with NHS services to survive, the former head of a government review into their future has said. William Sieghart said that libraries needed to explore different ownership models to ensure that they remained “community hubs” (David Sanderson writes).”
  • Twitter use in Libraries – Surveys Online.

International news

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – Barnet Council announced NW7 Hub and Kisharon among partners in major library services changes – Times series. “Through the first half of 2017, the council will be transforming its libraries throughout the borough in order to save £2.2 million as part of a wider programme of spending cuts. Following a procurement process, community service NW7 Hub will operate Mill Hill library, which is currently closed until the week of January 9 2017. The closure will allow the council to put changes in place which will see libraries shrunk to create space for private renting and, most controversially, a reduction in the number of staffed hours at some libraries.”
  • Birmingham – Cuts – Peter Ashton’s Blog. “… as I was answering the questions in that consultation I realised this isn’t about libraries. It’s about the city we want to live in. And the idea of a city that we maybe had a decade ago is not going to exist soon. The problem is, with these piecemeal proposed changes, we might not notice until it’s too late, if it’s not too late already. I understand the desire to reduce a service rather than close it completely, but this does more harm than good. The reduced service becomes normalised and then it can be reduced again, until there’s nothing left. And a reduced service by definition is used less, because it’s available less, so its relevance to the community goes down and cutting it further doesn’t feel so bad.”
  • Devon – Exeter library boss among those from Devon to receive New Year HonourExeter Express and Echo.
  • Durham – Newton Aycliffe Library Reopens in Leisure Centre – Newton News. “Newton Aycliffe Library has reopened to the public with a new look in a new location.The library’s bright and modern new base, within the town’s leisure centre on Beveridge Way, includes sections for teenagers and children, a study area and updated computer facilities.It also offers a wide selection of current and classic titles as well as e-books and e-mags. Free WiFi is available throughout the building.The move from the library’s former base is part of a wider £1 million scheme being carried out by Durham County Council to help regenerate the town centre.It has involved refurbishing a number of shop units adjoining the leisure centre and creating a shared entrance for the library and leisure centre.”
  • Essex – Essex Libraries’ Big Friendly Read hailed a success – Essex TV. “A third of all Essex children aged between six and 10 took part in this year’s Big Friendly Read, it has been announced.”
  • Lancashire – Fulwood library is on the market – and it’s not cheap Blog Preston. “Commercial property consultants HDAK have been instructed to list the building for sale – understood to be going on the market for more than £475,000. Martin Ainsworth who is in charge of sales and lettings for the consultants said: “I think they wanted to avoid any doubts. It is very much for sale, no lettings, no nothing, it’s for sale. “I think we will get a lot of interest because of its location. Obviously parking and access will be the main issue but as we’ve seen with Costa moving nearby it’s something that can be overcome.”
  • Lancashire – JK Rowling, Danielle Steel and James Patterson books among 48,000 missing items from libraries – Lancashire Telegraph. “A Freedom of Information request has revealed thousands of items have been missing for more than six months. “
  • Lancashire – Realising Lancashire Libraries’ vision – PanLibus. A look at wireless printing.
  • Lancashire – Regenerated Libraries – Lancashire County Council. “Since 2008 almost half of Lancashire’s 74 libraries have been modernised as part of the “Regenerate” and “Youth Space” programmes. County Councillor David Smith, lead member for community services said: “I’m very pleased to say that we’ve avoided library closures here in Lancashire and are continuing to invest in our service wherever we can.” [Many of these libraries are now closed, converted or in process of being sold off – Ed.]
  • Lancashire – Village library goes up for sale – Visitor. “Bolton-le-Sands library is being put up for sale by the county council after it failed to find a community group to run it”
  • Lancashire – Six former libraries up for sale in Lancashire – BBC. “The libraries affected are in Barrowford, Bolton-le-Sands, Earby, Freckleton, Fulwood, and Whalley. The buildings are the first to be sold in a move by Lancashire County Council (LCC) to raise money.” … “The situation is being monitored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport which said that local authorities have a statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. “
  • Leeds – “Perfect storm’ for Leeds libraries as visitor numbers plummet – Yorkshire Evening Post. “…footfall has fallen by nearly a third across Leeds since 2005, an investigation by the YEP can reveal. The figures, released through Freedom of Information requests, show that there were 2.9 million library visits recorded in the year to March 2016, compared to four million in 2005. “
  • Lincolnshire – New library set to open in Wainfleet – Skegness Standard. “Volunteers are preparing to open the doors to a community hub which incorporated the new Magdalen Library in Wainfleet. It will replace the mobile service that has served Wainfleet previously and opens to the public on Tuesday. The library will be the 35th community hub to open in Lincolnshire, bringing Lincolnshire’s total number of libraries and community hubs to 50.”
  • North Yorkshire – Group dedicated to saving three libraries needs more than 100 volunteers in order to save the services from closure – Northern Echo. “The Catterick, Richmond and Colburn Community Libraries (CRACCL) was set up earlier this year and is the first group to attempt to take over the running of three libraries – but it needs more than 100 volunteers in order to make it a success. Philip Wicks, chairman of CRACCL, said although there are already nine other community-run libraries within North Yorkshire, CRACCL is the first to attempt to run three with the same group of volunteers from April 1.”
  • North Yorkshire – Volunteers sought to keep Cross Hills Library open – Craven Herald. “The Cross Hills site is among 20 in North Yorkshire due to become community-managed next April. But county council bosses warn that if no-one comes forward, the facility could close. Now a major campaign has been launched to recruit volunteers to help with a range of tasks, from assisting customers to running children’s story times.”
  • Nottingham – The Truth About Nottingham Central Library’s Redevelopment – Left Lion. “Cllr David Trimble stated that it was a high probability that the library would remain on Angel Row, but they do have an alternative site in mind if this plan doesn’t come to fruition. He was also keen to point out that it was a land deal and not a property deal, and that after thirty years, the property’s lease would revert back to the City Council, meaning they will not be losing out on important city centre space.”
  • Sheffield – Sheffield’s 82-year-old Central Library under threat due to cuts – World Socialist Web Site. “This record demonstrates that the Labour authority has repudiated the defence of one of the few remaining free services available to the public. What is being taken away will never be restored. Hence, the well-found scepticism in council’s assurances that it will use proceeds from the business rates on a five-star hotel to fund a new purpose built library “elsewhere” in the city centre.”
  • Staffordshire – Silverdale Library relaunched as enterprise centre – Stoke Sentinel. “Taking on the High Street facility is not-for-profit firm Business Enterprise Support (BES), which is going to re-launch the library as an enterprise hub. But a dedicated area for books will remain with volunteers now needed to help oversee the range of new services planned.”
  • Surrey – Rising Population That Finally Forced Guildford To Open A Public Library – Guildford Dragon. Comprehensive look at the development of libraries in Guildford.
  • Swindon – Swindon library closures show consequences of squeezed council funds – Unison. ““With only five libraries left, Swindon will lose the expertise and experience of staff, and the service will be harder to access for older people or those with young children – exactly the groups who benefit most from a high quality public library system. “Do we want to see Swindon left with three times as many people per library as the national average? Local people rightly expect a decent level of public services, but the government’s failure to properly fund councils has resulted in a threadbare net of services struggling to deal with people’s needs.”
  • Vale of Glamorgan – Recently established community library has £7000 annual budget for new books – Penarth Times. “Dinas Powys Library, which was handed over by the Vale council to the Dinas Powys Library and Activity Centre (DPLAC) group in November, has received a fresh stock of books in time for the new year. The library, which is located in Fairoaks adjacent to Dinas Powys Primary School, now has around 40 volunteers fully operating the library. It became the third library in the Vale to become community run as part of the Vale council’s plans to establish five such facilities in the county.”
  • Warrington – Deputy council leader sides with MP Helen Jones amid row over library closure proposals – Warrington Guardian. “Cllr Matt Smith (LAB – Culcheth, Glazebury and Croft) and Cllr Diana Bennett (LAB – Poulton North) have spoken out in support of the stance taken by the Warrington North MP after LiveWire bosses criticised her for refusing to meet with them. They are joined in their criticism of the way the recent consultation into the future of library services has been carried out by deputy council leader Cllr Graham Friend”
  • Warrington – ‘I am incredulous’ – executive board member responsible for libraries slams MP – Warrington Guardian. “A decision on the town’s libraries is due in the new year. It follows LiveWire’s consultation into plans to shut some libraries and moved them into hubs, during which it met with Warrington South MP Mr Mowat. But Cllr Tony Higgins, executive board member for leisure, community and culture, criticised the politician. He said: “I am incredulous that, following the meeting David Mowat had with LiveWire, as the executive board member responsible for libraries, I am still waiting for him to make contact.””
  • West Berkshire – Are you prepared to pay more council tax to keep West Berkshire libraries open? – Reading Chronicle. “West Berkshire Council ran a Library Service Review over the summer to identify ways of plugging a major funding gap and preventing the possible closure of a number of libraries in the area. Now the council is hoping to harness the enthusiasm and goodwill of local communities to help meet the shortfall, and raise £150,000. The council has already been in discussion with Parish and Town Councils, as well as community groups and local organisations about how they want to be involved in shaping the future of West Berkshire libraries.”
  • West Dunbartonshire – Clydebank libraries offer new skills and sessions to welcome 2017 – Clydebank Post. For the youngest residents, bookbug sessions of about 30-40 minutes for babies, toddlers and their parents and carers start Monday, January 9. Songs, action rhymes and sharing stories are the main sources of fun….”
  • Worcestershire – Worcestershire residents encouraged to use libraries in the new year – Worcester News. “Cllr Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, said: “Libraries across Worcestershire are open 875.5hrs each week offering a huge range of free services, with many libraries opening on certain evenings and The Hive being open seven days a week. “