In this post, Plymouth joins the expanding list of councils to announce a desire to close more than half of its libraries. Doing a Livewire, it does its best to present this presumably cost-driven move as modernisation and even “transformation” but it seems that many people are not buying this approach, with the council already being called barbarians and crazy.  The local newspaper, the Plymouth Herald, has already come out strongly in favour of keeping the libraries open and so the council looks set for a fight. Meanwhile, in Norfolk, the council has taken the unusual step of guaranteeing no cuts to libraries in 2017/18 and a very snazzy looking new library (co-located with borough council offices and other services) has opened in Hemel Hempstead.

Meanwhile, we are in the last few days of the Obama presidency. Despite being blocked by Congress on so many issues, the Obamas have shown themselves to be wonderful supporters of libraries and literacy.  I am sure the profession there will be very sorry to see them go, not least because they are already worried about what Trump – pretty much the opposite of President Obama in almost every way – will do for (or, more likely, against) public services, privacy and diversity.  It promises to be a bumpy few years ahead.

A quick review of “Reading Allowed: True stories of curious incidents in a provincial library” by Chris Paling

I was delighted to be sent a review copy of this book a couple of months ago.  It’s set in quite a large public library in London – the location is never explicitly mentioned but it’s certainly not somewhere I’d call “provincial”.  What comes across is how tough the library is.  There’s drug dealers and criminals described in pretty much every chapter, with the security guards (called “Facilities”) being kept very busy dealing with them when they’re not sorting out blockages in the toilets.  Clearly, the library is fulfilling a unique role in dealing with those marginalised by society. What next comes across is the strong affection the author feels for the clientele. I can completely identify with this myself as you really get to know someone when you work in libraries and they become, if not your friends, then someone you care about and want the best for. It’s an easy to read book, quite humorous in places and quite thoughtful in others.  Chris sums up the feel of working a busy big library facing a death by thousand cuts very well and I am sure many working in the sector would read it with recognition. Meanwhile, those who don’t use libraries but still happily pronounce their death (see Plymouth for a new example below) may be quite shocked by all the wonderful things provided.  Out on 2nd February, I recommend you read a copy, even though I can recognise myself being described a “pundit” (really!) on one of the later pages.


National news

  • Edge Awards: Edge2017 highlights and rewards good practice in innovative library and information projects – Edge Conference. Closing date 3rd February. “Show or sell benefits of library and information services to other sectors, organisations and communities; Demonstrate innovation and creativity; Increase participation” [and hopefully all three – Ed.]
  • Father Brown: the Lepidopterist’s Companion – BBC iPlayer. “When Mrs McCarthy takes over the running of the mobile library, Father Brown discovers a shocking secret.” [“I was pleased with the mobile library they managed  to assemble based on my pictures of West Riding and Solihull vehicles. They even managed to dress the librarians in similar skirts to the ones in my pictures ” – The mobile library in this programme is historically accurate, after advice from a retired librarian – Ed.]
  •  Library services should be more accessible for e-readers, report says – Localgov. “The main failing, the survey revealed, was the lack of good, clear explanations of how to use e-books and other e-resources. Only 41% of council websites scored a ‘Yes’ answer to the question Is the process for borrowing e-books clear including whether/how I need to ‘return’ ebooks? Fewer than 60% scored a ‘yes’ for the question Are there clear instructions on how to access and use e-resources? The report said those responsible for managing library website pages need to account for the fact that processes for borrowing e-books, magazines and audio resources are ‘different’ and ‘more complicated’ than traditional book borrowing and that readers will often need to download software or apps.”
  • Local government: cuts to library provision – Law Gazette. A look at recent Vale of Glamorgan library case. “A case in point was R (Tilley) v Vale of Glamorgan Council [2016] EWHC 2272, determined in a thorough 60-page judgment by Lewis J on 13 September 2016. This concerned a claim for judicial review of the council’s decision through its cabinet to agree (among other things): to establish five community libraries (including one at Rhoose); and to delegate authority to the head of legal services to conclude the necessary legal agreements and arrangements for the running of each. If such agreement could not be reached for a particular library, a further report was to be presented to cabinet on the future of the library together with an updated equality impact assessment.” … “So, as indicated, the claimant failed on all grounds. However, this case will make useful reading for all authorities having to make tough decisions in the light of financial constraints on library provision and other services.”
  • Lifelong learning is becoming an economic imperative – Economist. [Ken Chad has pointed out in Lis-Pub-Libs that there is no mention of libraries in this piece – Ed.]
  • NCVO’s Etherington urges national debate on volunteering – Third Sector. “”It is hard to conceive that we will be able to run public services in the future as we have in the past,” he writes. “We need a national debate about the role of volunteering in the future of our public services. And that debate has to be about more than simply delivering more publicly funded services.”” … “Etherington says that to “conceive of volunteers’ dedication as a temporary cover for cuts until the magic spending tap can be turned back on and publicly funded workers take their place is not only unrealistic, it does them a great disservice, and it overlooks the particular distinctive value that volunteers bring”.”

International news

  • EU – Are you looking for a sister library? We can help you – Naple Sister Libraries. “Having a sister library is a great experience, as evidenced by the 37 sisterships we have already established.  It is great to share common activities and show the culture, language or customs of other European countries to the audiences of our library.”
  • New Zealand – Libraries are not supermarkets, say writers – National. “”Libraries are not supermarkets, but complex social institutions,” says poet Denys Trussell on behalf of the Auckland branch of the society. “We are not customers. We are readers and citizens in question of knowledge, information and the pleasure of books,” Trussell said in a letter to library manager Mirla Edmundson. He was responding to a Herald story about the biggest restructure of Auckland’s libraries under the Super City affecting 1100 full- and part-time staff.” … “Cost-cutting, he said, was a lose-lose strategy, not minor and “to the best of our knowledge, no public submissions have been invited”.”
  • USA – Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books – New York Times. [No mention of libraries in this piece but I include it to mourn the leaving of office of a literate president – Ed.]
  • USA – Operation 451 – Operation 451. “Operation 451 is a symbolic affirmation of our librarian values of knowledge, service of others, and free expression of ideas. It stands in direct opposition to the forces of intolerance and ignorance that seek to divide neighbors, communities, and the country.  451 was purposefully chosen because of its popular cultural significance, a nod to the great novel by Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451. Call it luck, fate, or serendipity, but we noticed that that individual numbers matched up with the fourth and fifth articles of the Library Bill of Rights and the First Amendment to the Constitution. These were the values that we want to promote.see also Three Critical Issues Facing Librarians in Trump’s America – Publisher’s Weekly.

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – Barnet Council announces relocation of East Barnet library to Victoria Recreation Ground – Borehamwood Times. “East Barnet library will be shrunk and moved to a new home as Barnet Council continues its upheaval of library services across the borough. The policy and resources committee voted last week to spend £500,000 on turning the library into New Barnet library, which will be located at Victoria Recreation Ground. It will share the site with leisure and café facilities as a partnership library run by Inclusion Barnet from April 2017. East Barnet library is currently closed until February 25 as a series of design changes are made as the council moves to save money on library services.”
  • Bath and Northeast Somerset – Hundreds of protesters demonstrate against council plan to move Bath Central Library – Bath Chronicle. 150 protesters. “Library employees and volunteers were joined by parents, children and some councillors for the demonstration. Bath and North East Somerset Council has proposed moving the current facility above Waitrose into Lewis House on Manvers Street by next year, with the space to be rented out for other means. But protest organiser Dionne Pemberton told ITV News: “First of all, it’s not just a question of moving. If it was moving like for like, just a few blocks away, that’s not a big deal.”
  • Enfield – Volunteers urgently needed across Enfield libraries – North London Newspapers. “There is a shortage of volunteers across the 13 libraries in the borough and Enfield council is asking more residents to devote just a few hours a week. They have launched a recruitment drive as part of their Enfield Heroes Campaign to attract more volunteers to the scheme.” … “Following the restructuring of library services the Council has designated Enfield Town, Edmonton Green, Palmers Green and Ordnance Unity as flagship libraries which will offer a range of services alongside community based activities. The other 13 in the borough have been designated as community libraries and will be sharing their premises with organisations to bring in extra revenue and share costs.”
  • Hackney – Hackney councillor Jon Burke wants libraries to lend out power tools and kitchen appliances – Hackney Citizen. “Councillor Jon Burke, the cabinet member in charge of library services, said the scheme would mean people would not have to buy their own devices, thereby cutting waste and the cost of living. He said he wanted to launch the service as soon as possible and suggested residents could donate their possessions, which would then be safety checked before being put into circulation for the common good. In the case of particularly popular types of item, the council could buy multiples to meet demand, he said. Cheerleaders for capitalism might argue such endeavours reduce consumer choice, however, and could potentially harm the economy and reduce VAT tax receipts.”
  • Hertfordshire – New £15m home for Dacorum Borough Council and library officially opens in Hemel Hempstead – Hemel Today. “The Forum, a new hub which will also house voluntary services and a new library, is a key feature of the council’s Hemel Evolution scheme which is redeveloping the town centre… The temporary Hemel Hempstead Library, located in the old Civic Centre, closed for the final time on Sunday – while Dacorum Borough Council vacated the same building on Friday.  Both have now moved to the new hub, which is next door on the corner of Marlowes and Combe Street, with the council’s voluntary partners moving in at the end of January.”
  • Kent – Kent County Council Libraries Registration and Archives – Internal commissioning: Delivering better outcomes for the people of Kent – Libraries Taskforce. “fully integrated with the Kent Archives and Registration service meaning we offer seamless access to customers to a wide range of services.” … “A service specification has been developed that aligns the service against KCC’s three key strategic priorities (kids/young people, community, senior citizens). … LRA is looking at how it can devise a toolkit for outcome evaluation as this is an area that needs more development … Through the service specification, KCC articulated what was required to be delivered and, in response, LRA has produced a service plan that explains clearly how it will deliver against this. This is being monitored quarterly and will be subject to a review against how we have done at the end of the financial year.”
  • Norfolk – Norfolk council tax set to rise 4.8% this year – BBC. “The authority will still have to cut spending by £44m this year, mostly through administrative savings. It says there will be very few job losses and no cuts to services like libraries or fire stations.”
  • Plymouth – Council set to close ten of Plymouth’s libraries and move book borrowing online – Herald. “Libraries in Efford, Eggbuckland, Ernesettle, Estover, Laira, North Prospect, Peverell, Stoke, Tothill and West Park could close their doors under the new proposals. Plymouth City Council says the move, open for public consultation from next week, is designed to “transform and modernise” library services by embracing the “digital world”. The surviving libraries – Crownhill, Devonport, Plympton, Plymstock, St Budeaux, Southway and the Central Library – currently account for 80 per cent of all visits and 75 per cent of all items borrowed. They will be refurbished and kitted out with new computers, meeting rooms and fully-trained staff. There will also be pop-up libraries across the city; a “click-and-collect” service in children’s centres and community hubs; and an expanded home library service for housebound residents.” see also Plymouth Council releases plan to close 10 libraries – BookSeller and Plymouth could lose ten libraries according to new proposals – ITV.
  • Plymouth – The Herald says: Libraries are vital hub of communities – Herald. “The council is right that all its services should be kept up-to-date. But it has to be certain that a modernised and abridged library network will meet the needs of the entire community. While young people may be flocking to the city centre library to borrow e-books to read on their tablets, there is still a percentage of the population for whom the computer age is still a mystery or an unaffordable luxury. From the pensioner looking for a large print book to the job seeker who can’t afford a computer at home and the young single mum who relies on the library for both books and support groups, there are people who will be affected by the closure of local libraries. The council is to be applauded for its creation of an exciting new history centre and the new central library. But the loss of 10 smaller libraries, many in deprived areas, will not be easy to replace.”
  • Plymouth – Mums ‘gutted’ over plans to close ‘lifeline’ libraries in Plymouth – Herald. “Jenny, aged 32, is a primary school teacher and says the library was a lifesaver during the tricky early months of parenthood. “When I was on maternity leave we used to come twice a week,” she says. “I found being on leave difficult to be honest, because my job is quite intense, maternity leave was quite boring. “We loved it here, we made lots of friends who we are still in touch with. “It’s not just about the books. I would be genuinely gutted if this place closed.” I tweet a picture of Jenny and Theo, and receive a reply from 23-year-old Izy Jude, mum of five-month-old Oliver. “We go to rhyme time at Peverell library and it’s always packed out,” Izy says. “I’ve never walked in to see an empty library. I agree with the other lady about it being a lifeline while you’re on maternity leave.”
  • Plymouth – Plymouth writers slam ‘crazy’ library closure plan – Herald. “Babs Horton, Plymouth novelist and author of the award-winning A Jarful of Angels, said: “A room without books is like a body without a soul, said Cicero. Imagine a city without books – a percentage of the citizens unable to access them. “This is not a transformation, this is a transgression. I grew up in a family who bought all the books they could afford, which didn’t amount to many. My local library was a lifeline to knowledge, recreation and enlightenment. “The Barbarians are at the gate and we must oppose them.”
  • Plymouth – Public urged to protest ‘barbaric’ library closure plans – Herald. “Cllr Jonny Morris (Lab, Southway) vowed to fight the plans, branding ruling councillors “barbarous and philistine know-nothing slash-and-burners”. “This Blukip council has made some pretty appalling attacks on the people of Plymouth, but closing libraries is what barbarians do,” he said. “I call on a loud howl of ‘No’ from Plymouth people. Literacy is the foundation of a civilised society. “There’s a good Einstein quote at the top of the Central Library stairs: ‘The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library’.””
  • Redcar and Cleveland – Row over plans to axe mobile library in east Cleveland – Darlington and Stockton Times. “Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council is planning on changing some of its 13 libraries’ opening hours, modernising some branches with self-service machines, relocate two libraries, and stop the mobile service. The proposals would see none of the council’s 13 libraries close and more of them would have customer information and access to services in the future” … “Residents can get involved by completing the survey online on the council’s consultation webpage at www.redcar-cleveland.gov.uk/haveyoursay, before April 10. The website also details drop-in consultation events at the library branches. ” see also Have your say on the council’s plans for the library service – NE Connected.
  • Swindon – Controversial library plans to be tested – Swindon Advertiser. “The council’s libraries strategy faces its first test tonight as parish councillors in Stratton decide whether to foot the bill to fund their library. Swindon Borough Council will withdraw funding from 10 out of 15 of the town’s libraries later this year in a bid to save £1.5m a year by 2020. Campaigners have argued that a total withdrawal of funding means permanent closure is likely for many of the sites, but the council has repeatedly argued that all libraries could stay open if local groups come forward to help.”
  • Torfaen – New chapter set to curtail library service cuts – Free Press Series. “Cuts to the library service in Torfaen have been shelved, postponing plans to make a £250,000 saving for the 2017/2018 budget and potentially stopping planned redundancies. In line with the budget saving exercise agreed by the council, libraries in Blaenavon, Cwmbran and Pontypool were facing reduced hours of manned service. However, a portion of money from a funding pot of £616,000 set aside for use on policies chosen by members will be used to save the libraries. A final decision will be made at the end of February.”