It’s good to see a couple of library refurbishments on the list and what appears to be an old-style complementary Friends of the Library group or two being set up. Gives me hope for 2017.  In other news, Flintshire are becoming a combined libraries/leisure trust.  This was once quite the thing (and the success of GLL in Greenwich and Wandsworth reported below, albeit with a strong library leader, shows it can work) but I suspect that many authorities are having second thoughts with the debacle of Warrington Livewire’s cack-handed cutting of its libraries.  There’s also the news, which I must admit took even me somewhat a-back, that five libraries in Camden will now only be available in the mornings if one swipes one’s library card and type in a PIN at the door.

Finally, I received a short and somewhat tragic email from a retired librarian in the North West who worries that his love of donated books at his local supermarket will somehow contribute to the end of libraries. Bless him and bless us.


National news

  • Libraries Deliver… – Leon’s Library Blog. “The following is an edited version of an article by John Vincent. It has been reproduced with permission from The Network Newsletter, Number 189, December 2016 (full article with appendices and footnotes). In it, John takes an in-depth look and analysis of the Ambition report and the correlation to social justice.” … “In terms of social justice, there are real strengths (and it’s a huge improvement on the earlier versions), but still does not really touch the reality (as outlined above in the ‘Context’ section). The result is a vision of libraries that is very positive and proactive – but also somehow unrealistic, and unrelated to the austerity cuts and to the severe disadvantage and discrimination that large sections of the UK face.”
  • Some libraries are better than others – Public Sector Executive. “Helen Milner, chief executive of Good Things Foundation, formerly the Tinder Foundation, expands on the organisation’s recent claims that protecting libraries at all costs could be holding the sector back, and that those which fail to serve communities need to close – with funding being channelled to those mindful of community needs instead.” … “What I’d like to see next is a national strategic development plan for libraries. I would like to see libraries given a mandate to put social inclusion at the heart of their services. And then I would like to see us celebrate and demonstrate the impact libraries have, so we can prove they’re so valuable that no one in their right mind would dare to shut another one.”
  • There’s a fightback taking place in Ireland against staffless libraries but why not in the UK – Stop the Privatisation of Public Libraries. “…more than anything we desperately need our unions to step up and to oppose this latest attack on libraries, if Impact in Ireland can do it then why can’t Unison et al?”

International news

  • Australia – How? Art. Toowomba Region Libraries, Queensland Australia – IFLA. “A safe and inspiring library space requires the freedom to explore with no fear of wrong answers. Such a place should allow you to be yourself while welcoming others’ ways too. What does that mean for children and young people in a regional Australian library service? In the Toowoomba Region, Queensland, we looked at Story Time as a space for bringing philosophical – and practical – change to the library’s ways of engaging with young patrons and their families.”
  • USA – Public Libraries: How Relevant Are They? – Public Libraries Online. Unawareness of e-book lending. Visits for events/programmes increasing while borrowing reducing. Marketing essential.

Local news by authority

  • Anglesey – Holyhead market hall’s £2.4m refurbishment to begin – BBC. “After securing £2.4m of Heritage Lottery Fund cash, the council plans to create a library and business hub. Following an ownership row, the council took it over in July 2016 and has announced work will start in January. Originally, the building housed assembly rooms and a court. However, it passed into private ownership about a decade ago and concerns were raised about its deteriorating condition as it fell into disrepair.” see also Holyhead Market Hall restoration set to begin – Anglesey Council.
  • Bath and North East Somerset – More than 1,500 people sign petition to save Bath Central Library – Bath Chronicle. “The council has promised to offer a “modernised” library in a move which would save £800,000 a year. But those behind a Change.org petition believe a new library will offer “the bare minimum.” Parent Vishaka Robinson said moving the space would risk “losing an incredibly valuable resource.” Mrs Robinson, a mum of two, uses the library in the Podium above Waitrose at least three times a week.”
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Save Bath Central Library – Change.org. “The new library will save BANES Council £800,000 a year and they will ‘Uphold [their] statutory duty for the provision of library services’. In layman’s terms they will do the bare minimum to ensure the public have access to library facilities. If you could create a beautiful, functional, multi-use space, what do you think it would look like? Bath Central Library. It’s already here, upstairs in The Podium, right in the centre of our town.”

“As a retired librarian very worried about the future of public libraries, I was alarmed to see my local Tesco in Bolton has set up a shelf unit for donated books which can be bought/borrowed for a donation to charity. I’ve tried hard to ignore this but have found myself browsing and even borrowing. How long before I’m tidying and sorting them? Darwen Library which I adorned with such distinction for so many years is threatened with further reductions in opening hours. If one day it becomes a Tesco Express will I have contributed to its fate? Will it all be my fault?” Bolton – A retired librarian worries – Via email, name supplied.

  • Brent – Pop-up library launches in Kilburn Station – Brent and Kilburn Times. “The new book exchange corner was launched in Kilburn Station on the Jubilee Line on Thursday thanks to collaboration between Cricklewood Library campaigners, Mapesbury Residents Association (MapRA), Transport for London (TfL) and Brent Council.”. Twelve shelves of books.
  • Camden – Open access libraries go live on Tuesday 10 January – Camden Council. “Over the past few months we have been installing open access technology at five Camden libraries. We will begin using this open access system from Tuesday 10 January. This means that you will need to use your library card and PIN number to enter the following libraries before 12 noon from Monday to Saturday:”
  • Essex – Friends groups to launch in Essex libraries – Essex Council. “Two libraries in North Essex will pilot newly created ‘Friends Groups’ ahead of a roll out across the county. Made up of local residents who have an interest in helping to develop their local libraries, the groups will be supported by Essex County Council with the remit of working alongside library staff, and supporting the library offer within their local areas.
    The first two pilot schemes will be launching in West Mersea and Sible Hedingham. Cllr Anne Brown, Cabinet Member responsible for libraries at Essex County Council said: “This is all about getting the community more involved in their local library. It is an idea that has worked well in other parts of the country, with the groups taking on projects, developing and running events and activities and also gaining funding, not available to us, to invest in equipment.”
  • Flintshire – Ground Breaking Flintshire Leisure and Library Services to be First in Wales – Business News Wales. “Turnout was 92.5% among leisure and library employees and they gave a resounding 90% yes to the proposals to set up a Community Benefit Society to deliver leisure and library services from 1 July 2017. This followed a Council decision to agree to the establishment of the new organisation to manage the services from July 2017. This is a first for Wales and one of only a handful of organisations to run services such as these in the whole of the UK. The business plan shows that in the first full year, over £500,000 of savings can be made to the service operation while Flintshire County Council is making a capital investment of almost £1m to improve leisure and library buildings, play areas and artificial pitches in the county.”
  • GLL / Greenwish and Wandsworth – GLL libraries excel again – GLL. “The CIPFA 2016 statistics show that in 2015/2016 The Royal Borough of Greenwich achieved a massive 2,408,866 visits,  the highest total number of visits to any London library authority. In addition, Greenwich also had 8,766 visits per 1,000 population, the highest number of visits per 1,000 population across the country. Wandsworth Borough achieved the highest number of issues in London – at 1,432,685. The results followed the issue of stretch targets by GLL’s Libraries Division which works in a long and close partnership with the Councils in both boroughs. The success is put down to high service standards of library staff and an evolving offer that keeps the interest of the public – including free wifi and access to computers for shopping, research, study or pleasure.”

“We focus on providing attractive and welcoming library buildings and interiors, on providing great bookstock relevant to the communities we serve,  on a really good IT offer and on providing a full programme of activities for all ages. “Having well trained library staff who are knowledgeable, innovative and courteous is key to our success and we acknowledge the contribution their hard work has on achieving these results.” Diana Edmonds, Head of GLL Libraries.

  • Gloucestershire – Your letters: ‘Why can’t children be quiet? They are ruining our libraries’ – Gloucestershire Live. “The children apparently mainly come from local schools. Is this a reflection on school discipline? Their behaviour certainly raises questions about their parenting. Should the parents be held to account? Perhaps the Government should be held to account for their austerity policy? The youth facility in Gloucestershire has been decimated because we are paying for the problems caused by the banking world and the need to reduce taxation on the one per cent who have obscene wealth. What is certain is that, as that adult said, ‘it is not right’ the way they behave in the library.”
  • Hampshire – Fareham Library to be Modernised – About My Area. “The library in Osborn Road will be closed temporarily for the works as part of a commitment made within the Library Strategy to reinvest £500,000 a year from the Book Fund until 2020 into library buildings and technology. Councillor Andrew Gibson, the County Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside, said: “The new and refurbished facilities will add so much more to Fareham Library, which plays a vital role in the local community and offers so many valuable services to residents. It is important that we invest in our buildings and meet the changing demands of customers and make the most of emerging technology. During the temporary closure, customers at Fareham will be given extended loan periods for their books, as well as the usual option to use services online or from neighbouring libraries to help avoid any inconvenience.””
  • Lancashire – Fury as village library goes on the market – Clitheroe Advertiser. “Coun. Ged Mirfin, who represents Billington, Brockhall and Old Langho and who is also one of the joint leaders of the Save Whalley Library Campaign, said: “The announcement has prompted an angry response from the residents of Whalley and Billington. “It has struck everyone as not only incredibly crass, but is regarded by many people as thoroughly duplicitous behaviour by Lancashire County Council trying to bury the announcement at a time when they hoped no-one would be watching out for it.”
  • Lancashire – Tory MP complains after cuts his party made hit council services – Morning Star. “The Library Campaign’s Laura Swaffield said the council was “demonstrating contempt” in putting the library buildings on sale while the government is supposed to be investigating. There are also fears that residents will have to foot the bill if the council is forced to reverse its plans. Ms Swaffield added: “The scale of the devastation planned in Lancashire would have been a sensation a couple of years ago. Now it’s becoming commonplace.” see also Minister called in after libraries cull – Morning Star.
  • Milton Keynes – Project Manager for the ‘Sharing Libraries’ Project – Contracts Finder. “Milton Keynes Council (MKC) seek a Project Manager to lead the ‘Sharing Responsibilities for Libraries’ project (Year Two) which involves developing and implementing new ways of operating at 9 libraries across Milton Keynes. The Project Manager will develop and manage the project which will include stakeholder engagement, public consultation and the development of a detailed delivery plan for all libraries and each library. The Project Manager will work one day per week in Milton Keynes for twelve months (Feb 2017 – Feb 2018).”
  • Sandwell – Sandwell libraries proving just the ticket – Sandwell Council. “An army of volunteers and a packed programme of activities have put Sandwell libraries among the best in the country according to recent figures. 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 (CIPFA) also show Sandwell had the fifth highest use of computers and was the tenth highest for enquiries. And it had the second highest number of volunteers after recording 16,820 volunteer hours during the year.  “
  • Somerset – Commissioning outcomes – Libraries Taskforce. “We have talked a lot – a huge amount actually as one of the difficulties was that, rightly or wrongly, very little was understood about library services and why we do what we do. And securing greater empathy and understanding about all our activities – from the Knit & Natter groups through to our UKOnline provision – needed time. Never underestimate how much time is required to do this.”.  Library service is now more fully integrates with council aims and works strategically to solve problems.

“Somerset’s Libraries are a dynamic, evolving and integral part of the community that open up a world of opportunities for reading, understanding and discovery.” Somerset Libraries mission statement.

  • Staffordshire – Kinver MP Gavin Williamson whips community library into shape at official opening – Evesham Journal. “Although the building and its maintenance will remain the responsibility of Staffordshire County Council, the historic library in Vicarage Drive is now managed and staffed by fully trained local volunteers. The move comes after Staffordshire County Council decided to delegate responsibility for a number of libraries throughout the county to the public, leading to a group known as Kinver Community Library Limited (KCLL) formed to take care of day-to-day operations.”
  • Staffordshire – ‘We need to look after our libraries’ – Burton Mail / Letters. Spending on this vital service should be maintained.
  • Surrey – Surrey County Council looking into possibility of having other services in libraries – Get Surrey. “The council’s comments come after a suggestion libraries need coffee shops, post offices and NHS service links to survive … we are always looking at the possibility of incorporating other services into our libraries and already share some of our premises with Citizens Advice Bureaus while also advertising public health campaigns.”
  • Swindon – Fresh hope for future of threatened Walcot library – Swindon Advertiser. Library may be replaced by computer training centre and book-collection point. “The strategy would see the Sussex Place unit, which the Walcot Shop and Community Library moved into just over a year ago, become an IT training hub where volunteers would teach jobseekers and the elderly how to best utilise the web. They also hope the new strategy will appeal to ‘silver surfers’, elderly residents who may benefit from using the internet for such things as online shopping or paying bills. Along with the training centre, the space would act as a library book pick up and drop off point, and serve as a public meeting place for local groups.”
  • Thurrock – Arson attack on East Tilbury library – Your Thurrock. “Initial reports were of a car on fire, but once on the scene firefighters reported that a car had reversed through the front doors of a commercial building and was alight inside the building. The building was 25% alight and 100% smoke logged. Firefighters quickly reassessed the incident and worked to extinguish it by 5.29am. The building, which mainly contained books, has suffered both smoke and fire damage and many of the books inside have been destroyed.”
  • Thurrock – Fears “priceless” Bata Collection could have been destroyed in arson attack at East Tilbury library – Your Thurrock. “The Bata Collection houses artefacts relating to the Bata Factories at East Tilbury from the thirties to the present day. Visitors from all over the world regularly come to the collection housed at the library. Chair of The Bata Reminisence Centre. Mike Tabard said: “These are too early days to establish what has happened. We are speaking to all the relevant authorities and only after that will we be able to assess the damage.”
  • Torfaen – Library service cuts recommended by Torfaen council – South Wales Argus. “Two libraries could have their book loan services reduced to just two-and-a-half days per week. As part of a £250,000 savings exercise for the 2017/2018 financial year, agreed by Torfaen council last March, the library services in Blaenavon and Pontypool will be reduced. Cwmbran library will also have a reduced service of four days, with all three libraries using self service facilities as part of the proposals. Members of the scrutiny committee narrowly supported the proposal yesterday, with four members voting in favour of the plans.”

Big Plans for our Libraries” proclaim council banners. ”More like Big Cuts” retort campaigners. “We want our lovely old buildings refurbished and resourced, not shoved into some smaller shared space – who knows where.” For some months masses of people, including many children, have joined in imaginative protest activities. There was even a threat of a judicial review – which all helped to force the council to take a step back. Now they have had to bring out a second consultation about their proposals. Several months ago their plan to move Hale End library was halted as a result of similar protest actions. But Higham Hill and Wood Street libraries are still in their sights. “We Love Our Libraries”, says Nancy Taaffe of the Wood Street Campaign, herself an ex-library worker “and we encourage everyone to boldly reject the council’s Option 1 and support Option 2 to refurbish and resource“,

“These libraries have been at the heart of their communities for generations”, says Susan Wills an English teacher from the Higham Hill campaign, “and we want to keep them for the future”. Libraries are precious to trade unionists. “More than a hundred years ago early trade unions set up local reading rooms; and the post-war Labour government ensured that libraries were included in new council estates”, says Dave Knight WFTC President. “We will do all we can to help save these two historic buildings and strongly recommend all residents participate in the consultation”. ” Waltham Forest We Love Our Libraries – Waltham Forest Trades Council.