Those people who say the decline in public libraries are inevitable should look at what is happening in the USA and Canada some time. Just today, there are stories that show that library visits (even book issues) in the USA are increasing long-term and the big authority of Hamilton in Canada saw an increase of 13% over one year. Neither the USA overall or Hamilton have seen deep cuts to their budgets. How that’s going to change with Trump as President one can sadly guess at but the figures show that the decline in UK library usage is not pre-ordained. If you think it is, explain why it’s not happening there.  Sadly, however, why the cuts are happening here is pretty evident. From just today’s announcements – Kirklees will soon have reduced their libraries budget by 72% by my reckoning (check the figures below) and Walsall are reported as cutting their budget from £4m to £1m, another cut of three-quarters. Meanwhile, West Berkshire are proudly announcing that they won’t close as many libraries as they originally wanted to because they’re going to depend on volunteers and parish/town council donations instead. Faced with such cuts, it’s pretty clear the decline in Britain is more a case of Austerity killing them than anything else.


Media mentions heatmap

This shows longer term trends in authorities than the list above.

  • Red: Lancashire (27), Plymouth (15)
  • Amber: Birmingham (9), Swindon (7), Warrington (7), Bath and North East Somerset (6), Darlington (6).


National news

  • Designing libraries for the digital age – Doteveryone. “We need institutions to create new civic spaces for the digital age. Public libraries are an important place to start because they are free for everyone to use to access knowledge without prejudice. We’ve been thinking about how they could adapt to the digital age and spent a day exploring the issue, hearing from four people involved in shaking up the world of libraries.”
  • Fresh fears for libraries as councils face £5.8bn funding gap – BookSeller. “The concerns have surfaced on the eve of the relaunch of the all party parliamentary group tonight (31st January), which campaigners hope will work to put pressure on government to affect real change in the public library service” … “Nick Poole, c.e.o. of librarians body CILIP, told The Bookseller that the cuts were the “worst kind of short-termism” and called on national government to reverse the austerity.” … “Tonight (31st January) will see the relaunch of the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group, chaired by Sheffield MP and shadow minister Gill Furniss. Campaigners have said they hope the group will work to put pressure on government to affect real change in the public library service.”
  • Libraries and the value of neutral space: asking the right questions – Doteveryone. “We re-visited our original premise of active neutral space as one of the important ideas that will shape our work. The theme of neutrality came out throughout our discussion of what makes a libary important, and what the internet is currently failing at. The internet seemingly offers access to all information, but the past 12 months remind us that the information that citizens discover and find can be polarised and distributed by the people they associate with and spaces they occupy, the commercial services they use and the whims of advertisers. We need neutral, non-commerical spaces for discovery, learning and existing itself. Are libraries the answer to this?”
  • Taking Part 2016/17 Quarter 2 – DCMS. Survey suggests 33.8% use public libraries (up slightly from 33.4% 2015/16 but down from 48.2% in 2005/6. 0.5% donated to public library. Library participation significantly higher for females (37.6% female to 29/9% male) … “Engagement across all sectors except libraries and archives was higher for adults from the white ethnic group than for adults from the black and minority ethnic group. However, 43.9 per cent of black and minority ethnic adults used a public library service in the 12 months prior to interview, compared to 32.4 per cent of white adults” … “Across all sectors except libraries, engagement was higher for those in less deprived areas than those in more deprived areas. There was no significant difference for libraries in engagement across the IMD deciles.”

International news

  • Canada – 4 million: Visits surge to Hamilton’s 22 library branches – Hamilton Spectator. “Library officials pitching a $518,000 budget hike Thursday told councillors visits to the city’s 22 branches grew an “encouraging” 13 per cent last year to nearly 4 million from 3.5 million in 2015. The total library budget would top $29 million in 2017. Board chair George Geczy also noted growth in computer use, WiFi sessions and attendance at literacy and other learning programs. Circulation of books and digital materials together dropped slightly last year, but overall has grown since amalgamation from 4 million to nearly 7 million”
  • Global – Alternative Facts and Fake News – Verifiability in the Information Society – IFLA. “IFLA has made this infographic with eight simple steps (based on FactCheck.org’s 2016 article How to Spot Fake News)  to discover the verifiability of a given news-piece in front of you. Download, print, translate, and share – at home, at your library, in your local community, and in social media networks. The more we crowdsource or wisdom, the wiser the world becomes. You can also check out FactCheck.org’s video based on the article.”
  • USA – ALA Midwinter 2017: Librarians Ponder the Future Under Trump – Publishers Weekly. ““Everything that’s happening right now in America, you’re on the front lines of that,” Bell, a popular comic, podcaster and television host, told a packed auditorium. “Now, more than ever you have the power to expand the idea of what America is. It is starting to contract, and we need to reopen by putting books in the hands of kids.””.
  • USA – Here’s why the Internet hasn’t killed public libraries – Raw Story. “In the last two decades, the total number of U.S. public libraries slightly increased – inching up from 8,921 in 1994 to 9,082 in 2012 (a gain of 2.14 percent). Over the same period, the data also show that use of public libraries in the U.S went up as well.” … “The number of books and other items borrowed from U.S. public libraries increased from 6.5 items per capita in 1993 to 8.0 items per capita in 2012 (up 23 percent). Over the same time span, the number of visits to U.S. public libraries rose 22.5 percent.”. Academic library usage has also increased.

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – NW7 Hub presents vision to residents for Mill Hill library in partnership with Barnet Council – Times Series. “More than 100 residents were given an insight into the workings of their local library, which will reopen under a new partnership brought about by council cuts. Barnet Council has committed to saving £2.2 million on spending for the boroughs libraries as part of a wider programme of spending cuts in 2017. Several libraries have been or will be closed and then reopened in partnership with nominated charities and organisations. Mill Hill library was put under a partnership with NW7 Hub, who presented their vision of the renewed services to residents on Sunday (January 29).”
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Library protesters to gather oustide Bath Guildhall and Moorland Road Library – Bath Chronicle. “Two Bath protests have been organised this week as library users fight the planned cuts to their facilities.”. Other libraries to be co-located, passed to volunteers or both.
  • Cornwall – Bag your books before Bodmin Library move – Cornwall Council. “The library will close its doors at its current site in Lower Bore Street at 5.00pm on Wednesday 1 February and reopen in Cornwall Council’s Chy Trevail offices at 8.30am on Wednesday 8 February.  To ensure that even the most dedicated bookworms will have enough to read during this time, customers can borrow up to 36 items from Bodmin Library for an extended loan period” … ““For Bodmin, this means a new home in Chy Trevail, which will bring benefits like longer opening hours and better access for disabled customers, plus the chance for library users to enjoy some cake and a cuppa with their books in the Chy Trevail café and to access other services like the Adult Education Centre and the Registration Office while they’re on site.””
  • Devon – New library set to open in former bank building in Ottery St Mary – Express and Echo. “The library has been relocated to the former NatWest bank, and its doors will officially open on Saturday, February 25. The building has been significantly refurbished through a partnership with Ottery St Mary Town Council, Devon County Council and Libraries Unlimited. The Friends of Ottery Library have also helped to raise funds to contribute towards the new library furniture. The new library will offer improved accessibility, with step-free access for those with reduced mobility and parents or carers bringing children in pushchairs, as well as providing a bigger and more modern space for new facilities. The building also boasts flexible space that can be used for special library events or can be hired by the public, businesses and community groups.” see also Ottery St Mary Library announces relocation date – Libraries Unlimited.
  • Dundee – Mickey and High School Musical still missing from Dundee libraries – Evening Telegraph. “New figures provided to the Tele show that Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas and Disney’s Christmas Favourites were loaned out by Central Library in December 2008. However, they have failed to return and top the list of the most overdue DVDs across the city. The Central Library is owed eight of the top 10 most overdue library DVDs in Dundee. The most overdue books in the city also belong to the Wellgate-based library. As well as the two Disney festive features, Central Library continues to wait for six DVDs loaned out in 2009.”
  • Kirklees – Kirklees libraries funding could be slashed by more than £1m – Huddersfield Daily Examiner. “The council’s ruling cabinet will be asked to approve proposals for council spending in 2018-19 which would see funding for the library service slashed by more than £1.5m – down from £3.9m to £2.2m.” … “A report to the cabinet meeting said: “Kirklees Council completed a review of the library service in 2016-17, saving £1.85m over the period April, 2016, to March, 2017, including the £1.35m savings for 2017-18.” … “The report did not specify library closures – but said reducing the number of libraries could see more customers using those libraries that remain.” [! – Ed.] … “Kirklees Council last restructured its libraries in 2015 in the face of a £1.8m cut in funding, splitting them into eight “Town Libraries” which would remain fully staffed and 16 “Community Supported Libraries” with one librarian each backed by community volunteers. Kirklees announced last March that 20 library staff were leaving voluntarily and 14 were moving into different roles, avoiding the need for compulsory redundancies.”
  • Manchester – Set up a community book swap – Read Manchester.”A book swap event brings together the community to share books they’ve enjoyed and take home new books for free. It can create a positive atmosphere and encourage more people to read for enjoyment, which can help to create a healthier, happier community”
  • North Yorkshire – Volunteers To Run Some North Yorkshire Libraries – Yorkshire Coast Radio. “Volunteers are being trained up to work at libraries across North Yorkshire. From April, many communities will take charge of their local branches after Government funding cuts. The annual budget for the service has dropped by £3.5 million since 2010.”
  • Plymouth – Labour’s Tudor Evans answers your questions on bins, libraries, Brexit and Trump – Plymouth Herald. “Next question: ‘When did you last borrow a book from a library?’ “Oh gosh, a long time ago,” Cllr Evans says. “Probably when I was a kid, if I’m honest. “I go into the library because there are other things happening.” The council is proposing to close ten of the city’s most “under-used” libraries, and Labour are campaigning hard against it. If he was still in power, would he keep all 17 libraries open? “We had begun to talk about a transformation programme,” he says. “We thought we could change the way we were doing it. We could move libraries rather than closing them. “Like North Prospect which was in a bad location, with an old and tired offer, move it up the road and reimagine it, and you’ve got a success story on your hands. “This is different. Proposing to close 60 per cent of the library network in one go is not a transformation programme. It’s barbaric. We wouldn’t be doing it like this.”
  • Plymouth – Library debate descends into row about ‘leak of confidential papers’ – Plymouth Herald. Conservatives, currently closing libraries, point out that Labour – when it was in office – also wanted to close libraries. “Referring to historic “cabinet papers”, Cllr Bowyer said: “In 2014 the Labour cabinet named four libraries which were ‘unsuitable’ and ‘very small’.” Labour leader Tudor Evans said Cllr Bowyer has “no right to those private papers”, calling them “a leak of confidential information.” PCC chief executive Tracey Lee promised to investigate the allegation. The debate goes to the heart of the politics behind the library closure plan, which Labour is campaigning hard against.
  • Plymouth – ‘Library saved me from bullies and childhood illness’, says Plymouth councillor – Plymouth Herald. “Objecting to the council’s plan to shut ten libraries and invest in the remaining seven, Cllr Penberthy said: “As a child, my parents could not have afforded to buy me the number of books I read in our local library. “I suffered very much from allergies, I was off school a lot at home, unable to breathe easily, and reading was a lifeline. That availability of books mattered. “For me as a child, not at school a lot, not able to take part in sports, I was bullied and excluded. The library was somewhere I felt safe and included.”
  • Plymouth – Plymouth has just four weeks to find extra £2.5million of cuts – Plymouth Herald. “Councillors have clashed over the future of the city’s finances, as Labour accused the Tories of “taking the easy option” by cutting libraries and bin collections.
  • Walsall – Streetly Library in Sutton Coldfield saved as Walsall Council announces budget plans – Royal Sutton Coldfield Observer. “Streetly Library has been saved with Walsall Council confirming it will become a new ‘community library’ – the only one of its type of the seven that will remain. The Blackwood Road site had been threatened with closure due to Walsall Council’s proposed budget cuts – with its library services due to be slashed from £4 million to £1 million in the 2017/2018 financial year. But campaign group Save Streetly Library submitted a 2,700 signature petition earlier this month and the council responded and said: “We will retain libraries within our five district centres – Aldridge, Bloxwich, Brownhills, Darlaston and Willenhall (along with the Central Library).”
  • Walsall – Walsall Council cuts: 281 jobs and nine libraries to go – BBC News. “Council tax will also rise by 4.99%, as the Labour-Lib Dem coalition authority faces budget cuts. But the future of the New Art Gallery, which has faced the threat of closure, is set to be secured as the council looks to develop a new business model for it.” … “Libraries will close in Beechdale, Blakenall, New Invention, Pelsall, Pleck, Pheasey, Rushall, South Walsall and Walsall Wood.”
  • Warrington – Libraries are ‘in a better place’ after LiveWire consultation – Warrington Guardian. “Cllr Tony Higgins praised the Save Warrington’s Libraries campaigners, who have been fighting to halt the closure of nine of the town’s 11 libraries. A leaked report on LiveWire’s public consultation about the future of libraries across the town revealed the town centre library will be saved and the company is looking into ways to protect the other sites under threat.” … “A petition to save the libraries racked up more than 10,000 signatures after LiveWire announced plans to save £300,000 from their budget by slashing the library service.”
  • West Berkshire – Plans for new library service model unveiled – West Berkshire Council.  Eight libraries to have at least one paid member of staff, with the rest being volunteers. One mobile library to survive. One mobile library to close. Wash Common Library to close. “Overall, 58% supported keeping library staff at all branches rather than more volunteer-led options, which is reflected in the final proposal” … “West Berkshire Council has also asked town and parish councils to support the library service with a donation of £1 per resident in recognition of the value communities place on their libraries.” … “Councillors will discuss and vote on the new plan at a full Council meeting at 7pm on Tuesday 7 February at the Market Street offices in Newbury. The meeting is open to the public”