I’ve seen many people argue for the combining of library services across council boundaries in order to save money.  And, indeed, 151 library services just for England does seem a tad excessive. The Tri-borough (*deep breath*: Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster) has been held up as a great example of how this can work, with the three councils combining many different services, including libraries. Here’s an article from 2012 describing how well it was working. However, sadly, the BBC reports today that the partnership is ending in a divorce where the warring councils are each accusing the other of insincerity. So, why? Well, Hammersmith claims it was losing from the deal. Which may be true, but I suspect the real reason is that in 2014, Hammersmith became Labour controlled and the other two remained Conservative and it’s taken this long for it all to unravel. Imagine how much fun the councillor meetings between them must have been until they’ve finally now decided to go their separate ways.

Reality has a rich sense of irony sometimes as, on the same day, Bournemouth has confirmed it will combine its library services with Poole. Both councils are Conservative controlled so they may have a chance, for now. But I suggest buying the popcorn and settling down in a comfortable chair to watch if one of the two councils changes party control. However, I understand all of Dorset is looking to go unitary so that could solve that one.

So does that cast a shadow on combining library services? Well, there may be a way for councils of all stripes to happily share control. That magic partnering option is outsourcing.  The non-profit leisure trust GLL currently run Greenwich (Labour), Wandsworth (Conservative) and Lincolnshire (No overall control, Conservative leader) libraries, are doing things with combined gyms and libraries in Lambeth (Labour), will soon be taking over Dudley (No overall control, Labour leader) and are trying for Bromley (Conservative). That’s what I know of but I’m sure there’s more. I suspect GLL gain all sorts of economies of scale from this, and so in this age that weirdly combines localism and austerity, they may be the closest we have to combining library services. Albeit at one remove and almost by stealth.



National news

  • Gruffalo writer Julia Donaldson backs campaign to save libraries – Courier. “Julia Donaldson is supporting the Libraries Matter campaign from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS). The campaign warns cuts mean only 11 out of 32 local authorities now have a full-time qualified librarian in secondary schools across Scotland. The campaign asks candidates standing in the local government elections this May to protect the library budget and support professionally staffed school libraries. Donaldson said: “Reading broadens the mind, stimulates the imagination and increases literacy. And librarians and libraries are the most important people and places for fostering a love of reading.” see also Gruffalo writer Julia Donaldson backs campaign to save libraries as council elections loom – National.

“Hammersmith & Fulham council returned to Labour party control in 2014, while both Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea are Conservative controlled”

  • London councils walk away from share services agreement – BBC. “Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, and Hammersmith & Fulham boroughs have shared some services since 2011 in a bid to cut costs. But on Monday, the Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea councils took a surprise decision to end the deal with Hammersmith & Fulham. Hammersmith Council said the move was “evidently long-planned”. A joint statement released by the Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea authorities said the decision had been taken “in the face of uncertainty” caused by Hammersmith & Fulham, which they accused of “appearing to make alternative in-house plans without any formal engagement with the other two local authority partners about key services”.”
  • Reimagining library spaces – a workshop on creating engaging community spaces – Artefacto. “Participants got a chance to try out some emerging technologies (3D printing, physical computing, electronics, augmented reality and proximity technologies) and were able to start working on ideas for applying this to their own work.”

“To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, pursuant to the Answer of 20 March 2017 to Question 68114, on public libraries: complaints, what the total number of correspondence received by her Department from all local authorities complaining about library services changes since 2010 is.” Kevin Brennan MP (Shadow Minister)

“The Department does not maintain records of the total number of correspondence received concerning complains about library service changes for either all or each local authority in England.” Rob Wilson MP (Libraries Minister) – They Work For You.

  • #uklibchat – What the Librarian Did Next – UK LibChat. “This is month’s chat is all about looking at what Librarians have gone on to do after leaving Librarianship. What are the transferable skills? What motivates a career change?”
  • Word by Word, Song by Song. Commoners Choir Coming to a Northern English Library Near You – Big Bookend. “Literacy, Books and the Print Revolution. A Tour of Northern English Libraries. Formed by ex Chumbawamba member, Boff Whalley, Commoners Choir embarks on its first ever tour in April taking in Sheffield, Keighley, Darlington, Carlisle and Doncaster. All cities where Government cuts are hitting public libraries hard. Commoners Choir will sing specially written songs about how the invention of print and the creation of public libraries democratised information and knowledge, centring around the history, culture and politics of literacy and print. Each performance will be accompanied by an exhibition of printed posters celebrating the power of print. At each event there will be a letterpress printer demonstrating the use of mechanical type and creating site-specific souvenirs of each performance which will include a free CD of a Commoners Choir song written especially for the event.”

International news

  • Canada – Bookworms to protest library cuts outside MLA offices – CBC News. There are numerous other articles about the reactions to deep cuts to libraries in Saskatchewan. “The organizer of an upcoming provincial read-in outside MLA offices is hoping the government reconsiders its “devastating” cuts to libraries. “There are so many people that are upset and outraged by this,” said Weyburn mother of four Leslie Richards. “The goal is to rally them together in a peaceful manner.” Drop Everything and Read will take place at noon on April 7. Saskatchewan residents are encouraged to bring a book to their local MLA’s office and read outside for 15 minutes. Richards plans to bring her four children.”
  • Global – On Libraries – Performance Research. “In an economic and cultural context in which public libraries are under threat widely, On Libraries offers tangible evidence of the diverse interrelations between and interventions of artists and libraries which reveal the library as dynamic, shifting and contested spaces of creativity, subversion, refuge, labour, testimony, imagination, choreography, repetition, invitation, inhabitation, solitude and conviviality. Including contributions from Europe, America, Australia and Iran, the issue foregrounds the practices of ‘library performances’, including work which displays and disrupts in equal measure library forms, rituals and technologies; work which acknowledges and takes sustenance from the library as icon of safe space for reflection and intellectual pursuit; work which responds to the materiality of libraries, most particularly books and their para-texts, including marginalia, secret deposits and traces of singular readerly engagement. Performances in libraries offer one lens through which to approach the question of ‘What are libraries for in the 21st century?’; and, further, ‘What might libraries become?’”
  • USA – Someone Is Mysteriously Hiding A.1. Sauce Bottles Inside an Ohio Library: ‘We’re Stumped’ – People. “Dozens of A.1. steak sauce containers have mysteriously been popping up inside Ohio’s Avon Lake Public Library, leaving the staff very puzzled. “At first, when you find one you think, oh, what’s in here—was somebody sneaking booze in the library?” Jill Ralston, the library’s public relations and marketing coordinator, tells People. Since a a security guard spotted the first bottle tucked in a pile of newspapers on Jan. 11, a total of 30 bottles have been found. They are stripped of their labels but, with a little investigating, the staff was able to identify the familiar sauce bottles. “We measured it and we looked online and we compared and determined it’s an A.1. bottle,” says Ralston. “They’re dishwasher cleaned out but you can still catch a hint of A.1. in them.””
  • USA – Library Juice Challenge – EveryLibrary. “We are thrilled that Library Juice Academy is renewing their “Personal Donor Challenge” for 2017! Last year, Library Juice Academy helped us reach dozens of new monthly personal donors, and encouraged dozens more to renew their donations. This year, we’d like to ask you to help us match their $1,000 donation by making a one-time contribution today. This means that if you donate $25 here on this page, LibraryJuice will match that funding and turn your donation into $50 for libraries in the United States.”
  • USA – Manatee County Public Libraries system hosts second edible book event  – Bradenton Herald. “The Rocky Bluff Library, 6750 U.S. Highway 301 N., will celebrate the International Edible Book Festival, a worldwide event that brings bibliophiles and pastry connoisseurs together”.
  • USA – San Francisco libraries want to microchip their books – Los Angeles Times. RFID Tags proposed for self-service machines [Yes, the ones your library probably already has – Ed.] “San Francisco Public Library is considering adopting a $7.5 million microchip system to help improve sorting and prevent theft, over the objections of the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Freedom Foundation, the San Francisco Examiner reports.”

Local news by authority

  • Bath and North East Somerset – April Fool’s Day march against arts cuts, park & ride and library service changes in Bath – Bath Chronicle. “Bath Deserves Better” group is organising march.
  • Bournemouth and Poole – Library and seafront services merged: bid to save £1million approved in Bournemouth and Poole – Bournemouth Echo. “bosses in Bournemouth have welcomed plans to develop further joint working between themselves and Borough of Poole. At a cabinet meeting this week members endorsed more shared working between the two authorities while agreeing plans to create joint tourism and library services in an attempt to save nearly £1million. It comes as a decision from Communities Secretary Sajid Javid on merging Dorset councils was postponed on Thursday due to the Westminster terror attack. The decision to create just two unitaries out of the nine Dorset councils could now be made next week, and if approved could see Bournemouth merge with Poole.”
  • Bradford – Volunteers come forward to make a success of Silsden Library re-launch – Keighley News. “re-launch of Silsden Library as a community-run facility has come a significant step nearer, with the recruitment of new volunteers. An initial batch of prospective library assistants has already undergone training and more sessions will follow over the coming weeks. Peter Cannon, chairman of the library management committee, said: “We are very pleased with progress, and can now envisage the library re-opening very soon.” This Saturday, (April 1) Bradford Council will end its staffing of the Town Hall based library, as part of its latest cutbacks to try and save money.”

“More volunteers, who can offer an hour or more once a fortnight, are still welcome” [One hour per fortnight?! Holy cow – Ed.]

  • Bridgend – Police’s ‘rare objection’ to Bridgend hub’s alcohol plan – BBC. “Plans to sell alcohol at a community hub in Bridgend county would have a “negative impact” on the village, police have said. A community group wants a licence to sell alcohol at the Bettws Life Centre – which has a library, hall and cafe – from noon until midnight every day. But South Wales Police has concerns about underage drinking and bottles being used as “weapons”. Bridgend council adjourned its decision during a meeting application on Monday. NSA Afan Community Group – a charity which has taken over the running of the centre in the village of Bettws – said it wants to use it as a “community facility” including hiring it out for birthday parties, training and sporting events.”
  • Lancashire – Former Lostock Hall Library, Lostock Hall, South Ribble, Lancashire, PR5 5TU – Pugh Auctions. “former library approximately 530 sq m (5,705 sq ft) on a site approximately 0.16 Hectares (0.39 Acres) with development potential ” … “LCC’s preference is for a unconditional offer but offers on an alternative basis such as subject to planning will be considered. The sale will be subject to the Councils standard clawback provision entitling it to 50% of any increase in value of the property due to a redevelopment of the site within 20 years of the sale completion.”
  • Nottinghamshire – Inspire: Culture, Learning and Libraries – DCMS Case Study. “Since Inspire went live on 1 April 2016, they have achieved a number of key outcomes including…” new services, new income streams, “Over the next 4 years, Inspire aims to become more sustainable and grow in line with its core objectives over the next 4 years. This includes securing increased income and grant funding to grow its learning, heritage and cultural offer. It will be crucial for it to meet funders’ contractual requirements from funders, while also making sure the benefits of culture, learning and libraries are available to customers and learners.”
  • Plymouth – Plymouth library closures and bin cuts ‘not being done out of spite’ – Plymouth Herald. “Cllr Ian Bowyer (below) says he genuinely believes the changes coming into force shortly will improve the city, make the most of council assets and release much-needed cash for adult healthcare.”
  • Sunderland – Speechless over library’s insufficient storage – Sunderland Echo / Letters. ” I couldn’t finish what I wanted to read and I asked a member of staff if I could read it on Monday and was told that should be possible.On Monday I asked another member of staff to obtain the Saturday Guardian but was informed that it had been thrown out as there is insufficient storage in the library. I was speechless, and I now realise that I will have to get on the Metro to visit the main library in a City of Culture called Newcastle upon Tyne.”
  • Walsall – WP3304 – 6 Walsall Wood Library Community Asset Transfer, WP3304 – 8 South Walsall Library Community Asset Transfer, WP3304 – 7 Beechdale Library Community Asset Transfer, WP3304 – 5 Rushall Library Community Asset Transfer, WP3304 – 4 Pleck Library Community Asset Transfer, WP3304 – 3 Pheasey Library Community Asset Transfer, WP3304 – 2 Pelsall Library Community Asset Transfer, WP3304 – 1 New Invention Library Community Asset Transfer Contracts Finder. “Walsall Council is offering the opportunity for a voluntary and community sector organisation to occupy the various current Library premises through the council’s Community Asset Transfer programme.  Walsall Council welcomes expressions of interest from voluntary and community sector organisations or several organisations working as a consortium who have the necessary expertise and imaginative proposals to take over the occupation of these buildings and make them available for use to the wider community.  As part of the closure decision, the council has decided that opportunities for the community use of these buildings should be explored. The council therefore now wishes to explore Community Asset Transfer (CAT) as an alternative way of keeping the buildings open and available for use by the wider community.”

“Following the announcements of cuts to the Tri-borough services, as of 1st April, there has been a major restructuring of staff across the service. There are no longer any professional front line librarian posts – reference or learning support. There has been a number of voluntary redundancies taken, and the remaining front line staff have been amalgamated into one generic Library Customer Service Officer position … Librarians were given the option of applying for a service delivery role (branch manager), one of two remaining professional posts relating to art and business, or they could apply (voluntarily) for the LCSO role, at a lower band and thus a lower pay” Westminster – Cuts to staffing – Via email, unconfirmed.

  • Windsor and Maidenhead – New mobile library plan – Windsor Observer. “A new mobile library is on the cards – and the hunt is on to find an area in particular need of one. Royal Borough cabinet members agreed on Thursday to splash out between £95,000 and £195,000 on a 40 ft long container lorry capable of containing 4,000 books that could be left in one spot for a few days at a time. Alternatively a 30 ft long vehicle with 2,500 books that could visit different sites over the course of the day might be agreed. Consultations are being carried out across the borough to find out that the public want”