So, we have another General Election coming up. It’s not unexpected and Theresa May would have been a fool to turn down such a chance to pile on more seats. But what does it mean for libraries?  Well, it almost certainly means a non-stop solid Conservative majority until 2021.  Whereas before there was a chance of a few MPs making a difference, and thus a need to care about smaller issues, this now seems unlikely. Marginal issues – and sadly libraries are most definitely this on a national stage that will be dominated by Brexit and its fallout – can therefore be ignored in the cabinet battles to come, and likely will be. Again assuming a Conservative victory this will mean a continued reduction in council funding and a desire to seek out “alternative” sources for funding such as volunteers, trusts and (perhaps the most vain hope of all) philanthropy.

I was asked recently to say which of the contending political parties would best serve library interests. You know which ones that would be. But forget them. That’s not who you will be getting, except perhaps if you live in Hamilton or elsewhere in Scotland. (and if they break away, it’s going to be rightwing governments south of the border for the foreseeable).  Make an accommodation to that fact now. Work out how to best position libraries in the continuing austerity environment they will surely stay in.  The library sector has so far attempted a Jack Of All Trades approach to proving its worth to government by claiming to be able to help with multiple agendas. I’m not sure if that’s the choice I would have gone with to help libraries stay alive. Rather, I would go with talking more but smiling less. To me, a clear message, a simple one would have been better. After all, if the public are not sure what you stand for, they will fall for anything.

Oh, and by the way, while I’m being depressed and cynical, I see a lot being written about the importance of public libraries to provide neutral and unbiased information and how useful that is at election time. But that’s not what is happening on the ground. Most libraries last year did not make a thing of having all the manifestoes and I’m not aware of a single one that offered a fact checking service. I doubt very much that will change in this one. But, please, surprise me. Don’t throw away this shot.*



  • A review of UK libraries in 2017 – Axiell. “New research from Axiell UK highlights staffing, funding and technology as key challenges, and also suggests key areas for libraries to focus on in order to build sustainable and community-centric services. The survey of 150 UK-based library professionals, presented in the new report, A review of UK libraries in 2017: A guide for delivering sustainable, community-centric services,  highlights that 89% believe it’s important for library services to be accessible to everyone, but there are key challenges. These include staffing (91%), funding to take the library out to the community (77.5%), and technology (47.5%), for example not having mobile devices.”.  Includes foreword by NIck Poole and an afterword by myself [“If they ever need a library-sector pantomime horse…” tweeted NIck Poole when I mentioned this there – Ed.]
Plus free afterword by myself....

Plus free afterword by myself….

International news

“Reading is a discount ticket to anywhere”

Local news by authority

  • Bath and North East Somerset – Library consultation results will help write the next chapter – Chew Valley Gazette. “The Council’s vision is a combined service which gives people convenient access to a wide range of useful services, including libraries, customer services and the services provided by partner organisations, in a well-designed, modern space, supported by high-speed Wi-Fi and up-to-date PCs and technology.” [This appears to be simply the council press release – Ed.]
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Chester’s new Storyhouse to be celebrated at street carnival event – Chester Chronicle. “Hundreds of school children will form giant human chain surrounded by musicians and entertainers” … “The launch of Chester’s £37m Storyhouse cultural centre will be celebrated in a street carnival atmosphere when hundreds of children form a human chain surrounded by musicians, dancers and storytellers” … “They will form a 250-metre human chain or ‘book worm’ and pass up to 5,000 children’s books from the former city centre library to inside the brand new Storyhouse children’s library on Thursday, May 4, exactly a week before the actual opening.”
  • Cumbria – Cumbria Libraries join national ‘Bath, Book, Bed’ campaign – Cumbria Crack. “Parents and carers can pick up their free copy of the new Bath, Book, Bed booklet from libraries across Cumbria, and check library Facebook pages for details of what is going on in your area. The booklet can also be downloaded from the BookTrust website which features a Best Bedtime Books list and has more ideas, guidance and practical tips on ensuring stories are part of every child’s bedtime routine.  Many of the books are available in Cumbria libraries, where they can be borrowed free of charge. It is also free to join your local library
  • Derbyshire – Council approve £16m plans for former factory site – Belper News. “Amber Valley Borough Council have approved plans to turn a former chocolate factory in Belper into a £16million care home and public library.” … ““The library will be housed in the site’s most historic building – the former Castle Blouse factory dating back to the 1800s.“Featuring exposed beams and steel columns dating back to its time as a factory, library visitors will now be able to see the building’s historic interior for themselves.”They added: “We know this site is important to the town and that’s why we’ll be keeping the Derwent Street façade of the Thorntons factory as well.” … “the library will replace the current facility on Bridge Street to offer improved ICT facilities and disabled access.”
  • Havering – Proposal to build 62 homes and demolish former Rainham Library withdrawn – Romford Recorder. “Persimmon Homes Ltd submitted plans last month to Havering Council to build 62 homes in Broadway, Rainham. If successful, the old Rainham Library would have been demolished to make way for a mix of 20 houses and 42 apartments with associated access roads and parking. The application for the new homes has been withdrawn this morning.”
  • Herefordshire – Meeting to discuss future running of Kington Library – Hereford Times. “future of Kington Library will be discussed at a public meeting next month. Due to library funding and services being cut across the county, a public meeting has been called on May 10 and will be held from 7pm at The Old Police Station. Kington Town Council is involved in developing a strategy for the library’s future and would like to see what ideas members of the local community have, as well as bringing people up to date with their current work. Book lending and customer services will still be provided by Herefordshire Council staff, and the town council is due to discuss ideas about trying to increase the services and activities the library can provide.”
  • St Helens – Author Frank Cottrell-Boyce speaks of importance of libraries in wake of service review – St Helens Star. “Frank, who grew up in St Helens, said: “As a kid I spent a huge chunk of every Saturday morning in the library in Rainhill, working my way first through the children’s section, then as I got older, through the big glossy travel books. “It made me feel that the little community I lived in was (a) connected to the wide world and to history and (b) that that community valued me and my education so much that they had provided this safe, free space and these amazing books for me. It made me feel that I should give something back – that I was part of something.””
  • Warrington – Working group set up to ‘secure future’ of Culcheth Library exploring ‘co-location’ scheme for site – Warrington Guardian. “Culcheth Library Working Group, which was established by councillors and residents, has already been approached by not-for-profit organisations who are keen to rent space within the library building, on Warrington Road. Members are now hoping to ‘widen the net’ to see if any other businesses, organisations or social enterprises would be interested in ‘entering discussions’.”
  • West Lothian – Youngsters still booking into Linlithgow Library – Falkirk Herald. “Last month saw 7100 visitors to the site at The Vennel – 1000 more compared to January and February’s total – making it one of West Lothian’s busiest libraries. There were over 5000 books borrowed and encouragingly for the service, it also had the highest amount of books being borrowed by junior members in the region. Fiona Aitken, team manager at the library, said: “It’s extremely reassuring to see young people still using the library, although new technologies are advancing all the time, people still like to hold a paper version of a book.”
  • Wigan – Questions remain on library reforms – Wigan Today. “Job losses have still not been ruled out ahead of Wigan Council’s library reform plan going before the full council chamber tonight. Local authority bosses say tweaks to the services will deliver £1.4m of savings and all existing facilities will be saved from the axe. However, the council has not revealed whether the proposed merging of library and Life Centre staff will trigger redundancies. The reforms will include encouraging more volunteers to help out at the borough’s 15 locations.”

*I was reminded of the brilliance of Hamilton The Musical on Twitter this evening so I have worked in a few references to it in this article. Don’t burn me about it – call me young, scrappy and hungry. Well, one of those anyway.