I will shortly be speaking at the CILIP Conference on the reasons I’ve seen advanced against public libraries and my suggestions as to how counteract them. Almost all the reasons to cut libraries have not got any stronger than when I wrote this piece against them in 2011 but here is one which has – then two-fifths of people in the UK used libraries but the latest figures, just five years later, show the figure now at a third. That’s a big drop in five years and is used as a stick to beat the sector with. I’ve seen opponents such as The Institute of Economic Affairs cheerfully argue that such a trend means that the poor few remaining library users should be charged for the privilege.

However, one of the wonderful things about being in the world is that, somewhere, another country may be doing things differently. Such is the case in France which has reported no reduction in usage over the same period and, vitally, has not cuts on the scale of the UK.  In scientific experiment, such a country could be described as a control. In a murder mystery play, it would be seen more as a smoking gun. So, whereas there are doubtless other factors (such as e-books and the internet) to consider, austerity – with its big reductions in library staff, opening hours, stock and libraries themselves – creates less appetising libraries leading to less enticing offer leading to fewer people using them. Such a vicious circle is plain to see in many places. What the twin experiments of France and the UK shows is the relative strength of the factors in play. If ever the treatment of UK public libraries ever gets to be treated like a murder then the comparative trends of the two countries make it likely that Mr Austerity will be treated as a prime suspect.



National news

  • CollectionHQ and Solus Announce Joint Initiative – CollectionHQ. “‘Gizmo’ is an Android-powered, mobile device from Solus which supports collectionHQ Action Plans via the Solus Staff App. This new offering helps to save time and deliver better customer service by enabling librarians to search the catalogue, place requests and update the LMS all from the library floor.”
  • Free and Reduced Price #NAG17 Conference Places – National Acquisitions Group. “NAG are offering some half price places to those working in public libraries who would be otherwise unable to attend #NAG17 this November in Leeds.  We recognise that training budgets have been drastically reduced around the country and we feel this is one way to support our members in public libraries. A limited number of these half price places are available to NAG members working in public libraries.  If you need to check whether your local authority is a NAG member, just drop us an email and we can easily do that for you.  Don’t forget, even if your local authority is no longer a member, you can join NAG as a personal member for just £55 a year for all the same member benefits…” {I have the honour of being keynote speaker for this conference – Ed.]
  • New Arrivals’ What Services are Public Libraries in the UK Offering to Refugees & Asylum Seekers, and how can we Improve Services for the Rising Numbers of this Vulnerable Group? – University of Sheffield. Questionnaire. MA Librarianship student. “The purpose of this research is to gain an understanding of what services public libraries are currently providing to Refugees & Asylum seekers, the level of awareness of services for this group, and what do participants believe public libraries can do or change to improve the services for this group.”
  • A new page? Libraries, austerity and the shifting boundaries of civil society – Leverhulme Trust. “During the course of my Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, I will undertake a series of case studies to unpack the challenges faced by public libraries under austerity. Working with libraries, and the neighbourhoods in which they are based, I will explore the everyday social world of the public library, giving particular focus to those groups excluded, less able or disenfranchised from local processes of participation, and for whom the library might offer a source of ‘community’ or inclusion. “

“Across Britain, people have shown that they believe there is a better way. In recent years, this Government have thrown away tens of billions of pounds in tax giveaways to the very richest and to big business, at the very same time as closing Sure Start centres and libraries, and tipping social care into crisis and our national health service into record deficit. Under Conservative rule, school budgets have been cut and college courses have been closed, students have been saddled with a lifetime of debt, and per-patient funding in the NHS is set to fall for the first time in history.” Jeremy Corbyn, They Work For You.”

  • On public libraries – Forward to Fellowship. “It feels like every edition of CILIP Update has a story about a threatened public library service at the moment, such as the recent reversal to the closure of public libraries in Lancashire in June’s CILIP Update. Darlington’s Crown St Public Library is where I began my library career …”
  • Organisation of LGBT Materials in Public Libraries – University of Sheffield. Questionnaire. “MA Librarianship student at The University of Sheffield Information School, conducting research on how public libraries organise their LGBT materials”
  • The UK government has become dangerously obsessed with facades – Guardian. “A problem with the police? Introduce new management jargon while cutting officer numbers. Issues with education? Rebrand schools while reducing the number of teaching aides. Sluggish economy? Showcase a few moderately successful startups while ignoring the tens of thousands of struggling small businesses. Finding it difficult to maintain libraries? Develop a strategic vision while closing library branches. Problems in the elderly care system? Introduce a rankings exercise while underpaying care assistants. Hospitals strained by increased demand? Hire a “transformational leader” who can give a great presentation. Facing a large-scale accident? Scramble government ministers to the nearest TV studio and promise to pass ill-thought new laws that create more problems than they solve.”
  • W.F.Howes Unveils Revolutionary New RBdigital App – Cision. “library members can access audiobooks, magazines, and eBooks all in one easy-to-use mobile app”
  • Young people value volunteer in public libraries – Society of Chief Librarians (Title taken from webpage address: article itself appears untitled). Focused on experience in Staffordshire. “As well as providing an opportunity for young people to gain skills and work experience evidence indicates that volunteering helps to improve their wellbeing. “. List of best practice points including having 2 to 4 volunteers per library to create a club experience, emphasise skills gained, evening training sessions.
An online bookclub from Axiell


International news

  • Australia – Record Funding For Victoria’s Public Libraries – Victoria. “The Victorian Budget 2017/18 provided $42.5 million for the Public Libraries Funding Program – a 2.5% increase from last year. More than $1.72 million from the record investment will go to Vision Australia’s information and library services, opening these services for people who are blind or have low vision, or a print disability. The funding comes on top of the $4.5 million Living Libraries Infrastructure Program, which provides grants to build, redevelop or refurbish libraries across the state. The Labor Government is also providing $4.4 million over four years for the Premiers’ Reading Challenge Book Fund, so public libraries can purchase materials to get more kids reading. Victoria is home to 275 permanent library branches and 30 mobile library services, with more than 2.1 million library members registered in the state.” [Population of state is 6 million – Ed,]
  • India – Catch ’em young: The new ‘mantra’ to revitalise public libraries – Economic Times. “most of the 70,000 plus public libraries in India have now turned into haunted houses with few visitors to grace their premises.” … “Consider the Summer Fest for children that IPLM organised recently in partnership with Delhi Public Library. Spanning over a period of one month, this fest aimed at bringing children to libraries in the Capital and engaging them in a host of activities that ranged from storytelling and poetry recitations to painting and stage play performances — all within the four walls of libraries “
  • Netherlands – The myth of the disappeared libraries – Warekennis. (in Dutch). 300 libraries out of 1000 have said to be closed in Holland due to local government budget cuts but this is not true (but rather a proposed “worst case” figure).  Also, it may have included mini service points and mobile library stops. However, number of staff have decreased 24% 2010-15 and stock cut by 20%. Councils avoided closing libraries and hollowed out staffing/stock instead. Volunteers have increased to try to make up the loss.
  • USA – ALA 2017 Spotlight: Librarians Gear Up for ‘the Fight of a Lifetime’ – Publisher’s Weekly. “How serious a time is this for librarians? In his latest budget proposal, President Trump doubled down on his bid to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services (and virtually all federal library funding) as well as proposing deep cuts to other vital programs, including education and broadband support. And more importantly, many of Trump’s positions run counter to the library community’s core values—equity, inclusion, and diversity among them. At the ALA’s National Library Legislative Day, held last month in Washington, D.C., retiring ALA executive director Keith Fiels urged librarians in attendance to stay engaged, warning that libraries today are facing “the challenge of a lifetime.””
  • USA – Millennials the Biggest Users of Public Libraries, New Study Finds – KTLA. “The Pew Research Center report found that 53% of millennials ages 18 to 35 last fall said they have used a public library or bookmobile within the last year. The data doesn’t include on-campus libraries. Only 45% of Generation Xers (ages 36-51), 43% of baby boomers (52-70) and 36% of the silent generation (71-88) said they visited a library during the same time period”. Wifi and printers are the big draws.

Local news by authority

  • Bristol – Bristol’s newest MP Darren Jones asks government to fund city libraries – Bristol Post. “The 30-year-old, who ousted Conservative incumbent Charlotte Leslie from the Bristol North West seat on June 8, has used his first question to parliament to ask about library funding.” … “The authority wants to keep the Central Library on College Green open and funded, but has suggested splitting the city’s libraries into two groups – large ‘Area Libraries’, which will open 47 hours a week and smaller ‘Local Libraries’, which will open 22.5 hours a week. Officers have proposed that the north-west, south and east areas of the city will each have one Area Library and two Local Libraries.”

“Our Mayor and councillors are between a very large rock and a very hard place, they have to balance the books by law. “So I’m pressing the Government to fund our libraries as part of a transformation programme – keeping the books that people want to borrow, but also turning libraries into digital community hubs.” Darren Jones MP (Labour)

  • Bristol – Change Starts One Book at a Time: A Love Letter to the British Public Libraries – Murder, She Read. Newcomer to British libraries uses them for many reasons – books, hotdesking and book clubs.
  • Bristol – Council announce public meetings to discuss budget cuts – find out where your nearest meeting is and how to get a ticket – Bristol Post. “Bristol City Council has announced that it will hold eight separate meetings across the city – two in each constituency – to discuss the cuts laid out in its ‘Your Neighbourhood’ consultation. Launched last week, the consultation sets out a number of options about how cuts could be made in five key council areas including libraries, school crossings, public toilets, dementia and adult disability services and neighbourhood partnerships. Cut options include reducing the number of city libraries from 27 to 10, cutting funding for public toilets and halving the number of lollipop people, among others”
  • Bristol – Bristol mayor tells protesters ‘come up with better ideas’ – BBC. “Marvin Rees said there was little point in having a “black-and-white argument over cuts or no cuts”. He was speaking after hundreds of people gathered to call for justice for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. A rival for his job said protest was “often the only way people feel they can make their voices heard”. Mr Rees, who took over as the Labour mayor of Bristol last year, said in October that budget cuts of £92m had to be made to Bristol City Council’s budget by 2022″

“We welcome constructive debate, but Bristol would be better served by a positive focus on what we can achieve together, rather than a black-and-white argument over ‘cuts or no cuts'” Bristol Mayor

  • Buckinghamshire – Dozens turn out for Little Chalfont Community Library’s 10th birthday celebrations – Bucks Free Press. “Around 90 people, including library volunteers, turned out to celebrate Little Chalfont Community Library’s milestone year at a party held for supporters of the library. Well-known faces included Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan, Buckinghamshire County Council leader Martin Tett, Chiltern District Councillor Mimi Harker and Gill Roberts, chairman of the Little Chalfont Parish Council.”
  • Bury – Councillors urged to ‘take a hit’ to help save Bury libraries – Bury Times. “Bury councillors approved plans to close at least 10 of Bury’s 14 libraries at a cabinet meeting in January in order to save cash. But now Seedfield Tenants and Residents Association has put forward a suggestion to save the cash needed to keep five of the axed centres open by changing the borough’s electoral cycle and reducing the number of councillors in each ward.” … “The association claims the changes would result in a saving of £175,000 a year – enough cash to keep four or five library and community centres open. They also want the number of councillors in each ward to be reduced from three to two, saving a further £139,000 per year.”
  • Calderdale – Great new library … but how much will it cost ratepayers? – Huddersfield Daily Examiner. Council refuses to give cost of new libraries and archives centre (existing library demolished to make way for town centre development).  Council calls build complex with negotiations in advanced stage.
  • Darlington – Legal challenge delays decision on future use of Darlington’s Crown Street Library – Northern Echo. “Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet members – who also hold the role of trustees for the Crown Street Library building – decided in a special meeting held today to defer any decision on its future until the outcome of the latest legal challenge. The authority is facing the threat of a judicial review over plans to close the library grade II listed Crown Street building as part of a £12.5m programme of budget cuts. It was also confirmed in the meeting that the council had received an independent valuation of between £200,000 and £400,000 for the historic building.”
  • Devon – Story day held in Budleigh to raise awareness of school library funding campaign – Exmouth Journal. “The school, in Moor Lane, Budleigh Salterton, is trying to raise £55,000 to build its own on-site library in building previous used by Carousel Childcare.”
  • East Sussex – Hastings Library reopening delayed until next spring – Hastings and St Leonard’s Observer. “East Sussex County Council said the move has been made to give contractors more time to protect the fabric of the historic building. The library, in Claremont, has been closed since February last year for a complete revamp. The finished building will also house the children’s library, currently based in Robertson Passage. The facility, in the Grade II-listed Brassey Institute, was due to open its doors again this year, but the reopening is now scheduled for spring 2018. County council contractors have already installed a new roof and lift, rewired the whole building and replaced internal lighting. But the council said the refurbishment has unearthed a number of additional structural issues”
  • Glasgow – Glasgow libraries opened up services to blind users – Evening Times. “All 33 libraries citywide will be kitted out with Zoomtext readers that enlarge, enhance and read aloud content on a computer screen. They will also have hi-vis large-key keyboards that are easier for those who have sight-loss to use. The technology will be available to anyone who requires it in a bid to ensure that Glasgow’s much-loved library service is accessible to all who experience sight-loss.” … “Thanks to the RNIB, library users can now be paired with sighted volunteers in one-to-one sessions to assist in using some of the physical and online resources that may prove difficult to access”
  • Glasgow – Glasgow Lives: Margaret, Shawlands, principal librarian for Glasgow Libraries – Glasgow Live. Adores role and feels it is an honour. Speaks about the importance of the Summer Reading Challenge.
  • Hackney – Hackney festival launched to raise money for pop-up libraries in refugee camps – Evening Standard. “we thought about this idea of a camp-based library and then we realised that this one already existed so instead we decided to finance them. “As a collective, we want to support education. But it is also very much about integration and helping these people to get jobs in the places they are eventually resettled.””
  • Haringey – Highgate Library campaigners consider legal action – Ham and High. “Campaigners have begged an arts centre to abandon plans to relocate a much loved library at a packed public meeting.” … “Supporters of Highgate Library in Shepherd’s Hill told Jacksons Lane theatre met Jacksons Lane theatre bosses as the designs for the relocation were revealed for the first time on Thursday. About 40 library users listened to architect Katy Marks outline options including moving the 110-year-old library into Jacksons Lane’s theatre space. But in a heated exchange afterwards, supporters pleaded with Jacksons Lane to leave their 110-year-old library alone and take up a council pledge to match fund an Arts Council England bid instead of raising millions from the Shepherd’s Hill plot’s sale.” … “Warning that if the privately run venue went bust in the future the library could cease to exist, Ms Sivanandan said: “We want Jacksons Lane to flourish. “But you will not close our library. If we have to take legal action against Jacksons Lane we will.”” see also Highgate Library’s supporters furious at council sale decision – Ham and High. “Members of two campaign groups – the Friends of Highgate Library and Highgate Library Action Group (HLAG) – sent deputations to Haringey Council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday ahead of a vote on an “in principle” decision to sell and dispose of the Shepherd’s Hill library” and Highgate Library campaigners divided over relocation proposal – Ham and High. “HLAG – set up to fight off a closure threat in 1988 – takes the position the library should remain at its present site, but, Susan said: “We’re duty bound to find out what the best thing to do is.” But the campaigners’ stance has split HLAG and forced a vote of no confidence in its chair with a second group of library users – The Friends of Highgate Library – taking the view the proposal should be fought outright.”
Staff shortages in Kent

Staff shortages in Kent

  • Kirklees – Call to Honley community as bid to take on the village library is discussed – Huddersfield Daily Examiner. “Joe Hodgson, chairman of the Friends of Honley Library (FOHL), said that from April next year, Kirklees Council would cut its library services’ budget by over 44%. Honley library is currently run by one paid member of staff supported by volunteers. But Mr Hodgson said the cuts could mean the loss of more than 50 staff across the library service and see all small libraries run fully by volunteers.”
  • Lewisham – Deskspace – V22. “V22 is offering deskspace at three of its sites across London. There are spaces at Forest Hill Library and V22 Shoreditch, with deskspace at V22 Dalston becoming available later this year. We believe it is important to cultivate a sustainable and affordable coworking environment in order to support the development of artists,entrepreneurs, start-ups, social enterprises, ‘tech for good’, not-for-profit organisations and freelancers. Many people just starting out find that having a desk in a shared workspace on a rolling lease helps get ideas out of their heads and into the world, and that they benefit from an environment where everyone is trying to tap their creative potential. As those ideas grow, they can expand into larger spaces and even different areas of London.”
  • Manchester – Manchester Libraries – Books to Go – Manchester Libraries. See also Digital Offer and  Summer Reading Challenge,
  • Northern Ireland – Young minds urged to embark on reading adventure – Belfast Telegraph. “There are almost 300 free events planned as part of the celebrations in libraries across the province from July 1. Valerie Christie, senior children’s services manager with Libraries NI, said children can hop on board this year’s Big Summer Read by collecting their travel card in a local library or from a mobile library”
  • Powys – Chance to see hub’s progress – Brecon and Radnor Express. “… 120 residents visited Brecon’s new Cultural Hub last week to see progress on the exciting development. Powys County Council and project contractors Kier held a two stage event at the site and the town’s library last week (Tuesday, June 6) giving the community a chance to find out about the initiative to renovate the museum and art gallery and provide a new area library, community and education facilities.”
  • St Helens – Best-selling authors to visit libraries to discuss new novels – St Helens Star. “Crime writer David Mark – author of the internationally acclaimed detective series, McAvoy – will visit Eccleston Library on Thursday, July 6 at 6.30pm to discuss his latest novel, Cruel Mercy, with crime fiction fans…”
  • St Helens – Dramatic performance of Oscar Wilde to be shown at library – St Helens Star. At Parr Library.
  • South Tyneside – South Shields library wins top design award – Shields Gazette. The Word: “The building designed by FaulknerBrowns Architects is one of 49 across the country to have won a 2017 RIBA National Award. It will now be considered for the shortlist for the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize, for the UK’s best building of the year”
  • Warwickshire – Information and Enquiry Librarian – We Manage Jobs. Standard full-time permanent post £24-27k.  “We are looking for an enthusiastic and experienced information professional to be the specialist lead in the delivery and continued development of the information and enquiry service across Warwickshire’s library and One Stop Shop service.”