Total net expenditure on public libraries went down from £842k in 2015/16 to £771k in 2016/17, a decline of over 8% in just one year. Add in inflation and it’s more like 10% (or it would be if salaries weren’t semi-frozen). That would be awful enough if that was a one-off but it isn’t: there’s been real cuts to expenditure every single year since 2009/10 and there’s inflation in that period too (of 17%) to account for. So, that’s mega isn’t it? Brutal in fact. No surprise then that usage is falling. The surprise is that it’s not falling faster, After all, visits are down a mere 3% when the cut to funding was three times more.

So that’s one horror story. The other is, of course, how the figures themselves  are collected. Given by councils, CIPFA then collates them when the financial year finishes in April, presumably then does something else for a bit (because it’s now December), sends out a summary press release as a sales pitch and then charges an eye-watering charge for anyone wanting the full package. But, hang on, these are our statistics. Which we’re stopped from using unless we’re rich and don’t mind waiting, let’s think, more than seven whole months to see. And this is for the library profession, which should be fairly good on information. I’m glad to say that things are changing though. All of the organisations (well, apart from, presumably CIPFA but I don’t know) involved (SCL, Taskforce, CILIP etc) are keen on improving on the current mess. I hope they succeed. Then we’ll be able to tell for free and in real-time how fast budgets are declining. Hang on, that doesn’t sound fun. But at least it’s not downright embarrassing, unlike the current situation.


Cipfa figures

  • £66m spending drop on public libraries in a year – Government Business.
  • Council cut £66 million from libraries – Morning Star. “Shadow arts minister Kevin Brennan branded it a “hammer blow,” and a direct result of government cuts to local authority budgets. He said: “Libraries are vital community hubs and they are crucial to social mobility. This government continues to put them at risk with fewer books and fewer paid staff while library closures continue.” see also £66m spending drop on public libraries in a year – Government Business and Council spending on libraries cut by £66m last year – Public Finance and Report shows 105 UK libraries closed last year – Books and Publishing.
  • Figures show children worst hit by library cuts – Guardian. “The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s annual survey of Great Britain’s libraries paints familiar picture: for the seventh year running, the number of branches and paid staff declined. There are now 3,745 branches remaining in England, Scotland and Wales, down by 105 since 2016, while the number of paid staff has declined by 5% compared with a year ago. These falls come alongside a drop of £66m in total spend on council-run libraries, with visits down by 3% year on year, and by 14% over the last five years. The decline, according to the CIPFA figures, is almost across the board: book issues fell by 6.3% in the last year, and by 25.1% in the last five years. Book stock held is also down by 2.6%.” … “According to analysis by Coates, the former Waterstones managing director turned libraries advocate, loans of children’s books in England have dropped by 22% in the last five years, due to “the burden of the collapsing libraries falling on children in big cities”. Across Birmingham, for instance, the decline in children’s book loans increased to 32%. In Newcastle, it is 35%, and in Sheffield 56%.”

“Labour shadow culture secretary Kevin Brennan said the party was calling on the government to publish the complete data from its Libraries Taskforce report, released in December 2016, “so that Parliament and the public can see the full picture of the damage being done to libraries by ongoing Tory austerity”.”

  • Latest CIPFA figures reveal ‘catastrophic’ scale of library closures – BookSeller. “The subject of volunteers in the library sector has been a contentious one. A recent interview by Dawn Finch, children’s author and CILIP past-president, drew attention to the impact of placing volunteers in charge of running community services. In the interview, a volunteer describes working 40-hour weeks for free while drawing on her diminishing life savings to survive, putting her marriage under strain and having the threat of the museum’s closure hanging constantly over her head.”
  • Spending on public libraries falls by £66m in a year – Cipfa. “According to CIPFA’s annual library survey, the squeeze on council funding continues to take its toll on libraries, as spending, paid staff and branches declined again last year (2016/17), for the 7th year running.”

“But, it isn’t all doom and gloom, as libraries are continuing to modernise while volunteer numbers have increased, proving that libraries remain an important community asset. But, to really ensure that libraries are able to thrive, local authorities need adequate and sustainable levels of funding.” Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive of CIPFA.

  • What CIPFA did last summer – Libraries Hacked. “This aggregated data is owned by CIPFA, at the point it is released in December. The returns each authority complete are publicly-owned, but are rarely made available. Subscription fees to CIPFA are unaffordable even for some library services. A single report can normally be purchased for around £450, though publishing research from this data would need to be approved by CIPFA. Having public data held and controlled by a private organisation will only lead to services giving up on any coordinated data work. There are at least two steps at which the public pay for this. The data collection itself, hundreds of library services dedicating many hours each year to complete the stats. And the subscriptions that local authorities pay to view the data. ” … “There are established portals that local government should be be publishing to, and are designed to hold data on public services. See data.gov.uk or even LG Inform Plus, which provides data aggregation services. From there it would be possible for anyone, including CIPFA, to extract and aggregate the data as necessary”

An online bookclub from Axiell
National news

  • Calls for government to release vital data about taxpayer-funded libraries – Digital By Default. “Kevin Brennan said, “This Government’s continuing delay publishing open data on public libraries is a disservice to taxpayers. It is also a shameful missed opportunity to support the library sector to develop essential services that develop literacy and skills in communities across the country. I’m calling on Government to end the delays and obfuscation.””
  • Chief Executive recruitment – Society of Chief Librarians. “With an impressive track record of developing policy, sharing best practice, and acting as the voice of the public library sector both nationally and internationally, the organisation has now recognised that it needs to appoint a small executive team to fulfil its expanding role in delivering effective innovation to the sector. The award of £500,000 pa (2018 – 2022) in the recent round of NPO funding provides the opportunity to recruit a dynamic, entrepreneurial Chief Executive to work closely with SCL board and members to make the step change envisaged.” Salary up to £65k p.a.
  • Guest post: Chris Plant on his experience of the Legal and Governance Workshop – Community Libraries Network. “So far in Staffordshire we have transferred 18 Libraries through to community management. We are currently progressing the 5 remaining library transfers. We are also working in partnership with all the community organisations to ensure all 23 Community Managed Libraries are sustainable as we move forward into our third year of Library Service transformation. I registered on the Legal and Governance session with Anthony Collins Solicitors after reading about the session on the Community Managed Libraries Network Blog …”
  • Making the sandwich: ideas for improving author events in public libraries – Time To Read. A free guide using multiple examples from UK librarians on their experiences of putting together successful author events.
  • We’re going on a book hunt – Big Issue special deliveries are despatched – Big Issue. “The Big Book Giveaway is a simple idea: to put books into the hands of people who need them, but for various reasons can’t get them. With public libraries facing closure, school libraries unable to fill their shelves, and reading opportunities being cut across the country, we wanted to share the books that are sent to our office each week to ensure people who want and need them can have them.”


Local news by authority

  • Bournemouth / Poole Visits to towns’ libraries “remain buoyant” despite closures across Britain – Daily Echo. “Bournemouth and Poole’s library services merged earlier this year in a bid to save both councils £566,000 by 2019/20. The move has prevented library closures, with no reductions to library opening hours for the joint service.” … ““Library loans and visitors remain buoyant with 1.6 million visits in person to Bournemouth and Poole libraries annually, 626 thousand virtual visits to the libraries’ web pages and online resources, and 1.5 million items loaned from Bournemouth and Poole libraries. Book and audio visual stock collections are an important service with a total of 485 thousand items for library users to browse and borrow.”
  • Cheshire East – Volunteers step forward in bid to save library – Alderley Edge. “Councillor Craig Browne has had several meetings with officers from Cheshire East Council and Cllr Liz Wardlaw, Interim Deputy Leader and responsible for Health, and has managed to obtained a breakdown of the costs that the library is currently occurring which includes £48,000 per year for staffing and £24,000 for running costs – £7,500 of which is business rates, £5409 for emergency building repair and £4823 for the cleaning contract. Speaking at the Parish Council meeting on Monday, 11th December, Councillor Browne said “A number of residents have contacted me with a view to joining a group of volunteers to help run the library going forward and one of the things Cheshire East have said is that if a community group comes forward with a proposal to help staff the library going forward then that might be something that they would look at favourably …”
  • Darlington – Just a fraction of £4.4m funding pot could save Darlington’s Crown Street Library, say campaigners – Northern Echo. “Last week, Darlington Borough Council announced that “prudent financial planning and cost savings” had led to the authority building up the significant sum. A public consultation into how the money should be spent will be held in the near future, with the council expected to suggest areas of priority for the funds. Those fighting to save the Crown Street Library say that the facility could be saved for at least five years with just a fraction of the sum available.”
  • East Sussex – Council’s £720k overspend on library as others to close – BBC. “A council which plans to save £653,000 by closing more than a quarter of its libraries had overspent by £720,000 on refurbishing one library building. East Sussex County Council said it had “no choice” but to close seven libraries and its mobile library service following government cuts. It has now admitted overspending on renovating the Grade II listed building in Hastings. The council will make a decision on the library closures in March. The Conservative council’s leader, Keith Glazier, said the front of the building in Hastings had been found to be unsafe and needed to be rebuilt. “It was only discovered after work had been started,” Mr Glazier said”
  • Edinburgh – Edinburgh libraries to operate without staff in pilot study – Edinburgh News. “Four libraries will be selected to take part in the pilot from May next year. Two community centres will also be included in the study, with swipe-card access allowing groups to use the facilities and let themselves in and out. Edinburgh would be the first council in Scotland to adopt the “Open Libraries” model although they have been introduced elsewhere in the UK and in Ireland after being pioneered in Scandinavia.”
  • Edinburgh – Leader comment: New chapter for libraries – Scotsman. “yes, we can certainly see the benefits of allowing entry to unmanned libraries, out of hours. For those working antisocial hours or with restricted mobility, this move could make a huge difference. But we think we may be excused for raising the issue of whether this plan by Edinburgh council might open up the possibility of further cuts to staff hours. If the pilot scheme is a success, those with responsibility for the bottom line may ask whether libraries need any staff at all? “
  • Edinburgh – Libraries without staff get checked out in Edinburgh pilot study – Times (semi paywall). “Cards will be used to enter libraries in Edinburgh and existing self-service kiosks will be used to check books in and out. Closed-circuit television cameras, emergency telephones, loudspeakers and alarms will ensure security when no staff are there.”
  • Hampshire – 10 Years of Winchester Discovery Centre: a Celebration – Libraries Taskforce. “The final weekend of November saw the celebration of Winchester Discovery Centre’s 10th anniversary. A weekend bursting with activity and an opportunity to reflect on the 10 years since Winchester Library was refurbished and reopened to huge success.” … “On Tuesday 27 November 2007, Winchester Discovery Centre opened its doors for the first time. Five million visitors, three million book loans and thousands of events, workshops and exhibitions later, the Centre is a library reinvented and so much more besides.”
  •  Islington – Islington reference library is safe – Islington Tribune. “To be clear, I would like to reassure readers we have no plans to close, reduce or get rid of our reference library in Central Library, or any of the reference sections in our other libraries. As the information provided in the reference library has increasingly moved online, including subscription-only services, the physical stock has reduced accordingly – but we have ensured that access to this information remains free for all library users. In fact, we hope to improve Central Library – and access to our online reference material – by increasing the amount of study space on offer, which is in high demand”
  • Lambeth – Upper Norwood Library Hub proving a success – Love Lambeth. “In summer 2016, the Upper Norwood Library Trust took over management of the building from Lambeth Council (although the library service is still joint funded by both Lambeth and Croydon Councils). It was an innovative move and one that has proved successful, with visitor numbers and book lending both increased. Cllr Sonia Winifred, Lambeth Cabinet Member for Equalities & Culture, and a former librarian herself, said: “With Lambeth’s funding from central government cut by around 56% from 2010, every area of council work has seen budget cuts. Our library budget was no different and we had to find imaginative solutions. An Asset Transfer of the building saves the council spending money on running costs and the library is supported by the fantastic Trust staff alongside a full time Lambeth librarian.”
  • Lancashire – Bolton-le-Sands library reopens to villagers’ delight – Citizen. “The doors closed in September 2016 as part of major budget cuts by Lancashire County Council. But following months of lobbying by the village’s community library hub group, a new chapter opened for the Main Street building on Monday. The launch event attracted a crowd of 70 people including children from Bolton-le-Sands CE Primary School, said Vince Hart, leader of the community group. “Using the library as a foundation, we would like to use the space as a host venue for local groups to hold meetings and run activities for the benefit of the village, its residents and visitors,” said Mr Hart.”
  • Lancashire – Fulwood library officially re-opens 14 months after closure – Lancashire Post. “There to perform the official opening was one youngster whose belief the Garstang Road library would open again never wavered – 12 year old Oliver Porter. He was invited to join Lancashire County Council leader Coun Geoff Driver to co-open the venue watched by a crowd of around 100 people.Oliver and his mother Jane had fought a dedicated campaign against the library closure, collecting nearly 4,000 signatures for a protest petition. When the Conservatives took power at county hall in May they vowed to reopen all of the libraries which were closed by the previous administration”
  • Northamptonshire – Northamptonshire County Council proposed cuts threaten future of Higham Ferrers Library – Higham Ferrers Town Council. “By the 13 January 2018 a group has to express an informal Expression of Interest in managing the library. Due to the time constraints being imposed, which the Town Council consider unreasonable, and the size of the library, the only group that could possibly do this is the Town Council. The Town Council would have to purchase or lease the building and be responsible for building costs and any staffing costs. To buy the building is possibly in excess of £300,000. A market valuation is expected to be available on 22 December. Under a 2 year service level agreement the County Council would fund books and the IT provision.”
  • Sheffield – ‘I’m keen we get it right’: Sheffield museums boss says library and gallery building could become ‘vital and vibrant cultural destination’ – Star. “”What I think is meant by it is a space for people that is democratic, accessible for everyone to enjoy, but has some of those components in it.”From our perspective what we can see is a building that is the jewel in the crown of Tudor Square. With the right vision and imagination, and of course support and funding, we could transform that into a fabulous cultural centre.”
  • Walsall – Walsall library needs books not another café – Express and Star. “In these days, when libraries are being closed all over the district, our council decides to spend over £4m refurbishing the Central Library. What a waste of resources when there is nothing wrong with the present facility, at least nothing that a few new books wouldn’t put right. Then, to compound the error, the fools in charge decide that in the new library Walsall needs yet another café.”
  • Warrington – Council chiefs ‘pull rabbit out of hat’ by committing to keep libraries open – Warrington Guardian. “The executive board approved recommendations to keep all the existing sites open at its Town Hall meeting on Monday. However, the recommendations set out in Cllr Tony Higgins’ libraries modernisation report were replaced by new recommendations from deputy council leader Cllr Russ Bowden. Members approved the ‘simplified’ proposals to commit to maintain the existing libraries provision and keep all sites open, subject to robust business cases that ‘deliver the outcomes’ of the new libraries partnership group.” … “They also agreed to back the vision for libraries and provide up to £1 million in the council’s capital programme to support a planned programme of repairs, maintenance and investment, as well as to provide a one-off £150,000 investment into the book fund in 2018, bringing the total book fund budget to £300,000 for 2018-19. A new libraries partnership group will oversee the development of a new partnership strategy for libraries and establish a set of ‘performance measures'”
  • West Dunbartonshire – Proposed New Library Opening Hours – West Dunbartonshire Council. “The proposed new opening hours have been designed to meet our resident demand as well as  minimise disruption to user groups. The result is a balance of library opening hours across the authority for our local communities.  In total 248.5 hours of library time will be available to residents in West Dunbartonshire, and all branches will remain open. In addition the savings will help to fund a £421,000 investment in our libraries for a range of things such as renovating our children’s areas and improving the appearance of our branches.”