So Carillion has gone. It ran three library services in London arms-length via a non-profit arm called Cultural Community Solutions. Within hours, Croydon, which has changed party control since making the decision to outsource its libraries and is now Labour, announced it would be bringing its libraries back in-house. It had clearly expected and planned for this moment. Less prompt are Harrow and Ealing (both also Labour) who were recommending extending their contract with Carillion just last week. Oops. Although in their defence they would have been stung with big fines if they had (albeit fines they agreed to when outsourcing in the first place). I have not heard or seen anything about what will be happening at those two councils, with the options either being taking back in-house or going to another provider, the obvious one being GLL if they’re willing to do so. My heart goes out to library staff at both councils who must be going through a difficult time.

This means that there are currently no public libraries in the UK run by a for-profit company. That’s the first time since Laing took over Hounslow a decade or so ago and represents quite a change from when I wrote this article in 2011 when US company LSSI was wanting to take over a tenth or more of the UK market. The truth is that private companies do not have a magic wand when it comes to running public libraries. There’s nothing they can do that a council can’t, as those up and down the country who have tried every income-generating and cut trick in the book can testify. Heaven knows times are tight enough without a percentage siphoned off to shareholders somewhere. Simply put, if your public library is making a profit for someone then you’re doing it wrong. Long may that mistake not be repeated in the UK.


National news

  • Carillion: The company entrenched in public life – BBC. “The running of the libraries in Croydon, Ealing, Harrow and Hounslow was outsourced in 2012 – first to a company called John Laing Integrated Services, which swiftly sold it on to Carillion. Under the brand “Cultural Community Solutions”, Carillion bosses said: “We want to transform and re-energise the concept of the library. “Our mission is to rethink and reinvent local public libraries to make them relevant and self-sustaining.” But Hounslow terminated its contract last summer, and Croydon announced on Monday that it would be taking its library services back in-house.” see also Carillion collapse sparks surge to bring services back in-house – LGC [LGC appears to think Hounslow was still part of Carillion – Ed.]
  • Council websites fall short on library e-lending – UKA local digital. “New Socitm survey shows most local authorities in Scotland and Wales fail to provide good or very service for e-books and e-magazines. Only a minority of Scottish and Welsh local authorities are providing a good or very good service on their websites to help people use e-resources from their local libraries, according to a new report from public sector IT association Socitm. The latest survey for it Better Connected programme has found that 46% of Scottish councils and 32% of Welsh councils do well in helping website visitors looking to sign up for e-resources, including e-books, e-magazines and other digital resources, from their library service.”
  • Cuts to libraries will hurt us all – why we can’t lose these havens for mental well-being – Metro. “Libraries change lives; they connect people to knowledge and enable life-long learning as well as combating ignorance, alienation and isolation. To me, the library is a true haven for the venerable. To the cost-cutters among us they may appear to be obsolete, creaking buildings where the dust settles upon the shelves. Those who take time to examine libraries under the microscope will find the elderly having their only conversation of the day as they play Scrabble, will find the job seeker scrolling through the internet for a source of income and will find me, sitting reading a book, escaping my anxieties.”
  • Library closures are a ‘disgrace’, says Daunt – BookSeller. “Waterstones boss James Daunt has slammed the widespread closure of public libraries as a “disgrace”, arguing that the decline will have a damning effect on…”
  • Nick Poole Libraries with Lives. Excellent interview with the chief of CILIP. This week I chat to Nick Poole, Chief Executive of CILIP. We discuss the acquisition of and access to knowledge and information, routes into the information profession, efforts to diversity and celebrate the workforce, living and working in the information age, “Librarian on Librarian Violence”, being part of CILIP, professional ethics, and celebrating achievements without fear of ridicule. Nick also offers advice to both new and mid-career professionals, we chat about networking and speaking at conferences, and the dreaded Imposter Syndrome rears its ugly head yet again…”

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

Local news by authority

“Councillor Tony Newman, leader of the council, said: “The libraries were outsourced by the previous administration, which was something that we didn’t support. I am pleased that we’ve been able to take prompt action to secure the library service and the jobs of library staff. In the year we bid to become London Borough of Culture it is important to ensure libraries are at the heart of all our communities.””

  • Lancashire – Councillor gives praise to County Hall for reopening of library – Lancashire Telegraph. “Whalley Library, which was marked by Lancashire County Council’s previous administration over a year ago, will reopen on January 29 at 9am. Save Whalley Library campaign lobbied County Hall and government ministers to reverse the decision taken by the previous Labour administration to close this ‘important’ community facility. Ribble Valley Cllr Ged Mirfin, who represents Billington and Langho, said: “I would personally like to thank the residents of Whalley and Billington for their fantastic level of support in backing the campaign.””
  • Lincolnshire – Love is in the air! Couple get engaged at library as new fiancée can ‘read partner like a book’Lincolnshire Live. ““I was stuck for somewhere to actually get engaged,” said Jeff. “She can read me like a book so the best place to get engaged is a library. “We’re hoping to spend the rest of our lives together. “I thought I would have been more nervous than I was. It actually turned out okay. She said yes, obviously.””
  • Manchester – Augmented Reality First World War collection to be showcased at Manchester Central Library – About Manchester. “Scarlett Raven’s collaboration with Marc Marot has led her to be the first oil painter in the UK to delve into the world of augmented reality. Whilst her paintings appear conventional at a first glance, Augmented Reality allows the viewer to unlock the creative journey of each painting with their smartphone, stripping away the countless layers of paint and revealing the deeply personal process beneath every piece through poetry, animation and music”
  • Norfolk – Soup, singing and seated exercise on offer at Cromer “warm and well” event – Eastern Daily Press. “Aimed at combating loneliness and isolation among the over 60s, the afternoon session has been organised by Cromer library manager Sheila Breslin and her team.
  • North Yorkshire – Locals invited to see refurbished Skipton library – North Yorkshire County Council. “Skipton Library will hold an open day on Thursday, 25 January, from 9.30am to 5pm, when local residents are invited to take a look around the newly refurbished reference library and discover more about what this community resource has to offer. County Councillor Greg White, Executive Member for Libraries, said: “The library has been partially closed for two weeks while much-needed renovation work was undertaken. Visitors on the open day will see improvements to the reference and local studies area, as well as new research and study facilities and a seating area where visitors can relax, read newspapers and enjoy a book.””
  • North Yorkshire – North Yorkshire’s library volunteers mark successful year – Northern Echo. “North Yorkshire County Council’s library service was reconfigured last April as more moved to direct management by communities and welcomed more volunteers. County council chair Helen Swiers has been hosting numerous events at libraries to celebrate their dedication.”
  • Northamptonshire – Fight continues to save Brackley library – Banbury Guardian. “Friends and volunteers of the library gathered inside to emphasise the importance of the library not just for readers but as a central hub for a variety of children and special needs groups. Amanda Hewitt said: “We have a parent support group here in Brackley called Special Friends and represent 174 families, about 250 kids within that”
  • Oxfordshire – Disabled people still can’t access library despite 18 month revamp – Oxford Mail. “Suzi Horsley from Headington attempted to visit the newly renovated library, part of the Westgate Centre, over Christmas but found her wheelchair couldn’t fit in the lifts which weren’t updated in the project. The 34-year-old uses a standard-issue NHS wheelchair and said the ‘tiny’ lifts effectively prevent access to the library to anyone in a wheelchair, as well as parents with large buggies.”
  • Shropshire – Shropshire mobile library off the road Advertizer. “Shropshire Council has announced the mobile library service for north Shropshire will not be running until February 5. The vehicle used for this service is damaged and it needs repairing before it can get on the road again.”
  • Warrington – Council chief executive to join national Libraries Taskforce – Warrington Guardian. “chief executive Steven Broomhead will be joining the national Libraries Taskforce. Mr Broomhead will be taking up a position on the board after an invitation from the chair of the taskforce Kim Bromley-Derry, chief executive of Newham Council. He was the chair of Warrington’s libraries working group, which formed to review the results of consultations over the borough’s provision.