Still more fall-out from the collapse of Carillion. Both Harrow and Ealing have confirmed that, at least for the moment, their library services will be in-house rather than simply farmed out once more. Moreover, there are suspicions that Carillion was not the only private company to be worried about out there. Capita too, which although it does not directly run libraries does provide various support systems up and down the country to them, has also come under the spotlight with big drops in share prices and people worried that it too may collapse. What seems to have happened with Carillion was that it went in with the lowest possible bids for services, spent as little as it could on services, and hoped to make money by ever expanding, collapsing when its debts got too big to hide this way. Well, that’s a classic pyramid / Ponzi scheme. The hope is Capita shows itself not to be in the same category.

It would not have been such a big problem if councils weren’t so starry-eyed about the private companies. The now ex-boss of Northamptonshire and erstwhile chief of the Libraries Taskforce is on record as saying he would outsource anything. The weird mix  of the trust that ran his libraries (part university, part NHS, part council) will be a devil’s web to unravel if it proves necessary to so. And it may, because the council has warned it will likely get rid of many of its libraries. Last week it also said it may be bankrupt soon as well.

This love-in with outsourcing seems sharply at odds with what Philip Pullman has last week called “the cold-eyed dogma of austerity”. Carillion has shown that if it seems too good to be true, then maybe it is. And watch out for your pension too. Why the paradox? It seems to be down to blind adherence to  ideology and pro-profit bias (leaving aside the possibility of quasi-accepted semi-corruption in some form e.g. becoming a Director in the private company when no longer in post ) that can square this circle.

However, it is important not to tar everyone with the same brush. Library trusts are obviously very different beasts to the all-devouring too-big-to-fail Ponzi schemes. Similarly, it’s hard to see GLL in the same category. True non-profits do not ultimately act or behave the same as profits, even though sometimes (as in Lambeth below) there’s bad news stories about them. It is to be hoped that the current crisis will mean politicians are more clear-eyed when it comes to privatisation and non-profits see this as a warning not to copy the gilded ghoul Carillions of this world. Cross your fingers something good will yet come out of this trauma.



National news

  • Community Managed Libraries Peer Support Network – progress report – Libraries Taskforce. “The Taskforce does not endorse the model of community managed libraries with no support from the local council. However it recognises that some local authorities are, for various reasons, considering community managed libraries – and some already have these. If that path is taken, we want to ensure that all parties involved make informed decisions”
  • Councils are ‘re-nationalising’ services after Carillion’s collapse – Left Foot Forward. ““Of the 25 councils with Carillion contracts, 11 were related to major civil engineering works, eight were for school meals and cleaning services, four were for library management, and the remaining two contracts relate to ICT and road gritting.” … “Of course, we’ll have little way of knowing what works better as the government abolished the Audit Commission which monitored all this stuff”
  • Damned if we don’t, damned if we do – Leon’s Library Blog. “As Alan Wylie highlighted via Twitter both Northamptonshire Council and Paul Blantern had been strong proponents of outsourcing council services. Even proposing reducing its staff force to a core of 150, while transferring out 4000 jobs to different service providers. These would be part owned by the Council but managed like private sector companies. Paul Blantern was quoted as saying: “we are always having to be at the cutting edge, to be innovative and creative.” He also stated on the BBCs The Bottom Line that there was nothing he wouldn’t consider outsourcing.” No doubt this attitude helped in his selection as Chair of the Libraries Taskforce as it perfectly reflected government policy towards libraries: outsourcing, greater commercialisation, and major staff reductions.” … “Given all the publicity and resources dedicated by the Libraries Taskforce into promoting outsourcing I wonder if we can look forward to a blog on how badly it can also go wrong. Somehow I doubt it.”
  • Dancing Darth Vaders and talking to astronauts: Liam Cookson talks MozFest 2017 – Public Libraries News. “I was in a meeting with Liam Cookson from Cheshire West and Chester Libraries who talked animatedly about his experience at MozFest. Not knowing much about it, I asked him to write a piece for PLN. So if you want your library to get into a project that talks to Space of has animated Darth Vaders, this is the one for you…”
  • Dear Anna Karenina, it’s not you, it’s me: a librarian’s love letters and break-up notes to her books – The I. “So I recommended you to everyone. I broke the Librarian’s Reader’s Advisory Code, which is to base your reading suggestions for a patron on their previous preferences, not my own. I broke it for you, Finchy. I recommended you to folks checking out Sylvia Browne dead-people-talking books and patrons asking where the Amish fiction was shelved and people who told me the last book they enjoyed was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, which is, sadly, every third adult male who comes into the library.”
  • Engaging Libraries projects underway – Libraries Taskforce. “Engaging Libraries is a new partnership between the Carnegie UK Trust and Wellcome to encourage public libraries to engage local people in imaginative and interactive projects exploring health and wellbeing.” … “Wellcome have helped to connect projects with their networks.” … “One of the aims of Engaging Libraries is to evaluate whether these pilot projects are easily replicable and scalable in other locations, and where possible try to make some of that a reality.”

“New clause 2, tabled by Wera Hobhouse, is absolutely spot on. Along with all public car parks, I would add to the list in her new clause hospitals, public buildings, local authority buildings, schools and libraries. All are places where people park. We do not just go between shops and our homes; we go to many different places.” Helen Goodman MP suggests charging points for electric cars in public library car parks.

  • Harrow and Ealing libraries back in-house after Carillion collapse – BookSeller. “Carillion had run several public library services since 2013, including Hounslow, Ealing, Croydon and Harrow. Hounslow terminated its contract with Carillion last August and last week, Croydon Council stepped in to “secure the long-term future” of all its libraries and “guarantee the jobs of library staff” by taking the running of its library service back in house. Now, Harrow and Ealing councils have also taken their library services back in-house.”
  • Joining the SCL family learning and digital roadshow – Libraries Taskforce. “All roadshow participants were provided with a resource pack which lists a wide range of digital equipment being used in libraries: from bee-bots to vinyl cutters, and a selection was brought to each roadshow. In Gateshead, Amy Hearn (Development Librarian from Kirklees libraries) brought a suitcase full – and showed us a code-a-pillar, bee-bot, drone, sphero, and makey makey kit in action.” … “I think these roadshows provide an excellent opportunity for staff to ask questions and share ideas among their colleagues from around the region – plus visit a library they may not have seen before”
  • Musicians Amy León and Jah Wobble join campaign for libraries – CILIP. “New York–based singer and poet Amy León and UK bass guitarist, singer, composer and writer, Jah Wobble join Stephen Fry, Mary Beard and Jacob Sam-La Rose by lending their support to the campaign.
    The posters are freely available to library supporters to print and display”
  • SCL & Jisc – Single Sign On Seminar – Eventbrite. “SCL have been working with Jisc (www.jisc.ac.uk) to progress a Single Sign On (SSO) solution for Public Libraries and the pilot stage of this project is coming to an end. To celebrate the project and demonstrate the value of Single Sign On this seminar will highlight the benefits it can provide, showcase how it is working in Bournemouth Libraries and look to the future.”

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Sutton Coldfield Receives £17k Grant For Play Cafe – Sutton News. “The funding has been awarded for the purchase of specialist play equipment that will feature in Folio’s library play-café, Little Green Bookworm due to open around Easter.”
  • Bristol – Bristol City Council library service review branded a ‘sham’ – Bristol Post. ” Mr Negus claims he has seen evidence which suggests the independent investigation is not sticking to its brief, on how to save as many libraries in the city as possible, and is instead creating more evidence to support the council’s initial proposal to close 17 sites.”
  • Bristol – Bristol has been ‘beguiled’ by libraries review, as council plans to push ahead with closures – Bristol Post. “Marvin Rees and his cabinet team are “beguiling” library campaigners while continuing with their plan to close 17 of the city’s 27 facilities, it has been claimed. The Bristol Green group has joined calls for greater information about the authority’s library plans after the officer in charge of the service told councillors an ongoing investigation is only looking to save ten sites. Clifton councillor Paula O’Rourke has written to Deputy Mayor Asher Craig to ask her why the independent review is focusing on such a limited number of sites, after Bristol Mayor, Marvin Rees, said it would look at how to keep as many facilities open as possible”
  • Bristol – Blackadder star Tony Robinson brands Bristol councillors ‘stupid bastards’ over library closures – Bristol Post. “In November the group submitted 4,500 strong petition to the council calling for it protect Redland Library and as many other facilities as possible across the city. The group is conducting a strong social media campaign and has taken to tweeting celebrities in a bid to drum up support for its cause.”

“Killing libraries is barbarity, but local councils are being forced into destructive policies like this by the cold-eyed dogma of ‘austerity’.” Philip Pullman.

“Would stop closing Bristol’s Libraries, you stupid bastards do?” Tony Robinson

  • Buckinghamshire – Councillors considering alternatives to mobile libraries in Bucks – Mix 96. “Two ideas have been identified concerning their future: Option 1: Reduce from three vehicles to one to save £81,250 in Year 1 and £120,000 each year thereafter. Option 2: Discontinue the service and reduce all three vehicles to save £113,000 in Year 1 and £180,000 each year thereafter. f they were scrapped, BCC has proposed a few alternative ideas to serve those who used them:”
  • Bury – Five former libraries across Bury to be taken over – About Manchester. “Dumers Lane Library will be leased to the Friends of Dumers Lane Community Centre,Topping Fold Library to Topping Fold Tenants and Residents Association and Tottington Library to the Friends of Tottington Library … “
  • Cardiff – Charity to spend £2m reopening former Roath library as a dance studio – Wales Online. “The council has set up a temporary library service at Cardiff Royal Infirmary (CRI). A spokeswoman said it is working with Cardiff and Vale University Health Board to create a permanent library in the former chapel at CRI.
  • Ceredigion – Local community to run Llandysul library – Tivyside Advertiser. ““The volunteers would be expected to open and close the library on the agreed opening times and keeping the area clean and tidy and managing the service during opening times. The council would provide a member of staff to call in the library for a few hours per week to provide professional service and any additional training/assistance required.””
  • Cheshire East – Hundreds back sisters’ campaign to save our library – Alderley Edge.com. “Two little girls from the village have been campaigning hard to save Alderley Edge Library after Cheshire East Council announced in November 2017 that they are considering closing it, in order to save around £50,000 a year.”
  • Cheshire East – Reassurance for Holmes Chapel as proposal to cut libraries is reversed – Knutsford Guardian. “A CEC spokesman said: “The council acknowledges that the consultation has received a large number of objections to the proposal to close these libraries. “The council has decided to keep all of the libraries open” … “Alderley Edge, Disley and Prestbury libraries are set to be monitored, with closure proposals to resurface if usage ‘declines significantly’. “
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Northwich Library to hold consultation event on community assets – Northwich Guardian. “The document will look at libraries, community centres, public conveniences, parks and play areas. “
  • Cornwall – Job Centre Plus relocates to newly renovated Helston library – Packet. “Jobseekers in Helston can now access a wide range of key services under one roof, following the co-location of a library and information service and the Job Centre Plus, which has opened in the newly renovated Helston Library. “
  • Croydon – Library collapse predicted – Thornton Heath Chronicle. “In November we reported that Cllr Timothy Godfrey was aware that Carillion was in huge financial difficulties and in crisis mode to avoid collapse. We highlighted how the front door into the Thornton Heath library was broken  and lift had stopped working three year’s ago. Cllr Godfrey who is the cabinet lead with responsibility for parks, leisure and libraries pledged if they did collapse then: “We will (Croydon council) keep the libraries open and transfer all the front line staff back to the council.” It happened, he kept his word but surely the question is how did Carillion get away with it for so long?”
  • Derby – 5.99% Derby council tax rise confirmed as city’s budget passed after heated debate – Derby Telegraph. “A series of amendments to the Labour authority’s budget were put forward and lost as opposition parties battled to alter its financial proposals for the coming year at the budget-setting full council meeting. These included a proposal from Conservative councillor Jonathan Smale who suggested using £1 million raised by imposing an extra 1% council tax to alter the council’s current plan to hand over 10 libraries to the community. He said the money would be used to retain the 10 libraries in council management and to give library staff peace of mind and maintain library services for the community.”
  • Ealing – Carillion collapse: Ealing library services to be brought back under council control after petition objecting to outsourcing gains thousands of signatures – Get West London. “After campaigners encouraged local residents to “help save all those hard-working librarians”, Ealing Council announced on Friday evening (January 26) that it would bring the library services back under its control.
  • Ealing – Changes to Ealing library service – Ealing Council. “The decision has been taken to bring Ealing’s library service back under direct control of Ealing Council. This move will ensure continuity of service for library users and allow time for all the options for the future of the service to be reviewed and considered. For some time the council has been closely monitoring the financial situation regarding Carillion and ensuring robust contingency plans were in place.  Since Carillion entered liquidation we have ensured that all our libraries have been fully open and delivering a continuous service. In order to secure the most efficient, value for money and high quality library services for residents and the future of the service, the decision has been taken to bring the service under the direct control of the council, with effect from 1 February 2018. All current library staff will have individual meetings to ensure they make a smooth transition to the council.”
  • Ealing – Save Ealing Libraries from Being Outsourced & Save Library Jobs – Change.org. “Ealing, along with Croydon, Harrow and Hounslow, outsourced its library services in September 2013, to the contractor John Laing Integrated Services, which sold the contract on to Carillion in 2013, and it was, in turn, subsequently managed under the umbrella of ‘Cultural Community Services’.  Following the collapse of Carillion (January 16th) we object to the library service remaining outsourced by Carillion or any other private company. We, the undersigned, petition, the Council to intervene to terminate its contract with Carillion and bring all of Ealing’s 13 libraries back under Council control to safeguard its future library provision plus guarantee the jobs of library staff.” 2884 signed. see also ‘Save it and you’ll save us’: Petition launched against outsourcing of Ealing Library services to private contractor after Carillion collapse – Get West London.
  • Hampshire – Library staffing changes proposed in Hampshire County Council budget cuts – Andover Advertiser. “According to a HCC budget report, library service funds is looking to drop by £734,000 since last year’s revised budget. ” … “: “We have recently completed a successful consultation with library staff about moving them to new contracts, which will result in more flexible working across the branches. For example, a member of staff who usually works at one location may be asked to work at a nearby library to cover for any staff absence. “
  • Harrow – Harrow libraries brought in-house following Carillion liquidation – Hillingdon and Uxbridge Times. “Harrow Council announced that it will take over the six libraries in the borough for the foreseeable future in order to ensure the continuation of their services. It comes after concerns were raised about the libraries’ situations following Carillion’s collapse on January 15. The council will take responsibility for the time being, as it continues to search for the best way to take things forward – be that with an alternate services provider or through in-house management.”
  • Kirklees – Rallying support for libraries at Batley and Cleckheaton – Dewsbury Reporter. “Residents in one part of North Kirklees are being urged to make sure they take part in the ongoing library service consultation process to keep both the services and building which houses their local library safe, while a meeting on Friday aims to rally support for another”
  • Lambeth – Lambeth Council confirms job specs for GLL book-ish gym staff as Carnegie ‘Library’ prepares to re-open – Brixton Buzz. “The Carnegie ‘Library’ will re-open on 15 February with non-Lambeth Council staff acting as a ‘concierge.’ A Freedom of Information request [pdf] has managed to flush out more details in the absence of any announcement coming from Lambeth Council.”
  • Lambeth – UNISON advises members not to work at the Carnegie Library when it reopens on 15 February – Brixton Buzz. “The Lambeth branch of the public service union is taking legal advice over Lambeth Council’s plans to replace qualified librarians with ‘customer care staff.’ Brixton Buzz reported last week how Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) staff will manage the book-ish gym when it finally re-opens – just months ahead of the local elections.”
  • Lancashire – Celebrations as Barrowford Library reopens after year-long closure – Lancashire Telegraph. “Barrowford Library, on Ann Street, was reopened by County Cllr Christian Wakeford, who represents the area, on Monday”
  • Lancashire – Date is set for reopening of Thornton Library – Blackpool Gazette.
  • Lancashire – Frustration at St Annes Library repair delay – Blackpool Gazette.
  • Lancashire – Joy as Whalley Library reopens – Clitheroe Advertiser. “Local residents and civic dignitaries gathered this morning (Monday) to see the reopening of Whalley Library by county councillor Albert Atkinson, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council.” see also Celebration as Whalley Library reopens – Lancashire Telegraph.The campaign to reopen Whalley library was the biggest in the county and it’s great to see it back because it’s part of the fabric of the village. “Not only is this an educational facility for the children to study and ready but also for the older people to come together.””
  • Manchester – The campaign will tour 14 of the county’s libraries, starting at Oxfordshire County Library – About Manchester. “Commissioned by Library Live, the performances are supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, to promote great arts experiences within easy reach at Manchester’s libraries. The performances by six of the company’s professional dancers are to be specially adapted to each of the three local libraries, with four scenes being performed in four different spaces at each library”