Two volunteer libraries in two weeks have announced they can’t go on due to lack of finance. This is in addition to the three in Lincolnshire that folded due to the charity that ran them closing down, and which have now temporarily been taken over by GLL. While still only small numbers, this is as many volunteer branches getting into trouble in a month as I can recall in the last five years. Indeed, the resilience of these branches has been most impressive up to now. However, as councils provide less and less support to community groups, and indeed sometimes none at all, we can expect these five no to be the last, and possibly a harbinger of things to come. After all, something for nothing is rarely a viable business strategy,

The Telegraph has written a piece critical of staffless libraries and an Observer journalist has tweeted what a “sham” they are. The conversion of UK libraries to “open” technology is picking up pace and now rivals the adoption rate of any country in the world. It remains to be seen as to if such a negative response is indicative of a genuine problem for councils or it’s similar to the initial criticism of self-service machines, now generally adopted in the country. I suspect, like self-service, it depends on why it has been adopted. If it’s to blatantly replace paid staff and to give a paper provision that is deeply inferior in practice, then may will feel the rotten eggs deserve to be thrown. If it is genuinely an extension of the service then the adoption is to be welcomes. Sadly, in many library authorities, it is too often the former.

Finally, it’s great to see some academic research come out on the impact of cuts to library services. Few studies have been done on this subject and some that have been are too obviously biased. So it is to be welcomed and, I hope, used.


The Write Time, Write Place programme of creative writing workshops for beginners in Libraries 

The Write Time, Write Place programme is a free course of creative writing workshops for adults run by the literacy company Read Now Write Now in partnership with library services, usually funded by Arts Council England. Currently the programme is working in 4 libraries in Trafford. 

The course, designed for beginners but free for anyone to join, is relaxed and informal and looks at different parts of the writing process including characterisation, setting the scene and plot design with the result that writers can contribute a short story which will be included in an end of programme anthology. All writers receive a copy and some of the books are also added to the library service catalogue. 

The workshops last for 8 weeks followed by a period of 6-8 weeks for the writers to finish off their story and are run by Charlie Lea FRSA and Principal of Read Now Write Now. 

Previously the programme has taken place in: Halton, Cheshire West & Chester and, also Wirral Libraries. By the end of the programme in Trafford over 200 new writers will have attended the courses.  Most of the venues used in libraries are fully subscribed.  

“By the end of the programme in Trafford over 200 new writers will have attended the courses.  Most of the venues used in libraries are fully subscribed.”

At the end of each programme a book launch event is held for all writers to attend and receive a copy of their anthology and an opportunity is given for writers to read some of their published work. The picture shows just some of the writers who took part in the programme with at Cheshire West and Chester Libraries. They attended the end of programme event at Storyhouse, Chester. 

Right time, right place: StoryHouse, Chester

Right time, right place: StoryHouse, Chester

Write Time, Write Place would not have been able to run without the support of the individual library services and funding from Arts Council England. Charlie Lea, from Read Now Write Now, can provide bespoke advice on applying for funding, including help with drafting the application itself. 

The legacy of the programme is manifold: many of the writers who have attended the courses are still meeting up in their groups to write and, because of the course, have felt more artistic about themselves and their health and wellbeing has increased. 

Of the writers in Cheshire West and Chester, over 77% said they are very likely to continue writing and over 13% said they are likely to continue writing.  Just over 80% of the same course said they felt either quite a bit or tremendously artistic with over 90% stating it boosted their health and wellbeing. 

Charlie Lea says, “I love running these courses and meeting like- minded people. The benefits of a group course are that everyone, including myself, will come away having learnt something from each other. Libraries are an ideal local location for the programme with supportive staff, and literally thousands of books to inspire the writers. Our goal is simple, to inspire more and more people to become writers, not just for literary reasons, but also to help boost people’s confidence as well as their health and wellbeing.” 

National news

“We are committed to encouraging the availability of e-books for lending from public library services. When commenced, section 31 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 will extend the Public Lending Right to include the remote lending of e-books and audiobooks, where such lending takes place away from library premises”  .Michael Ellis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

  • How to be a Brown Librarian in a White Librarian World – Infopro Tasha. “Given the current climate in Britain it’s no surprise that a lot of people are being forced to confront how people of colour are treated in their immediate vicinity. Especially within the library sphere. A profession which is purportedly supposed to represent the communities it serves, barring London, I wonder how many do? I would wager that very few do. At the time of writing CILIP Wales 2018 has just taken place (#cilipw18) and they had a diversity panel. Yay!! Panel, people talking about minorities, those are the best. However, here’s the problem – all the people on this panel were white.” see also The unbearable whiteness of conferences – Diversity in Libraries of the North and FLIP Interviews…Jen Bayjoo of DILON – FLIP.
  • Investigating the public response to local government decisions to reduce or remove public library services – Journal of Librarianship and Information Science. “This paper presents new findings regarding the public response to public spending cuts as part of the UK Government fiscal consolidation programme, specifically to the perceived effects of reduced library opening hours on the public library user in a city in the North of England. An inductive approach was taken to the mixed methods study, using a self-completion, cross-sectional survey distributed to adults visiting one of three libraries in the city during a six-day period. Qualitative and quantitative data analyses indicate a shared level of dissatisfaction with the service reductions across the respondents, and a shared perception of having been adversely affected. Statistical analyses revealed a strong level of agreement that the changes had a significantly negative impact on different aspects of respondents’ lives. The research evidences the direct effects of service reductions on library users, as well as the wider social and economic implications.”

“Our local library has moved and is some fresh kind of hell. You can’t go inside. Not unless you’ve registered your library card online, waited for a unique pin code, then scanned it to open the door. No browsing, no I’ll-have-a-little-look-til-the-rain-stops. This is a sham.” Eva Wiseman, commissioning editor at the Observer on Twitter.

  • Londoners invited to showcase their hidden writing talents – Voice Online. “Reading writers Leone Ross (Come Let Us Sing Anyway), Gary Budden (Hollow Shores), Meena Kandasamy (When I Hit You) and Olumide Popoola (When We Speak of Nothing) have taken up City of Stories residencies in four London libraries. Each writer has been commissioned to pen an original short story, inspired by their locality and Londoners’ tales, which will be published in an anthology and made into short films”.
      • Rise of the unmanned library means elderly and children are shut out – Daily Telegraph. “A new CCTV and PIN code entry system, Open Plus, requires users to already have a library card before they can enter libraries, which allows them to open without staff. The amount of public libraries using the new technology has increased from 24 in 2016 to at least 109 today. …”


  An online bookclub from Axiell International news  


      • Australia – Strange Magic of Libraries Paris Review. “Libraries have a strange potency that is hard to capture in the arid, bureaucratic calculus of inputs, outputs, and outcomes. Throughout much of the Western world, though, that calculus dictates how public funds are spent. Fortunately, some rules are made to be broken. In the U.S., Canada, and Australia (but less so in Britain), public libraries continue to be well resourced. We seem to have an innate sense of the value of libraries and the need to preserve them, notwithstanding the impossibility of counting all of their outputs.”




  • Qatar – ‘The library’s role as public meeting space is more significant than ever’: OMA’s Qatar National Library officially opens – CLAD News. “The Qatar National Library (QNL) in Doha, designed by international architects OMA, has been officially opened by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani. Conceived as a space for reading, socialising and browsing, the building houses more than a million books and space for thousands of readers over an area of 42,000sq m (452,000sq ft). The marble bookshelves, organised around a central triangular space, segue with the floors to form wide topographical tiers that raise up above the open-plan site. They also incorporate key infrastructure, such as artificial lighting, ventilation, and the book return system. “We designed the space so you can see all the books in a panorama,”



  • USA / Global – Why are libraries facing an identity crisis? – Interview with Pamela Benjamin – Princh. ” the four predominant themes that run throughout the library world: technology, space, information/content and people. We can play with the first three, but the last one is our core.” … “Daring to touch the third rails of librarianship’s will not be easy. Extended social services and information concierge are not officially recognized as tenets of the library profession. Nevertheless, these options may not be just options but rather the necessary dogma that is the salvation for us and for those we serve.”




Local news by authority

  • Buckinghamshire – Mobile libraries to stop running in Bucks at the end of the month – Bucks Herald. “The removal of the three vehicles is expected to save £113,000 in Year One and £180,000 each year thereafter.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Chester Storyhouse celebrates first birthday and a million visitors Chester Chronicle. “Widely acknowledged as the most ambitious creative project the city has seen, Storyhouse is the only building of its kind in the UK unifying a cinema, library and theatre. The high number of visitors means it is officially one of the UK’s largest cultural visitor attractions.” … “In its first year the library loaned 258,000 books and children’s book loans have increased by 50 per cent since Chester library moved to the venue. “
  • Derby – Keys of Sinfin Library handed over to community group – Derby Telegraph. “The council will also be carrying out training for staff and volunteers, to make sure library services run as smoothly as possible once reopened.” … “Sinfin Library is set to become the city’s first community-managed Library as the keys have been handed over to Direct Help and Advice. Building work is set to take place over the next few weeks to prepare the site, in the District Centre, in Arleston Lane, for the services it will provide.”
  • Devon – How much did your library issue in fines in the last three years? – Midweek Herald. “Statistics accrued from Devon County Council show that a whopping £83,614 in fines was issued by seven libraries between 2015 and 2017.” but “Only Ottery Library handed out more fines in 2017 (£1,842)
  • East Sussex – East Sussex libraries close their doors after long battle – Eastbourne Herald. “The county council closed Langney, Polegate, Pevensey Bay, Willingdon, Ringmer, Mayfield and Ore libraries on Saturday (May 5) despite public protestations” … “The mobile library service has also been stopped. This comes after community campaigns to save them were unsuccessful, with East Sussex County Council taking what it called the ‘difficult decision’ in March. “
  • Herefordshire – Labour Party supports local library campaign – Hereford Times. “in support of Unison’s campaign to halt the tendering process to outsource the county’s museums, libraries and archives services to a private company. Despite the fact that many visitors to the stall had already signed online, over 160 new signatures were collected.”
  • Hillingdon – Boris Johnson joins Polish ambassador at centenary celebrations in Uxbridge – Get West London. “To mark the occasion the Ambassador presented the library with Polish language books on behalf of the Polish Book Institute and Cultural Institute. The VIP guests joined local children from nearby St Andrews Primary School for a workshop in which they made Polish flags, before viewing a new exhibition at the library detailing the crucial contribution of Polish airmen based in Hillingdon to the Allied victory in the Second World War.”
  • Lambeth – Greens Surge in Local Elections to Become the Official Opposition Party in LambethLambeth Green Party. “Elsewhere in Herne Hill, Rebecca Thackray, who had previously been a Green councillor in Lambeth from 2006 – 2010, was re-elected following a campaign heavily focused on protecting the local Carnegie Library. In Gipsy Hill the party scored another victory as Pete Elliott – who had campaigned against the closure of Carnegie Library and the demolition of the Central Hill estate – was also elected.”
  • Leicestershire – South Wigston Library to close as Leicestershire County Council ‘community-run’ deal collapses – Leicester Mercury. “Leicestershire library closing after the community group running it said it is not going to continue. The Community Action Partnership (CAP) has been managing South Wigston Library, in the Bassett Centre in Bassett Street, for the past two years.” … “It is unclear when it will re-open and who will be running it. The county council is now looking for a new group to step in.”
  • Lincolnshire – Lincoln libraries closed until takeover – Lincolnite. “Birchwood, Ermine and Boultham libraries’ current operator Learning Communities ceased trading on Friday, May 11. While Lincolnshire County Council looks for a long-term solution, the three libraries will be run in the interim by the authority’s main library provider Greenwich Leisure Limited and the existing volunteers. They will be temporarily closed during the transition, but the council aims to have them open again by Monday, May 21 – with new opening hours.” see also Wigston volunteer library may close after community group who ran it for two years pulls out. – Lincolnshire Live.
  • Monmouthshire – Abergavenny community hub could cost up to £2m – South Wales Argus. “The authority wants to merge the hall’s existing one stop shop, where residents can access council and careers services, with the town’s “outdated” library in Baker Street and other community learning services. But the report hints at existing services operating out of the Grade II listed town hall, in Cross Street, being disrupted during the work.”
  • North Somerset – Library’s ‘high-quality services undermined’ by poor IT system – North Somerset Times. “Congresbury Parish Council took over the running of its village library when North Somerset Council carried out a community access review to save money. A number of libraries across the district were merged with children’s centres, but Congresbury chose to run its centre in Station Road. As part of the arrangement, North Somerset Council agreed to provide access to the computers, and look after the IT system through its contract with Agilisys. However, Congresbury councillor Tom Leimdorfer, speaking at the full council meeting last week, said: “Congresbury Parish Council and local volunteers have worked hard to deliver high-quality services at Congresbury community library on behalf of North Somerset Council.” … “It costs Congresbury Parish Council around £4,000 a year to run the library and when it voted to do so, it said it would use an increase in tax to pay for it. “”

“During the past year, the quality of the provision has been undermined by the failure of Agilisys to provide and support a reliable IT system. “This failure is quite unacceptable. “Since November, the printer has only worked for about two weeks.”

  • North Yorkshire – Sherburn’s community library celebrates success after being threatened with closure – Press. “When North Yorkshire County Council revealed it could no longer afford to keep the Sherburn & Villages library open, due to national budget cuts, the Sherburn in Elmet community trust was formed, with more than 70 local people offering to train as volunteer staff. The trust took over running the library on April 1 2017 and has honoured its pledge to keep it open four days a week, plus Saturday mornings.” … “In the past year, they have recorded 32,444 customer visits and a total of 7,460 volunteer hours were contributed. There are now plans to further improve services by providing an information hub, to advise people about public services, including local transport, leisure activities and social benefits. Former librarian Deborah Raven, of Sherburn, one of the trust’s volunteer managers, said: “Libraries are absolutely vital, especially for children and young people.”
  • Northamptonshire – Northamptonshire County Council: Commissioners take over authority BBC. “Two government-appointed commissioners have been sent in to run a financially troubled council. Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said Tony McArdle and Brian Roberts would be in place at Northamptonshire County Council until 2021. It comes after spending controls were imposed in February, but the council has since managed to balance its books.”
  • Oldham – Oldham Libraries host events and workshops to mark Dementia Action Week – Saddleworth Independent. “Libraries are hosting workshops, activities and training sessions to highlight the hardship people with dementia suffer every day and what residents can do to make their lives easier.”
  • Oldham – Oldham library sensory room – Libraries Taskforce. “On 22 March, with much excitement, a ribbon cutting ceremony, and with honours completed by our Youth Mayor, we finally launched our new sensory room at Oldham Central Library. Situated within the children’s library the space is free to both Oldham groups and members of the public. The room is equipped with digital sensory technology including musical touch wall, LED interactive bubble tube, fibre optic slideglow, LED interactive infinity tunnel and an LED sound activated step light.”
  • Pembrokeshire – Public consultation starts on access to services – Tenby Observer. “Representatives were informed of proposals to reduce facility costs by bringing customer facilities together and creating ‘community hubs’ or ‘one-stop-shop’ services.” e.g. “Option one – maintain library and information centre in current location. Relocate the customer service centre and housing team from Milford Haven Town Hall to the library and information centre”
  • Shropshire – Four Shropshire police stations to relocate Shropshire Live. “Shrewsbury Town Centre Police Post will co-locate with the town council in the Darwin Library on Castle Street. This relocation is due to the existing police building being poorly located. This will now mean that the team is more centrally located for communities to access the police services and enable closer working with partners.”
  • Somerset – ‘Take out library books’ protest day – West Somerset Free Press. “Friends of Wiveliscombe Library is planning a mass withdrawal of books from the local library on Friday (May 11) to highlight opposition to its potential closure. The library is under threat as part of sweeping changes by Somerset County Council that could affect a number of libraries in West Somerset and the whole county.”  … “The mass book withdrawal is taking place from 2.30pm on May 11, which is also Somerset Day, and organisers are hoping people of all ages will turn out in force to take out as many books as they are entitled to.
  • Somerset – ‘We should put the two together’ – idea for Post Office and library – Weekly News. “That is the view of Councillor Phil Harvey who said Highbridge Post Office should be relocated next to the town’s library – a move he believes would result in an increase in visitors to both. Councillor Harvey suggested relocating the Post Office to a smaller premises at Alpha House, in Market Street, at a Burnham and Highbridge Town Council meeting last week.”
  • St Helens – St Helens named as first Liverpool City Region Borough of Culture – The Reporter. “Under the 1% for Culture Programme, Liverpool City Region has become the first in the country to commit to spending the equivalent of 1% of its annual £30 million devolution funding from government to support cultural activities.” … “St Helens has a growing reputation as a centre of excellence for arts and culture with both the Heart of Glass and St Helens Libraries Cultural Hubs programmes in the Art Council Englands National Portfolio.”
  • Suffolk – Libraries in Sudbury, Glemsford and Long Melford to host series of events – EADT. “Sudbury Library is set for a 1/2 million pound revamp. pics before the refurbishment.”
  • Swansea – Library Services Manager (closing date: 23/05/18) Swansea Council. Full-time permanent. £41-45k. “Swansea is on the brink of enormous change and transformation, with ‘once in a generation’ investment and growth coming to the city and region. Ensuring all our communities benefit and thrive, at a time of unprecedented pressure on the public purse, presents both an opportunity and challenge, to find new ways of working with, and delivering for, our residents.”
  • Warrington – Burtonwood Post Office now open for business in village library – Warrington Worldwide. “Burtonwood Post Office is now open for business following a move to a new home in the village library as part of a modernisation programme. Local leisure and library provider LiveWire secured approval to deliver the Post Office from the library building as part of a major programme of modernisation taking place across the Post Office network.” Residents can now visit the library and make use of the Post Office services during their visit to the facility, which sits in the heart of the village.
  • Warwickshire – Falling library visitor numbers not helped by “Soviet-looking buildings” says councillor – Coventry Live. “Libraries that look like car parks are not helping halt the slump in visitor numbers across Warwickshire. That is the message from Councillor Pete Gilbert, Conservative county councillor for Bedworth West, who said the buildings themselves could put people off. “Atmosphere is important in libraries,” he said. “Some of the biggest damage that we’ve caused ourselves is the knocking or pulling down of beautiful buildings that lived and breathed books and building these Soviet-looking flat roofed things that don’t inspire anybody.”
  • Western Isles – Fight goes on to turn page on mobile library vans – Stornoway Gazette. ““I know money is tight and has to be carefully managed, but since when did support to the most vulnerable parts of our Island Community require such focussed justification? I would ask for support from Councillors from rural areas, as well as others of course, to support the reinstatement of those mobile library vans with some urgency.” Councillor Mitchell highlighted that he believes the Comhairle’s credibility will diminish in the Harris and South Lochs area if the library vans are not replaced and the feeling that the Local Authority is more Stornoway driven, rather than rural areas, will be underlined.”