A few things this week, led by the Governments unbothered response to the libraries petition. In a standard cut-and-paste response, the reply is that everything is fine, the Government is putting loads of money in and that funding is, anyway, a local matter. Everyone knows the first two are – shall we say? – not entirely accurate and the third one is, along with austerity, the problem in the first place and indeed the whole point of the petition. The takeaway from this is that library users will have to shout a lot louder to make a difference. So get more names on that petition, please. The second big thing over the last few days that angered me was reading a letter from CIPFA strongly encouraging local library services to avoid handing out usage data. As discussed below, this letter is only the latest piece of evidence strengthening the view that CIPFA is past its sell-by date and is now actively part of the problem and not part of the solution. But read the letter, and CIPFA’s reply, as well in order to make up your own mind.

The biggest bit of local news is the cutting by over a third of Newcastle’s library budget, including to the flagship Central library and the recently invested in East End Library. Forced by central cuts to council budget – and thus proving the lie to the Government’s petition response – the reductions will result in much false economy for what was once, but probably not for much longer, a top-notch library service. Also in the news, we have a whole array of previously largely standalone libraries moving into joint locations. Well, it’s cheaper and there may be some mutual benefits but the suspicion is that these are disguised cuts to the service, not improvements. I hope to be proved wrong on that.

But finally, a piece of joy. One library service is allowing any well-behaved dog – not just guide dogs – into its libraries on Fridays. Speaking as someone whose dog is currently dozing on my left, I have to strongly encourage that. There’s an article I briefly saw saying that “dogs are the new library cat” and I hope that is never proved wrong. Woof.

Changes by local authority


Thoughts on CIPFA limiting access to library usage data

I was recently shocked and not a little bit angered by seeing CIPFA sending out advice to all public library services trying to limit replies to freedom of information requests for library data. In the guidance, CIPFA claim library usage figure is “reasonably accessible”, while not mentioning it costs £650, effectively making it impossible to access to all but the very few. Read the full letter via these two links (one) (two) (or via this tweet). One wonders what CIPFA is for. It’s certainly not for providing reliable data on public library usage due to both the afore-mentioned prohibitive cost and the lack of checking of the data received.  It is worth noting that the DCMS funded reports mentioned in the reply below are challenging to find unless you know they exist and I am often asked by others for the link to them myself or they come as a surprise to people when I tell then about their availability.

The thing that gets me about this is that there’s nothing magical in what CIPFA are doing. They send out a list of questions and library authorities answer them. The councils don’t get paid for this data but then CIPFA charge everyone else £650 for its use. The data also takes months to be publicly available. These two problems may once have been acceptable but in these days or emails and spreadsheets. It strikes me that the councils themselves could simply do this themselves. Unless, of course, and I think this sadly the case, that some library services do not wish to make their data open in the first place.

Firstly, it is important to clarify that CIPFA’s profile reports, which are funded by DCMS, are free to access. These profiles provide a comprehensive analysis of public libraries data for every region within England. They are available here. A spreadsheet, containing the full data set, is available to councils with a CIPFAstats subscription. Half of councils with library responsibilities have a subscription. For those without a subscription, access to the dataset costs £650.

CIPFA is a registered charity (a not-for-profit body) with limited statutory funding for this work, we have to cover our costs and are therefore unable to provide the full dataset without a fee. The fee is determined by how much it costs CIPFA to produce this data. Providing the dataset requires significant skill and effort from highly-qualified statisticians. The resulting intellectual property is CIPFA’s and, reasonably, in the absence of statutory funding, we seek to cover our costs for that exercise.

Last year, a number of local authorities received FOI requests for CIPFA’s data on libraries. These authorities asked for advice from CIPFA on how best to respond. As a result, we issued our view to all authorities. We believe that open disclosure could infringe CIPFA’s intellectual property rights and therefore its commercial interests. And if our ability to raise income by charging for access to the data is curtailed, the work would inevitably end up becoming unviable.

Were CIPFA to receive full external funding to produce the data then it would not charge for its statistics. Where we do get funded fully, for example to produce local authority revenue budget data, this is published and available free of charge via MHCLG. The library statistics are by their nature retrospective, taking time to be gathered and quality assured with extensive consultation and validation with individual authorities and libraries; and therefore like any other public service statistics, they emerge some months after the financial year being analysed.  We would like to add that CIPFA and its members are totally committed to working in the public interest, for public good.

The work we have recently published with the Institute for Government highlights very starkly the extent to which local authorities have had to scale back on cultural services generally, libraries in particular but also other neighbourhood and youth services. And on the basis of this evidence CIPFA is doing all that it can to lobby for appropriate levels of resources to strengthen local government sector’s financial resilience without which it cannot deliver the services, such as libraries and community learning centres, that are essential to vibrant communities.”

National news

  • Councils urged to take control of regenerating their town centres – Guardian. “Other suggestions included creating a landlord register, giving local authorities the power to fine owners whose properties are left empty for more than six months, and passing legislation enabling shops to be converted more readily into homes or community facilities such as libraries or arts venues.”
  • Fifers are worst at returning library books and owe more than £160,000 in fines – Courier. 436,000 late books in Scotland with £882k of outstanding fines. Fife have over 100,000 late books due to not deleting (“cleansing”) old books.
  • Government responded: Protect library services by ringfencing government funding for libraries – Petition Parliament. “The Government is committed to supporting a sustainable long-term future for libraries. Councils retain flexibility over funding decisions so libraries can be resilient and equipped to meet local need”
  • If books can cure loneliness why are we closing libraries? – Guardian. ” new report claims that books are powerful enough to halt loneliness and social exclusion. The 50-page study, undertaken jointly by the thinktank Demos and the literacy charity the Reading Agency, argues that reading could also assist with social mobility and mental health, and even “hold off” dementia. It backs its argument with an array of compelling research and recommends a government investment of £200m, involving the NHS supporting “book-based interventions”, as part of its social prescribing strategy, alongside a major Comic Relief-style campaign to raise money for book charities, book circles and reading aloud schemes.” … “The report comes as libraries – the largest providers of free access to books – continue to face government cuts and the threat of closures, a stark fact that the report does not flag up, though it speaks of the importance of resourcing library services. A petition that calls on parliament to ringfence library funding and protect public resources was launched at the end of last month, and has so far collected more than 26,000 signatures, including the support of JK Rowling (it needs another 74,000 signatures by March 2019 to force a debate in parliament).”
  • Lib Dem in Mayor bid vows to reopen police stations to tackle crime – Evening Standard. “A Liberal Democrat contender for London Mayor has pledged to reopen closed police stations in the capital by combining them with libraries or post offices.” … “There are lots of public services that people are trying to protect such as libraries and post offices. I think we should be looking at shared facilities, how we can combine them. Some of these local police stations are very small with a front counter but you do need that presence in the community,” she said.”
  • Libraries combine on first ever ‘Great North West Read’ – BookSeller. “Designed to boost awareness of great writers from, and books about, the area, Sharon Bolton’s The Craftsman was selected to be the focus of the November’s campaign and first ever Great North West Read. Extra copies of the book – a tense thriller about a young female police constable investigating murder in 1970s Lancashire – will be made available to the 340 libraries in an area stretching from Carlisle to Chester and the Wirral to Rochdale, covering all of Greater Manchester and Merseyside.”

“To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what risk assessment his Department undertook of the placement of UKVI biometric services in local libraries under the contract with Sopra Steria.” Jo Stevens MP, Labour, Cardiff Central.

“Physical security assessments have been completed by both UK Visa and Immigration and Sopra Steria to assess the risk of placing UKVI biometric services in local libraries under the contract with Sopra Steria. Sopra Steria has carried out detailed due diligence visits in person to each venue to assess the physical environment, security, public access, and suitability for the service. Modifications have been made where required.

As libraries already deliver a range of services to the public; they are monitored by the risk and security assessments of the Local Authority. The staff who will be carrying out the biometric data appointments have all been security cleared with recent Disclosure Barring Services and Baseline Personnel Security Standard accreditation. Specialist training has been delivered to staff in the library venues. Home Office Security have approved and granted Authority to Operate in local libraries.” Caroline Nokes, Minister for Immigration. They Work For You.

  • Libraries Lead With Digital promotes community learning – Government Europa. “A cohort of libraries around the UK and Ireland is pioneering Libraries Lead With Digital, a scheme to bridge the digital skills gap by supporting and training local communities. Libraries Lead With Digital is a comprehensive toolkit created by librarians for librarians, in partnership with Google and Public Libraries 2020 (PL2020), an EU-based programme geared at raising awareness of the importance of public libraries as a community and learning resource.” … “PL2020 and Google have partnered with 10 English and Irish libraries to provide the equipment librarians need to support and train their local communities in digital skills, online safety and computer science”
  • Libraries: Opportunities for Everyone innovation fund – evaluation – Libraries Taskforce. Review of results of £3.9m funding. Infographic shows each individual visit generated by scheme cost £72, with each session costing £861 on average. “The open brief behind the LOFE funding enabled library services to try new activities without fear of failure. Across all projects, funding was felt to have provided the opportunity to invest in high value equipment and resources, support staff through training, and market their libraries to local communities.” … “Some library services reported improvements in morale” … “In particular, library staff enjoyed coming together to engage in the theory of change exercises”. Includes link to full report.
  • Paws for Reading at Prestbury library – Libraries Taskforce. “As a team we’re always looking out for new ideas to encourage people to visit Prestbury Library, a small community focused library in Gloucestershire. On top of this we wanted an idea to enter for the David Vaisey Prize, an annual competition that awards £5,000 to the best new project running in a Gloucestershire library.” … “We all got our thinking caps on and I was thrilled when Laura, Library Assistant at Prestbury, excitedly told me about Reading to Dogs schemes that run in America. This seemed like the perfect project to run in the library. Part of our job is to inspire children to catch the reading bug and this scheme seemed an ideal way to encourage reluctant readers to improve their reading skills. Evidence shows that children feel less anxious when reading to dogs. After all a dog won’t try to correct you – he’ll just sit and listen”
  • Progress implementing the Public Libraries Skills Strategy – Libraries Taskforce. “At an event run by CILIP’s Public and Mobile Libraries group in October 2018, Carol Stump – Chief Librarian at Kirklees council, and a trustee of Libraries Connected (LC), gave a presentation on the PLSS, and outlined progress made against the recommendations.”

Axiell Selflib
International news

Local news by authority

  • Argyll – Councillor Graham Hardie: Our libraries are worth cherishing – Helensburgh Advertiser. Lesiure Trust company director praises the library.
  • Bexley – So where is Wally? ask libraries as titles vanish – Metro. “Bexley council has called on readers to bring their books back as it revealed more than 7,000 have been borrowed and not returned in the last five years. Almost 2,450 books were stolen, lost or long overdue this year — nearly double last year’s total of 1,335.”
  • Bradford – Staff shortages lead to hundreds of hours of library time being lost – Telegraph and Argus. “it emerged shortages led to services closing for over 266 hours in the past year” … “Bradford Council admits that it is aware there is currently a staffing issue in its libraries, and is working to “minimise impact to customers.” he issue was raised by Councillor Brendan Stubbs (Lib Dem, Eccleshill), when he noticed he was regularly receiving online notifications that his local library was having to shut early, or over lunch, because of staffing issues. He asked the Council for a breakdown of the scheduled opening hours libraries were shut in the past 12 months.”
  • Derby – Pear Tree Library proposed to relocate to create a community hub – Derby City Council. “Following the closure of Pear Tree Library earlier this year it is proposed to relocate to St Augustine’s Community Centre to create a new community hub.” … “Whilst it’ll be sad to lose Pear Tree Library’s home for over a century, the costs associated with repairing the roof mean it isn’t viable to do so. We have worked tirelessly to find a suitable solution and believe this could in fact offer Pear Tree so much more.” … “The refurbishment works will include creating a new library, Council offices,1-2-1 consultation rooms as well as areas for multiple community activities. The library opening times will remain the same with Derby City Council continuing to operate the library.”
  • Dudley – Librarian swept off her feet by national romantic novels nomination – Dudley News. “Sharon Hunt has been shortlisted for Librarian of the Year at the Romantic Novelists Association Industry Awards 2018. The library assistant at Kingswinford Library in Dudley engages customers by promoting romantic literature at the Market Street library as well as regularly blogging about the books she has read.”
  • Durham – Durham Libraries Now Offering Thousands of Free Audiobooks – Durham Magazine. Borrowbox.
  • East Dunbartonshire – Petitions and public demonstrations as residents campaign against closure of East Dunbartonshire libraries – Kirkintilloch Herald. “Mr McGuire is distributing petitions to local businesses in the village, and has plans to create an online version. He is also organising public demonstrations. He added: “We are being targeted because of the footfall in the library but we’re a small rural community. The library is well used by locals but there is no chance we can compete with the bigger towns in East Dunbartonshire.” Mr McGuire said he felt that financial contributions from property developers building houses in the village should be used to keep the library open.” see also Councillor Susan Murray tells why she supports the EDLC proposal to close Lenzie, Milton of Campsie and Westerton libraries – Kirkintilloch Herald. Claims closures are “a good news story” due to investment in those libraries not closing.
  • Kirklees – Almondbury and Holmfirth libraries to move to new sites – Examiner. “Two long-standing library buildings are set for closure with books and staff moving to new sites with a multiplicity of uses. The changes, at Almondbury and Holmfirth libraries, have been described as “a good thing” that will evolve the traditional service into a more community-based hub for the 21st century. Libraries chiefs say the changes bring the service into the modern age. But the council has come under fire for absorbing the existing 130-year-old Almondbury Library, on Stocks Walk, into the SureStart Centre off Fairfield Road.”
  • Lambeth – Lights, camera, shhhh: West Norwood library and cinema ready for action – SW Londoner. “A modernised library and new cinema will open in West Norwood tomorrow following the completion of a £3million investment project by Picturehouse Cinemas and Lambeth Council. The partnership has created 25 new jobs, with Picturehouse Cinemas providing the funding for remodelling and refurbishing the previously deteriorating building on Norwood High Street. The venue is now wheelchair accessible and has doubled in size, creating space for 35,000 books, four cinema screens, a bar, a café, a restaurant and a community room for hire.”
  • Leeds – Emma Adams celebrates library life – North West End. “This is a joint commission between The Leeds Library, Leeds Playhouse and Leeds Libraries, who run public liberties [sic – ed.] across the city, and where the work will tour after its city centre run. As well as looking at how libraries have moved with the digital age, Emma has spent time in Leeds Central Library trying to make sense of the impact of deep funding cuts that have seen hundreds of public libraries close in this country, and many more handed over to volunteers to run”
  • Newcastle – Job losses and £20m cuts: What Newcastle City Council’s budget means for you – Chronicle.The City Library will close at 5pm three days per week and not open on Sundays — just one part of £1.7m cuts to the library service in the coming years, which will see staffing reduced and the East End Library moved to the Shields Road Customer Service Centre.” See full budget propsoals.
  • Northamptonshire – Library loss could see Higham Ferrers running book lending service from mobile unit – Northants Telegraph. Town council may arrange alternative service after loss of Northamptonshire funded library.
  • North Yorkshire – A group of art students from Caedmon College in Whitby have added a glorious splash of colour to the outside of the town’s library – North Yorkshire Council. “The work is part of a regional festival called Reading Pictures: Seeing Stories, which sees libraries across North Yorkshire celebrating children’s book illustration in a series of events and workshops in which artists, book illustrators and cartoonists have been inspiring young people and families.”
  • North Yorkshire – Libraries across North Yorkshire will celebrate Talk Money Week from 12 to 18 November. – North Yorkshire Council. “A variety of Talk Money events will taking place in libraries with organisations including Citizen’s Advice, the County Council’s Adult Learning and Skills Service, credit unions, Barclays Bank, Santander, NatWest Community Bankers, Age UK and others.”
  • Oxfordshire – Library work to be undertaken over postal notices – Banbury Cake. “The county council currently offers people who want to borrow certain resources from its libraries the option to receive notices that they are available by post or email. But it has planned to stop the postal notifications, something Mrs Leffman said she worried would leave people unable to properly use the library service.”
  • Perth and Kinross – Well-behaved dogs now welcome at Perth and Kinross Libraries – Courier. Dogs allowed in every Friday as part of Dog Friendly Perthshire campaign. Water bowls provided.
  • Plymouth – Findalots Library Challenge – Plymouth Libraries. “Aimed at 4 to 11 year olds, all children who sign up will receive a special Findalots library card and an activity journal. They need to read four books each month to receive a sticker. Each month has a different theme. Complete the special challenge (or borrow four more books) to receive a trading card. “
  • Powys – Welshpool Library: Glyn Davies MP holds ‘We Love Our Libraries’ coffee morning – Powys County Times. “This was Mr Davies’ way of expressing his support for Welshpool Library, and the campaign to save it; as Powys County Council plans to relocate it within the Powysland Museum. Speaking at the coffee morning on Friday, November 2, Mr Davies said: “I’m horrified that the library here in Welshpool could close”.”
  • Redbridge – Plans for Gants Hill library to become a purpose-built residential housing complex with GP, police and book facilities – Ilford Recorder. “Plans for Gants Hill library to become a purpose-built residential housing complex with GP, police and book facilities have been unveiled by Redbridge Council. ” … “According to the next cabinet agenda, the site will be one of five regional council hubs in the borough. The hubs which could include a library, social care services, enforcement, police and GPs all under one roof are envisioned as purpose-built facilities at Gants Hill library, Seven king car park, Wanstead library, Ashtons Playing Fields, and Hainault library.”
  • Renfrewshire – Work set to begin on temporary Paisley Central Library at Lagoon Leisure Centre – Renfrewshire 24. “Work will start on a new temporary Paisley Central Library at the Lagoon Leisure Centre from Monday 12th November 2018. The library left its former home next to Paisley Museum in September when the building closed for a £42m revamp to turn the museum into an international-class destination. Library provision will eventually move to a new state-of -the-art learning and cultural hub being created in Paisley’s High Street.”
  • St Helens – Public ‘crying out’ for news about future of Central Library – St Helens Star. “The borough’s main library has been shut since March 2017 due to the significant remedial work required in the Gamble Institute. Nineteen months later – and despite the council saying in early 2018 that it was looking to find a venue to rehome it – a solution has not been found. A meeting of St Helens Council’s environment, regeneration, housing, culture and leisure overview and scrutiny panel, on Wednesday, was told that the public is “crying out” for a resolution.”
  • Somerset – Cuts to Somerset library services approved – now community groups need to come forward to keep 15 open – Somerset Country Gazette. “The council’s cabinet yesterday agreed an extra £22,000 a year to help support communities to run library buildings, and a commitment to retain 19 libraries under the authority’s control. However, the extra cash will only be used to support community groups the council hopes will come forward to keep 15 under-threat libraries open.”
  • Western Isles – Western Isles councillor’s ‘shock’ at handling of mobile library service – Stornoway Gazette. “At the meeting Comhairle leaders opposed Cllr Mitchel’s motion for the immediate purchase of the vans on the basis that all services should be considered in the Community Conversation process, and not be pre-empted, giving local communities the option to express an opinion on the future of services”
  • Worcestershire – Worcestershire library consultation launched and residents urged to have their say – Droitwich Standard. “THE consultation into the future use of libraries in Worcestershire has now been launched. The county’s library service is required to make savings of some £800,000 and no library in the entire county has been considered ‘safe’ against any future cuts. Councillor Lucy Hodgson, Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “We want as many people as possible to take part in the consultation. We want to hear the views of residents on suggested priorities for each library and ideas they may have about which services could be delivered by individual libraries.” see also Petition and rally to ‘Save Rubery Library’ – B31 Voices.”With Rubery identified as being one of the ten areas with least need for a library, campaigners are concerned that the village could find its library services reduced – potentially even seeing the library itself closed. Cllr Peter McDonald (Labour, Rubery South) said: “Our library is the cornerstone of our community.  It is not just a library but more of a community centre where people meet, socialise and can access lifelong learning.”