The newest comprehensive (well. OK, eight months after the event and missing one-fifth of all library services) annual Cipfa figures on public library performance have been released. They show a decline in usage of 4% mirrored by a cut in budget of the same, not taking into account the cut of around a further 2% due to inflation. Staffing is down by 4%, volunteer hours up by nearly the same and book issues down by around 5%. So it’s all around the similar amount. Correlation does not however imply causality but they’ve been similar-ish for years and there have notably not been such declines in use in the USA where funding has stayed fairly stable.

Well, that’s my take. Tim Coates, quoted in both the Guardian and the BookSeller, denies any impact caused by budget cuts and places the blame squarely on librarians being incompetent. So, if I’m being as balanced as those two sources, I guess it could be that as well. What does your direct personal experience tell you? I know which mine does.



  • Calmness packs – include lava lamps, aromatherapy and noise cancelling headphones but, weirdly, no books.
  • Guerilla kindness – leaving positive messages in books.

National news

  • Branch closures: Libraries are on borrowed time, act now to save them – Express. “The Daily Express today launches a crusade to save our neglected public libraries from extinction. Campaigners, celebrities and politicians have swung behind our campaign to ensure that the nation’s books are available for the benefit of anyone. Experts are calling for an urgent “national rethink” on the library service or run the risk of the beloved institutions disappearing from our communities altogether.” … “Tory MP Robert Halfon, whose Essex constituency is among those being hardest hit by library closures, said he backed the crusade “100 per cent” and accused both local authorities and central government of being “short-sighted”. Those on the front line also called for urgent action to be taken.”
  • Culture and libraries peer challenge  – Local Government Association. “The LGA and Arts Council England are also delighted to introduce a specific library service peer challenge, following the success of cultural peer challenges. Libraries have transformed significantly over the past decade, but there are still further steps to be taken. The library service peer challenge can be tailored to your local needs, whether that is providing you with an objective analysis of the effect of service changes, testing out ideas for further transformation including community libraries or a trust model, or assessing how well the library service is embedded in council delivery of corporate objectives. The peer team can also help you to assess your evidence of impact and advice on how to target limited resources or explore the strength of your partnerships and identify possibilities for more collaborative working, among other things.”
  • CWA Dagger in the Library – Crime Writers Association. “The Dagger in the Library is a prize for a body of work by a crime writer that users of libraries particularly admire. Only librarians can nominate authors for the award. It is one of the most prestigious crime writing awards in the UK and previous winners include Mari Hannah, Elly Griffiths, Christopher Fowler, Sharon Bolton, Belinda Bauer, Mo Hayder, Stuart MacBride, Jake Arnott, Alexander McCall Smith, Stephen Booth, Peter Robinson,  Lindsey Davis and in 2018 Martin Edwards.
    Nominations for the CWA Dagger in the Library 2019 are now open.”
  • Farewell from Neil – Libraries Connected. “As I sit on the train heading to the SCL seminar I’m reflecting on the last two years and my term as President of SCL. Apart from it having been the quickest two years of my entire life it has been one of major transformation for the organisation whilst at the same time successfully delivering on a wide range of activity as part of its funding award from Arts Council England.”
  • Libraries lose branches and staff as spending continues to drop  – Cipfa. “Spending by local authorities on public libraries fell by £30m, with the service losing 712 full time employees (FTEs), as well as a net loss of 127 service points in 2017/18. This follows a trend which has seen the number of public libraries and paid staff fall every year since 2010, with spending reduced by 12% in Britain in the last four years. CIPFA’s survey showed 51,394 volunteers putting in 1,780,843 hours in 2017/18, as libraries come to rely on the passion of members of their community to keep the service alive. “

“Out of the 205 local authorities the questionnaire was sent to within Great Britain, 166 in total completed the questionnaire, this represents an 81% response rate. The grossing methodology is based upon the principle of making an estimate according to the most recent available source.”

“Despite Theresa May’s claim that austerity is over, library funding and staff levels continue to fall and libraries are closing across the country.”Libraries are at the heart of our communities and are engines of social mobility.” Kevin Brennan, Shadow libraries minister.

  • Scotland’s readers now devour thrillers rather than romance novels – Falkirk Herald. Same move from Romance to Crime seen everywhere else.
  • Statement on CIPFA’s annual library survey – Libraries Connected. “The latest CIPFA figures are extremely worrying for anyone who cares about libraries. Local authorities are clearly struggling to manage huge financial reductions across all service areas. However, library closures can be devastating for local people who depend on their library to provide a range of services and a valued community space. It is clear that this situation cannot be allowed to continue which is why we’re working with partners to explore different options for how libraries could be funded, managed and delivered in the future.” {This is the complete statement – Ed.]
  • #uklibchat 10th December – Wishes for your library and you – Uklibchat. “At the year end, we hope to finish on a lighter note – we look back and forward to find the positives and hopes for the year ahead”
  • World Book Day Share A Story Live Tour – World Book Day. “World Book Day will be bringing books to life for children in four locations across the UK – Dundee, Bradford, Swindon and Manchester – rallying young readers around the excitement of sharing a story – live on stage. The World Book Day Share A Story Live tour features a diverse line-up of speakers – from World Book Day authors and illustrators including Sibéal Pounder, Abi Elphinstone, Steven Lenton and Frank Cottrell-Boyce, to performance poet and playwright Joseph Coelho; and from Making Herstory CEO and Founder Onjali Q. Raúf, to World Book Day illustrator Rob Biddulph. The series has been created to appeal to the widest possible range of children and young people”

Axiell Selflib
International news

Local news by authority

“Can we have an urgent statement on protecting public libraries? In a potential act of barbarism and cultural vandalism, Essex County Council is threatening to close libraries in disadvantaged and deprived areas of my constituency of Harlow—a disgraceful decision. These libraries are treasured by the community and schoolchildren as an important place of reading. Will my right hon. Friend work with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and get these cuts reversed?” Robert Halfon, Chair, Education Committee in House of Commons.

“My right hon. Friend raises an incredibly important point. We all know the value of libraries in our communities. It is not just about accessing books; many other community activities take place, bringing people together and providing them with support and guidance. The Government are committed to seeking a sustainable future for libraries. As he will be aware, local authorities in England have a statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. I am aware that Essex County Council’s consultation on its proposals closes on 20 February. I am sure that he and his constituents will want to participate in that consultation.” Andrea Leadsom MP. They Work For You.

  • Gloucestershire – How Gloucestershire libraries are supporting business growth – Libraries Taskforce. “the Growth Hub has a strong digital presence and all local businesses can access online business support. This is complimented by a network of local venues. There are two Tier 1 Growth Hubs – one located at the University of Gloucestershire and the other at the Royal Agricultural University – that bring together a number of support services for businesses in ambitious and stimulating spaces.”
  • Hertfordshire – Libraries lead the way – Hertfordshire Council. “According to information recorded from the last financial year of 2017/18 released this month, there were more than 3.5m visits to the county’s libraries, with a further 2.2m accessing library services online. In comparison, the Science Museum had 3.25m, Tower of London 2.84m and Stonehenge 1.58m*. ”
  • Northamptonshire – New Northamptonshire libraries plan will see most remain open – Northampton Chronicle. “After 12 months of drama and uncertainty surrounding the library provision in Northamptonshire the county council has released a revised plan which will see 14 of the county’s 36 libraries remain under county council control and the remaining 22 hopefully handed over to community groups to manage. However the council’s chief executive has said that some of the 12 library buildings that the council itself owns will close, details of which have not yet been released.”
  • Lewisham – Closing libraries in Lewisham ‘a false economy’ comments SSL representative Dr Alice Corble – London News Online. “Lewisham council had lined up a £450,000 cut to library services earlier this month before the decision was postponed until April while feasibility tests are run rebuilding the Lewisham Library. The Save Lewisham Libraries (SLL) campaign are battling to protect the four council run libraries in Catford, Downham, Deptford and Lewisham – that have around 60 members of staff across them.”
  • Lincolnshire – New operator for two Lincoln libraries – Lincolnite. “Learning Communities ran the Birchwood, Boultham and Ermine libraries and communities hub until it stopped trading in May 2018.Ignite is taking on the running of Birchwood and Boultham libraries, which have been supported by the council’s main library provider Greenwich Leisure Limited since Learning Communities ceased trading.”
  • Pembrokeshire – First look inside The Riverside, Haverfordwest’s £3million new county library – Tivyside Advertiser. “A week of activities will mark the opening of Glan-yr-afon/The Riverside, the county’s new flagship cultural centre. The exciting new development on the town’s riverside will welcome visitors for the first time later this week, but the Western Telegraph was lucky enough to have a sneak peek of the £3m facility.”
  • Sheffield – A big thank you to all volunteer library staff – Star / Letters. “Happily libraries are surviving and it is only down to the stalwart work put in by its hard working volunteers.” … “We all know that there are no longer paid members of staff in libraries like Stannington Library. This is not going to change, but while we have the dedication and commitment of people who care what happens in their local community, we have an alternative, and not one that is sub standard in any way.”
  • Somerset – Somerset libraries to close or be run by communities – Somerset County Gazette. “The final chapter for the facilities in Highbridge and Sunningdale will end on Saturday, December 29, to be replaced with new ‘outreach’ services in the New Year.A further 13 facing possible closure have been saved after community partners stepped forward to express and interest in forming community library partnerships (CLPs).”
  • Wandsworth – Harry Potter and BFG among missing books in Wandsworth libraries – Wandsworth Guardian. “Through a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Wandsworth Times, it was found that between 2016-18, 21,716 books have gone missing. This works out to about 20 books or library items a day across the entire borough. “
  • Worcestershire – Residents cram into St John’s library to voice opposition to council changes – Worcester News. “More than 80 residents crammed into the Glebe Close library – with more standing outside – at a lively roadshow held by the county council to find out the views of library users across the county.” … “Some of the proposed changes outlined in the council’s review include reducing hours, axing staff, handing libraries over to communities,
  • York – Libraries in trouble if they can’t afford £25 book – Yorkshire Post / Letters. “I requested a copy of the Conservative minister Jesse Norman’s well-reviewed book about Adam Smith, the economist on the £20 note. They refused to buy it. The cost was £25, not high for a book these days. York Explore (and by default the city council) risks breaching the 1964 Public Library and Museums Act which requires provision of a “comprehensive and efficient” service.”