The timing of the CIPFA figures for libraries is normally embarrassing for something supposedly from the information sector. The figures are published, in this age of instant communication, a full eight months after the period they cover and have a hight cost attached, despite councils giving their information for free.

However, the timing this year, a week before the general election, looks inspired. The figures clearly show the damage that has been done to the sector since 2010: a huge cut to budget which, even leaving aside inflation, is almost a third down; big decreases to staffing, issues and visits. It’s an awful record for any government and there is nothing to credibly show that Mr Johnson would change tack if given, gulp, another five years.

But I’ve looked at the latest opinion polls and it looks like the electorate will give him another five years. So keep putting on the body armour, library sector, the bumpy ride is set to continue.

Changes by local authority

Cipfa reaction

  • Britain has closed almost 800 libraries since 2010, figures show – Guardian. “Cipfa chief executive Rob Whiteman said that while spending had increased slightly in the last year, the figures showed a sustained trend where local councils on tight budgets had been forced to redirect funding to priority services such as social care.”

“We are encouraged to see that local authority spending on libraries rose slightly this year even though levels have fallen significantly over the past decade. We know we must do more to demonstrate to national and local decision makers how much libraries contribute to a range of outcomes from literacy, to health and social mobility. We are particularly concerned about the fall in book loans, which is why we’re determined to fundraise for more projects such as our BBC novels campaign that specifically targets people who are less engaged with books and reading”

Libraries Connected.
  • Latest CIPFA stats reveal library numbers still falling – BookSeller. “Laura Swaffield, chair of The Library Campaign, said the newly released statistics were already “way out of date” and only highlighted the gloomier news about libraries. She said: “As always, the headlines highlight national decline – hardly surprising, with funding slashed, and hundreds of libraries gutted, closed or dumped on to volunteers. As always, there’s nothing to highlight the scores of services that still thrive despite it all, and nothing to analyse how they manage it. What a waste of essential data.””
  • ‘Libraries are the universities of the streets’: authors call for a stop to further closures – I. 35 closed 2018/19.
  • Libraries in the archive: snapshots of reading in Britain 1930s-1990s – Guardian. “The news that Britain has closed almost 800 libraries since 2010 has prompted us to look back at images of libraries in the Guardian and Observer archives. These are a few highlights, with snippets from their original captions and related headlines.”
  • Nearly 800 public libraries closed since austerity launched in 2010 – Independent. “Spending has fallen by 30 per cent over past decade, figures reveal. Currently there are 3,583 libraries open in the UK – 35 fewer than last year and 773 fewer than in 2010, a survey from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) has found. The closure of nearly a fifth of the UK’s libraries comes after spending has declined by 29.6 per cent over the past decade, figures from Cipfa reveal. National spending on libraries topped £1bn in 2009-10 before austerity began, but then dropped to less than £750m in 2018-19, the annual survey shows.”
  • These are the busiest libraries in Yorkshire after a decade of austerity cuts hit their budgets – Yorkshire Post. “The busiest libraries in Yorkshire were Harrogate, with 274,471 items issued, York with 263,082 and Sheffield Central with 235,886. The three most visited libraries – Central Manchester, Wembley Library in Brent, and Woolwich Library in Greenwich – continue to receive well in excess of one million visitors a year. The data released today also reveals how local authorities have redesigned library services in response to tightening budgets and changing consumer habits. “
  • The slow extinction of our public libraries is a quiet tragedy – Telegraph (behind paywall). “in collections, leisure centre upkeep, park hedge pruning: council tax-funded contributions for which I am grateful but cannot credit with bringing much joy to my life. The library rises above, then, as the great outlier – a place where you can read the latest bestseller for nothing or rent a film; use a photocopier, should you need one, or download an audiobook from the comfort of your own home. …”
  • Thousands of Welsh children took on the challenge to read during the summer holidays – Wales 247. ““Libraries in Wales are under more and more pressure, so it’s wonderful to see that over 37,000 children in Wales have taken part in the challenge at their local library this year, and this is a testament to the hard work of library staff across Wales.””

National news

International news

Local news by authority

“You may remember we took the decision to move from the old Carnegie building to the Children’s Sure Start Centre back in June 2019. In doing so, we were able to use the Dementia Friendly principles in design and layout. I have just done some evaluation six months on and it continues to be a great success. Visitor figures are up 21%, book issues up 47%, reservations up 87% (we consciously invested in a large number of new books), new membership is up 140%, we have delivered 61% more events as the space is more flexible and attendance as a consequence is up 95%.

We have been able to work with some partners in the new location because of the great facilities at the new site such as Barnardo’s. We delivered sessions to young carers, to prepare meals and network in a safe environment.  We were funded to deliver a six week Read and Feed program which was part of the Kirklees Youth Alliance “Holiday hunger” project. These sessions were to help families on low incomes prepare, cook and eat together, who could then reproduce the recipes at home.”

Kirklees Libraries via email
  • Leicester – Leicester libraries put on special events this Christmas – Leicester City Council.
  • Manchester – 27,000 children in Manchester don’t own a single book – Manchester Evening News. “The statistics come as libraries across the country continue to have budgets cut, with many services having to close completely. Last year, the M.E.N revealed that Manchester city council was spending nearly £8.5 million less on libraries than it did in the financial year of 2010 to 2011. At the time, the council said it was committed to providing an ‘excellent’ library service and used the refurbished Central Library as an example of investment.”
  • Moray – Moray libraries offering fun adult computer sessions – Northern Scot.
  • Newham – Opinion: Visit library and get lost in a book – Newham Recorder. “when I go into our libraries these days, the scene is very different; here, a small group of sixth form students chat over a project they’re working on, there, some carers talk as their toddlers play together. Libraries always were places of learning from books but now there are groups learning Yoga and crafts and meeting new friends too. Schools have regular visits to our libraries and encourage children, who, like most of us, automatically resort to a search engine to find out facts, to use books instead to stretch their minds in a different way.”
Northamptonshire – Kindly emailed to me, thank you Sarah.
  • NottinghamshireWorksop Library will not be fully operational again until next summer – Worksop Guardian. “Worksop Library may not be back to full working order until next summer as the clean-up from last months devastating flooding continues. Flooding affected the whole of the building recovery specialists are currently clearing and cleansing the building, whilst Nottinghamshire County Council and its property partnership ARC develop a programme of works to restore the building for use again.”
  • Oldham – Children’s poet and author Joseph Coelho signs up to Oldham Library service – Oldham Council. “Oldham recently celebrated more than 1,000,000 people coming through the doors of Oldham Libraries between 2018 and 2019.”
  • Perth and Kinross – More people are visiting libraries in Perth and Kinross – Daily Record. “Presenting a quarterly report to Perth and Kinross Council’s scrutiny committee on Wednesday, November 26, Culture Perth and Kinross chief executive Helen Smout announced a 1.8 per cent increase in footfall for 2018/19. She said 11 out of the 13 libraries across the local authority were seeing a “continued increase.”
  • Redbridge – Is the decline of libraries affecting our society? By Shanzay Yousaf, Oaks Park High School – This is Local London. “I spoke to local resident and librarian, Fozia Jan, on just how the closure of libraries will affect future generations. She spoke to me about how the internet and social media is having a “negative impact on the amount of children coming to read as they would much rather just relax on Instagram”.”
  • Suffolk – Lavenham Library confirms introduction of extended opening hours at start of 2020 – Suffolk Free Press. “Lavenham Library is set to extend its opening hours beginning in the new year, following a public consultation. Under the changes, the library in Church Street will open on Mondays, between 10am and 1pm, and increase its current hours on Fridays, opening from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm to 5pm.” … “The changes will result in a total increase in opening hours per week, at no cost to Suffolk Libraries, due to small changes to staffing patterns.”
  • West SussexCuts to West Sussex’s library service budget approved – Chichester Observer. “Following a public consultation, members of the cabinet approved the plans, which will save the county council £175,000 and come into effect in April.” … “The loss of the mobile service did not go down well with everyone but Duncan Crow, cabinet member for fire & rescue and communities, said some of the alternatives – hinting at the risk of closure for some of the smaller branches – were ‘quite unpalatable’.”