It’s no surprise when a government spokesman says how they’re big believers and funders in libraries. Any government is accomplished at massaging the truth and the person in question may even have believed it. The line about wanting libraries to “thrive” is directly out of the Ed Vaizey playbook, circa 2012, and the bias shown towards “commissioned” libraries (that is, those not directly by councils) has been part of the agenda for about the same length of time.

What is surprising is that, actually, public libraries – with obvious exceptions (Northants, Essex, Hampshire, Bradford etc) – are actually doing a lot better than they have done for a while. I mean by that simply they’re not facing massive cuts in funding but, at least, it’s something. The “changes by local authority” below is almost all good news, or at least it is at first look.

Another thing is the statement that the government has only recently got to know exactly how many libraries there are. This struck me as wrong at the time – precise figures have been quoted for as long as I can remember – but apparently the number until recently has been a bit of a con tick, with the bete noire CIPFA being their normal selves when it came to accuracy.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Brutal Tory library cuts slash 10 million books from shelves – Mirror. “More than 10 million books have been axed from libraries across England since the Tories came to power. Brutal Tory cuts have led to nearly a million children’s books lost.” … “Shadow Culture Minister Kevin Brennan said: “Libraries are precious community assets, but a decade of Tory austerity cuts to council budgets has taken its toll on local services.”
  • Children who own books six times more likely to read above expected level, survey finds – Independent. “The findings come as hundreds of libraries across the country have been forced to close amid spending cuts. “
  • Digital Inclusion and How to Address It – Lorensbergs. “orensbergs co-facilitated a workshop with Brent Libraries on Digital Literacy Skills for the Otherwise Disenfranchised. 20 library authorities were in attendance and we covered a lot of ground. Here’s some of the key areas discussed and ideas shared, with slides available for download at the end of the page.”
  • Let’s create – Arts Council England. Strategy 2020-30. “We believe that England’s network of public libraries provides a vital resource for the development of creativity and the promotion of culture across the country”.
  • Lord John Bird has taken the battle for library funding to the Lords – Big Issue. “The Big Issue has long been fighting the corner for libraries. Lord Alan Haworth alluded to many of the reasons why in the short debate. Libraries are “for more than just books, they are for digital skills, accessing benefits, keeping warm and finding human kindness”, according to the Labour peer.
  • Public Libraries – Question – House of Lords. Lord Bird asks about public libraries following CILIP report. Baroness Baran replies government is aiming to see libraries thrive and are investing in local government and £125m into museums and libraries specifically. She goes on to say that they now know how many libraries there are, unlike “not so long ago”. 25% of libraries have seen visits grow since 2005 and that “the successful libraries are the ones that are being most innovative in responding to the needs of their communities, including in digital literacy and other services that they offer.” with “commissioned libraries” doing especially well.
  • Simon Armitage: ‘I think poetry is our greatest and most democratic art form’ – I. ““I am trying to do this in a kind of A-Z way. So, this year the libraries I’ll be visiting all begin with either A or B including Aberdeen, Belfast, Bootle, the British Library and two or three others. I’m aiming to do the great and the small – the big flagship national and city libraries but also really small rural ones, and I’d love to maybe visit a mobile library in the Outer Hebrides or somewhere.””
  • Steel and Butler join Reading Agency – BookSeller. “The Reading Agency has appointed former librarian Louisa Steel as head of engagement (adults) and Hayley Butler as head of marketing . The charity said the new appointments will support The Reading Agency’s mission to ensure everyone across the UK is reading their way to a better life.”

International news

Local news by authority

  • Bristol – City council leaders say they “should be thanked” for keeping libraries open – Bristol Live. “A masterplan to make Bristol’s libraries fit for the future has received a mixed reaction amid fears their long-term survival remains uncertain. City council leaders have launched a four-year strategy and say they should be thanked for their “astonishing achievement” in keeping all 27 branches open, despite planning to close all but 10 of them in 2017, an idea they abandoned following a deluge of objections. But opposition councillors say the glossy 24-page document is not really a strategy but a “series of aspirations” that does not guarantee each library’s future.”. Hopes include “wifi printing for users at every branch, longer non-staffed opening hours and extra services from partners such as health, employer support and debt advice.”
  • Bromley – Eight-month strike by Bromley library workers ends after agreement reached with employers – London News. “The new agreement reached includes new staffing structures being introduced and no compulsory redundancies. An agreement has also been reached on pay progression and arrears payments.”
  • Darlington – Children gearing up to launch Darlington’s BookFest – Northern Echo.
  • Flintshire – Flint Library transformed after £360,000 worth of upgrades – Leader. “Aura Leisure and Libraries secured £300,000 of funding for improvement works at Flint Library through a successful capital grant application to the Welsh Government’s Museums, Archives and Libraries Division (MALD). In addition to the £300,000, both Aura and Flintshire Council contributed to the development, totalling £360,000 in new investment. ” … “… community kitchen and heritage exhibition area. The children’s library, training rooms and main library, have also been redesigned and renovated in order to create more flexible community spaces. Along with the refurbishments, Aura has implemented brand new self-service machines “
  • Hammersmith and Fulham – Look inside the newly renovated Shepherds Bush Library as council promises roof won’t leak – Gotech Daily. £150k refurbishment. “an additional floor, a “warmer and more versatile” children’s library, and more study space”. Hammersmith and Fulham Council said they had “repaired multiple leaks” in the building and sealed heating grates and floor boxes that had become a “trip hazard”.
  • Hampshire – Community unites in fight for libraries – Basingstoke Observer. “The Friends of Chineham Library organised a ‘Big Read In’ to demonstrate the importance of the library to the community. The event took place on February 4th to coincide with Hampshire County Council’s (HCC) public consultation drop in session.”
    • Petition launched to stop library cuts – Newbury Today. Kingsclere: “In an effort to retain the council’s support, library committee member Sarah Davis created the petition last week and it has already received more than 350 signatures.”
  • Hertfordshire – Outsourcing of library service delayed as new group not set up yet – Watford Observer. “Libraries for Life – a public sector mutual set up by Hertfordshire County Council – was awarded the contract to run the county’s 46 libraries last year. And the organisation had been expected to take over the service on December 1. But now it has emerged the transfer of the service has been delayed until April, amid fears that neither organisation was ready. “
  • Kirklees – Kirklees Council budget reverses £370,000 library cuts – Chronicle. “Kirklees Council has reined back on plans to find savings of £370,000 within its libraries service. Instead it will plough the money into an ongoing revamp focusing on libraries acting as hubs for a range of services such as the voluntary and community sector, primary care and communities teams. The redesign by Kirklees Council’s chief librarian, Carol Stump, focuses on the “wider community function” including more volunteer input.”
  • Lancashire – Lancashire’s mobile libraries to expand their routes – Garstang Courier. “fter deciding last year to reduce the frequency of mobile visits from fortnightly to every three weeks – a change which will commence in June – the authority has found that it will have spare capacity to extend the coverage provided across the county. The trial services will be run on two half days when a vehicle would not otherwise be in use. The new stops will be served for a period of six months and then assessed to determine whether there is enough demand to make them permanent.”
  • Leicester – Library shows off its £180,000 facelift – Leicester City Council. “During a 12-week programme of works which began last autumn, the public library space was fully refurbished to provide a modern, flexible library space.  The improved layout includes a new children’s area, an improved study space and open areas to meet and read.  Accessible toilets were installed, and charging points were added for people who want to bring their own laptops into the library.”
  • Norfolk – D-Tech International to install 95 kiosks in UK libraries – Kiosk Marketplace. “supply 95 self-service kiosks to 47 Norfolk County Council Libraries in Norfolk, U.K. It is the provider’s biggest ever roll-out, according to a press release. The new installations replace existing self-service units which are out of contract at the end of March 2020.”
  • Northamptonshire – Desborough town council criticised for ‘mis-using’ its power over library issue – Northamptonshire Telegraph. “Desborough Town Council was widely criticised last night (February 3) by members of Kettering Council’s standards committee for its latest decision to flout the recommendation made last August by the council’s monitoring officer, that town councillors who are also library trustees should not have a say on the town council’s funding decisions to do with the library.”
    • Thrapston Town Council withdraws from library purchase – Northamptonshire Telegraph. “Thrapston Town Council has decided to withdraw from a deal to buy the town’s library building. In March 2018, the council had agreed to purchase the library building and surrounding land to secure it as a public asset for the town. It was hoped to use the premises as a community hub but the council has assured the public a library service will continue in Thrapston.”
  • Perth and Kinross – Libraries and museums to open late due to Culture Perth and Kinross staff training – Daily Record.
  • Sheffield – “SOS call for libraries” Star / Letters. “Sheffield Libraries SOS argues that in light of the facts that the funding for volunteer libraries comes up for renewal this year, book loans are down dramatically since the transfer to volunteers and that whole swathes of the city do not have access to a staffed library service, that now is the right time for Sheffield Libraries to start running all libraries with council staff once again and to reintegrate all 16 co-delivered and associate libraries back into the council library service.”
    • Lowedges Library – South Sheffield. “spearheading our project to open a new branch library in Lowedges in partnership with the LBJ Forum … In these times of declining book borrowing and library closures, opening a new one is a bold step ― one that reflects our growing confidence as an organisation since taking over Greenhill Library five years ago.”
    • Sheffield library volunteers named community champions – Star. “A Sheffield library has been named The Moor Community Award champion, thanks to the dedication of its team of volunteers who refused to let reading become a dying hobby.”
  • Northamptonshire – Still a chance Higham Ferrers library could re-open in former building – Northamptonshire Telegraph. “strategic libraries manager Anne Lovely says a library council could still remain in the old building. Speaking at the opening of the new community library in Rothwell last Friday she said: “I’m still hopeful and I don’t give up on a library.”
  • RotherhamHave your say on £7m Rotherham libraries shake-up – Rotherham Advertiser. “Rotherham Council will invest £7 million across the 15 centres, including moving town centre provision from Riverside to the markets. The public now has a final chance to give its opinions about the future role of libraries and the improvements being made.” … “A staffless libraries pilot project — using card entry, CCTV and self-service machines — is also planned for three centres.” … “Meanwhile, a separate consultation has been opened for Brinsworth, where the proposal is for the new £270,000 library to be run by a community trust with support from RMBC.”
  • Sunderland – Delay to the opening of Sunderland’s Elephant Tea Rooms as city’s Local Studies Library – Sunderland Echo. “The Grade II-listed Elephant Tea Rooms on the corner of Fawcett Street and High Street West has been bought by Sunderland City Council who last year revealed plans to open a local studies library in the space”
  • Warrington – Lucy, 82, is town’s champion book borrower – Warrington Worldwide. 310 books read in one year. “In total the number of books read by the top dozen borrowers was 2,659 – on average 221 books per person.”
  • West Sussex – All libraries closed on Monday 10 February for IT implementation – District Post. New computer system.
  • WorcestershireLabour call for investment in libraries and transport ahead of budget meeting – Redditch Standard. “The Leader of the Labour group, Redditch Councillor Robin Lunn, said his party would be calling for the county to use its higher than expected rate of council tax collection to spend an extra £500,000 on boosting key library services with cash to buy new books and new e-books for online readers. County libraries have been under increasing financial pressure in recent years and the group is also calling for a £50,000 marketing campaign to promote the modern benefits they offer.”