For a guide on when public libraries in the UK are reopening, and the current situation, see this page.

For a guide on how libraries around the world are coping with the crisis, and the various health and safety precautions that are being used, see this page.


Well, the consequences of shutting down libraries for a few months started to be shown this last week. The leisure trust Vivacity, which has been running libraries in Peterborough since 2013 and has interests in Cambridgeshire libraries too, handed back control to the council due to running out of money because lockdown meant it had no income. This is the third trust involved in libraries to have failed in six years and leaves question-marks over some of the other organisation of this model, especially common in Scotland, who must be facing similar problems.

Announced pretty much at the same time was a terrifying story from Leeds, where the council has announced it may close every library because of extra costs incurred this year. It justifies this – on the face of it a clear breaking of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act – by claiming “a skeleton, online-lending resource” would do. Nonsense, but, as the CILIP CEO has pointed out, the Act has been a dead letter for years. How Leeds, though, will square this with the Equalities Act is anyone’s guess though. The suspicion is that this is just a way of pressuring the government and preparing the people of Leeds for deep cuts that don’t quite reach the library-geddon threatened last week.

Finally, we have the sad news that library supplier Bertrams has gone bankrupt. This is a tragedy for the hundreds of those who have lost their jobs but also represents a further tightening of the screw on the library stock supplier market, which has few enough competitors as it is.

The worry with all this is that these stories may just be the first as councils and companies up and down the country start look at their balance sheets and see Covid-related red lines. And there’s us just concentrating on infections.

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National news

  • Bertram Books collapses with 450 jobs at risk – BBC. “Joint administrators Turpin Barker Armstrong said the majority of staff would be made redundant with “immediate effect”. Kip Bertram, who started the company with his mother Elsie before selling it in 1999, said its collapse was “very sad for the staff, the city of Norwich and the customers”. He disputed the claims of the administrators over the reasons for the collapse, saying: “It’s nothing to do with e-Books or Covid-19 – people still like to hold and smell books.” U.K. Wholesaler Bertram Group Is Up for Sale – Publishers Weekly. Worries reported in early May. Subsidiaries are Dawson Books and Education Umbrella.
  • Libraries Connected Statement on Black Lives Matter – Libraries Connected. “We condemn racism and discrimination in all its forms. Public libraries were founded 150 years ago on principles of social justice and equality … Libraries Connected believes in a society where that racism and discrimination are replaced by equality and justice for all. We will work with libraries and partners to ensure that we use every resource at our disposal to make this happen.”

The Carnegie UK Trust is looking into how public libraries across the UK have helped and supported people and communities across the UK during lockdown. We want to use this information to help raise the profile of libraries’ contributions during Covid-19 and to advocate for public libraries’ role in supporting individuals and communities in the rebuilding process following on from lockdown. We  also want to find out and share information and learning across the sector about challenges and what didn’t work. The Trust is keen to hear the views of all library staff, including frontline staff, managers and heads of service. We would be grateful if you could circulate the following survey widely:  If you and your colleagues have 10 minutes, the Trust would love to hear your views. The deadline for responses is Friday 3 July.

Carnegie UK Trust, via email
  • Libraries of the future – Living Libraries. Ten minute audio on what the future may hold.
  • Puppy Demand, Bike Thefts and Library Openings – BBC Radio 4 You and Yours. “The book shops are open again on our high streets but what about our libraries? There’s no date set for opening in any of the nations with only Wales offering a click and collect service for borrowers.”.

“if the Secretary of State agreed today to ensure that, as part of this, he will develop a national plan for education, where local authorities are funded to make a summer holiday local offer to children and young people; where schools are provided with additional resources, such as an enhanced pupil premium to help disadvantaged children; and where public buildings such as libraries and sports centres are used to expand the space available to schools to ensure safe social distancing.” They Work For You.

Rebecca Long-Bailey MP
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International news

Local news by authority

“While councils have a legal duty to provide library services, it is widely thought this could be pared back to a skeleton, online-lending resource without breaking that obligation.”

The scariest quote ever published on Public Libraries News
“Our buildings are closed but our service certainly isn’t” – Ayub Khan