A large number of libraries that have only recently come out of lockdown, in London and the South-East have basically gone straight back into them. The Tier 4 rules allow libraries to be open for digital usage and click-and-collect only so, for 17.7 million people, it means not browsing once more. Also in the South-East, it’s worth mentioning the campaign against library cuts in Croydon, which has been heavily involved in protest recently. Other than that, well, I’d like to wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. It has to be better than 2020 hasn’t it?

National news

  • CWA Library Initiatives – Shots Mag. “The world-famous CWA Daggers have been synonymous with quality crime writing for more than half a century. Only library staff can nominate authors for the CWA Dagger in the Library. Nominations are open until February 26, 2021 and up to three members of staff from each UK library can nominate.”
  • Five-year stats show library service entering ‘rapid decline’, finds Coates – BookSeller. The standard piece from Tim Coates at the end. There is some useful, and sadly depressing, information here.
  • Full list of businesses that must close in new Tier 4 and what can stay open – Mirror. Report libraries must close in Tier 4 areas.
  • Fun Palaces is growing – and changing – Fun Palaces. “We are sad and excited to announce that co-founders and co-directors Stella Duffy and Sarah-Jane Rawlings are leaving Fun Palaces; Stella at the end of January, Sarah-Jane in late spring/early summer. Kirsty Lothian, our producer since the beginning, will step up as co-director, and in January we will recruit for someone (or someones, as we are all currently part time) to join the HQ team, working alongside our Ambassadors across the country,”
  • Library Cuts Are an Affront to Democracy – Byline Times. “It would seem both bizarre and destructive to suggest that because we have done without schools, pubs and theatres during lockdown, that we don’t really need them at all. Yet this was the same logic propounded by Walsall’s council leader, Mike Bird, when he suggested he was considering whether, having done without libraries for so long during the Coronavirus pandemic, it is necessary to reopen them at all. This policy could be dismissed as a one-off act of local cretinism. However …”significantly, the strongest networks of libraries are typically found in countries with the most stable democracies.”
  • North Wales GPs, libraries and hospitals to benefit from £8m roll-out of ultrafast broadband – Denbighshire Free Press. “The Local Full Fibre Network Programme will see a total of 350 sites across Denbighshire, Conwy, Gwynedd, Anglesey, Flintshire and Wrexham switch from copper-based network to high quality gigabit broadband.”
  • Preston university scientists bring superheroes to life in book for children’s wards and libraries this Christmas – Lancashire Post. “The seven academics from the University of Central Lancashire have partnered up with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and The Reading Agency to share their new book ‘Unmasked: The Science of Superheroes’, with libraries across the UK and children who are spending the festive season in hospital.” … “Public libraries throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive 7,000 free copies of the book.”
  • Tier 4: Stay at Home – Gov.uk. “community centres and halls must close except for a limited number of exempt activities, as set out below. Libraries can also remain open to provide access to IT and digital services – for example for people who do not have it at home – and for click-and-collect services”
  • Top Ebooks and Audiobooks from UK Public Library Authorities in 2020 – OverDrive. “Through the first 11 months of 2020, millions of ebooks and audiobooks have been borrowed from public libraries in the UK — a 66% increase from 2019. Ebook issues experienced the highest growth, 74% higher than this time last year. Audiobook issues also increased in 2020, 47% growth year-over-year. “

International news

Local news by authority

  • Bradford – Call for ‘urgent review’ of library’s £420,000 a year annual rent – Telegraph and Argus. “Council has once again been criticised over the £420,000 it pays each year to rent space for City Library, with campaigners saying a better deal could safeguard the District’s libraries for years to come. And one Councillor called for Council bosses to hold an ‘urgent review’ of the facility’s costs.” … “The £420,000 annual rent had been a huge strain on the library budget, but last year the Council revealed that the lease costs had been moved to other Council budget pots, and would no longer weigh down the stretched library budget.”
  • Caerphilly – Caerphilly libraries providing free sanitary products – South Wales Argus. “As part of their period dignity initiative, Caerphilly County Borough Council has made packs containing sanitary products available for free at all 18 of its libraries across the borough.”
  • Cornwall – Free festive craft bags from Cornwall Council – The Packet. “Cornwall Council’s libraries team want to make sure that younger people don’t miss out this Christmas and are encouraging families to get creative at home. They have produced more than 600 festive craft bags that will be available from local libraries, as well as the council’s two mobile library vans.”
  • Croydon – ‘What’s a library mummy?’ – South Norwood campaigners fear kids could grow up not knowing – My London. “Dozens of families came out to support their local library in South Norwood amid fears council cuts could see it closed for good.” … “More than 100 protestors gathered outside Pump House on Saturday, December 5. Libby Hamilton, whose petition to save the library has gained 2,600 signatures, said: “There was one little kid holding a sign saying ‘what’s a library mummy?’ – we really want our children to know what a library is and appreciate it.””
    • Campaigners fight to save Croydon libraries from cuts – Sutton and Croydson Guardian. “Campaigners in Croydon are fighting to save the borough’s libraries from closing after the declaration of a Section 114 notice and “effective” bankruptcy from the council has placed them under serious threat.”
    • Dozens of families come out in support of five Croydon libraries threatened with closure – London News Online. “Children’s author Laura Henry, creator of Jo Jo and Gran Gran on CBeebies, attended the protest. Afterwards, she tweeted: “I lived in South Norwood for 10 years. My sons and I practically lived in this library. “Libraries are the heart of a community and books and reading are super important.””
    • Five Croydon libraries under threat… again! – Library Campaign. “The campaigns for individual libraries combined forces as Save Croydon Libraries campaign to fight the cuts more effectively in the past, and are already networking again. Friends of South Norwood Library has joined with Save Sanderstead Library campaign and there are plans for a campaign for Shirley library too”
    • Save Croydon Libraries Campaign – SOS Library. Petition. “All these libraries merit saving. Some serve deprived or elderly communities. Some give easy access and offer parking as well as being on good transport links. They provide activities for the community, from birth onwards. We have fought to save our libraries before and we need to keep up the fight! Please sign and join the campaign!”
    • Save South Norwood Library – Friends of South Norwood Library. “Croydon Council has said it could soon close South Norwood Library. In a bid to solve a £67 million gap in the budget, the council is making huge cuts across the council and is considering closing five local libraries. This means our current library would be shut down, and our new library would close before it has even opened.”

“I would like to start by paying tribute to all librarians and other staff working in the public library services across our nation, and of course in my constituency of Stockport. Research tells us that public libraries are a vital part of our social infrastructure. They empower and equalise our communities. They strengthen communities, improve digital inclusion, and help with everything from physical and mental health to cultural engagement, literacy, diversity, inclusion, and of course education. I am incredibly proud of the library staff in my borough of Stockport. They do an important job and are a key part of our community. The Central Library in the heart of my constituency is grade 2 listed, internally and externally, and is one of the original Carnegie-funded libraries, built in 1913. My town has a beautiful heritage and iconic buildings, from the Victorian viaduct, to the Central Library, to the outstanding Underbanks.

Sadly, a combination of covid and years of central Government underfunding have forced many local authorities to close public libraries and reduce the offer available to communities. Of course, public health must come first and foremost, but we must recognise the positive impact that public libraries make on the wellbeing of our constituents. It is evident that we need a fair financial settlement from the Government so that local authorities can continue to support libraries and all public services. I welcome the statement made earlier in the Chamber, but, as ever, the devil is in the detail, and we need to make sure that the funding is made available to all councils rather than to specific shires. I have a record of campaigning against Government austerity policies over the past decade, and this terrible pandemic has highlighted the need to support our local authorities properly.”

Stockport – Navendu Mishra MP
  • Stoke on Trent – Christmas gifts and online festive fun at museums and libraries – Stoke on Trent Council. “Stoke-on-Trent’s libraries are running their click, call and collect service. As part of this, the libraries are also creating Christmas book bundles for children – with a range of festive options available for families to borrow. Librarians are also putting on a series of online activities for children and families to help everyone get in the festive spirit, including Christmas story times, craft sessions and sing-along events. These will all be available via Stoke-on-Trent Libraries’ Facebook page …”
  • Tower Hamlets – Help shape the future of Tower Hamlets’ library service – Let’s Talk Tower Hamlets. “Until now, Tower Hamlets has kept all its libraries and Idea Stores open in the face of continued government cuts which have seen 778 libraries close nationally since austerity was introduced a decade ago. Continued government changes to council funding and the Covid-19 crisis mean the council has to save £30m by 2024. This is on top of £200m already saved since 2010. You can find out more in our budget consultation. To do this, savings have to be made across the council including reducing the cost of the library service, which is £4.4 million a year. The savings proposed will deliver savings of £1.6 million.”
  • Worcestershire – There’s plenty to see and do at Worcestershire libraries this Christmas – Redditch Standard. Free poems: “Libraries in Redditch, Bromsgrove, Droitwich and Worcester are hoping visitors will use the service to reconnect with old friends or to simply let someone know they’re loved.”