The leader of Walsall Council, who has kept all his libraries closed, is arguing that because no-one is using them any more they’re not needed. Presumably, he’ll go on to close all the schools and, shockingly, find they’re not used any more and make the obvious budget-saving decision there. Or he could shut himself away for a few months. Seriously though, this was a fear that the library sector has had since the first lockdown happened – that cash-strapped councils will notice that the world does not end when libraries close. Of course, that ignores all those people whose quality of life and opportunities are damaged, but if you can make a statement like “I’m a firm believer that if we haven’t used something for the past four or five months, do we really need it?” with a straight face or no headaches then I’m sure such a loss would cause you no sleepless nights. Or painful thinking.

That time of year – December – has come when CIPFA releases figures for library usage and budgets from April the previous year to March. That always felt like awesomely delayed reporting in normal years but, now in 2020, the report reads like a chronicle from past times. As a historical document, it’s very interesting, with the lowest number of library closures I can remember for example, but really it’s a pointless exercise. Other than proving, of course, that the way library data is collated and published needs serious revision. If you want to see the data, provided free to CIPFA by local services who want to give it, the statistical agency will be happy to sell it you at a ridiculously high, indeed prohibitive, price. If you do that, let me know. I have a bridge in London you may want to buy. After all, I’ll only need to barricade it off for four or five months and no-one will be using it.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Caroline Dinenage, Libraries Minister’s speech at the Libraries Connected Day Seminar – Libraries Connected. ” I have been impressed by the positive and quick reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic by the sector …  it has been moving to hear about the amazing work you have done … My department has been a strong advocate for libraries during COVID and has secured some notable exceptions for library services to the restrictions that have been imposed …  I will work across local and central government to continue to encourage a ‘libraries first’ approach … we must build robust, systematic, and consistent data and evidence”
  • COVID-19 and Communities Listening Project: A Shared Response – Carnegie UK Trust. Includes several mentions of libraries.
  • CWA Dagger In the Library – Crime Writers Association. “The CWA Dagger in the Library is an award for which librarians nominate an author. 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”


  • Library spending fell by £20m in 2019/20 amid warnings of further cuts – Bookseller. “Data released by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA) following a survey of local authorities showed spending fell 2.6% from £744.8m in 2018/19 to £725m in 2019/20.” … “It also showed the number of mobile and static libraries fell slightly to 3,667 from 3,685 in 2018/19” … “total paid staff falling 2.4% from 15,300 to 14,925 year-on-year. In the same period, the number of volunteers reduced by 2.6% from 51,478 to 50,128 but their total hours worked increased by 1.4%.”
  • UK’s public libraries record another year of cuts, with yet more on the way – Guardian. “Falls in funding were matched by drops in borrowing, with budgets for next year set to fall by an average of 14%” … ” total funding for libraries in Britain down by nearly £20m in the year to March” … ” the number of books borrowed from libraries in the year to March 2020 – before the pandemic closed branches – fell by almost 9m year on year, to 166m. ” … “The number of borrowers was also down, the Cipfa figures revealed, to 7.3m from 7.5m the previous years, while the number of branches still open was 3,667, down by 18 from the previous year. “

“GLL libraries together serve a population of 2,032,700 people. The recently published CIPFA figures for 2019-2020 show that in total, GLL libraries issued 3,042 books per 1,000 population, 20% above the English average of 2,535 books per 1,000 population.

Wandsworth Libraries issued more books than any other London authority during 2019-20. The service issued 1,383,740 books, and was 1st in London for the 3rd year in a row. Bromley Libraries moved into 2nd place in London, issuing 1,295,592 books. And book issues in Greenwich Libraries increased to 864,046 books (7th highest in London): we were delighted with this, as Greenwich Libraries were 29th in the London rankings in 2012 when GLL took over the management of the library service on behalf of the Council.

Out of London, the picture is good, too, with Dudley issuing 850,728 books (the highest recorded figure in the West Midlands authority. Lincolnshire Libraries made progress with book issues, too and is in the top 20 counties for the first time.”

GLL press release

International news

Local news by authority