I’ve not heard the word “hollowed out” for a while and it’s a bit depressing to read it again. There’s an article in the Guardian on the subject, including the downright terrifying statistic that there has been a ” 52% reduction in the number of library visits per person between 2009/10 and 2019/20″. Terrifying because I suspect it is true. I’m not so sure about the statistic quoted that a third of all libraries have closed since 2009/10, though, even if one includes all the volunteer libraries and accepts that it’s the smallest libraries that are closed, but the 44% cut in funding rings true, if inflation is taken into account.

So why this report now? Well, the local elections are going ahead, with not much mention of libraries. On the surface, things seem to be going OK, with there being one entirely new library this week, three moves of libraries and one library likely to close. However, Libraries Connected report that “more than one in four libraries managing cuts of between 5% and 20% this year”, which is pretty dang bad. So why the low profile of libraries in campaigns? Well, it’s only in those areas with particular threats, notably Essex, where libraries are mentioned in campaigns. Councils have learnt to cut libraries, not close them, in order to not push the public into protests.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • 10Tickers – 10Tickers. “The charming 10Tickers book series introduces children to the seven areas of
    learning and development contained in the EYFS curriculum.” … “‘As part of our CSR initiative we are giving 10 sets of our 10Tickers book series to local library authorities for free with the aim of helping young children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The books introduce children to the seven areas of learning and development contained in the Early Years Foundation statutory framework. QR codes are featured in the books, whereby children can access online content. This online content includes simple activities, games and pdfs. To get involved please email info@10tickers.com regarding this CSR initiative! You can also visit www.10Tickers.com to see more information on the books.’”
  • Board Games in Libraries – Newcastle Libraries. Thursday 19 May, 18:00, online. “An online meet-up, primarily for library staff, to share their experiences and learn more about using board games in libraries.”
  • Farshore to be headline sponsor for CILIP Youth Libraries Group Conference – BookSeller. “The conference will take place from 16th–18th September at The Quays Hotel in Sheffield. It will be in person for the first time in two years, but there will be a virtual programme of events running from 12th–14th September for those unable to attend.  This year’s conference will celebrate the theme of “Reading the Planet; Libraries in a Changing Climate …”
  • Libraries Connected Annual Report 2021 – Libraries Connected. “With more than one in four libraries managing cuts of between 5% and 20% this year, we are advocating for libraries in the latest spending review”
  • Libraries Improvement Fund Round 2 – Arts Council England. “This fund will enable library services across England to invest in a range of projects to upgrade buildings and technology so they are better placed to respond to the changing ways people are using them.  ” £5m.
  • Local government in England ‘hollowed out’ under Conservatives – Guardian. “An example cited in the report about the difficulty of comparing local authority services was the impact on libraries. A third of all libraries have closed amid a 44% reduction in spending since 2010. There is, however, little relationship between spending and closures, because many cost savings come through means such as fewer staff and reduced opening hours. The effect has been a 52% reduction in the number of library visits per person between 2009/10 and 2019/20.”
  • Malorie Blackman: ‘If I’m only known for Noughts and Crosses, I’m OK with that’ – I. “she sometimes got a frosty reception – not from the kids, but from the teachers, librarians and writers who didn’t welcome the presence of a black author who wrote about black characters.”
  • Sissay announced as ambassador for Manchester Festival of Libraries – BookSeller. “The festival, which highlights what is offered by the library service, runs from 15th to 19th June and will stage 80 events covering everything from wellbeing to culture and creativity.  “

International news

Local news by authority

  • Bristol – CrimeFest Donates Books to Libraries Across Bristol – Shots Mag. “The Big Library Crime Book Giveaway, organised by the UK’s biggest crime fiction convention CrimeFest, takes place at the end of April. Roughly 650 crime books will be given to all 27 libraries across the city from 29 April – 1 May. The initiative is being supported by bestselling author, Ann Cleeves, who is a vocal advocate of reading and libraries as a ‘lifeline’.”
  • Derbyshire – Ada Belfield Centre and Belper Library, Belper, Derbyshire – Riba Journal. “This enlightened project combines a residential care building for the elderly with a new public library, with both sharing a courtyard and public café. In doing so, it revives a derelict backland former chocolate factory within Derwent Valley Mills Unesco World Heritage Site and connects it back to the energy of the high street.”
  • Devon – Dilapidated library that ‘defied gravity’ gets major £1.7million move in Bideford – Devon Live. “Bideford Library is set to move to a new and modern building in a £1.7million relocation scheme. Devon County Council has completed a competitive tender process with the Bideford Library moving from its current location on New Road to the Bideford Arts Centre building. The total cost for the project is estimated to be £1,696,052.70. Barnstaple firm Pearce Construction will undertake the development.”
    • New mobile library replaces ‘Gertie’ – Tavistock Today. “The replacement vehicle is only six years old and was bought second hand with a £15,000 grant from Devon County Council – a tenth of the cost of a brand new vehicle.”
  • East Riding – Chance to find your voice at library Cuppa and Chorus sessions – Scarborough News. “Cuppa and a Chorus aims to lift mood, encourage wellbeing, and combat isolation. Sessions comprise of a relaxed ‘getting to know you’ social between the facilitator and those taking part, to enjoy a drink and light refreshments and set the tone of togetherness.”
  • Essex – New beach libraries set up in Clacton, Walton and Dovercourt – Clacton and Frinton Gazette. “Run by different community groups around the district, the sites contain fun items such as buckets and spades for groups to use for the day.”
    • Save Our Libraries respond to council proposals – Your Harlow. “‘It stands to reason that when a library has to give up space to share with other organisations and services, there will be less room for books, less room to study, and less room for computers’, said a SOLE spokesperson.”
    • Work gets underway to deliver Shenfield’s new library – Essex Council. “In July 2021, Essex Housing, our housing development company, secured planning consent to revitalise the site through the construction of a new library funded by a modest development of nine high-quality apartments above the library space. The redevelopment was subsequently also given the go ahead by Cabinet in October 2021.”
  • Hertfordshire – Hertfordshire residents invited to share their memories of Her Majesty the Queen for Platinum Jubilee exhibition and archive – Hertfordshire Council. “Visitors will have a golden opportunity to view original documents relating to Her Majesty the Queen, including a letter from HRH Princess Elizabeth to Hertfordshire resident Lady Desborough, as well as other examples of royal correspondence, photos and documents. There will also be a chance to add to this historic archive by sharing memories of previous jubilee celebrations and royal visits over tea and cake, in true regal style.”
  • Lambeth -Lambeth Libraries – community events, talks, quizzes and services for May 2022 – Brixton Buzz. “We are looking to set up Children and Young People Friends Groups for each Lambeth Library. As part of Lambeth becoming a Child Friendly Borough we want to hear what our younger users want. Are we providing the right activities and books?”
  • Manchester – Festival of Libraries 2022 is announced – Manclibraries Blog. “The Festival of Libraries returns in June 2022, and will take place in libraries across Greater Manchester. After a successful debut last year, this year’s festival will run from Wednesday 15 to Sunday 19 June, 2022. The Festival, which is supported by Arts Council England …”
  • North Yorkshire – North Yorkshire libraries encourage you to socialise – York Press. “Events in libraries during Mental Health Awareness Week include Coffee, Cake and Chat drop-ins at which people can enjoy a cuppa and cake and meet new and old friends.”