Well, after writing Public Libraries News since 2010, I sometimes think I have seen it all. And then I see Midlothian’s propose to replace all front-line staff with self-service machines and volunteers. That’s pretty gobsmacking in itself, honestly, but then it goes on to say that the council is planning to remove its printed books budget and rely on e-books instead. Anyone who knows the cost of e-books to libraries would be a bit surprised about how this could be presented as a saving but one suspects the council may not have entirely thought things through. The whole thing makes very little sense but then Midlothian has some history here, with an attempt to 2017 to get rid of all but one of those pesky hearts of the community and literacy cluttering Scotland that save people and show a way to a better life. That was silly enough but not buying printed books? What do I think of that? Well, like a Midlothian library in a few years, I have no words.

Changes by local authority

National news

“I had no money growing up. My dad was a labourer and my mum did everything to make ends meet. Men worked hard. Women worked miracles. But education was free. As was the local library. I knew books were my passport to a better life. #SupportLibraries

Ricky Gervaise
  • Do we need a Wales Libraries Act? – IWA. “While everyone must recognise that the UK government policy of systematically underfunding both devolved and local government to shrink the local state is at the core of our crumbling local services, surely a Labour administration in Wales should go the extra mile in defence of public libraries that could soon become an endangered species?”
  • In praise of “slow librarianship” – Nick Poole. “‘faster’ doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘better’ when it comes to helping people find real answers to real questions.”
  • Kerry Hudson: Libraries were a lifesaver for me – Herald Scotland. ” I don’t mean, ‘lifesaver’ as in, ‘Thank goodness I can order that new crime novel or use the wifi or shelter from the rain’. I mean without them I wouldn’t be writing in these pages. I wouldn’t be alive at all.”

“The news that Midlothian Council intends to implement cuts to the service that they say will create a total saving of £750,000 pounds over three years is bewildering to me. I’m no politician but you have to wonder whether the economy of saving £250,000 annually weighs up If you consider that the risk is not just losing a library but unofficial, and occasionally official, mother and baby support groups, outreach centres for elderly people, literacy, IT and benefits coaching hubs and, during this cost of living crisis, warm banks too.”

Kerry Hudson
  • Libraries and homelessness – Libraries Connected. Wednesday 1 March, 11am, webinar. “Discover some of the innovative work being done within libraries to ensure they meet the needs and expectations of people experiencing homelessness. London Libraries members will reflect on their pioneering homelessness training programme, while representatives of the Reading Agency and Homeless Link will discuss their own work in this area. “
  • Libraries Connected Innovation Network Gathering 2023 – Libraries Connected. Thursday 2 March, 10am to 4pm, Birmingham.
  • MozFest bursary applications now open for library staff – Libraries Connected. Six bursaries. “The Mozilla Festival, affectionately known as MozFest, is hosted by the Mozilla Foundation, it is a celebration for, by, and about people who love the internet, showcasing world-changing ideas and technology through exhibitions, talks and interactive sessions.”

International news

Local news by authority

  • Barnsley – Libraries – They’re Not Just For Books – Camerados. “Since opening, our Public Living Room has been busy, and staff have commented that they have seen many an intense game of connect four taking place in the space. Our communities have come together and filled in postcards, sat and chatted over a drink they brought in from the café next door. Someone has even left a copy of The Happy News newspaper for others to read to spread some positivity.”
  • Bolton – Free wellbeing workshops for body and mind on offer – Yahoo News. “The 90 minute “interactive and engaging” workshops will include discussions around the differences between physical health and mental health and wellbeing”
  • Bradford – Discounted baby photo shoots at Bradford library – Telegraph and Argus. “As part of a push to get more children reading, babies can be signed up to join libraries at Registry Offices at Bradford and Keighley. Bradford City Library has now joined forces with award-winning photographer Tim Simpson who will run Photo Booth sessions once a month. Tickets, at a discounted cost of £5, can be booked online via Ticket Source and will include a 30-minute photo booth slot and an 8 x 6” colour photograph of the baby. “
  • Bristol – Bristol Central Library could relocate in the future, council member says – BBC. “Plans to move Bristol’s Central Library on College Green were raised in mayor Marvin Rees’s draft budget in November but scrapped following an outcry. But council cabinet member Ellie King has refused to rule out moving the library, saying the Grade I-listed building was not fit for purpose. She said libraries should be seen as “a service, not a building”.
  • Cheshire East – “Shocking” CEC Labour plan to close libraries on Saturdays – Nantwich News / Letter. “Labour-run Cheshire East are proposing to shut libraries on a Saturday and reduce opening hours on other days.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester Council tax for 2023 could go up to the maximum – Cheshire Live. “. Libraries and social care are also among a wide range of council services due to come under the spotlight”
City of London

“I raise the plight of the Peacehaven and Telscombe conurbation, which has more than 23,000 people, with no further education provision, high levels of free school meals and pupil premium, and, despite improvements, below average rates of literacy and numeracy. Despite that, the county council wishes to downgrade the library from 900 square metres to 300 square metres and to reduce its opening times. Will the Minister join me in calling for libraries of an appropriate size in large towns? Will the Department publish statutory guidelines on the square meterage and opening times expected per population for large towns?”

East Sussex – Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

As the hon. Gentleman says, public libraries are run by local authorities, so it is up to each local authority to identify the needs of local residents. DCMS has previously received representations about the relocation of Peacehaven library and we have engaged with the local authority to understand the plans and their implications. The Secretary of State has a statutory power to intervene by way of a local inquiry if she considers that a local authority is not providing a comprehensive and efficient library service. That is taken seriously, so if a complaint is received, the Department will challenge the council and evidence will be carefully considered before it is decided whether a local inquiry is needed.

Paul Scully The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport