Like many, I have been caught up in the debate about the neutrality of the BBC. Like public libraries that august institution has a duty to neutrality and, like us, comes under pressure from time to time to be less than evenly balanced. And if the BBC sometimes finds this difficult then it’s potentially even harder for something like libraries, which are after all part of a service led by councillors, who are almost all of one political party or another. Ultimately, there’s little that can be done in such instances other than to quote stock policies, national or local, and hope. Unless there’s a well-known television commentator who notices of course.

There’s the usual mixture of good and bad news stories, and continuing rumours of deep cuts coming in some councils, but a story that can always be relied on is the news about the Summer Reading Challenge. This is the biggest promotion that most public library services ever do and has tremendous traction with the public, many of whom remember doing it themselves either as children or as parents. And, of course, the theme this year is sports and games, which ties in well with the Women’s World Cup coming up soon. Hang on, that means we may have tweets from footballers …


Changes by local authority


National news

  • Author Joanne Harris calls for more investment in libraries and the arts – Chester Standard. “Ms Harris, author of Chocolat, spoke out after receiving an OBE for services to literature from the Prince of Wales at a Windsor Castle investiture on Tuesday. After the ceremony, she praised William and the Queen Consort for championing causes that promote literacy in the UK, but called on the Government to do more.”
  • LibraryOn Grants programme application guidance – LibraryOn.
  • A love letter to local libraries – The Know. “while visits have increased by 68%, spending on UK libraries has fallen by 17%. This waning investment comes at a time when libraries are more crucial to our communities than ever before. There are very few places left where people can go to access information, meet others and keep warm – without needing to spend anything.”
  • Majority of English councils plan more cuts at same time as maximum tax rises – Guardian. “At least 12 councils are on the edge of “effective bankruptcy”, the survey warns, as they struggle to meet their official obligation to balance their budget while trying to maintain legal minimum levels of core service provision, from adult social care to roads repair, libraries and homelessness.”
  • Nooks take centre stage as libraries level up for the hybrid future – Specification Online. “We’ve really seen take-up of Nooks in libraries lift off, with 25 Nook installations in UK libraries and five new installations in the past month alone.”
  • Open meeting on Sanderson inquiry into public libraries and Campaign AGM – Library Campaign / Eventbrite. “An open discussion on Baroness Sanderson’s inquiry into public libraries will be followed by the Library Campaign AGM” including guest speaker Isobel Hunter (Chief Executive, Libraries Connected)
    with LC’s analysis of the current library landscape. Saturday 25 March, 2 to 4pm. Unison HQ, London. Teams online option available if book online and say you’re planning to use Teams.
  • The Reading Agency partners with Youth Sport Trust for Summer Reading Challenge 2023 – BookSeller. “The Reading Agency has revealed that this year’s Summer Reading Challenge will be “Ready, Set, Read!” The annual challenge encourages children to engage with books during the summer reading “dip”. According to the agency, it reached 723,184 children and families across the UK in 2022, with 608,015 children taking part through their local library service. This year, the agency – in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust – has the dual aim to keep children’s minds and bodies active over the summer break.”
  • Should Public Libraries Double Down on Print Book Collections? – Publishers Weekly / Tim Coates. “The declines are serious and suggest that the library’s reputation as a vital community resource is in peril. How serious? I fear these trends could lead to the disintegration of U.S. public libraries within a generation if allowed to continue. And without strategic changes visible to the public, I believe they will continue. Take the U.K. as a cautionary tale … I believe that if just 6% of the money currently in the staff and management budget was spent instead on books, we would begin to reverse the decline in library usage.”. See this page for more figures from Tim.

International news

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeen – Save our Cornhill Library – Change.org. “This petition asks Aberdeen City Council to reverse their decision to close Cornhill Library. Please share this petition widely as we try to save this vital community resource.”
  • Letter to Aberdeen Council – Sean McNamara / CILIPS. “Aberdeen City already has one of the lowest numbers of branches per population (1.62 per 20,000) and well below the average of 2.04 per 20,000. These changes could leave Aberdeen as having the lowest number of library branches per population in Scotland”
  • Worcestershire – Worcestershire Libraries Cost of Living fairs help over 800 residents – Worcestershire Council. “The events were a huge success, with 835 additional people visiting the libraries during the fairs, equating to a 32% increase in visitors compared to the average number of visitors in January and February. The events were attended by regular library customers and those new to libraries, demonstrating the wide appeal and importance of the information and advice available.”
  • York – Dringhouses library soon to reopen after being closed because of cold – Yahoo News. “bosses decided to temporarily close the library in the middle of last month because average temperatures inside were only 10 degrees. Health and Safety Executive guidance states that the minimum temperature for working indoors in a library-type environment should be at least 16°C.”