The Autumn Statement may have had, on the face of it, very little to do with public libraries. But, faced with a windfall increase in tax due to inflation, the Government decided to spend it not on public services – which suffer proportionately from inflation – but on tax decreases. This course of action was always going to be very tempting for the Government even not so close to an election – party ideology is all about reducing the tax burden – but it spells further gloom for libraries. And, with budgets having been drastically cut during the Cameron premiership and just about static since this is going to be seriously problematic. Because libraries, despite not just being about the buildings, are primarily building based. And after thirteen years of cuts or budgetary stagnation, those buildings are starting to look a but unloved. And even if there is a change of government soon, it’s going to be hard to steer, let along change, the course of the huge decaying public services ocean liner that is SS Austerity. Let’s hope that there are no ice-bergs.

Something I’ve noticed in public libraries in the decades (I started in 1994) I have worked in them is that where just simply book-lending was enough to keep the place buzzing, that is no longer the case. First what was needed were story-times, then the Summer Reading Challenge, then reading groups then knit and natter. This trend is not going to end soon but something else, apart from the obvious need for more digital investment, that is obvious to me is the need to boost those parts of the service still going strong. One of the main ones of these are the spaces for children. They need to be fun and wow and a place that children and parents want to go back to. And that requires investment, not just maintenance. You can read this week how wealthy public-service-committed Singapore has managed this. The sector may have to endure some more ice-cold waters before it comes anywhere close. But a bright warm children’s library or two doesn’t cost all that much and such heat may act as a nice introduction to families. A little icebreaker, if you will.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Announcing our new grants recipients – LibraryOn. “The £500,000 fund will be distributed among 21 projects, with an average award of £19,350. It means 846 individual library branches will directly benefit from the fund. While we couldn’t grant every application, 84% were successful in receiving funding and broke down into these categories: 11 virtual tours; 6 library apps; 4 LMS upgrades. Thank you to all the services who took the time to submit applications.”
  • Cyber attack on British Library raises concerns over lack of UK resilience – Financial Times. “Cyber-intelligence experts warned the incursion highlighted under-investment in cyber resilience by the government, particularly in critical infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and local authorities.” … “In a post on the dark web and seen by the Financial Times, the hackers released low-resolution images of British Library employees’ passports and opened bidding for an undisclosed set of documents at 20 bitcoin, equivalent to almost £600,000.”
  • Dagger in the Library  – CWA. Public librarians invited to nominate crime writers for the library-specific award and also to ask their borrowers too. [I am Chair of Judges for this and so I know we’re looking for a judge from a Welsh public library too – do let me know if you are interested, thank you – Ed.]
  • Play the Hidden Books Game – National Book Tokens. A welcome game returns. “Guess all 20 book titles in our virtual bookshop to win a £500/€500 National Book Token to spend in your favourite bookshops”
  • ‘Malorie Blackman: The Power of Stories’ opens at the British Library – British Library [press release]. “Malorie Blackman OBE said: ‘Libraries are the great equaliser and, without them, literacy would become the province of the lucky few, rather than the birthright of everyone. I wouldn’t be a writer if it wasn’t for my local library, and I hope this exhibition – in the national library of the UK – shows that every child has the right to be seen and need to be heard in literature.’”

  • Staying warm this winter – Arts Professional. “As winter approaches, with energy bills remaining stubbornly high, Libraries Connected Chief Executive Isobel Hunter says the Warm Welcome Campaign is more relevant than ever.” … “During the Christmas holidays, some libraries were even able to provide hot food, games and festive gifts for children. “This library is a lifesaver,” one parent told staff at a library in Sandwell, West Midlands. “If it wasn’t for the library over the holidays, I was scared the kids would go hungry. They’ve come here, had a hot drink and something to eat and gone home with a full belly.””
  • Which public services will suffer most to pay for Tory tax cuts? – Guardian. “Libraries and other council services “likely to face another five years of real-terms cuts” after Autumn Statement.” see also Hunt’s new wave of austerity ‘will hit social care, libraries and swimming pools’ – I. “The Chancellor has spent all the financial headroom, Home Office official says”

International news

  • Canada -Montreal bylaw to allow libraries to kick out unhygienic patrons – Global News. “Those who have “personal hygiene which inconveniences other users or the personnel,” will have to exit the public space upon request, a controversial public notice reveals. Sam Watts from the Welcome Hall Mission suggested to Global News that the City of Montreal was targeting “vulnerable” patrons, like those experience homelessness, and instead, should make efforts to create “solutions” for struggling individuals.”
  • China / Hong Kong – Can Hong Kong libraries win back readers? Public facilities try every trick in the book to lose ‘boring’ label amid rise of e-texts, pandemic habits – South China Morning Post. Reading printed books and library usage has fallen since pandemic, in line with other countries. Libraries reducing restrictions on sound and use of phones to win back users.
  • Czechia – Czech library on activities and clubs for children – NAPLE Sister Libraries. ““Czech small- and middle-sized libraries often aim at youngest children, and it is a good way to go, raising future readers and library visitors,” comments Jitka Šedinová, director of Municipal Library Semily. “However, in today’s society, we perceive the urgent need to pay attention to our 10+ year olds and teenagers; to provide them with space where they can safely spend their free time, and fill this time with fine, cool activities. And to do so, it is necessary to actually have the space and qualified staff, not to mention funds to cover all of that.””
  • Singapore – The Big Read in short: How Singapore’s public libraries survived the digital onslaught – Today Online. “…  public libraries here are seeing increased number of visitors and plans are afoot to continuously rejuvenate and expand existing libraries; the five-storey Punggol Regional Library also opened its doors in April 2023″ … Apart from shifting their services online, libraries have also redesigned their physical spaces to go beyond being mainly repositories of books. Such moves — including opening a new Children’s Biodiversity Library in January next year — are also seen as important to attract young users and cultivate a love for reading and learning”
  • USA – #VelshiBannedBookClub: Libraries Under Attack – MSNBC. ““There’s more than one way to ban a book.” We, as a nation, have set a dangerous precedent that worldview, misreading, and taste are enough to dictate what literature is accessible to our children and what literature is castaway and censored. What is the outcome? A generation of children shaped by one view, one reading, and one specific palate. That is not America. That is not freedom. The remedy? Support libraries. That is where literature can freely exist. The President of American Library Association joins the Velshi Banned Book Club on the importance of libraries.”
    • The Bigot in the Library – Wire. “As we chatted a bit more about how polarised society is, the lady said to me, “You know, if only Muslims were eradicated from the world, all our problems would be solved.”
    • Public Libraries – ProQuest / Music Library Association. A look at the history and current practice of music librarians in the USA.
    • S.F. libraries give these books out for free — and they’re flying off the shelves – San Francisco Chronicle. “…  visitors can now find a collection of texts that are intended to help those who want to recover from alcohol and drug addiction. They’re free for anyone to take, no library card required.”

Local news by authority

  • Blaenau Gwent – Council hubs in Blaenau Gwent libraries welcomed as a ‘win-win’ – South Wales Argus. “calls have been made to increase the opening hours at some hubs to allow greater access to council services.”. All Welsh Public library standards have been met. “In June 2021, the council opened community hubs in the libraries to help provide council services. Cllr Dai Davies said: “I think locating the hubs in the libraries has worked really well on both sides, Aneurin Leisure Trust and the council work really well together.””
  • Bristol Bristol libraries hire security to tackle rowdy teenagers causing trouble – Bristol Post. “Some libraries in Bristol have hired security guards to tackle rowdy teenagers causing trouble during the school holidays. Libraries have had to shut or change their opening hours to deter anti-social behaviour which has put off some people from going there.” … “Another issue is a stark gap between how much libraries are used in different parts of Bristol. Computer usage is much higher in libraries in wealthier areas than poorer parts of the city, and ‘friends of’ groups supporting the libraries exist in places like Clifton, Westbury and Bishopston but not in others such as Avonmouth, Bishopsworth or Hartcliffe.”. Story covered in BBC, Daily Express , ITV and Daily Mail.
  • Bromley – Orpington librarian appointed children’s libraries national chair – GLL [press release]. “Jenny Hawke, GLL’s Children’s Librarian at Orpington Library, Bromley has been appointed as Chair of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) National Youth Libraries Group.”
  • Calderdale – Halifax residents are asked to share their Second World War memories at Central Library event – Halifax Courier. “… nationwide campaign organised by Their Finest Hour, a team based at the University of Oxford and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which is collecting and preserving the everyday stories and objects of the Second World War”
  • Cheshire East – Library opening hours to change from December  – Cheshire East Council. ” following ‘top-up’ funding from Crewe and Nantwich town councils for services in their areas, 31 hours per week of library opening time has been reinstated across the borough at sites where usage and demand is greatest.” … “The council is still inviting expressions of interest from town and parish councils to explore ways of working together to deliver library services in their area”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – So Many New Activities Coming to Neston Library – About My Area. Child yoga, English Conversation Group, Lego group, reading group.
    • Parking charges in Cheshire West to be hiked by as much as two thirds – Cheshire Live. “We as a Labour administration in Cheshire West and Chester have said we will protect leisure centres and libraries at all costs; because, once you start closing leisure centres and libraries you’re on a slippery slope, and your focus on health and wellbeing goes straight out the window”
  • Denbighshire – Library cuts in Denbighshire will ‘impact the vulnerable’ – Free Press. “Denbighshire County Council is proposing a 50 per cent reduction to the opening hours of all eight of the county’s Libraries and One Stop Shops.  A consultation on the plans came to a close on October 30.”
  • Derbyshire – Library of the year award for Derbyshire library – Derbyshire Council. “Ripley Library, in the town’s Grosvenor Road, was announced as the winner of the prestigious Library/Librarian of the Year category at the RNA’s Winter Party and Industry Awards ceremony, which was held at the Leonardo Royal Hotel London City on Monday 13 November 2023. The RNA’s annual awards “celebrate the hard work and talent of any person, group or organisation who has championed the broad genre of romantic fiction in a positive way”.”
  • Devon – Mobile libraries axed by cash-strapped DCC – Dawlish Today.
  • Edinburgh – Blackhall Library to remain closed – for now – Edinburgh Reporter. “An Edinburgh library is to remain closed for the foreseeable future after it was discovered the ‘entire roof’ contains potentially dangerous crumbling concrete.”
  • Glasgow – “Your ticket to the whole world”: 8 of the best libraries in Glasgow – Glasgow World. “Billy Connolly has always been passionate about libraries and reading having once said: “When I was an unhappy little boy, going to the library changed my life. It may even have saved it. Amazing as it sounds, literature can do that for you. Books are your ticket to the whole world. They’re a free ticket to the entire earth.” To celebrate The Big Yin’s 81st birthday, we’ve put together a list of some of the best libraries in Glasgow which you have to visit.”
  • Hampshire – Extra consultation on Hampshire County Council library cuts plan – Petersfield Post. “The council’s financial strategy for 2025-26 was approved on November 9 but there will be more consultation on proposals to save £200,000 from its £1.2 million annual budget for buying new books and digital items such as eBooks, eAudiobooks and ePress for libraries.”
  • Haringey – Highgate Library reopening delayed by Haringey Council – Times Series. “the reopening was postponed for last-minute changes to the plans by Haringey Council, made after a public consultation had taken place.”
  • Lancashire – Visit your local library now to enjoy a warm space and a warmer welcome – Lancashire Council. “Three men all came into the library separately and sat on the sofa with a drink. After speaking with each man individually they started to attend events such the drop in café, Memories and Melodies, games afternoon and Chaps Who Chat. All three men admitted to feeling a bit isolated and were looking to meet other likeminded people.”
  • Norfolk – Fakenham library has reopening delayed to next year – Fakenham and Wells Times. “The Oak Street building, which has been closed since October 9, is having a number of works carried out on it, including; the gas boiler system replaced, the installation of new internal and cavity wall insulation, re-roofing to incorporate roof insulation, replacement atrium windows, a new mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) system and new LED low energy lighting. “
  • North Ayrshire – Citizens Advice energy help at North Ayrshire libraries – Largs and Millport Weekly News. ” … trained Citizens Advice advisers can help through free and confidential appointments throughout North Ayrshire.”
  • North Northamptonshire – Students with learning disabilities to run library – BBC. “The trust runs four schools in Northamptonshire and one in Luton for children with a range of learning disabilities. Students aged 18 to 25 from Creating Tomorrow College will work alongside volunteers from RCLT to run the site. Peter Wathen, chairman of RCLT, said: “Raunds Community Library trustees and our marvellous team of volunteers look forward to an exciting future.”
  • Nottinghamshire – Sherwood: £20million investment to transform Ollerton with town centre hub planned – West Bridgford Wire. Possible Levelling Up Fund money has two projects, the first may “… see a new public sector hub with services of the Town and District Council’s complemented by a brand-new state-of-the-art library, boutique cinema, and new commercial units”
  • Plymouth – Libraries begin coat donation and pick-up scheme – BBC. “The Donate A Coat scheme has been launched in four libraries in Plymouth. The collection and drop-off of coats is anonymous, with no questions asked”. Resident says “”I think this is a brilliant idea. I wish I’d have thought of the idea myself because so many people are in dire need right now.””
  • Renfrewshire – Inside Paisley’s new £7 million library – and there are Daleks in attendance – Herald Scotland. “After a £7 million refurbishment, the new central library facility will open in the middle of the town’s High Street at the end of the month and there will be plenty on offer no matter whether the reader is human or mutant. The reading hub boasts a children’s library with play structure designed by a celebrated Scottish artist, digital spaces with public computer terminals helps the centre reach a 21st century audience and an outdoor terrace for sunny days.”
  • Shropshire – Library to be closed for two weeks – but no fine for late books – Shropshire Star. “The closure is required to put new shelving in. An update from the library said: “Due to the installation of new shelving funded by the Friends of Church Stretton Library …”
  • Stoke on TrentStoke-on-Trent Libraries secure £88,000 from Know Your Neighbourhood Fund – Stoke on Trent Council. “The ambition is to set up the following volunteer-run groups that will be supported by library staff: A perinatal support group for new parents which runs from pregnancy right through to 12 months post-partum; A support group for fathers; A bereavement support group that will provide a safe space to meet other people who have experienced loss or who are facing the possibility of loss”
    • Little Dragons Club to take flight at Stoke-on-Trent Libraries – Stoke on Trent Council. “on signing up children will receive a Little Dragon Club passport, bookmark and a badge. Each time children attend one of Stoke-on-Trent’s free weekly Singing Bears, Bouncing Bears or Story Bears sessions or borrow books from the library they will be able to collect a special stamp in their passport.”. Tote bag includes as one prize. “For every 6 stamps a child collects in their passport they will receive a certificate congratulating them on their achievement and encouraging them to come to more sessions and borrow more books.”
  • Suffolk – Suffolk Libraries PAWS-itivity dogs find their forever homes – Suffolk Libraries. “Suffolk Libraries’ biggest-ever fundraising campaign, PAWS-itivity, culminated in a successful fundraising auction at Trinity Park last month which raised over £26,000. Around 40 dog sculptures dubbed the ‘Library Labradors’ all featuring designs individually created by local artists were auctioned on 12 October. A few weeks later and with the dog sculptures all having found new homes, many can still be seen in public and enjoyed across the county. ”
    • Suffolk Libraries to hold ‘Power of Libraries’ conference for schools – Suffolk Libraries. “This free conference is open to all school staff with an interest in developing a culture of reading for pleasure. It is also an ideal opportunity for school librarians, English leads and leaders looking to invest in their school library and make connections with Suffolk Libraries.”
  • Warwickshire – Warwickshire Libraries unveils service’s first electric-powered vehicle at celebration event for library volunteers – Warwickshire Council. “libraries service is becoming more sustainable with the introduction of a new van, powered entirely by electricity, for the Home Library Service fleet.”
  • Westmorland and Furness – Over 200 angry protesters turn out to ‘save’ Ulverston library – The Mail. “Around 200 angry protesters waved banners and placards following its closure by Westmorland and Furness Council earlier this year over electrical issues. The protest was arranged by Labour Parliamentary candidate for Barrow and Furness Michelle Scrogham. She requested an electrical report Under the Freedom of Information Act and said many who viewed the report have struggled to see how the faults listed would amount to the £500,000 repair bill being discussed.”