I was always taught in school to present the thesis (one theory), the antithesis (the argument against that theory) and then the synthesis (the conclusion after weighing all the evidence). Never done it with public libraries before but lets give it a go.

The thesis would be that libraries are recovering well from spending cuts, with their building stock being renewed. Evidence just this week would be: Shipley Library having a new enterprise hub; Brierly Library opening in Dudley after a £670k refurbishment;a very impressive new Central Library opening in Nottingham; Scottish Government funding to support new projects in libraries; Bolton Central Library about to reopen after a major refurbishment; another new central library opening in Paisley, and Beccles Library in Suffolk reopening after refurbishment. That’s pretty impressive.

But wait, the antithesis is that libraries are still suffering from cuts. Evidence for this is also pretty strong.: Nottingham City Council – the same one that has just opened its lovely new central library – has filed for what it insists is not bankruptcy; Stirling, like Nottingham, also is also in financial trouble and they have announced their plan includes potentially closing all but one library, severely testing the Scottish law about needing to provide an adequate service. Even it’s lesser second, and far more likely, option is to close half of its libraries. In South Gloucestershire, there’s a proposal to cut nearly one-fifth of all staffing hours and, in Leeds, plans to refurbish Crossgates Library collapse after funding could not be found. Cheshire East is reducing its opening hours and Croydon is privately considering potentially closing four libraries. Meanwhile, the state of Kettering Library’s building is so bad in North Northamptonshire that its needing to move to temporary new accommodation. Finally, there’s a campaign starting in Southend against proposed library cuts there.

Hmm, so it’s a rollercoaster ride for libraries this week. What the heck is going on? How can we make a synthesis out of this? Well, I think we can. What has been happening is that there’s been a few years of recovery (or, at least, not austerity) roughly since David Cameron stopped being Prime Minister. So new building projects and refurbishments could afford to be restarted and are coming to fruition now. However, austerity has recently restarted not just because of real cuts but also due to high inflation. This has meant many councils are now facing serious financial problems. The best example of this is Nottingham, which has just opened its new Central Library years after it was started just in time for the new cuts to (officially not) bankrupt it. Many may remember a similar thing happening in early 2010s with the opening of the mega new Library of Birmingham that almost instantly had to cut its hours. So, it’s explainable. New building projects take a while to happen but budget cuts, well, they come instantly. Hence the good and bad news happening together.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • British Library hack: Customer data offered for sale on dark web – BBC. “The British Library says it has evidence that user data was hacked in a cyber attack and offered for sale on the dark web. The library warned users who use the same password elsewhere to change it.”
  • Digital Skills Training: Challenges and Approaches for Libraries – Lorensbergs. ” 11 library authorities got together with Lorensbergs to share challenges and solutions for maintaining staff’s digital skills. When resourcing is low and training demands are high, keeping all staff up to speed is a tough nut to crack. ” A look at training options and strategies.
  • ‘It’s an ongoing challenge’: Will the culture wars come for Britain’s books? – Independent. “When you consider the current landscape of censorship, it is hard not to speculate (as Wilson has) that what’s happening in the US might be prescient for the UK.” … ““he steep rise in book bans in the USA may well embolden people who would like to see such books removed from UK shelves” … “There is no UK equivalent whereby national data about book censorship requests is made available” but “if we were to release a list of books that had been challenged, that would, for some people, become a list of books that ‘should’ be challenged” but “we should be careful not to overstate the problem”
  • Revealing our ethics and values – CILIP. “As budgets continue to be cut, so the need for effective advocacy increases – if libraries and information services are fighting for a share of a dwindling pot, then the advocacy on behalf of those services becomes ever more valuable. So how can we ensure that our advocacy is effective and why should we be thinking about the ethical values when we are talking about services?”
  • Supporting new public libraries projects – Scottish Government. “A group of eight innovative new library projects designed to enrich communities across Scotland will be brought to life through a share of £106,868 support received through the Public Library Improvement Fund (PLIF). These projects include the introduction of a comprehensive library outreach offer in East Lothian, a digital project focusing on celebrating Dundee’s Maritime Pasts and Future, and High Life Highland’s sensory project, which aims to engage with those with autism and dementia among many others.”

International news

Local news by authority

  • Bolton – Bolton Library sets date for reopening after refurbishment project – Bolton News. “The £4.43m renovation project and refurbishment has seen the building stripped back to reveal many of the original features and now includes an expanded children’s area, improved social spaces, updated digital facilities and a new café, which will be unveiled at the grand opening.”
  • Bournemouth Christchurch Poole – Writing Groups in Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and Dorset – Bournemouth Writing Festival. From January and ongoing, Writers’ Havens will be held in libraries as part of the Bournemouth Writing Festival activities. They will be inclusive and supportive groups for writers of all interests.
  • Bradford – The Shipley Library Enterprise Hub officially opens – Telegraph and Argus. “It was created in the former exhibition space at the library, using £80,000 of money from the Government-funded Shipley Towns Fund. The new facility will offer resources and advice to local businesses and start-ups, and the space will also be used for events, meetings and co-working.”
  • Bromley – New initiative in memory of Wendy Cooling launches at Orpington Library – GLL/Better (press release). “Last weekend, schoolkids and families came together at Orpington Library for the launch of ‘Wendy’s House’, a nationwide project set-up in the memory of Bookstart Founder Wendy Cooling.”
  • Cheshire East – Reduced library opening hours come into force – BBC. “Libraries in Alsager, Macclesfield, Sandbach and Poynton will all be closed for an extra 10 hours a week.”
    • Cheshire East could use libraries as community hubs, councillor says – Guardian series. Independent councillor suggests copying Hartlepool’s example: ” “As a result of converting that library space into community hubs, they were able to use those facilities as a front door to a whole range of council services including adults, children’s services, and also introduce refreshment facilities, again, an income generating source for the council within those buildings.”
  • Croydon – Consultants’ year-long study looks to close four public libraries – Inside Croydon. “Croydon’s Conservative-run council has a secret plan to close at least four of the borough’s public libraries, Inside Croydon has discovered.” … “The latest plan is understood to be part of the crisis-hit council’s “asset disposal strategy”, which would seek to sell the public buildings to pay down some of Croydon’s £1.6billion debt.”

“… since the first covid lockdown in 2020, only one of Croydon’s libraries has been operating anything like “normal” opening hours. Central Library, next to the Town Hall, is open five days a week. Of the others, six libraries are open just three days each week, while five are only open for two days a week. The reduced opening hours are a cost-cutting measure that is a direct result of the council going bankrupt three years ago.”

  • Dudley – Library set for grand reopening after refurbishment – Express and Star. “Brierley Hill Library’s internal works, new décor and flooring has been organised by Dudley Council and was funded through the UK Government’s Future High Streets Fund, with £670,000 spent on the refurbishment. Residents can now enjoy improved ground floor access, a children’s library and new meeting rooms for community use such as school classes, group sessions and family activities when it reopens on Monday.”
  • Highland – High Life Highland libraries kick-start traditional Icelandic storytelling sessions – Northern Times. Cultural exchange.
  • North Northamptonshire – Temporary Kettering library to open while leaking roof fixed – BBC. “The library service will move into the new Cornerstone extension building while a £7m repair project takes place. Problems with the 1904 library building have delayed the opening of North Northamptonshire Council’s flagship Cornerstone project, which is designed to link the library and adjacent art gallery with a new community building. The decaying roof of the old building has allowed water to flow into the new one and rainfall in October left the council with no choice but to close the library”

“Called in this afternoon and can report that it was worth the wait. Bookstock has survived its sojourn in storage plus plenty of new stock. Building very spacious with picture windows letting in lots of natural light. Workstations and comfy seating on each floor plus cafe near the entrance. Everything in pristine condition at the moment. Hopefully it won’t be too badly impacted by the next bout of austerity…”

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  • Stirling – Stirling Council Budget Saving Proposals – Stirling Council. Various suggestions for cutting libraries, with the lesser one being “If chosen this option could save almost £400,000 in operating costs each year. Some communities, if their library closed, could receive mobile library visits instead. Other areas may have to travel to their nearest library” and the more severe one being to close every library but one (!).
    • Fury as libraries written off by council bosses ‘letting children down’ with plans for mass closures – Daily Mail. “the proposals have sparked outrage among literacy campaigners who say it will impact on low-income households who cannot afford to buy books. Scottish Book Trust chief executive Marc Lambert said Stirling Council would be ‘letting down a lot of people’.”. Local Conservative says “these damaging closures are the sad but inevitable consequence of the SNP Government’s brutal and sustained underfunding of Scotland’s councils.” and CILIP says “Any council that values its communities also values its libraries and these cuts will cause significant long-term damage if taken”
  • Stirling Council could close all but one library to save costs – Herald.
  • Suffolk – Beccles Library moves back home – Suffolk Libraries. “The library has been operating from a temporary location in the town’s old HSBC building since September to enable substantial building work to be carried out. Despite the challenges of the recent storms, the work is successfully nearing completion and the library building is due to reopen on Friday 8 December. The improvement work has involved replacing the entire roof and all external windows and doors in the main public library area.”
  • ThurrockThurrock libraries launch winter colouring-in competition – Your Thurrock. “All winners will get a box of Cadbury Heroes chocolates.”
  • Warwickshire – Warwickshire library books go green – Stratford Observer. “Warwickshire Home Library Service has unveiled its first electric-powered vehicle to deliver books door-to-door. The new electric vehicle is a modern Peugeot e-Expert van. It will be used by the Home Library Service team, which consists of fourteen volunteer drivers, to deliver library books to all corners of the county. The van has a range of over 150 miles on one charge …”
  • West Dunbartonshire – Plan to ban Israeli books in Scotland – Jewish Chronicle. If the council uses it’s boycott policy then some books may be withdrawn. “No books have so far been removed from any of the authority’s libraries as councillors say censorship is “not in the spirit” of their boycott, but it is understood that officials are prepared to rule on a book-by-book basis.”
  • York – York’s libraries launch Christmas ‘Joy Bringers’ appeal – Press. “Money raised through Explore York’s Joy Bringers campaign will be used to fund holiday activities for children as well as to keep the city’s 15 libraries warm and welcoming through the winter.”