Writing Public Libraries News can be, well, slightly depressing at times but this week is a pleasure for a couple of reasons. The first is I would like to celebrate with you the opening a new library. And not just a new library but the first public library to be named, it is believed, after any non-white woman in the history of UK public libraries. So step forward, Southwark Libraries, long a leading light in public library provision and the new Una Marson Library, named after the Jamaican activist who wrote poems and plays and was the first black woman to be employed by the BBC during World War Two.


This got me thinking about how many public libraries are named after women at all in the UK. Discounting those which are based in community centres or other buildings named after women but where the library itself is not named after one itself then I can find only two examples, one each in England and Scotland, so far. So, another step forward, this time to Durning Library in Lambeth, named after its funder Jemima Durning, and the Jennie Lee Library, in Lochgelly (Fife) named after one of the leading figures in the founding of the Open University. Pretty cool. Does anyone have any more? Or is it just three for the UK? Hmm, come to think of it, I wonder how many are named after men …?

In other news, it’s been a week of announcements of libraries opening/closing due to refurbishments, which makes me smile a bit. Plus also there’s some bad news about RAAC and a few other things but it’s nearly Christmas so let’s focus on the positives. And work out how we can get a library named after Miriam Margoyles. The opening of that one should bring a smile. And, knowing Miriam, a bit of swearing too.


Changes by authority

National news

“This webinar explains how libraries and archives can engage with the local planning process and plan-making officials in order to secure funding through Section 106 legal agreements (S106) and/or the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), collectively known as developer contributions.”
  • Giving children books is good – but saving libraries for them is even better – Guardian / Letters. “That so many children today do not own a book is disturbing, but it’s just as bad, or worse, that their access to libraries is shrinking. A number of local libraries have been closed under pretty much every local authority, and book budgets are terribly constrained. This denies children the access to the enormous range of books that libraries have been able to offer in the past. Ownership of a few books is really no substitute for this.”
  • Know Your Neighbourhood Knowledge Sharing Event – Libraries Connected. Tuesday 30 January 10am to Noon, Teams. Focus on how public libraries can deal with loneliness [amongst their users, that is, not their staff]
  • Libraries Connected Awards 2024 – Libraries Connected. “We are looking for individuals or teams working in public libraries in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and The Crown Dependencies who have had a positive impact on the library service, library users or the local community. This could by introducing an innovative new idea or by going the extra to mile to provide an outstanding service.”
  • Scottish public libraries: we must protect them – Herald. “While undertaking a research project about post-pandemic reading in Scotland – published in our Reading in Scotland report – the Scottish Book Trust found many people who rely on, and love, their local library. The study found 75% of people surveyed used the library to get print books for themselves before the pandemic restrictions, and 94% of those with children used the library to get print books for them.”

International news

“Gen Z and millennials are visiting public libraries more than any other generation, a new American Library Association survey found. ALA president Emily Drabinski joins CBS News to explain what’s driving the trend.”
  • USA – Why banning or burning books is the start of something terrifying – Sydney Morning Herald. “All but four states in the US have introduced pro-censorship laws. “We are now outpacing even the McCarthy era in terms of censorship,” she says. “This should be a global concern because we are seeing other nations who are copy-catting the clamping down on freedom of speech.””
    • An Interview with Seattle’s Chief Librarian, Tom Fay – Urbanist. “The library can’t put its head in the sand. I don’t hide things that we do. Like when we look at having issues in our restrooms from smoking various drugs, we’ve had to put in sensors.”. Focuses on security and attracting new immigrants. ” every time I go into the library, I’m looking for what are they doing to activate the space to really engage people of all ages, right? Because I think that is the biggest challenge. “
    • How a Des Moines 11-year-old with autism found confidence to speak with library books – Des Moines Register. “Anna’s experience at the library also has evolved into something more for Anna when she started reading to groups of children that visit the library.” … “Going to the library has helped Anna “come out of her shell,” according to her mother. “I think she loves seeing other children smile,” 
    • Jay-Z Is Auctioning Custom Library Cards to Benefit the Brooklyn Public Library – Artnet. “The legendary rapper Jay-Z is auctioning off a signed black leather Pinel et Pinel briefcase filled with custom metal library cards, each showcasing an example of his album artwork from across the decades. The sale is hosted by Christie’s New York and Roc Nation, an entertainment company founded and run by Jay-Z. The estimate is only being provided on request, and all proceeds will go toward the Brooklyn Public Library.”
    • The Week in Libraries: December 8, 2023 – Publishers Weekly. Montana removes requirement for librarianship qualification for senior librarians; 75% of Oregon library staff feel unsafe due to crime; Wisconsin aims to allow librarians to be prosecuted if they allow certain books to be seen by minors;

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeen – Crunch decision for Aberdeen libraries looms – Morning Star. “councillors will have the chance to reverse a decision to axe libraries in some of the city’s most deprived areas this week. At its budget meeting in March, the SNP-led council backed the closure of Cornhill, Cults, Ferryhill, Kaimhill, Northfield and Woodside libraries as well as Bucksburn Swimming Pool, but campaigners against the decision fought on.”
    • A million pound mistake? Costs revealed as council could reopen Bucksburn Swimming Pool – Press and Journal. “Campaigners fighting to save the pool and Cornhill, Cults, Ferryhill, Kaimhill, Northfield and Woodside libraries launched a judicial review of the decision.” due to equality concerns for elderly and disabled. Original council impact assessments inadequate. “Councillors will be given the choice to reinstate the swimming pool, and the six libraries as a separate job lot.”.. “The combined cost of recommissioning the partially emptied buildings [libraries] comes to £128,000. Then the annual running of the six buildings would total £346,000.”. £320k also needed in repairs for closed libraries.
  • Blaenau Gwent – Why a Gwent library has been closed since last week – Yahoo News. “Blaina Library, one of six libraries in Blaenau Gwent run by the Aneurin Leisure Trust, has been closed since just before 6pm on Wednesday, November 29. According to a statement posted on the Trust’s official X, formerly Twitter, account, the closure is due to the need for some “urgent maintenance work” to be carried out.”
  • Caerphilly – Library given “tentative” reopening after months of delays – Caerphilly Observer. “The library, which has undergone a £400,000 refurbishment was originally set to open in the summer of 2023 but has been plagued by ongoing problems. “. Vandalism, redesign and lift problems have delayed opening, now pencilled in for January.
  • Camden – The Library of Things – Camden’s festive friend – Camden Council. “There are many items that residents can borrow to help out this festive season including a party kit, sound systems and a pop-up bed to host friends and family.”
City of London
GLL/Better are having Warm Spaces in four library services: Bromley, Dudley, Greenwich and Wandsworth: “leading wholesale food service company Brakes, has agreed to donate free tea, coffee and biscuits to all fourteen locations”. The other GLL service, Lincolnshire, is offering a more limited service.
  • Guernsey – Library marks fifth anniversary of child section – BBC. “In the first year after the revamp, library visits rose by 8% to more than 160,000, and children’s book loans also rose, with 2023 figures on course to exceed those from 2019, staff said.” .. children “always so excited about the staircases, the secret passageways and the reading nooks “
  • Hampshire – Hampshire Libraries to help tackle loneliness at Christmas – Eastleigh News. Lists events, regular activities and library services.
  • Herefordshire – This is why plans for Hereford’s new library are wrong – Hereford Times / Letters. Council plans to move Hereford Library into Shire Hall. “I feel this decision has been made with the primary driver being to find an economic use for the building, rather than what is in the best interest of the library service.” … “a serious error of judgement has been made to not take up the opportunity of a city-centre location in Maylord Orchards. This would offer for greater opportunities to engage with customers”
  • Highlands – High Life Libraries bid to develop ‘Sense for Communities’ project accepted – Strathspey and Badenoch Herald. “High Life Highland have announced that a bid for funding to develop a sensory project to improve the wellbeing of “hard-to-reach” groups has been approved, after they applied to the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC).”
    • £6000 for High Life Highland library sensory project – Northern Times. “d £6000 from the national Public Library Improvement Fund (PLIF) to develop its Making Sense for Communities’ project. It aims to engage with and improve the health and wellbeing of hard-to-reach groups including those with autism, dementia, physical impairment, and those who are socially isolated.”. Includes sensory projector.
  • Hull – Hull Council plan after ‘warm zone’ boiler breakdowns – BBC. “Two council-run “warm zones” in Hull are not living up to their name after their central heating broke. Western Library and Greenwood Avenue Library are now using portable heaters to keep the temperatures inside up.”
  • Isle of Man – Henry Bloom Noble Library praised by UK charity for its ‘impactful services’ – Isle of Man Today. “The CEO and president of ‘Libraries Connected’ said the library buildings should reflect local needs and this is evident on the island.”
  • Manchester – Manchester’s Libraries Are Becoming ‘Warm Welcome Spaces’ With Free Hot Drinks And Wi-Fi This Winter – Secret Manchester. “The scheme spans free hot drinks, free Wi-Fi, free data SIM cards, newspapers, information and advice and extra signposting to support services in the city.”
  • Middlesbrough – Historic Central Library in Middlesbrough closes doors for refurbishment – Gazette Live. “The ground floor of the library will be transformed into a captivating space incorporating a family-focused library and separate adult lending space, to host events and activities promoting a lifelong love of literacy and creativity.”
  • North Somerset – New scheme provides safe spaces for women and girls across North Somerset – North Somerset Council. “Purple chairs are being installed in libraries across North Somerset to provide a clear beacon of safety for women and girls. The ‘Purple Chair Scheme’ provides a safe space for women and girls to access information about health and wellbeing, as well as support and resources available to them in whatever circumstances they find themselves in. This may be when someone is experiencing domestic or racial abuse, or addiction issues.”
  • Nottingham – We Explore the New Central Library – Leftlion. “it was Dolly Parton who opened the new Nottingham Central Library. She had teleported in via a specially-recorded broadcast to give her blessing to the new building alongside councillors and the city’s most bookish literary bods. Reading, reading, reading, reading, Dolly said, more or less. Please take the books out just because you can.” … ” As well as displays of local artists and a well-buffed espresso machine, there’s a walk-around exhibition detailing Broadmarsh’s history, a sensory room in which you can disguise yourself within a pod of whales (and about time too), free Wi-Fi with 55 computers on which to type and surf (the net, not with whales), and we think we’re forgetting something – oh yes, nearly 200,000 books”
  • Rotherham – Swinton Library moved to civic hall after survey shows RAAC in roof – BBC. “A library earmarked for demolition has been moved to a nearby civic hall after a survey revealed issues with its roof. Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) was discovered in the roof of Swinton community library near Rotherham, the council said. The authority said it temporarily closed the building last week as a “precautionary measure”, in line with other local authorities. The library building was already earmarked for demolition. “A newly-refurbished library is planned to be opened early next year at the former customer service centre building [nearby] as part of a major redevelopment of Swinton town centre,” the council said.”
  • Shropshire – New shelving for two Shropshire libraries – Shropshire Council. “The Friends of Church Stretton” have provided shelving for that library while ACE have provided new shelving for Bridgnorth Library. “The Arts Council England funding will also be providing new shelving for libraries in Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Oswestry and Whitchurch. Dates for these installations will be confirmed soon.”
    • New Ready Reads service launched for Whitchurch Library users – Shropshire Council. “A new Ready Reads service has been launched for people affected by the temporary closure of Whitchurch Library. Library staff will take requests for books when they are at the town’s market on Fridays, and readers will be able to collect their choices from Whitchurch Heritage Centre”
  • Southwark – Library named after BBC’s first black radio producer opens to public – London News Online “A brand new library has opened to the public, named after the feminist, activist and writer Una Marson. The Una Marson Library in Thurlow Street, Southwark, opened today as part of the council’s redevelopment of the Aylesbury area. The new library will offer book and DVD loans, newspapers, public access PCs, printing and copying facilities, meeting rooms, study spaces, free Wi-Fi and a full programme of events that will run throughout the year. “