Dark times look to be here again with major cuts proposed or confirmed over the last fortnight in Denbighshire, Haringey, Nottingham and Swindon. In addition, there are dark rumblings in several other council services. This is starting to remind of the start of Public Libraries News back in 2010 when there was cut after cut announced. However, the big difference here is that the party in government turned out to have more than a decade to run at that point while now, the same party/government (give or take some frenetic changing in personnel) is unlikely, according to most observers, to last the next year. The opposition are likely to look more kindly on public services but are currently being very moderate in their proposals.

Another reminder of when I started the website is the continuing arguments over the Single Digital Presence, at least now with an actual name rather than a vague description of LibraryOn. The creation of this website has been going at a glacial pace, and has transformed into, well, not quite sure yet but certainly not a “single digital presence” but will hopefully appear some time soon. Hopefully before the next election, anyway.

There’s also a third reminder of the past, that being the hopelessness of CIPFA, who have produced their latest report, which you’re not allowed to see unless you spend hundreds of pounds or have a friend/job in one of the participating library services, and a press release that ignores inflation and the continuing impact of lockdown. Two-fifths of library services did not even bother to participate in it and the press release does not even include the number of public libraries in the UK, presumably because CIPFA does not actually know. The fact that the public library services suffer from such a lack of accurate available data is, and has been since I started, deeply embarrassing. Again, one hopes the national service can get its act together an produce something better than this but there are few confident of that, again at least this side of a change of government.

Finally, here’s a few more libraries named after people (thank you to PLN reader Kieran):

– Lewis Carroll Library in Islington
– Claude Ramsey Library in Thamesmead, Greenwich (renamed to Thamesmere)
– CLR James library in Dalston, Hackney
– Robert Jeyes library in Barking and Dagenham
– Keith Axon Centre in Redbridge
– John Jackson Library in Bush Hill Park, Enfield

Changes by library authority

National news

A thread with potentially terrible outcomes for public libraries, listing deep cuts expected in the following councils: Havering, Bradford, Hampshire, West Berkshire, Newham, Somerset, Southampton, Durham, Cheshire East, Central Bedfordshire,
  • As British Library faces fallout of cyber attack—what can arts bodies do to combat ransomware threats? – The Art Newspaper. Personal information stolen in successful hack by criminal group, causing the British Library problems months afterwards: “from early in the new year a phased return of certain key services will begin, starting with the most crucial component—the main catalogue—a reference-only version of which will be back online from 15 January, further facilitating the manual ordering which is available in the Reading Rooms. Other interim services will include increased on-site access to manuscripts and special collections”
  • Libraries Connected Awards: Watch video of our 2023 winners – Libraries Connected. “Werrington Community Library, the Business and IP Centre at Oxfordshire Libraries and the team from Kent Prison Libraries.”
  • Library spending up 3%, CIPFA data shows, but still lags behind rising demand for services – BookSeller. “The survey also shows that the income libraries received rose by 3% over the last financial year, from £916 per 1,000 people in 2021/22 to £939 per 1,000 people in 2022/23. CIPFA said this is a “welcome relief to the financial pressure on libraries as high inflation continues to increase their running costs”.” [This is of course nonsense – ONS shows inflation was around 8.6% so this “up” in spending actually shows a sizeable decease – Ed.]. Issues compare figures from 2021/2 to 2022/3 rather than the far more useful pre-lockdown figure. Two-fifths of library services did not reply. Full report from CIPFA not available unless a few hundred pounds is given to them. No estimate of number of libraries available.
  • Millions wasted on attempt to create nationwide UK library website, campaigners claim – Guardian. “Tim Coates among those to criticise government, Arts Council and British Library bid to create a ‘single digital presence’ for libraries” … “The “Single Digital Presence” (SDP) – renamed LibraryOn – was meant to bring together public libraries in one website to enable the public to access collections across the country. The problem has been that there are 150 library authorities in England alone, each with their own technology and management systems.” … Coates says “We’re now 10 years later and – after several reviews and studies and about £6m”

International news

  • Asia – Literature In All Its Glory: Spotlighting Asia’s Most Beautiful Libraries – Travel and Leisure. “, we trace the most beautiful libraries in Asia, which not only draw from the region’s yesteryears but also cultivate a culture steeped in literature, community spirit, and the preservation of old-world charm.”
  • Australia – Libraries in regional towns are building community on a shoestring budget – Guardian. “Despite a record increase in public library funding by the NSW government, most operate on the cost of a few new books per resident a year” … “The NSW government is set to deliver $40.89m in funding for public libraries in 2023-24, up from $24.53m in 2018-19, with another $6m distributed in grants for infrastructure and service upgrades.” … “ervices such as Rainbow Storytime – a Pride event that involves drag queens reading stories to children – have been delivered against the backdrop of campaigns against inclusive programming”
    • Eastern suburbs council warns library users of potential data breach – Sydney Morning Herald. “a cyberattack on an external software system that is used by the library to manage room bookings, issue fines and grant computer access and printing.”
    • I leave our library with a greater burden – and that’s my reward – WA Today. “A State Library Victoria report in 2018 revealed that “every dollar invested in public libraries generates $4.30 of benefits to the local community”. If I could observe the benefits of libraries even before conducting research, it is clear evidence of their positive impact. Libraries improve community connection. They reduce waste as resources are passed around. They are cost-effective.”
  • New Zealand – There is such thing as a society – Newsroom. “Local public services here in Aotearoa under the last Labour government may have been somewhat sheltered from the worst of the cuts occurring globally under widespread austerity measures during the 2010s. Any of that cushioning is likely to disappear under the new Government.”. Cuts to UK libraries since 2010 particularly noted.
  • Russia – ‘No, that’s fascism’: the librarian who defied Russia’s purge of LGBTQ+ books – Guardian. “When Vladimir Kosarevsky was ordered to destroy books referring to same-sex relationships, he raised the alarm instead – then went to Spain to rebuild his life” … ” “I had been discriminated against many times. Now I had to be the one who censors things? And destroys books? No, that’s fascism.””
  • USA – Meet the 2024 I Love My Librarian Award Honorees – American Libraries. Public librarians honoured for work with refugees, expansion of services, social media. genealogy.
    • How a Bay Area librarian became an Instagram star – San Francisco Chronicle. “n the video watched nearly 740,000 times on Instagram, Threets described his conversation with a child who walked up to the desk holding out two $20 bills. The child’s grandparent was outside in the car, too worried about overdue books to come inside. Assured by Threets no fines were due, the child ran outside and returned with a grandparent.”
    • Laws banning semi-automatic weapons and library censorship to take effect in Illinois – Independent. “Libraries that indiscriminately ban books will not be eligible for state funds. They must adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights stating “materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.””
    • Ten Stories That Shaped 2023 – LIS News. Censorship, AI.

Local news by authority

North Yorkshire – BEM for recently retired General Manager Chrys Mellor
  • Nottingham – 2024/25 Budget savings proposals – Nottingham Council. “Undertake an assessment of the Library Service provision whilst maintaining a comprehensive and efficient service offer appropriate to the needs of our citizens. Will require a further public consultation regarding a review of the Council’s Library Needs Assessment and ‘the Next Chapter’ Libraries Strategy” Proposed £1.5m cut with 31 FTE posts lost.
    • Council launches tender process for £960,000 book supply contract for Nottingham libraries – West Bridgford Wire. “The move is aimed at securing a book supply contract for the city’s library service from 2024 to 2030. Savings of over £750,000 per year could come from the new arrangement.” … “The contract, valued at £960,000 and impacting all city wards, is part of Nottingham’s participation in the East Midlands and Mid Anglia (EMMA) libraries stock consortium. This consortium, comprising eight other library authorities, enables members to combine their spending power to secure significant discounts on book stock, thereby maximising library budgets and ensuring the best value for the Council.”
  • Oxfordshire – Wallingford partners working to tackle ASB outside library – Herald Series. “The manager informed the council that the ASB incidents included the depositing of drug paraphernalia. The anti-social behaviour reportedly left at least one member of the library staff ‘intimidated,’ who was employed to work at the facility in the evenings.”
  • Rotherham – Rotherham market and library image released – BBC. “An artist’s impression has been released showing what Rotherham’s new market and library complex will look like. Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council said the “modern” build will give visitors “a sense of space and scale”. The complex is a key part of the authority’s town centre regeneration “masterplan”. The library, markets, food hall, gallery, and event spaces will be built on a single site off Drummond Street.”
  • Sheffield – Warning over huge costs to save Sheffield’s historic Central Library building – Star. “Strategy and Resource Policy committee members accepted a number of proposals, including the allocation of £420k for surveying costs, to ensure the future of the grade II-listed art deco Graves Building on Surrey Street.” … “We know that this project will cost from £25m to what could be £60-100m depending on the options pursued.”
  • Shropshire – New Year Honours 2024 recognises Oswestry librarian – Border Counties Advertizer. BEM: “Richard Charles Fowler, aged 70, is a founder member and trustee of the Community Managed Libraries National Peer Network (CMLNPN), a body that advocates for community-led libraries in England and Wales.” … “Harbury Village Library (HVL) is now a nationally recognised example of a community hub. They provide a focal point for their local communities and many, like HVL, are now nationally registered Warm Welcome Spaces.”
  • Southend – Southend MP Anna Firth urged to help protect libraries – Echo News. “Southend Council’s Conservative administration revealed proposals to close two of the city’s six libraries to help tackle its £14 million financial black hole. While no “firm decisions” have been made, the proposals could see the city’s other four libraries “downgraded” with reduced opening hours. Last week the Conservative MP was pictured at Leigh Library, helping to promote the Reading Agency’s winter reading challenge.”
  • Swindon – Swindon council has ‘no plans’ for library closures amid cuts – Swindon Advertiser. “There are no plans to close any of Swindon’s five core libraries, despite needing to make cuts of £660,000 from the service’s budget.” … “”We are looking to make sure we can keep them open by changing the way we run them.””
  • Wakefield – Wakefield Council receives grant to help combat loneliness across the area – Wakefield Council. DCMS/ACE funding £88k: “The Know Your Neighbourhood project is designed to widen participation in volunteering and tackle loneliness in 27 areas across England.”
  • Warwickshire – Everyone is welcome at Warwickshire’s libraries – Warwickshire Council. “From coffee mornings to tea and talk sessions; family history to crafternoon teas the events are free to attend and include warm refreshments.”
    • County’s £370k plan to put mobile sensory library on Warwickshire’s roads – Stratford Herald. Bid to Arts Council England “a very compelling case”.
    • Head to a Warwickshire library for some murder mystery – Stratford Herald. “Whoever’s commissioned will be expected to develop a script, recruit actors, run rehearsals and make sure the performances go smoothly. Warwickshire Libraries advertisement suggests performances won’t be limited to the county’s libraries but may also take place in ‘other literary locations’ across Warwickshire.” … ““As part of Warwickshire Libraries’ new National Portfolio Organisation status, granted by Arts Council England, we will be focussing on community driven projects that enhance access to culture, art and literature for free “
  • Westmorland and Furness – Ulverston library petition presented to House of Commons – The Mail. “The Conservative MP for Barrow and Furness Simon Fell, presented the petition calling for the government to ensure Ulverston has a full library service as soon as possible. Ulverston’s library building on King’s Road has been closed since September following the discovery of issues with the building’s electrics during routine statutory checks.” 600 signatures
West Sussex – This is one of a series of short videos on various aspects of public library provision in West Sussex, that can be found here. “They have gone down really well in our community and we have been invited to show them at food banks, they have been used by our children’s department colleagues in the county council to share with Ofsted and among the comments from library staff was ‘thank you for making me rethink what I do every week and feel so much more positive about what we offer”