Well, looking at the “changes by local authority” list, there’s not much of a problem guessing which part of the cut/recovery pendulum libraries are on nationally at the moment. Being this is, as I have mentioned before in editorials, a very familiar thing to see since 2010 when I started this website, one would probably have to agree with the outgoing CILIP chief executive Nick Poole who says in a must-read article that public libraries are “under sustained assault”. Nick then goes on to make clear he believes encouraging library volunteers to make up for budget cuts are “a fraud that has been perpetrated on the tax-paying public”. One feels he may have had enough, as indeed have many concerned about library services.

The British Library cyber attack continues to make news, with the change this week that there are both defences of the management of that august institution and some slight criticisms, with some questions being asked about the leadership and strategy of the institution, which has kept front-line staff “in the dark” about the process.

Abroad, there’s an interesting article on book theft in Australia and data suggesting that the move to e-books and e-audiobooks is continuing, not stalling, after the boost received from lockdowns. And, of course, there’s the continuing madness from the USA about censorship – now including apparently banning dictionaries in schools because kids may look up the meaning of particular words – and, thankfully, an increasing backlash.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • British Library cyber attack explained: What you need to know – Computer Weekly. “The data leaked by Rhysida includes almost 500,000 files, many of them stolen from the British Library’s customer relationship management (CRM) database. These files are understood to include the personal information of readers and visitors, including their names and email addresses, and in some cases postal addresses and telephone numbers. Fortunately, it does not appear to include any financial data.” … ” Even if a staff member did make a mistake, they deserve support and understanding, not blame – anybody can fall victim to a cyber attack at any time.”
  • Can reading really improve your life? – BBC Radio 4. “Research suggests that reading for pleasure is a key indicator in a child’s future outcome. But how can we foster that love of reading? Author Julia Donaldson investigates.” The importance of libraries included.
  • The Experimental Library: A Guide to Taking Risks, Failing Forward, and Creating Change – Facet Publishing. Book, “This guide shows how to draw from new approaches and technologies to harness experimentation as a tool for testing ideas and responding to change. It borrows ideas and inspiration from the startup sector to teach you how to take a human-centered and design thinking-based perspective on problem solving.”
  • Green BIC Brunch, Jan 2024: Focus on Libraries – Book Industry Communication Ltd. Thursday 25 January, 12-13.30, online. “Join us in January 2024 when we’ll be hearing from key library sector stakeholders about their sustainability initiatives, goals, and challenges and what it means to be green. We’ll also be sharing an update on all of BIC’s work in this space – with the latest updates on our current projects that form part of our ongoing Green Supply Chain Plan.”
  • Libraries, critical thinking and the war on truth – what lies ahead in 2024 – CILIP / Nick Poole. “Let us be under no illusions – the principle of universal access to a free, quality library service supported by professional library staff is under sustained assault in the UK. As Local Authorities begin to push back on central Government cuts by challenging the legal definition of ‘minimum service requirements’, we will likely see further challenges to the idea of libraries as a universal entitlement in the months ahead. As a profession, our responsibility is not to ‘see both sides’ of the debate about volunteerism and cuts to library services. We have a duty to call it what it is – a fraud that has been perpetrated on the tax-paying public…”
  • Library data storytelling – Library Data Blog. “This is a invitation to public library organisations to get involved in a new project. The idea: create a set of data stories using public library data, add a beautiful data visualisation for each one, and publish in physical and digital form.”
  • Restoring our services – an update – Knowledge Master Blog / British Library. Catalogue will return on 15 January but in “read only” form. “what happened to us in October has implications for the whole collections sector, and in the months ahead we will begin to share the lessons we’ve learned from this experience with our partners and peer institutions.”
  • “Totally and utterly bereft”: the devastating repercussions of the British Library Cyber Attack – Standard. ” On a visit this week, staff computers were still completely turned off throughout the building. Morale seemed low: one worker said he had to change his passport and bank details, like most of his colleagues — and said the place was “technologically paralysed”. Inside the reading rooms, a visitor could be overheard getting irritated with a librarian about not being able to access the archives. They wearily replied he should take it up with bosses, who had kept workers in the dark.”

International news

Global/India – “Have public libraries become obsolete? – Firstpost. “Almost a fifth of UK libraries have closed over the past decade. In the last two decades, America’s library visits have seen a 31% slump. In the last five years, 60 libraries have closed in South Africa. This is a trend across the world. That’s because public libraries are underfunded. Many face catastrophic budget cuts. They are no longer sacred to knowledge thanks to digitisation. Nostalgia is not enough to save libraries. So how can they be rescued? Palki Sharma tells you.”
  • Global – OverDrive: Record Number of Libraries Hit One Million Digital Lends in 2023 – Publishers Weekly. “OverDrive reps reported this week that a record 152 library systems and consortia across seven countries—including 41 states and seven Canadian provinces—surpassed the one million digital lends benchmark in 2023, which includes e-books, digital audiobooks, and digital magazines. The numbers represent a significant jump from the 129 library systems that hit the milestone in 2022.”
  • Australia – ‘The incentive to steal isn’t there’: the lost cause of tracking library theft – Guardian. “Few, if any, libraries truly know how many books are actually stolen. Lost library books are a small part of the natural attrition of library collections – normal wear and tear is expected and some are fatally damaged. But while we’ve all lost a library book in our time, Morley estimates fewer than 1% of loaned books across NSW public libraries go missing.”. Many do not charge fines, some problems from those stealing books as a form of censoring them, but “why steal something that is free?” … ““The big change,” Hakim says, “is a lot of use of study space, working areas and people using the library for social services.””
  • Europe – Libraries for the future: Europe’s new wave of ‘meeting places for the mind’ – Guardian. Ghent’s city library: ” “This is more than a library, though books are its core. It’s also a place to learn, connect, develop, collaborate. Or just to be. A meeting place for our minds. De Krook is not alone. All also built in the past seven or eight years, Helsinki’s Oodi central library, Dokk1 in Denmark’s Aarhus, and Deichman Bjørvika in Oslo share much the same vision of the library: in effect a living room for the 21st-century city.”

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeenshire – Explore Aberdeenshire’s countryside and coast from the comfort of a warm library – Grampian Online. “Live Life Aberdeenshire Libraries is collaborating with Aberdeenshire Council’s Ranger service to deliver a series of free talks …”
  • Argyll and Bute – Still no decision on Rosneath’s library – Lochside Press. “A final decision has still not been made on the future of Rosneath’s library, almost four years after it last opened. Libraries across Scotland were closed when Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were first imposed in March 2020. Every other library operated by LiveArgyll, a charitable trust set up by Argyll and Bute Council in 2017, has since reopened. But the library in Rosneath has remained closed”
  • Birmingham – Cuts put Birmingham’s libraries at risk – Birmingham Against The Cuts. Cuts expected. Council consultation open to criticism. Previous cuts should be taken into account.
  • Blaenau Gwent – Trinity Chapel to transform into library and community hub – South Wales Argus. “Trinity Chapel, Abertillery, to house a new modern library, together with a new community space. … Abertillery Library, run by the Aneurin Leisure Trust, will relocate from its existing location in Castle Street to the more accessible Town Centre location once the works are completed.”
  • Bournemouth Christchurch Poole – Boscombe library forced to close after ‘substantial leak’ – Daily Echo. “closed since November 29 after leaks followed by a period of heavy rain has led to flooding inside. Residents have been unable to access the library since, due to damaged carpets and the computers being switched off. BCP Council has said conversations with the landlord of the building are ongoing to get it back open, but an exact opening date is yet to be known. “
  • Bracknell Forest – Budget consultation – Bracknell Forest Council. “I support the council’s proposed reorganisation of its library and customer service teams and closure of the home library service, to enable more services, including blue badges and bus passes, to be provided in local facilities, with a saving of £200,000 over the next two years. Please note, this proposal does not include any reduction in the number of libraries, their opening hours or the activities they provide for the community.”
  • Bradford – Local libraries support district-wide rhyme challenge – Rombalds Radio. “The annual Rhyme Challenge sees parents and children aged six and under learning five rhymes together with the reward of a certificate for taking part.”
    • Have your say on the Council’s Proposed Financial Plan and Budget proposals for 2024-25 – Bradford Council. £900K cut. “Strategic Review of Libraries (£0 in 2024-25 rising to £175,000 by 2025-26). The Council is undertaking a strategic review of its libraries to identify how overall operating costs can be reduced. This review will focus on the overall costs of the library services which are mainly contained within the council run libraries and specifically review facility operating costs, usage data, property and asset stock-condition and the potential for alternative operating models to be adopted”
  • Brighton and Hove – Share what our libraries mean for you in an exciting installation – Brighton and Hove Council. “You will have the opportunity to contribute to a collective wall digitally with a tablet, where you can select a sticker and type in a message which will then appear on a screen. Or you can also share your thoughts via a traditional sticky note on the wall. The installation is a part of our Community Connect project, which aims to attract new audiences to join our library community and remind everyone of the abundance of services provided by our libraries, which go far beyond books.”
  • Bristol – Council leaders urged to scrap recruitment freeze that has forced Bristol library closures – Bristol World. “All 26 local branches across the city have shut their doors to residents at least once since the local authority ordered a ban on casual employees” … “There have been 287 full or part-day closures in total, with the worst hit being Filwood which has closed 22 times”
    • Libraries in Bristol closed for fifth of planned opening hours last month after staff freeze – Bristol Post. “Libraries in Bristol were closed for a fifth of the time they were planned to be open last month after a recruitment freeze. Councillors urged the mayor to reopen libraries as temporary closures are becoming much more common since a ban on casual staff came into effect. Labour says lifting the ban on casual staff would cost £300,000 and mean cuts elsewhere to Bristol City Council services. Meanwhile opposition councillors warned the library service could be damaged in the long term, similar to the planning department’s staffing struggles.
  • Caerphilly – Newly refurbished Rhymney Library Hub opens its doors – Caerphilly Council. “The new improvements include refurnished and modernisation of both floors of the library, as well as an innovative education, reading and support hub for residents, council staff and partner organisations.
    Many of the new features and design which the community can now use, were taken from a Community Voice Survey carried out with local residents.”
  • Cheshire East – Cheshire East Council Budget Consultation for 2024 to 2025 – Cheshire East Council – “Proposal EC4: Fund libraries a different way: Seek alternative funding to maintain either current or a reduced level of service delivery, including partnership working with Town and Parish Councils to secure contributions towards safeguarding service provision in their local area. As part of this continue to push forward with new income generation initiatives within the wider library estate, utilising the building assets to offer new third-party services to the public. Potential savings for 2024/25 = £0.37 million.” see also Tip closures among council’s budget plans – BBC.
  • Reading – Library will be moved in Reading in £8.6m investment – Reading Chronicle. “The main library in Reading is set to be moved to a new site in the town centre as a  £8.6 million project has been given the go-ahead. Reading Central Library has been located in King’s Road for nearly 40 years since it was opened back in 1985. Now the library’s collection and its facilities are set to be moved to the council offices in Bridge Street as part of a £8.6 million project. But before the move can take place, the project required consent from the council’s planning applications committee.”
  • Somerset – Agenda Reports Pack – Somerset Council. Proposals include £25k staff cut (no more relief budget), closing Performing Arts Library, ending mobile library service, 10% reduction in opening hours, closure of libraries (minimum £50k to maximum £380k).
  • Staffordshire – Cost of living campaign gives helping hand to thousands of Staffordshire residents – Staffordshire Council. “These include county council and community managed libraries, providing warm welcoming spaces to residents and saving families an estimated £60,000 since 2020 with pre-loved school uniform markets. “
  • St Helens – Closing date confirmed for four St Helens libraries axed by council – St Helens Star. Garswood, Rainhill, Rainford and Parr to close on 26 January. “The decision to axe four libraries and also not to reopen Peter Street and Billinge libraries, which have already been closed for some time due to the expiry of a building lease and structural issues respectively, was strongly opposed by many in the communities affected, who expressed anger and sadness at what they branded a “disastrous decision”” … “The council says “positive talks” continue with groups interested in a community-managed approach in a number of the areas affected by closures.”
  • Swindon – Swindon libraries have a long way to go to recover from Covid – Swindon Advertiser. “In 2018-2019 there were 521,923 visits to the five libraries with 587,155 books borrowed. That dropped very slightly the year after, where the very end of the financial year saw a complete lockdown. The last full year, 2022-23, saw 240,906 visits and 275,704 items loaned, hugely higher than both 2020-21 and 2021-22, but still less than half the figures pre-pandemic.”