Some huge budgetary reductions have been announced or elaborated upon this week, with consultations either in progress or about to be. It looks like Nottingham, fresh from opening a new central library, now has no money to pay for many of the others, meaning that up to 12 out of its 15 can no longer be afforded. Two Welsh councils have announced cuts: Conwy a 25% reduction in opening hours and Ceredigion a halving of its fleet of four mobiles, ending its service to schools and co-locating library services into other council buildings. Greenwich, with its library service operated by GLL/Better, said that it may reduce its funding there by £1.5m. Whether GLL will go the same way as York Explore and contest this cut remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the huge previously announced reduction to Birmingham libraries, with up to 25 libraries threatened, is facing protests as are Hillingdon Council, who are more normally known for upgrading its libraries, for proposing to greatly reduce the size of Uxbridge Library. Libraries that are already volunteer run are also proving not be immune, with Derby is looking at moving theirs to a trust model and Kirklees being accused of betraying its volunteers by removing funding from libraries already run by them.

On the plus front, Hackney is putting some serious investment in to its libraries, with Stoke Newington at last (it’s been proposed since at least 2017) closed for refurbishment and repairs. It’s also good news for libraries on the coast. I love the location of Brighton and Hove’s lido library, now reopened, and Portsmouth has reopened it’s North End Library, both after repairs refurbishment. It also looks to be a return to the good times in Guernsey, although presumably it’s always pretty good on that blessed island. Libraries are also being used in novel (excuse the pun) ways, with musical instruments being lent out in Glasgow and ukeleles in Tameside. Service expansion wise, there’s green bin help being provided in Gloucestershire (although this appears to be more of a desperation measure), blood pressure monitors in Ruislip, measle vaccinations in Lambeth and hearing aid batteries being given out in Moray.

Changes by library authority

National news

“The public library is a promise that a government makes to its citizens that they not only have a right to participate in society, but to gain the skills that make that participation possible”

Nick Poole reported by Tracie D Hall
  • DCMS to conduct full-scale review into Arts Council England – BookSeller. “In 2022 Jacob Rees-Mogg, then minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency, launched a review programme to decide the future of public bodies such as ACE. ACE has been earmarked for review in the 2023/24 financial year as part of this review programme.  “
  • King’s Honours and Points of Light Awards – Libraries Connected. “The King’s Honours and Points of Light Awards celebrate amazing people and can generate a positive buzz about public libraries. Nominating library staff and volunteers for a national award is a great way to show someone who has really made a difference through their work in libraries that their efforts have been recognised and appreciated. At this webinar, colleagues from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) outlined the different awards available, talk through the process of making a nomination, and shared their top tips.”
  • Lorraine host Ranvir Singh slammed for laughing at people who go to libraries – Metro. “When Jay mentioned that he would go to the library to work on his book, Ranvir scoffed, laughed and said: ‘The library! ‘You’re such an old school soul. Who goes to the library anymore?’ Well it turns out plenty of people do — and they were not forgiving.”
  • The number of drivers caught exceeding 20mph limit in first month of new education scheme – Wales Online. “Currently, the guidance is that the speed drivers will be stopped at is 26mph, 2mph more than the usual speed the limit will be enforced at. They are spoken to in a nearby public facility, such as a fire station, police station, or library, in a session that lasts around 10 minutes.”
  • Ten poems about libraries – Candlestick Press. “Libraries are treasured places. We may remember visiting a local library in childhood to explore an early delight in reading. Or perhaps we have come to value them in later life, as a calm sanctuary where we can daydream among beloved books.” … “The poems are selected and introduced by poet Lorraine Mariner who has worked at the National Poetry Library in London for many years.”

International news

Local news by authority

  • Barnsley – Barnsley Book Festival celebrates successful launch – Yorkshire Evening Post. “Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist Mama G hosted two completely packed story time sessions.” … “Barnsley Book Festival is supported using public funding by Arts Council England as part of Barnsley Libraries’ National Portfolio Organisation activity.”
  • Birmingham – Save Birmingham Libraries – Change. “Birmingham City Council has unveiled plans to close twenty-five neighbourhoood libraries and consolidate services into a handful of what they bill as ‘Community Living Rooms’. Closing these essential services will affect the most vulnerable in our communities and is certain to affect the education and life chances of young people in some of our city’s most socially deprived areas. As journalist Caitlin Moran wrote in response to the last wave of library closures: “a library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft and a festival”.” 3495 signatures at time of checking.
    • Birmingham City Council eyes up plans to close libraries to cut costs – Planet Radio. “Plans have been floated at the feasibility of closing 25 of the city’s 36 libraries, which could help bring £300 million into the budget over the next three years. According to proposals, a total of 11 libraries would be left open to the public – with one library remaining open per constituency.”
    • Campaigners plead with councillors to rethink plans to close twenty-five Birmingham libraries – ITV. “In an interview with ITV News Central, school librarian Caroline Chilton spoke about Kings Heath library: “It’s massively important. When our students reach us at 11, the majority of children who come in are avid readers, say Kings Heath library was somewhere they grew up coming to.” When asked about the impact of a potential closure, Ms Chilton added: “Just devastated for the community, for all of us.””
  • Bradford – Interactive mystery show for children coming to Bradford libraries this Easter – Yahoo News. “Leeds Opera Festival has announced the tour of its new immersive experience, The Book of Eternity. The story is written by leading children’s mystery author Clare Povey.” … tour of “20 libraries across Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and Kirklees.”
  • Brighton and Hove – Saltdean Library welcomes customers back to historic Lido building – Brighton and Hove Council. “The brand new library space benefits from a full restoration complete with comfortable furniture and a new layout, creating a bright and modern community hub everyone can enjoy.”
Brighton and Hove
  • Ceredigion – Councillors question plans to cut library services and close buildings – Cambrian News. “Councillors have questioned plans to scrap a school library service, halve the amount of mobile library vans, and move town libraries into shared buildings as Ceredigion County Council continues to try and find savings in its budget. Members of the Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee heard that the council wants to slash the libraries budget by £187,000 in a bid to balance the books.”
  • Conwy – Conwy Council proposes slashing library opening hours – Rhyl Journal. ” could slash library opening hours by 25 per cent in a bid to save more money – following a proposed public consultation due to be rubber-stamped by cabinet next week.” … “The move would see a restructure with staff redundancies, but the reduced hours would mean Conwy clawing back £157,126 annually. But a council report has revealed that, if the cuts were made, no savings would be made until 2025/26 because of the cost of making redundancies and paying off staff.”
  • Cornwall – Bodmin’s historic library reopens after £760k makeover – BBC. “A community interest company (CIC) has reopened an historic Bodmin Building. The Old Library has been closed for six months whilst a £760,000 renovation took place. IntoBodmin said it transformed the structure into a community and arts space that includes a cafe, co-working and events spaces and room hire for groups and local businesses.” [So, basically a modern library but without all those books – Ed.]
  • Croydon – Croydon Council denies library closures are to do with paying off debt – East London Lines. “four out of 13 public libraries in Croydon are set to be closed within the next few months, but the council has denied that the reason for the closures has to do with paying off their £1.6bn debt. In a webinar held last week, Kristian Aspinall, Director of Culture and Community Safety said the libraries’ closure is “for the ability to spend more on people and services, and less on buildings” as opposed to a way of decreasing the debt.”
  • DerbyNew plan to keep Derby’s libraries open gets the green light – Derby Telegraph. “Derby’s Labour council leaders say their new “trust” plan will help ensure a better and more sustainable future for ten city libraries and save them from closure. Councillors have approved plans for all of the city’s 10 community-led libraries to be run by a single trust in the near future. The separate organisation, yet to be appointed, could either run the community libraries itself or establish another organisation to do so.”
  • Glasgow – Glasgow’s Mitchell Library lets kids borrow instruments Glasgow Times. “The library has teamed up with Music Broth, Scotland’s first musical instrument library, as part of the We Make Music Instrument Libraries project, Glasgow Life confirmed. The project is supported and workshops fully funded by the Creative Scotland Youth Music Initiative and the Music Education Partnership Group (MEPG), aiming to increase access to musical instruments into libraries across Scotland.”
  • Gloucestershire – People struggling to renew green bin collections told ‘council doesn’t have enough staff – go to the library or get kids to sort it’ – Gloucestershire Live. Council has insufficient trained staff to answer phoneline. At cabinet meeting: “There are lots of people who do not know how to use IT and one woman was asked to go to the library”
    • Stroud Library has a temporary new home – Punchline Gloucester. “A pop up library has opened in Five Valleys Shopping Centre following the sudden closure of Stroud Library. The town’s library closed with immediate effect following the discovery of RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete) in the building.”
  • Greenwich – Dirtier streets and library cuts: Greenwich Council reveals plans to save £33.7m – Greenwich Wire. ” The council is in negotiations with Greenwich Leisure Limited, its contactor, and thinks it could save £1.05 million next year by closing sites (“co-locating services”) and cutting services. More details could emerge after April.”
  • Guernsey – Guernsey’s Guille-Alles Library celebrates surge in visitors – ITV. “The library’s annual report recorded a significant increase in footfall, which is higher than pre-pandemic levels of 2019. There were around 162,000 visits to Guille-Alles last year – a 6.5% increase from 2022.”
  • Hackney – Stoke Newington Library closing for refurbishment as part of £4.4m investment plan – Hackney Council. “Stoke Newington Library is set to temporarily close its doors to the public for a renovation project which includes repairs made to the roof and fabric of the community facility. The Council’s £4.4 million investment into the borough’s libraries is at the heart of Hackney’s new library strategy which aims to modernise the borough’s libraries and ensure they are flexible, innovative and inclusive spaces that cater to the needs of residents. Stoke Newington Library will close from Sunday 31 March for up to two years to accommodate the major capital works that are needed to repair the roof and fabric of the Grade 2 listed building which was built in 1892 and houses Stoke Newington’s World War One Memorial. “
  • Highlands – Your views: Libraries in the Highlands and council’s £863k overspend on former employees – Inverness Courier. Letter from SLIC: “It’s no secret that Scotland’s libraries, along with the rest of our world-class culture sector, are currently embroiled in a perfect storm: budget pressures, reduced income generation, and rising costs have created a potent force for our services to contend with. That’s why we’ve written to councillors across the Highlands, ahead of final decisions being taken on 2024/25 public spending, to not only remind them of the vast benefits a thriving public library service can provide, but to highlight those who stand to lose the most if our services are cut even further – communities across the Highlands.”
  • Hillingdon – Uxbridge Library protests planned as council decides on move that would cut move it to single floor – My London News. “The proposal will see the current library, which is spread over a purpose-built multi-storey building, moved onto a single floor. While the council has said that this will mean a ‘step-free experience’ allowing for better access, some residents have raised concerns that there could be a loss of space and therefore fewer books and services on offer.”
    • Hillingdon Council forced to leave chamber as public gallery erupts over Uxbridge Library decision – MyLondon. “The councillors present at the meeting, including leader Ian Edwards, seemed all too aware of the anger of those sitting in the audience. At one stage during Cllr Lavery’s speech, he mentioned that users of the library had been contacted by email about the move, which was met with indignation by many in the crowd. Indignation turned to fury when the decision was handed down – the library would move to the Civic Centre. The crowd interrupted into a cacophony of heckling. Chants of ‘shame on you’ could be heard rippling through the audience and as the leader attempted to bring order to proceedings, the fury only grew. The berated panel were forced to leave the chamber until order had been restored.”
    • Libraries, including Ruislip, launch free blood pressure monitor loan scheme – Harrow Online.
  • Kirklees – Councillor accuses Kirklees Council of “betraying” volunteers who helped save community libraries – Huddersfield Hub. Volunteers libraries will have their funding removed. They “all have strong ‘Friends of’ groups and teams of volunteers and the council says the move would save £912,000 in 2025-26 if community groups can be found to take them on. In previous years when the Library Service came under pressure to cut staff, dozens of volunteers signed up to help fill the void. There are now 400 volunteers working in libraries across Kirklees. While the community libraries would be independently-run, they would still have access to the council’s stock of books and have “some management support.””
  • Lambeth – Get protection from Measles with Lambeth Libraries – Love Lambeth. “Community catch-up clinics in Lambeth Libraries this half-term”
  • Lancashire – Children to vote for their top reads as part of exciting award – Lancashire Council. “The Brilliant Book Award 2024 has been launched, marking its fifth year of nurturing love of reading by celebrating recently published stories for children aged six to seven years.”
  • Leicester – Leicester libraries launch new app – Leicester Council. “The free ‘Leicester Libraries;’ app will make it easy and convenient for library members to check their accounts, renew and reserve books, or search an extensive catalogue of e-books, newspapers, magazines and audiobooks that all available to read online for free.” … “The new app has been developed with funding from LibraryOn, following a successful bid by Leicester City Council’s libraries service.”
  • Merton – Cost of living events continue in Merton – Merton Council. “To date, over 2,500 Merton residents have attended twelve cost of living events in our borough: six were held in 2022 and a further six in 2023. At events, residents are invited to come and meet community organisations and council teams in our libraries and Merton Civic Centre for in-person, one-to-one support”
  • Moray – NHS hearing aid battery pick-up point available in some Moray libraries – Moray Council. ” free service, offering up to two packs of size 13 and size 312 batteries for collection, is run by Moray Council in collaboration with NHS Grampian”
  • North Northamptonshire – New Library: Oundle Library – Naple Sister Libraries. 141 public libraries in Europe now participating in the programme.
  • North Somerset – Successful sale of the old Nailsea Library – North Somerset Council. “Sale of the building follows the library’s successful move to a nearby site on Colliers Walk, previously occupied by HSBC. The move means the library is now in a more accessible and energy efficient multi-functional space, which has already proven popular with the community. This replaces the old building, which could no longer meet the needs of local people or access legislation and would have cost around £1m for the council to bring to standard. “
  • NottinghamNottingham library closures now expected amid council’s financial crisis – Nottingham Post. “The closure of some of Nottingham’s libraries is now expected as the city council continues to battle a financial crisis. The council’s leader says people are “not living in the real world” if they think enough savings will be made without closing facilities.” … “The review of the libraries is not yet defined, but if we think that we’re going to get more than a million pounds out of our libraries without closing some of them, then we’re not living in the real world. So that’s another thing that could be taken away”
  • Nottingham City Council reportedly consulting on keeping just three libraries open – Nottingham Post. “Nottingham City Council is reportedly planning to consult on keeping just three of its libraries open amid a multi-million pound hole in its budget. The leader of the authority has previously acknowledged that closing libraries will be inevitable to generate the savings required. One campaigner now claims that, at a monthly meeting with union representatives on Thursday (February 15), Councillor David Mellen said there would be a twelve-week consultation on whether to close 12 branch libraries. Of the 15 libraries operated by Nottingham City Council, it is claimed that the consultation could seek views on the closure of all of them apart from the new Central Library, the upcoming Sherwood Library and the Aspley Library. The meeting was attended by representatives from UNISON, GMB and Unite.”
  • Portsmouth – Author adds the Sparkes to library reopening – Portsmouth Council. “Schoolchildren and award-winning author Ali Sparkes helped officially reopen a newly refurbished North End Library.” … “he main library floor has been re-carpeted, the wooden bookshelves re-stained, and new computer chairs added. The children’s library has been brightened up with new book boxes and there is new seating and tables for adults. A self-contained office ‘pod’ is also coming soon for meetings and calls, funded by Arts Council England’s Library Improvements Fund.”
  • Tameside – Strum on Down to the Ukulele Loan Scheme Launch – Tameside Council. “hanks to a generous donation from the North West Ukulele Project, you can now borrow one of the instruments for free. Just like a book, you can have it one  for three weeks, and renew or return it to any Tameside library.”
  • Warwickshire – Warwickshire Libraries’ Great Winter Get Together – Warwickshire Council. “There is a packed timetable with different activities and events taking place at libraries across the county every day. From author talks to advice sessions, craft activities to IT information and support. Along with activities for children and families, with jigsaws and games for all ages.”
  • West Northamptonshire – Rare Roman bracelet and Iron Age axe head now on display to the public – Northampton Chronicle. “a new temporary exhibition which is touring around four libraries.”
  • York – ‘Please don’t cut the funding for our libraries’ – Yahoo News. ” write in response to City of York Council’s proposal to cut £300,000 in each of the next two years from its funding contract with Explore library services (The Press online, January 17). Like many others I completely rely on my local branch library for internet access and printing documents. Because I use library services nearly every day, I joined the local library volunteers as a ‘thank you’. Library volunteers save library services £240k each year. We give up our valuable time freely because it is such an important service and invaluable to the local community.”
    • ‘Charge students council tax to save York libraries?’ – York Press / Letters. “Places without libraries die, they become soulless – what I do not understand is that the council is saying there is no money and yet we are a city with lots of student flats and the owners of those flats do not pay council taxes (they say that students are exempt) however the students still get full use of all facilities offered by the council.”
    • Firm that runs libraries in city warns against cuts of £600,000 – Yorkshire Post.
    • ‘Leave our libraries alone!’ – York library users speak out against cuts – Yahoo News. “If councillors do cut funding, she says, they will be ‘truly diminishing people’s lives’.” … ““It’s just such a happy place to be. And it’s always really busy, with things for different people. It’s a lifeline.””
    • York library service fears cuts could make them ‘financially unviable’ – Press. “The letter, sent to every city councillor in York and signed by Explore York chief executive Jenny Layfield on behalf of her board of directors, urged the authority to ‘exclude reductions in library services from your budget proposals’. The letter said the library service had already been hard hit by inflation and price hikes.” Staff have had pay rises lower than inflation. “But the letter has provoked a stinging response from the council’s Labour executive, which has accused Explore of showing ‘disregard for precarious council funding’.”
Warwickshire “There is a myth that all librarians wear cardigans, this is not true. Some wear jumpers”