CILIP have produced a “Public Libraries At Risk” monitor due to the number of cuts happening, or likely to happen, to British libraries in the current local government funding crisis. I remember doing the same thing back more than a decade ago. Back then, CILIP were remarkably quiet over library cuts, due to a belief that it was more productive to work behind the scenes. Clearly, the time since 2010 has changed viewpoints. I wonder if 2024 will change governments.

There’s probably no shortage of places to map. This week, Kirklees stands out. It had already changed a lot of its libraries to volunteer-run to save money, but with council funding support. Now, with more cuts planned, the council is looking at withdrawing that money as well. The other place getting a lot of coverage is York where the council had already changed its to libraries to a trust model to save money. Now, with more cuts planned, the council is looking to withdraw £300k per year from it. Hmm, bit of deja vu there and suggestive that ongoing cuts, unless they are stopped, will necessarily have no end regardless of short term solutions. But, interestingly, one of the major reasons Kirklees and York are getting so much publicity is because of the semi-independence they were granted in the last round of cuts. York Explore has a vested interest in standing up for its funding, as do the Kirklees volunteer groups. And both are allowed to do so. If they were purely council run, it would be a different story.

A very different story too in Ireland, where our neighbours are running a national pro-libraries campaign and looking across the water with horror, and possibly some schadenfreude, at that is happening in the UK. They have a “superb” library service there, no cuts, no fines even. And just so the British don’t feel terrible, I should mention things can be worse. In the USA, there are continuing moves to criminalise librarians personally for their book choices. At least York Explore and Kirklees volunteers are unlikely to go to prison …

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Celebrate The Very Hungry Caterpillar this Spring – Reading Agency. Chance to win some free books.
  • Libraries as a Gateway to Forging Your Own Path: Jane Austen, Murder Mysteries, and Me – Publishers Weekly. “Austen’s surviving letters are full of references to circulating libraries (commercial enterprises where books were circulated among members, as opposed to private libraries where they remain in situ) and book societies (groups of individuals who would club together to purchase reading materials and then share them among themselves). It is sobering to think that without access to libraries, the life of our greatest ever novelist might have taken a different path.”
  • Library Cyber Defences Are Falling Down – Dark Reading. “The massive ransomware attack on the British Library last October should be ringing alarm bells for knowledge repositories around the world.” … “The reliance on technology for online activities, digital exhibitions, and interactive experiences using wireless networks has democratized access to knowledge and opened new avenues for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities.”
  • New law is required to protect public libraries from future cuts – Glasgow Times. One in five Scottish libraries have closed since 2010. “The actual number of library closures is likely to be higher because the recent trend is to describe the closure of a purpose-built public library as a “co-relocation”.” … “n terms of section 163(2) of the 1973 Local Government (Scotland) Act, a local authority has a mandatory duty “to secure the provision of adequate library facilities for all persons resident in their area”. Such facilities must be free under the 1887 Public Libraries Consolidation (Scotland) Act. The concept of “adequate library facilities” isn’t legally defined, so councils have a wide discretion to decide what library provision is required locally. I believe the time has come to introduce more modern legislation to make it harder to close public libraries.”
  • Public Libraries at Risk Monitor – CILIP. “The Libraries at Risk Monitor provides a resource for the sector and beyond to keep track of proposed budget changes in local authorities that will impact libraries across the UK and Northern Ireland. Scroll over a county on the interactive map to see where libraries are at risk of funding cuts that will reduce services and service provision, and where CILIP has been in touch with the local authority about the threat of closure.”
  • Tracking Information Literacy Undercurrents in Public Libraries – Infolit. “these three projects all highlight issues of intangibility within information literacy as a discipline, which become particularly visible when the issues they address come up against the very pragmatic and rigorously hands-on nature of public libraries. “

International news

  • Germany / South Korea / USA – Staircases to Stories: Exploring the Vertical Designs of Modern Libraries – Princh. “Some of the best libraries in the world feature modern designs where thousands upon thousands of books are displayed on towering shelves or multiple floors for the public to enjoy. These contemporary libraries with vertical designs are truly worth a visit, so drop by any of these places and be amazed by these sanctuaries for book lovers.”
  • Ireland – Public libraries are a vital resource – Irish Times / Letters. “As news comes from across the water that Birmingham City Council is planning to close down 25 of its 36 libraries, it is worth celebrating at least one thing that Irish society is certainly getting right. Our public library system is superb: new and refurbished libraries regularly open (such as, shortly, the Mayfair Library in the centre of Kilkenny) and the free online ordering system is a marvel.”
Los Angeles – Did you know you can check out a musical instrument at many public libraries? From laptops, to e-books, museum passes and more– the library is so much more than books these days. Good Day LA’s Brooke Thomas spent a day at LA Central Library for a refresher on what you can borrow for free.
  • Shall we criminalize libraries? – Free Thought Blogs. “Those nefarious librarians are probably plotting to commit evil acts like stocking children’s books that present sexuality in an informative and non-threatening way, and maybe they’ll even bring in people wearing women’s clothing to entertain kids and encourage reading. It’s all part of their wicked plan.”
    • West Virginia House passes bill allowing prosecution of librarians – News and Sentinel. Supporters say “What this bill does do is stop obscene and pornographic material, sexually explicit materials from being available to children in public taxpayer-funded spaces.” but opponents point out there is no definition of “obscene”.

Local news by authority

  • Argyll and Bute – Community library offers amnesty – Lochside Press. “Housed upstairs in Cove Burgh Hall, the library was previously run by Argyll and Bute Council until it was axed during cuts in 2010 – despite an earlier promise to keep it open when another group of volunteers took over the hall itself. The library in Rosneath has never reopened after Covid-19 lockdowns, meaning the nearest taxpayer-funded library is 18 miles away in Helensburgh.”
  • Birmingham – The battle to save Birmingham’s libraries as campaigners say ‘it’s really sad’ – Birmingham Mail. ““There are so many needs in our community, and the library helps us meet those needs. We’ve already got a bare-bones system, and these cuts will decimate them – it’s really sad.””
  • Bournemouth Christchurch Poole – BCP Council launches public consultation over future of Christchurch’s library service – Advertiser and Times. “A report presented to Cabinet members at their latest meeting said “alternative models of delivery” needed to be explored.”
  • Bradford – Visitors from world’s first Carnegie library visit Keighley Library – Telegraph and Argus. “Librarians from the world’s first Carnegie Library, in Dunfermline – birthplace of industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie – visited Keighley Library in its 120th anniversary year. Keighley Library was England’s first Carnegie Library.”
    • Children’s mini library to be sited in Keighley Co-op store – Keighley News. “The free, children’s library is being sited in the retailer’s outlet at Broomhill Avenue. Youngsters will be able to choose from a bookcase full of different titles, and leave books for others. Keighley Town Council is staging the initiative, in collaboration with the Co-op and author Christina Gabbitas – founder of Children’s Literature Festivals, which aims to give children and families from less privileged areas free access to books.”
  • Brighton and Hove – Hollingbury Library: A Beacon of Hope Amid Budgetary Shadows – BNN. “Hollingbury has not only survived but thrived, weaving itself into the fabric of the community through innovative services and unwavering commitment. From hosting school visits to pioneering a toy checkout service, this library demonstrates the enduring power of such spaces to foster education, connection, and hope.”
    • Share your thoughts on libraries’ recent campaign – Brighton and Hove Council. “Our libraries invite everyone to share their thoughts and impressions of the recent Everyone’s Library campaign which aimed to inspire a new generation of library users across the city. Anyone regardless of whether they saw the campaign or hold a library membership can participate in an online Community Connect feedback form to share their thoughts.”
  • Cambridgeshire – March library offering free coats to help community in winter – Yahoo. “March Library, along with Bar Hill library, is offering free coats to help out members of the community who are struggling during this winter. Both libraries, owned by Cambridgeshire County Council, have a rail of winter coats that visitors can take without any questions being asked. The winter coat rail was set in January, after a successful Christmas jumper rail in December.”
  • East Riding – East Riding Libraries to launch Little Readers scheme for preschool children – East Riding Council. “Parents can collect a free passport and bookmark for pre-school children and meet the gorgeous new character Hoot, the owl who loves to read. Parents will be able to use their passport to collect a special Hoot stamp each time they visit the library and get a super certificate for every five stamps; there are ten different designs to collect.”
  • East Sussex – Amnesty for missing library books in East Sussex begins – Isle of Wight Radio. “Our previous amnesty led to the return of hundreds of books, including one due back in 1975, and we hope that we have the same success this year. Every year thousands of books fail to make it back to us, meaning others miss out.  We would be grateful if people could take this opportunity to check their bookshelves and bedside tables and return any library books they find, without facing a fine.
  • Essex – Fulfilling our promises for Everyone’s Essex – Essex Council. “We have also continued investing in the services you told us you value. Unlike many places in the UK, no Essex libraries have been closed by this administration.”
  • Halton – Halton Lea Library just one of 20 to 1,200 free books – Runcorn and Widnes World. “Halton Lea Library will also receive further funding to host a follow-up event in between April – July, to encourage children to continue visiting the library and discover a love of reading” … ” “We are extremely privileged to be selected as one of the 20 libraries to receive funding to host a fun-filled event for our local children. We’re hopeful that this event will be a catalyst for long-term engagement and that we see a number of the school children return to our library with a new-found love of books and reading.”
  • Hampshire – Eastleigh Library set to close temporarily: this is why – Yahoo News. “The building has been judged to not be fit for purpose after years of not being upgraded. Hampshire County Council will close Eastleigh Library to make urgent refurbishments that will include the children’s area being redecorated and upgraded, changes to the workroom, and an adjustment to the layout of the adult library.”
  • Islington – Getting rid of printed newspapers in library is ‘ageist and discriminatory’ – Islington Tribune. “Maggie Roberts, a retired journalist, says she has been using Archway Library in Highgate Hill for 30 years, but was appalled after cuts to the service were brought in by “stealth” under the guise of Covid. “They got rid of newspapers during the pandemic, due to hygiene reasons, but when every­thing opened up again, they just never brought the newspapers back,” the 73-year-old said. She has since been told it was a decision taken after the library service made a £30,000 cut.”
  • Kirklees – Save our library services: ‘Disappointment’ as ‘wonderful’ library used by Sir Patrick Stewart faces services shake-up under new Kirklees Council proposals – Dewsbury Reporter. “Councillors and volunteers have expressed their “disappointment” at Kirklees Council’s proposals to move Mirfield Library under the management of a community group.” … “The library, on Huddersfield Road, is one of eight within Kirklees which would be handed over to volunteers to run in plans which, the council say, could save nearly £2 million over a two-year period but put 47 jobs at risk. While libraries at Dewsbury, Batley, Cleckheaton, Birstall and Ravensthorpe will become some of Kirklees’ 10 ‘Integrated Hubs’, Mirfield’s, which is open six days a week and for a total of 35 and a half hours, would lose council staff, as well as building contribution from Kirklees.”
    • Councillors challenge Cabinet as “Sword of Damocles” hangs over eight community libraries – Huddersfield Hub. “A councillor has demanded an assurance that libraries won’t close if Kirklees Council fails to persuade voluntary groups to take them on.” … councillor says ““The ‘Friends of’ groups I’ve spoken to feel they are a victim of their own success,” he said. “What assurance do we have that this council will not close any library should community management not be possible?””
    • Kirklees Council criticised on community-run libraries plan – BBC. “The Conservative spokesperson said the proposed job cuts would “make little difference to the council’s finances, but have a huge negative impact on the community libraries.” … “We will keep a close eye on the outcomes of the feasibility process and make sure our community libraries don’t suffer an unnecessary blow after all they have done for our community,” they added.”
    • Library and customer service functions to integrate for residents in Kirklees – Kirklees Council. “Today (20 Feb) councillors approved plans that would integrate customer service functions with libraries offering a more holistic service for residents. It means people will still be able to access customer service support at a place near them i.e. their local library, rather than travelling to one of the Customer Service Centres.”
  • Lancashire – Preston chosen as pilot area for £250,000 community play library project – Blog Preston. “A network of community play libraries is to be set up across the North after education charity SHINE awarded £249,000 to fund a major new project for early years children.” Pop-in play libraries “which will operate alongside its existing schools programme and within the local communities.”. This looks to be separate to the public library service.
  • Leeds – Leeds chosen to be part of £250,000 project to expand free community play libraries across city – Yorkshire Evening Post. Education charity Shine “has awarded £249,000 to fund a major new project for early years children. The scheme, which will be run by early development experts Boromi, will see free play resources being made available in 250 settings around the North.”
  • Norfolk – Harleston Library celebrates 60 years of loaning page-turners – Diss Express. “The Swan Lane library officially opened on December 11, 1963, but organisers decided to tie in their milestone with ‘Library Lovers Month’ which runs for the whole of February.”
  • North Northamptonshire – Vegetation causing damage to Kettering Library to be removed – North Northamptonshire Council. “Currently, Ivy and Virginia Creeper cover a large portion of the Library and Art Gallery with vegetation growing, at places, through the building’s windows and roof causing damage and impacting the overall building. Now, North Northamptonshire Council will start works to fully remove all the vegetation and clean up the exterior of the building, which will prevent further damage and reduce maintenance costs in the long term, whilst allowing for the historical architecture of the building to be visible.”
  • Somerset – Somerset Libraries lauded as national examples of excellence – Yahoo. “Baroness Sanderson conducted the glowing review, which looked at English Public Libraries. The report applauded six distinct features from Somerset, including their community libraries, health programmes, digital innovation, and thermal camera loans. Somerset also had the most individual contributors with 11 in total.”
  • South Lanarkshire – Protestors to gather outside council headquarters in Hamilton to stop library and hall closures – Planet Radio. “Protestors are going to be outside South Lanarkshire Council’s headquarters in Hamilton this afternoon over proposals to close 37 libraries, halls and community facilities. Hillhouse, Blantyre, Bothwell and Forth libraries are being included in a “review of leisure and culture provision” as well as the Tileworks Park pitches in Stonehouse.”
  • Suffolk – Tell us what you love about your library – Suffolk Libraries. “A comprehensive survey of library customers’ views hasn’t been carried out for a few years and Suffolk Libraries is keen to find out what people think of their local branch, including its facilities and activities and the books and other items on offer.  The survey also includes an opportunity to comment on the comprehensive range of online services including the free elibrary and research sites. Perhaps most importantly it will help Suffolk Libraries to further understand how libraries can make a positive impact on customers’ lives and wellbeing.”
  • Swindon – Latest update on work to reopen library five months after flooding – Yahoo News. “The Link Centre in West Swindon was hit by flooding in September last year, and while the affected ice rink, pool and other gym facilities are now up and running, the West Swindon Library is not. Now, around five months after the local facility was forced to close, the Swindon Libraries and Information Service have provided an update to say it was the worst-hit area in the Link Centre and there is still no known timeline for its reopening.”
  • Windsor and Maidenhead – Library Service hosting ‘Costume Swap’ for World Book Day – Windsor and Maidenhead Council. “The Royal Borough Library Service are holding a ‘Costume Swap’ in preparation for World Book Day. They are inviting everyone to donate clean, gently used children’s costumes to Maidenhead, Windsor, Cookham and Dedworth Libraries. Residents can donate costumes with no obligation to exchange. Everyone is welcome to attend and find their ‘new to you’ costume, even if they don’t have a costume to swap. The initiative has been organised in partnership with the sustainability team.”
  • Wokingham – New library in listed building to open in spring – BBC. “The venue in the Old Polehampton Boys school in Twyford, Berkshire, will offer reading and study space as well as a specially designed children’s area and spaces for activities and events.”
  • Worcestershire – Worcester residents embrace new extended hours library scheme – Worcester News. 65 people have signed up for unstaffed hours access at one library. Scheme open to those 15 and over.
  • York – York Lib Dems to stage a ‘support our libraries’ rally – York Press. Council will vote on cuts to libraries this week. “York’s opposition Liberal Democrats have proposed an ‘alternative budget’ in which they insist those cuts to library services are not necessary.”