Central Government is allowing councils to sell assets directly in order to maintain services. Normally, it would only be able to do this for new initiatives. While of course the Government has doubtless far more nobler ideals for this than simply keeping spending and thus taxes down before the General Election, CILIP has warned it could result in a fire sale of buildings, including libraries, which could have costly consequences further down the line.


One similar attempt to save money, by passing the services to another organisation to manage, have been reversed in a couple of cases just this week. Two library services which were transferred to leisure trusts have returned to their parent council, in at least one case permanently. Warrington has reportedly spent £5m in the full return of Livewire back in to the council and Merthyr Tydfil have brought back Wellbeing Merthyr in-house. In that latter case, they’re looking for a new organisation to take it over. One hopes they settle the strike over pay there first.

All of this, sometimes counterproductive, scrabbling for finance is part of why Irish libraries have started holding their nose while looking at their larger neighbour. John Dolan, who managed Birmingham Libraries back before the Coalition Government, can’t help but see the irony of this. He has emailed with the following, on which I will end this post:

“You may know that one of my earliest and biggest projects as a freelance libraries consultant was indeed in Ireland. In 2012 as a consequence of the 2008 financial crisis, the government abolished the Library Council of Ireland. They retained five staff and took them into the Local Government Management Agency. Some are still in the team.

They contacted me initially to help with a “review” of the state of libraries – somewhat threatening. They then realised there was more mileage in creating a forward development/action plan. I worked with them for almost two years. They were an amazing group to work with, not to mention all the County Librarians and the many staff and user groups all over the country who were engaged in a massive programme of consultation and ideas sharing. We turned the thinking round. The result was a five year Government-backed plan with a ministerial launch. I’m grateful to be credited in the acknowledgments.

The point is that they have kept the momentum and the strategy and are now on the third such plan which supports a nationwide, consistent, coherent, centrally directed, locally delivered library service. This, as you know, is something we’ve never managed in England in spite of several reviews, plans and so on. “

John Dolan

Changes by local authority

National news

  • The 12th Century Library Thief Who Anticipated Today’s Hackers – Time. “Richard the Lionheart (Richard I) was the king of England at the end of the 12th century. He was also a famous library thief.”. French King made mistake of bringing his government archive to war: “When Phillip lost the battle, Richard absconded with the French archive and transported the French crown’s documents to the Tower of London.” … “From then on, the archive stayed put in Paris”

“The British Library ransomware attack invites us to remember that our most beloved textual collections are not, and never have been, above the fray of politics, power structures, and capitalism.”

  • CILIP sounds alarm over ‘fire sale’ of library buildings – Bookseller. “The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), has sounded the alarm over a potential “fire sale” of library buildings following the government announcement of “exceptional financial support” to 19 councils, including Birmingham, Bradford and Nottingham. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced that 19 councils in England will benefit from an “Exceptional Financial Support (EFS)” framework for the fiscal year 2024-25, totalling around £1.5bn. CILIP said: “Rather than representing new investment or capital support, the framework allows the councils involved to use capital receipts from the sale of assets or borrowing to cover their day-to-day costs up to this amount.”
  • Gen Z may love reading, but that won’t save the UK’s struggling libraries – City AM. “any of the things that make libraries so valued have to be sacrificed: opening hours are reduced, the professional expertise of librarians is replaced with volunteers and, perhaps most devastating for our Gen Z aesthetes, beautiful buildings must be sold. In Norfolk, for example, recent news over the relocation of the King’s Lynn central library from its Gothic-style red-brick home to a former Argos in the city centre – where surely no self-respecting Gen Z intellectual would be caught dead – has caused public outcry”
  • Nationwide bedtime routines enhanced as CBeebies Bedtime Stories digital library is created – BBC. “CBeebies Bedtime Stories has launched a new partnership with BookTrust to deliver unique reading corners in libraries across the UK. The partnership launches today with Strictly Come Dancing Star Carlos Gu swapping the glittering Tower Ballroom for the cosy confines of Blackpool Central Library, to perform a live reading in an event hosted by CBeebies House favourites … Across the UK, the partnership will introduce more CBeebies Bedtime Stories legacy reading corners and BookTrust Storytime engagement at libraries in Leeds, Hartlepool, Sandwell, Leicester, Brent and Somerset.”

“I very much hope that people will take up offers at public libraries. An Age Concern report looked at digital availability for the over-70s and found that people who went to the library were far more able to get online. I thank Lloyds Bank, which is bringing its online training to Barnstaple library; anyone who would like to join should contact my office.” Digital Exclusion debate, Westminster Hall, Parliament

Selaine Saxby Conservative, North Devon
  • Public Libraries 2023: Netloan Customer Survey Results – Lorensbergs. “Almost 80% are seeing increases in support needs for employment related queries, benefit applications, other government services, or basic digital skills” … “Nearly 40% of libraries are seeing increased in-person activity driven by factors beyond general post-Covid recovery” … “Average PC session time offered to adult library users is 120 minutes. ” … “95% of libraries felt printing was essential or very important for meeting users’ needs;”

“only a quarter felt councils are regularly thinking ‘Libraries First’ for digital access and skills development. Yet nearly 80% report helping customers sent to them by numerous departments for this purpose”

Public Libraries 2023: Netloan Customer Survey Results
  • Why public libraries are essential – Scottish Booktrust. “Scottish Book Trust programmes come to life when they are delivered by enthusiastic, skilled people across Scotland and many of those people work in libraries. Read on to find out about just some of the ways that Scottish Book Trust team has the privilege of supporting public libraries across Scotland. “

International news

  • Canada – CBC Report: “1 Million Books and 4 Months Later, Toronto’s Library Recovers From a Cyberattack” – Library Journal. “In the case of the Toronto Public Library, victims include the employees themselves. Cybercriminals not only encrypted library files, but stole employee data, including social insurance numbers, home addresses and copies of government-issued identification documents that they’d provided to their employer. The library is still investigating the full extent of the data breach, including whether any customer, donor or volunteer information was taken.”
  • China – Rural libraries open exciting chapter for children – China Daily. “a new place to spend their winter vacation — a library in a karst cave built by a local charity group. Located in Banwan village and blending in with the surrounding landscape, the library became a must-visit place for tourists ”
    • Snohetta opens the Beijing City Library, containing the world’s largest climatized reading space – Arch Daily. Sixteen images. “At its center, a 16-meter-tall forum welcomes visitors and serves as the main circulation artery within the building. Surrounded by curved stepped terraces, the forum mirrors the landscape of the nearby Tonghui River. The terraces serve as an informal zone for relaxing, talking, or reading while staying connected to the larger space. Smaller semi-private reading areas are embedded into the ‘hills.’”
  • France – Atelier WOA creates long timber-framed library in France – De Zeen. “Large wooden beams frame the interiors of L’échappée, a multimedia library in France designed by local practice Atelier WOA as an alternative to “institutional and cold” public buildings. Occupying a long narrow site in Herblay sur Seine, L’échappée – meaning “escapade” in English – faces a road to the north with a stone and glass facade and opens up to a field to the south with a large wooden colonnade.”. Design ” aligns with the French government sustainability law to ensure all new public buildings are built from at least 50 per cent timber or other natural materials.”
  • India – How Noida’s Public libraries are providing a haven for competitive exam aspirants – Hindustan Times. “As a new, swanky public library opened in Noida earlier this month, the staffers expected some fiction-loving bibliomaniacs to be one of the first visitors at the place. However, a group of five adolescents looking to refer to books about quantitative aptitude and calculus walked in and made themselves comfortable.”
  • Libraries (Yes, Libraries) Are Leading the Crusade for New Music Discovery – Spin. “In an age where small clubs have dwindled and our digitized culture keeps us plugged in and inside, it’s near impossible to discover new, local, independent musicians. But libraries–one of the last bastions of community connectivity–are taking on this culturally essential task, creating opportunities for independent musicians, and introducing us to the next “big” thing.”
  • Meet the Boston Public Library’s chef in residence – Axios Boston. “The Boston Public Library launched a chef-in-residence program to help locals learn how to make nutritious, simple meals without straying from their cultural traditions. Why it matters: Glorya Fernandez, the chef-in-residence, isn’t an award-winning chef from an elite culinary school, but a master in making cooking accessible for Bostonians. Driving the news: Fernandez started her one-year residency this month in the BPL’s Nutrition Lab.”
    • The Week in Libraries: March 1, 2024 – Publishers Weekly. Censorship – “this legislator introduced a bill to stop ALA from giving money to local libraries to buy books because he doesn’t like the books”” – ” “Will [libraries] become arms of the state, only communicating those messages that a political actor believes is appropriate?” ; legal moves to make eBooks cheaper and more available; popular librarian quits after online bullying.
    • Why David Byrne believes libraries are vital for thriving arts – Far Out. “While discussions often revolve around the preservation of music venues, cinemas, and other artistic spaces, Byrne emphasises the crucial role that libraries play in fostering creativity, knowledge, and community engagement. Libraries serve as hubs for learning, exploration, and cultural exchange, making them essential assets that deserve support and protection.”

Local news by authority

Croydon: “Councillor Andy Stranack explaining to children why he is proposing to close their library”
  • East Dunbartonshire – Libraries to host climate themed events throughout March as part of “Shelf Life” initiative – East Dunbartonshire Council. “Funded by the Scottish Library & Information Council (SLIC) which secured climate engagement funding from the Scottish Government, the Shelf Life initiative aims to raise aware of issues such as recycling, sustainability and climate change. Events will include workshops that support upcycling, repair and traditional skills, and author and artist events featuring climate-themed texts to generate engaging conversation. “
  • East Riding – Bridlington and ER Libraries to launch Little Readers scheme for pre-school children – Bridlington Echo. “From Friday, 1 March,  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.”
  • Hampshire – Young Reporter: Libraries face potential budget cuts by Saba Ghandi – Hampshire Chronicle. “From March 31, 2024, the council is planning to reduce physical stock by 22 per cent and digital stock by 67 per cent.” … “As the decrease in physical stock will mainly be targeted at replacing hardback covers with paperback covers, the rapid decrease in digital stock might be something to worry about. Since the pandemic, the rate of digital library usage has more than doubled according to the council. “
  • Hillingdon – Labour ‘still committed to halting Uxbridge Library move’ – Hillingdon and Uxbridge Times. “The move, from the High Street, was endorsed on Thursday (22) at the budget meeting when spending plans and council tax level were announced by the ruling Conservative group. Labour had been supporting a petition to oppose the library’s relocation. Conservatives say the opposition group had failed to identify an additional £400,000 running cost for the present building.”
  • Lancashire – Crowdfund appeal for Lancaster children’s library – Lancaster Guardian. “On the crowdfunding page it says: “We aim to create a more attractive and friendly space which will attract more young children to use the wide range of resources and support on offer. “We need to purchase materials, revise and finalise draft sketches and create and hang the completed artwork.” If the bid is successful the County Council will matchfund the library’s contribution. If you would like to help crowdfund this project (minimum pledge is £2) visit https://www.spacehive.com/renovatelancasterchildrenslibrary” £642 pledged in 3 weeks of £1586 asked for.
  • Lewisham – Grove Park Library users ‘very pleased’ with new space after months of closure – Yahoo. “The library was shut last summer after the previous leaseholder issued notice to end the lease period. Following the closure, which lasted for several months, the library reopened at the beginning of 2024, managed day to day by Lewisham Council’s new community partner S&B Childcare. The library is also celebrating its 70th anniversary since first opening in 1953.”
  • Merthyr Tydfil – Library and leisure centre staff to strike over ‘decade-old’ failure to honour pay rise – Morning Star. “Union members at Merthyr Leisure Trust say they have long been owed a pay uplift of about £1 an hour, in line with local government staff. The ballot result comes after the council announced plans on its Facebook page to offload the leisure trust to a private provider without any consultation on Tuesday evening.”
    • Leisure and cultural services in Merthyr Tydfil set to return to council control – Merthry Tydfil Herald. ” the council said it has agreed to work with Wellbeing Merthyr (formerly Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust) on a managed end of the existing contract for the county borough’s leisure and cultural services by March 31, 2024, which will see facilities return to the council. The statement said due to the end of the current arrangement with Wellbeing Merthyr and the council being proactive in the need to safeguard leisure services, in January it said it had no choice but to find an alternative provider to manage the newly-refurbished Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Centre for an interim period.”
  • North Tyneside – Pupils to be taught in library while school shut – BBC. “North Tyneside Council has closed Wideopen Library to accommodate two classes from Hazlewood Community Primary School.” … “The council’s mobile library will be visiting the Wideopen site every Tuesday and Thursday during normal opening times.” [“Wideopen Library is closed”??? – Ed.]
  • North Yorkshire – Families invited to join local libraries in celebrating British Science Week – Richmondshire Today. “Space-themed quizzes, treasure hunts and a date with the popular code-a-pillar are among the events”
  • Nottingham – Call for ‘no-strings’ support for ‘bankrupt’ Nottingham City Council – BBC. Group visits Downing Street asking for money to save the council. Cuts ot services, including libraries, blamed on central government funding cuts.
  • Wollaton LIbrary to re-open after refurbishment as students lend a hand – Nottingham Council. “Wollaton Library will reopen to the public on Monday (4 March) following its closure for essential maintenance work. During this time, Nottingham City Council’s library service worked with Nottingham College lecturers and students to repaint the building and replace the shelving, repurposing some previously used at the old Central Library.”
  • Perth and Kinross – ‘Save Birnam library’ campaigners stage protest against council cuts – Courier. “Around 100 people staged a protest outside Birnam library as Perth and Kinross councillors prepare to set next year’s budget” … “Councillors set aside £173,000 last year to keep the libraries in Alyth, Auchterarder, Birnam, Comrie, North Inch (Perth) and Pitlochry open. However, they also allocated £150,000 for a council-wide review of its leisure and cultural assets. And the outcome of that study included a shake-up of library provision.”
  • Richmond – Charitable cost of living events in Richmond – SW Londoner. “The events, which in the past have been attended by up to 40-50 people, include clothes swapping, or ‘swishing,’ handicraft sessions such as quilting and flower printing, yoga, as well as finance and mindfulness workshops. They are being held in libraries across Richmond, Twickenham and Teddington to not only encourage the use of libraries but a sense of community and education with hot drinks and snacks provided.”
  • Somerset – Somerton Library celebrates five years of being volunteer-led – BBC. “In a statement, Somerset Council said: “We work closely with a range of community library partners to deliver 13 of our 32 statutory libraries in their communities, most of which have paid and trained staff working alongside dedicated local volunteers. “They enable additional opening hours, activities and events, as well as helping to raise funding for their local library.”