Some weird news from Slough, where the Curve, which only opened in 2016 at a cost of £22m, that the council may be considering closing it cut costs. If so, this shows the weird current financial logic forced upon councils by reduced funding from central government combined with increasing social care costs where costs are more important than value or previous investment. There’s a hardening of attitudes towards library budgets in some councils. For instance, more news this week of councils reducing staff pay by introducing staff-less technology. I remember the days when allowing the public in through card-and-pin-entry was seen as an addition to normal opening hours. Not so much any more, the gloves are off.

Interestingly, in Birmingham which recently announced perhaps the deepest cuts in local government history, the opposition to library closures appears to be coalescing around keeping the service alive through alternative service models rather than protest/volunteering/demand for return of budget. Such trusts have been a bit hit and miss if combined with Leisure, apart from with GLL, which is big enough to have obvious economies of scale. Stand-alone library trusts – Devon (Libraries Unlimited), Suffolk (Suffolk Libraries) and York (York Explore) – have had a far more positive record while no less than seven single-council leisure-and-library trusts have been forced back into council control.

Changes by local authority

National news

“This webinar discusses the challenges facing rural library services and the vital role they play in supporting rural communities, economies and infrastructure. We reflect on the recent Defra policy document Unleashing rural opportunity and explore opportunities for rural libraries to innovate and develop new approaches. With Krystal Vittles, Deputy CEO of Suffolk Libraries, and Kerry Booth, CEO of the Rural Services Network.”
  • Books and beyond – Municipal Journal. Sponsored content. “GLL, a co-operative and charitable social enterprise, has diversified and grown over the past decade, to become the largest single provider of public library services in the country.” … ” visitors to some of our libraries don’t just have the option to borrow books, they might borrow a sewing machine, power washer or a drill.” … “The Literary Foundation will support authors who are local to the libraries that we operate, helping them to create their brand, deliver events and reach a wider audience. It will provide library users with the unique opportunity to see stories written, attend author-driven events and read diverse books authored by home-grown talent.”
  • British Library cyber attacks: Lessons learned – Arts Professional. see also The British Library looks to the future as it reveals the incalculable damage of its ransomware attack – Diginomica. ” Despite that, library visits are dwindling in the UK – down to 100 million annually in 2021-22 from 299 million ten years earlier, but that is partly because nearly 800 libraries have closed since 2010, due to austerity. Even so, those attendance figures still outnumber those for cinema and football combined, so don’t write off libraries just yet – though Statista data suggests that the most common age group for users is 45-64.”
  • Daily Mail Comment: Fund our libraries, not diversity tsars – Daily Mail. Councils “have almost doubled their spending on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) roles that most council taxpayers would regard as superfluous in such straitened times. In the great gamut of public spending a rise from £12million a year to £23million may not seem enormous. But with libraries closing and social care being squeezed it shows a warped sense of priorities.”
  • Expression of interest: Ukrainian–UK public library twinning programme – Libraries Connected. “here is a strong appetite for twinning with Ukrainian libraries to show solidarity, exchange skills and experience and connect audiences.”
  • Libraries Connected Awards Shortlist 2024 – Libraries Connected. Nominations for the various awards, including brief descriptions.
  • Protecting Local Libraries: Designing a New Strategy Placing Public Libraries at the Heart of Communities – Public Policy Exchange. “In the five years to 2020/2021, the number of statutory libraries open 10 hours or more a week in England, Scotland and Wales fell by 681, leaving the total number at 3,064. In the same period, the number of annual library visits fell by 59% and the number of print books issued fell 40%. “
  • Public Library Forum 2024 – National Acquisitions Group. Thursday 16 May, London.
  • Pyjamarama is back for 2024 – Booktrust. 17 May. “Thousands of children all around the country – in schools, nurseries, community groups and at home – will spend the day reading, enjoying, and sharing stories all in the comfort of their pyjamas to raise vital funds to help every child enjoy story time”
  • Review into Arts Council England spending announced – Shropshire Star. “The use of public money by Arts Council England (ACE) will be reviewed by the Government. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced on Friday that Dame Mary Archer, the wife of Lord Jeffrey Archer and former chairwoman of the Science Museum Group, will lead the review.”

International news

  • Kenya – Kenyan Libraries Should Incorporate Queer Literature Without Exception – Business Today. “… acceptance of LGBTQIA+ individuals remains a contentious issue in predominantly conservative African societies. Library materials and programs related to sexual orientation and gender identity often provoke controversy, leading to self-censorship among librarians and exclusion of LGBTQIA+ resources. Public libraries, including school and academic libraries, must commit to serving and representing their entire community, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity. They should provide welcoming environments and resources that cater to the diverse needs of LGBTQIA+ individuals. Ultimately, libraries have a responsibility to ensure equitable access to information and services for all patrons, fostering inclusivity and respect within their communities.”
  • Poland Digital Books in Polish Public Libraries: Case Study of Partnership with the Commercial Distributor Legimi – Public Library Quarterly. ” Arrangements for Legimi’s services are negotiated mainly through library consortia. Currently, approximately 42% of all libraries in Poland provide digital books through Legimi.”
  • South Africa – Libraries Get Dressed Up for National Library Week – Good Things Guy. “This year, SALW also runs at the same time as Fine Free Week, which means that those who haven’t returned outstanding items can do so without paying any fines—a welcomed sigh of relief for anyone who’s sweated over an overdue book in Cape Town.”

“The beautiful irony of a library after all, is that they are both a place for solitude and community in a single space.”

  • Ukraine – No more Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, or Tolstoy: Ukrainian libraries clean out shelves – Le Monde. “Like all the country’s libraries, hers received official recommendations to remove authors who support the invasion or Russian supremacy from its shelves in the name of martial law. “For any educated person, removing a book from a library is a difficult thing to do,” argued the sexagenarian, whose commitment to her country is beyond doubt. Yet she feels like the entire world is watching her. No other war has ever turned literature and poetry into such a minefield.”
    • Book Aid International to Donate Another 15,000 Books to PEN Ukraine’s Unbreakable Libraries Project – Publishers Weekly. “Ensuring continued access to books for Ukrainians who are facing immeasurable challenges must remain at the forefront of this collaboration. I urge more publishers to join this important initiative by donating books, funds and spreading the word.”
    • Why Suppression of Libraries Corrupts a Nation – Library Journal. “While annihilation of libraries has historically featured as a component of war, this war revealed a new form of destruction, where the invader corrupts the library into an instrument of aggression. In occupied Ukraine, libraries are increasingly used as a means of spreading Russian propaganda. The Russian government has spent millions to publish sources justifying the war, to control Ukrainians in occupied areas and also to mobilize the population at home. With the closure of many schools in the occupied lands, libraries also are forced to conduct events celebrating Russia and diminishing the history of Ukraine, encouraging youth to turn away from their roots.”
  • USA – Dungeons & Dragons kits coming to WA libraries, with an event planned in Yakima – Yakima Herald-Republic. “Renton-based Wizards of the Coast is donating 75 kits, each including materials such as character sheets, organizer instructions, a demo adventure and a learn-to-play guide, according to the news release.”
    • American Library Association says book ban challenges in 2023 broke new record – Yahoo / The Hill. “The ALA announced Thursday that 2023 saw 4,240 unique book titles targeted for censorship, up 65 percent from the previous record in 2022 of 2,571 unique titles.”
    • Critics: NYC library systems must slash ‘obscene’ exec salaries to avoid service cuts – Yahoo / New York Post.”New York Public Library President Anthony Marx earns $984,338 [£773k! – Ed.] annually, Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson pockets $652,035 and Queens Public Library President Dennis Walcott rakes in $336,953″
    • Libraries struggle to afford the demand for e-books, seek new state laws in fight with publishers – Independent. “Librarians in several states have been pushing for legislation to rein in the costs and restrictions on electronic material, which has been growing in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic. Patrons are stuck on long waiting lists for audio and e-books, and digital offerings are limited.”
    • Safety Net – Longreads. One of the best articles I’ve ever read on being a US librarian: “I love it because every day requires me to meet humanity face to face. It reminds me that I am actually living in an actual society where I am responsible to other people.”
    • ‘So happy you’re here’: how a librarian became an advocate for mental health – Guardian. ““I grew up in libraries, raised by libraries, loved everything about libraries,” he said in an interview. “It is a place where you can just be as you are, you can come on inside, you can take joy in that as an introvert [or] an extrovert.” … “After months of his fans promoting Threets to PBS, home of the iconic TV series Reading Rainbow, he announced he would serve as the network’s resident librarian for a social media series. “

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Charity challenges legality of Birmingham library closures – Arts Professional. “The Library Campaign says Birmingham City Council’s plan to close 25 of its local libraries as part of far-reaching budget cuts would breach the Public Libraries and Museums Act.”
    • Birmingham residents plan ‘resistance’ to possible library closures as budget fallout continues – Birmingham Mail. “Dozens of concerned Acocks Green residents met on Saturday, March 9, to discuss how to fight back if closures do go ahead and how important libraries are to the wider community. The Save Acocks Green Library Campaign says they are part of a “rapidly emerging trend” of grassroots campaigns which have begun to recently emerge across Birmingham.”
    • Hope for Birmingham’s under-threat libraries as ‘alternative model’ explored – Birmingham Mail. “Katherine Iroh, Labour councillor for Billesley, has now seen more than 1,200 people sign her petition to save Yardley Wood Library and said she discussed the possibility of saving libraries through an “alternative model” with cabinet member Cllr Saima Suleman.” … “We are looking at a community asset transfer where a community organisation (or a group of community organisations) sets up a trust which runs the library and applies for grants to help with the costs”
  • Cambridgeshire – Libraries and community centres benefit from £5m investment – Hunts Post. “Libraries in Bar Hill, St Ives, Littleport and Whittlesey along with youth centres in Whittlesey (Scaldgate) and Ramsey (Ailwyn) as well as The Horizon Resource Centre in Cambridge will see a range of energy efficiency and environmentally friendly heating upgrades.” … “The projects will be funded by a grant of more than £1.2m from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme following a successful bid by council officers.”
  • Camden – KFC turns Kentish Town library into a mock-up restaurant – Ham and High. “Fran Bernhardt, of the food charity Sustain, said this move was a “flagrant disregard of local children’s needs” and “an outrageous example where profits have been prioritised over people”. Speaking to The Times, Ms Bernhardt said: “Councils must champion residents’ health by stopping companies like KFC from flooding our high streets with unhealthy foods.””
  • Central Bedfordshire – Police install terminals for supermarket shoppers to report crime – BBC. “”When we trialled this in the library we found a high level of people who were reporting domestic abuse,” Mr Akinbusoye said. “For some reason they were not doing that at home or in other areas.””
Manchester: Councillor Adele Douglas celebrates all 24 Manchester Libraries.

Conwy – Library protest to campaign against 25% reduction in opening hours – Conwy Herald. “Dr Samah Massalhan, a consultant at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, who lives in Llanfairfechan with her partner Steve Wilson and their two children Carys, six, and Jonathan, three, is organising a “read-in” at Llanfairfechan Library this Saturday 16 March.”

“Libraries NI, like many other public bodies, proclaims that its resources are tight and that it is short of money. I was therefore very disappointed to discover from the exposé in yesterday’s Belfast ‘News Letter‘ that Libraries NI has thought it appropriate to spend thousands upon thousands of pounds on books promoting the trans agenda, with toddlers no less … Why is Libraries NI in the business of corrupting young people through a trans agenda”

Northern Ireland: They Work For You: Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice 
  • Kirklees – Fears for future of eight libraries in borough – BBC. “Cynthia Collinson, chair of Friends of Mirfield Library, told the BBC they feared the library would be left with a lack of support. “We can run day to day, putting books on shelves et cetera, but we do not have the expertise of managing a library of this size,” she said. “My fear is it might have to close, and it would just be cutting off a lifeline for so many vulnerable people.””
  • Lewisham – Lewisham Library – Lewisham Council. “We plan to transform the library into an exciting multi-use space for the community. As well as retaining the core library and archive services that we know are so important to residents, the venue will also offer fantastic opportunities for local entrepreneurs, arts organisations and community groups, as well as plenty of space to host cultural events. “
  • Manchester – Historic Chorlton Library refurbishment plans unveiled – Manchester Council. “Work to the Grade II listed building will enhance the existing structure of the building and the fabulous dome which has been hidden for years will be unveiled when it reopens as part of the refurbishment plans.” see also ‘Unique’ south Manchester library set for major revamp – with closures announced – Manchester Evening News.
    • View our new virtual tours – Manclibraries Blog. “You can now take 3D walkthrough virtual tours of all 22 Manchester Libraries, enabling you to explore our fabulous venues, discover the nuances and architecture, and find out much more about them before you physically visit, all from the comfort of your screen.”
Norfolk telling it like it is
  • North Somerset – Creative wellbeing courses at North Somerset Libraries inspire local residents – North Somerset Council. “North Somerset libraries recently offered several six-week courses in different creative pursuits for adults who may be struggling with their wellbeing”
  • Nottingham – Children’s play area opens outside Nottingham Central Library – BBC.
  • Nottingham City Council leader David Mellen to step down – West Bridgford Wire. “uccesses such as the opening of the new Nottingham Central Library” … ” an advocate for reading and literacy and have long supported the development of the Nottingham Imagination Library that has given more than half a million free books to children aged 0-5 in our city”
  • Pembrokeshire – Library service reductions backed by Pembrokeshire councillors – Milford Mercury. “over the last 11 years of financial austerity, the Library Service has reduced its costs considerably,” listing a wide range of changes including  reducing opening hours of some libraries, working with Town and Community Councils and the local community to create Community Managed Library Partnerships, and negotiating financial contributions from Town and Community Councils to support the running of libraries.” … “Further opening hour cuts in 7 libraries. Some town councils funding hours, staffless technology to reduce staffing in Pembroke Dock.”
  • Redcar and Cleveland – Campaign launched to save library from council cuts – BBC. “Redcar and Cleveland Council have proposed turning Laburnum Road Community Library into a community-run centre from April. The move is part of a wider £400k cost cutting proposal which would affect several libraries in the region. One campaigner said that the closure of Laburnum Road’s library would be a “disaster for the community”.”
  • Sheffield – New opening times for Sheffield libraries approved by users – The Star. “The new standardised opening times affect libraries in Chapeltown, Crystal Peaks, Darnall, Ecclesall, Firth Park, Highfield, Hillsborough, Manor, Parson Cross, Stocksbridge and Woodseats. They have been increased from 31 to 34 hours a week.” … “Libraries will also close on Tuesday or Wednesday morning one day a month to allow for staff training time. Running training on Thursday, when branches are closed, was ruled out as it would mean full-time staff working six days a week.”
    • Community Hub Libraries to keep five day week opening hours – Sheffield Council. “Following a review of library services, feedback from local residents has been largely positive and resulted in these times being made permanent. The decision was made at a Communities, Parks and Leisure Committee meeting on Monday 11th March, and will better reflect the demand patterns of library users. Council-run Community Hub Libraries* are now open on the same days and times across the city”
  • Shropshire – Oakengates Library to relocate while theatre is redeveloped – Shropshire Star. “Oakengates Library is preparing to move to a temporary location while work takes place on the town’s theatre.”
  • Somerset Nailsea’s former library building gets a new lease of life – Somerset Live. “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. Sale of the old building has secured income to support future library costs, ensuring this valued provision can continue for years to come. It has also cleared the way for new owners to refurbish or redevelop the building, offering something new to Nailsea.”
  • Suffolk – Maggie is making a difference – Suffolk Libraries. “An intrepid library manager is undertaking a sponsored walk taking in every library in the Ipswich and Kesgrave area to raise money on Suffolk Libraries Day.” … “Suffolk Libraries Day is the annual event to celebrate Suffolk Libraries and raise money to support the work of the library service in the community”
    • Essential lifeline of libraries in rural communities – Rural Services Network. “exemplifies the transformative potential of libraries in addressing mental health and wellbeing within the community. Distinguished as one of the few library services in the UK to offer a dedicated mental health and wellbeing service, Suffolk Libraries actively supports both staff and patrons through comprehensive access to current and trustworthy mental health information and resources…”
    • New opening hours for Kessingland Library – Suffolk Libraries. “Following consultation with customers the hours are changing from Monday 18 March. The main difference is that the library is opening earlier on a Tuesday and Friday. This change is designed to meet customer needs and make the hours more consistent. It also means the library will be open for one extra hour per week with the library closing earlier on some days to enable the earlier opening.”
  • Surrey – Surrey Libraires Super Access extended to two new locations – Surrey Council. “Both libraries have been fitted with new technology that allows registered library members, who have had a short introduction to the new system, to access the library during the new, extended opening hours which are in addition to the existing staff hours. “
  • Wandsworth – New community space at Northcote Library adds to offer for local community – Wandsworth Council. “Northcote Library has been open to the public since April 2023, but as part of the council’s commitment to investing in local spaces, a new community space has been recently completed alongside the library. This ensures residents have another space to hire for community groups, local businesses and residents, with brand new facilities.”
  • Warwickshire – Warwickshire Libraries launches new creative practitioner role to engage with county’s Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities – Warwickshire Council. ” a new commission opportunity for a part-time creative practitioner”, funding as a NPO via Arts Council England.
  • Westmorland and Furness – Ulverston’s temporary library to expand in The Coro – Cumbria Crack. “The existing temporary pop-up arrangements in the Ante Room in The Coro and in the nearby Indoor Market Hall will be transferring to the Supper Room, creating a single location for the temporary library, which people said they would prefer to the current split sites.”. Council investigating final solution for Ulverston Library. ““Which ever option is eventually chosen, it will involve significant cost, with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pounds of public money needing to be invested. We therefore need to make sure we get this right.” see also New temporary library for Ulverston nears completion – Westmorland and Furness Council.
    • Boys to face no action over library fire, say police – BBC. “Three boys who were arrested after a library fire are to face no further action, according to police. Roose Library in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, has remained shut since the blaze in May last year.”
    • Ulverston and Roose libraries’ future discussed by hundreds – NW Mail. “On Monday (March 11) evening, hundreds of residents attended the Red Rose Club in Ulverston for a meeting to discuss the closures of Ulverston and Roose libraries. The meeting was organised by councillor Michelle Scrogham who said residents ‘do not want’ a library service to replace their town libraries. “
  • Worcestershire – Great news for St John’s library members as Libraries Unlocked launches this week – Worcestershire Council. Continued conversion of libraries to unstaffed technology. Technology to allow library to be open unstaffed – BBC. Malvern Library.