Ian Anstice

Public librarian since 1994, user of public libraries since my first memories ... and a keen advocate of public libraries and chronicler of the UK public libraries scene. Library manager since 1998, winner of Information Professional of the Year 2011 and Winsford Customer Service "Oscar" 2012 and 2014, honorary CILIP fellow 2015, CILIP Wales Library Champion of the Year 2016.

Homepage: https://www.publiclibrariesnews.com


Posts by Ian Anstice

Thank you Aunty Hilary

Editorial

A quiet week this week, and all the better for it, really. Whether this is because things naturally go quiet over Easter or because I was internet-free for a week while on a cruise I can’t say. Probably a mixture of the two. So, let me know if I have missed anything via emailing me (ianlibrarian@live.co.uk) or getting me via Twitter @publiclibnews. I’ve also just relaunched the Public Libraries News Facebook page to cover the stranger and more humorous stories in the sector if you’d like to give that a go. And, yes, the cruise was very good (Hamburg, Rotterdam, Bruges) and no I couldn’t afford it on my salary – a very kind relative stepped in. So, thank you Aunty Hilary.

Changes by authority

National news

BBC Breakfast: “Actor Michael Sheen visits Port Talbot Library as part of the Warm Welcome Campaign. Warm Spaces across the UK are open this Christmas, offering warmth and community connection. Find your nearest space at www.warmwelcome.uk”

International news

USA – Californian library talks about there services: free food for children no questions asked especially in Summer, lego clubs, reading dogs, early years programme, drug alternative. Children read 5 books or 500 minutes to get free burger.

Local news by authority

The meaning of LIF

Editorial

There’s a lot of good news for various library services in England this week, with the announcement of the third round of the Libraries Improvement Fund. 43 library services received a share of £10.5m funding with £245,417 being the average amount given, ranging from £499,999 for Camden to a humble £50,000 for Bradford. Looking at what the money is being spent on – well, let’s say makers of moveable shelving units are celebrating as are the normal digital suspects. That old stand-by “Maker spaces” is a phrase used on more than one occasion as is the newly popular word “sensory”. Closer to my heart, there’s a few refurbishments and nicer children’s libraries coming from this. There’s also some very location specific stuff like a new place for sheet music or space for an exhibition. All in all, though, all of the projects that there are details about look defendable and there is reason for delight here.

Of course, me being me, there is also cynicism. The public library service has been increasingly grossly underfunded for over a decade and, in a healthily supported sector, a lot of the projects would not have needed this special one-off funding. And, while the support is to be welcomed, there at least two hints as to the real reasons for the money. The first is that the announcement seems to have caught quite a few councils unawares. As I write this a few days later, quite a few haven’t yet had time to produce press releases about it. This suggests the announcement was to tie in with a central government timetable rather than the local council one. Perhaps it was always so. More tellingly of course, the funding was used this week to defend in parliament the government’s questionable stewardship of the sector. The amount – ten million – also seems to be the lowest that can be given in double figures, with a few hundred extra thousand given so as not to make it too obvious. Kind of like a reverse of Camden’s frankly hilarious cheek at asking for £499,999, the very maximum that could have been asked for, to the pound. I salute you, Camden.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Dozens of library services and 26 museums to receive £33m government funding – Guardian. ““With upgraded buildings and technology, we can expect to see many more people experiencing and enjoying what their local library service has to offer.””
  • Forty-three libraries win slice of £33m funding boost – BookSeller. Libraries Connected say ““We do need to see much wider and longer-term investment in the library network, however. Without a more secure financial settlement for local government, libraries will remain particularly vulnerable to cuts and closures. The next government must take decisive action to avoid a crisis in our libraries over the coming years.””

We are again disappointed by UNITE’s decision to call for strike action. We have made every effort to engage with the union and listen to their views.  However, it should be noted that the UNITE strike does not reflect the opinion of the vast majority of our colleagues; with UNITE membership across our organisation sitting at less than 3% of the workforce. A well-received pay award was made in 2023, which was underpinned by the Real Living Wage and we are proud to be one of only 14,000 organisations in the UK to be accredited as a Real Living Wage employer.  The Real Living Wage for 2024 is set and we will implement this in April of this year. 

Over the past 30 years, we have developed terms and conditions of employment that work for our business and our employees.  Our people have choices about how they work and engage with us.  This commitment to our staff is underlined by the fact we have been awarded Investors in People Gold status. We do not offer zero hours contracts, as erroneously suggested by UNITE.  We do offer flexible working arrangements and give staff the opportunity to transfer from flexible contracts to permanent contracts via our You Choose scheme, which is open to all. Planned changes to GLL’s sick pay scheme will be implemented as part of our 2024 pay award. Our focus remains on ensuring that a quality library service continues to be delivered to local communities in Bromley and Greenwich and that was the case on 26 March.

GLL spokesperson on strike action in Bromley an Greenwich
  • Libraries to get near £800k boost – BBC. Makerspace money for Hull: “Michelle Alford, library services director for Hull Culture and Leisure Ltd said the funding would create “exciting centres of digital innovation” in more of its branch libraries.”.
  • Library staff celebrating victory after strike sees 20% increase in sick pay – Morning Star. “The Unite members walked out on Tuesday this week and staged a mass picket at Woolwich Centre Library in London. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “While this is a welcome step in the right direction, Unite won’t stop here. “Our members deserve better pay and conditions and GLL is in a position to improve its offers across the board. “Outstanding disputes with GLL include a pay increase and better treatment for staff on zero-hours contracts.””

Local authorities in England have a statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service which meets local needs. It is for each local authority to consider how best to deliver this. His Majesty’s Government has provided an additional £600 million on top of the £64 billion Local Government Finance Settlement for 2024-25 — an increase of 7.5% in cash terms. This uplift will help to reduce pressure on councils’ budgets, and protect services including public libraries.

In addition, DCMS announced on 25 March that 43 library services in England would benefit from Round 3 of the Libraries Improvement Fund which is allocating £10.5 million across this financial year and next. The Fund has allocated £20.5 million since 2021 to public library services across England to support them to upgrade their buildings and improve digital infrastructure so that they are better placed to respond to the changing ways people want to use them.

Julia Lopez MP, Parliamentary Secretary, DCMS
Camden CouncilOne Kilburn£499,999
Hackney LibrariesStoke Newington Library Improvement Project. See Stoke Newington Library awarded £499,700 grant to improve reading, study, culture and children spaces – Hackney Council. Stoke Newington Library redesign for “creative, inclusive and innovative new spaces.”. Part of £4m renovation.£499,700
Reading Borough CouncilReading Libraries – Reading Central Library and Branch Digital Improvement – making all our spaces amazing.
See Library Users to Benefit From A Further 495K of Investment (reading.gov.uk) – Reading Council. Borrowable tablets, streaming technology, microbits, self-service machines in 3 libraries, auto check-in, self-service lockers, sensory/interative tables and projection equipment.
£495,000
Cheshire West and Chester Library ServiceNorthwich Library Transformation£473,623
Wakefield LibrariesConnect Wakefield Library and Museum. “for a children’s library which Wakefield Council said would deliver a “transformative experience” for children and families and cater for “those with sensory and physical disabilities”.”£446,587
Medway LibrariesForward Medway£409,552
Hull Culture and Leisure Library ServicesMaking Makerspaces. £395,000
Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council Libraries ServiceLibraries reimagined – Guisborough£391,050
Newcastle LibrariesWalker LIF 3. “a new reading facility in a disused part of the Walker Activity Dome. Newcastle City Council’s Christine Herriot said: “This extra funding will help make the library bigger by bringing unused storage space back into use, give it a new entrance and enable us to widen digital services.”£382,159
London Borough of RedbridgeFulwell Cross Library – Transformation Programme. See Fullwell Cross Library to receive grant funding of nearly £400,000 to help modernise and refurbish much-loved facility – Redbridge Council. For “vital repairs, renovations and the development of digital infrastructure “: makerspace, refurbishment and redesign esp. children’s library, Hublets, Tovertafel table, museums boxes on shelves.£379,899
Warwickshire LibrariesSensory Discovery Mobile Library. See Warwickshire Libraries secure funding for sensory mobile library – Warwickshire Council. “Discovery Den” mobile “safe and inclusive space for children, young people, and adults with additional and more complex needs.”£372,638
Rutland County CouncilLIF3£359,000
Trafford LibrariesSale Library – A Cultural Hub. See Funding boost for Sale Library – Trafford Council. ” integrating the library into the foyer, a general refit and installing a permanent Cosgrove Hall Films Archive exhibition.”£347,000
Dorset Council Library ServiceDorset Council Libraries Asset Improvement£309,971
North Somerset LibrariesRe-designing Library outreach services. See North Somerset Council secures £300k funding for electric mobile library vehicle – North Somerset Council. Replaces diesel powered mobile. £40k match funding from council. £309,748
Worcestershire County Council (libraries)Communit-E-Bus£301,450
Shropshire LibrariesWork well with your Library£280,250
Oldham Council LibrariesAdaptable Library Project (ALP) – Oldham£277,000
City of York CouncilYork Explore Libraries£250,000
East Riding LibrariesBridlington Libraries Refurbishment. Sensory areas and moveable shelves to Bridlington North and Bridlington Central libraries£246,000
Sunderland City CouncilLibraries Uplifted£230,000
Staffordshire County Council – Libraries & ArtsConnecting Communities Wombourne Library£199,400
Doncaster Heritage ServicesMexborough Library Reimagined£182,000
Walsall CouncilWalsall Dementia Friendly Libraries£181,674
Sutton Council’s Cultural ServicesOn-screen: Building Inclusive Digital Communities£179,340
Nottinghamshire County Council – Cultural ServicesInspire Hucknall Library Reconfiguration£178,500
Sandwell Library and Information ServiceDeveloping Cultural Spaces£177,000
Lancashire County CouncilBurnley Library Music Collection & Flexible Space. See Burnley Library’s £165k boost to host music collection – BBC. “Burnley Library is to turn a disused children’s library area into a home for the Stocks Massey Music Collection.”£165,000
Doncaster Heritage ServicesMexborough Library Reimagined£182,000
Isle of Wight Library ServiceAccessible libraries . See Funding boost for two popular island libraries announced – Isle of Wight Radio. Improved accessibility at Cowes and Ryde libraries.£150,000
Dudley MBC – Planning and RegenerationDudley Libraries. Lye Library will have moveable shelving, refurbishment, VR headsets and hublets (source: GLL)£144,715
North Lincolnshire CouncilScunthorpe Central. £141,766
Kirklees LibrariesKirklees Libraries Open Access Development£137,068
London Borough of IslingtonArchway Library Digital Hub£136,800
Leicester City Neighbourhood ServicesGreen Libraries£130,000
Wigan CouncilLeigh Library. See Big plans to transform Leigh Library after Wigan Council bosses secure £110k – Wigan Today. Moveable shelving, lighting, projection equipment, staging/seating/blackout blinds. £110,000
London Borough of BromleyInspiration Room – Room of Requirement£98,380
London Borough of BarnetGolders Green Reading Garden£85,150
Sefton LibrariesAccess to Bootle£79,973
Telford & WrekinRenovating the Digital Front Door£68,000
Barnsley Metropolitan Borough CouncilWombwell Children’s Library£65,470
Herefordshire Museums Libraries & ArchivesHerefordshire Libraries£57,087
Bradford LibrariesBradford Libraries Digital Readiness£50,000
  • Public Library Forum 2024 – National Acquisitions Group. London, Thursday 16 May. “A full programme is available below with a broad range of topics including Oldham’s NAG Grant project “Language Barrier Breakers” and LibrariesUnlimited’s “The Secret Book Quest” alongside “The Life of a Dewey Number” with Jo Maxwell from BDS.”
  • Regional Offer Launch – Libraries Connected. Recording of webinar. “To mark the first six months of the Regional Development Programme, we are launching a set of offers for Regional Networks. Our aim is to build an understanding of how the Regional Development Team can support you to overcome challenges and seize opportunities.”
  • What Libraries Risk When They Go Digital – Time. “Digitization has been a transformative tool for scholars and a valuable shield against the dangers that threaten paper-based historical records. But it is time to consider the vulnerabilities of digital repositories as well. Fires, theft, and physical neglect are no longer the only major threats archives face: now we must also add ransomware to the list.”
  • Yorkshire museums and libraries to get £3m funding boost – BBC. “Wakefield Libraries will receive nearly £450,000 for a children’s library which Wakefield Council said would deliver a “transformative experience” for children and families and cater for “those with sensory and physical disabilities”.”

International news

Local news by authority

See here for virtual tour
  • Essex – Rayleigh High Street library to host new Barclays service – Echo series. “Barclays has announced it will now operate a service four days a week from Rayleigh Library, in the High Street, following a series of branch closures in the area.”
  • Flintshire – Flintshire Council assurances over leisure services – Leader. “In a letter seen by the Leader Aura Leisure – which runs most leisure centres in Flintshire – has claimed the council is “contemplating” withdrawing funding support for it. The organisation, which runs the Buckley, Mold, Flint and Deeside leisure centres, has issued a letter to its employees, saying its funding agreement with Flintshire Council ends on March 31.”
  • Gateshead – Crawcrook Library reopening next week – Gateshead Council. “Since the building closed for refurbishment in January, its lighting, decoration and internal fittings have been upgraded to create improved space for community activities and book borrowing.” … “Pelaw Library is also currently closed for refurbishment and expected to reopen within the next few weeks”

“We are not looking to take away Performing Arts Library’s statutory status as it doesn’t have any, indeed no performing arts library does as they were not included in the 1964 Act”

Somerset – Correction to BBC article

Better on balance?

Editorial

Interesting mixture of news from GLL’s several library services this week. On the one hand, three of their library workers are up for national awards, it’s been confirmed that they are continuing to run Dudley’s libraries and there’s a nice refurbishment in Bromley. On the other, there’s strike action in their Bromley and Greenwich library services, with ““low pay and shoddy working practices” being cited. Away from them. there’s a refurbishment in Staffordshire and protest moves against the huge cuts in Birmingham. There’s also a positive news article written by CILIP on the Business and IP Centres out now in the Big Issue.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • British Library did the right thing by not paying cybercriminals – Guardian / Letters. “At the National Cyber Security Centre, which is part of GCHQ, we have long shared the view of our law enforcement partners that paying ransoms should not be condoned, encouraged or endorsed. Doing so does not guarantee a return of access to data or computers, and in fact makes it more likely that the victim will be targeted in future.”
  • CILIP Conference – CILIP. 10-11 July, Birmingham. “Intellectual Freedom will form our headline theme, but per our leadership remit, we will also explore wider challenges and opportunities within our sector.”
  • CILIP North West Away Day and AGM 2024 – CILIP. 17 April, Liverpool. Speaker is Andrew Walsh, neurodivergent librarian, trainer, and National Teaching Fellow.
  • For The Love of Literacy 2024 – Better World Books. Webinar, 27 March 11am. “Join us on Wednesday 27th March at 11am, for 45 minutes, to meet some of our literacy grant and book donation recipients. They’ll tell you about their exciting projects and how our partnership will help achieve their project aims.”
  • Future of Scotland’s Libraries – RSE / Eventbrite. Wednesday 17 April, Edinburgh. “being asked to deal with challenges such as the cost-of-living crisis, book-banning requests, misinformation, the need for climate emergency awareness and more, and all of this in the face of growing budget challenges.”
  • GLL library staff nominated for prestigious awards – GLL. “Nominations and categories are as follows – Gill Nutkins, Stock Librarian, Bromley Libraries “Nominated for her dedication to making library services more accessible to people with additional needs.”. Loretta Awuah, Strategic Business Support Manager, Greenwich, Bromley and Wandsworth Libraries “Nominated for creating the business support section in Greenwich and delivering the British Library SILL (Start Up in London Libraries) programme”. Georgina Carr, Partnership Marketing Programme Owner, Lincolnshire Libraries “Nominated for championing online improvements and bringing in innovative ideas which have enhanced the customers’ experience”
  • Libraries closing across the UK: What could the future hold – BBC Newsround. “Since 2010 nearly 800 libraries across the UK have closed, and visitor numbers have dropped too. A recent report looked at how libraries in England might be different in the future. So Emma-Louise went to meet some children and author, and Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho, to find out what they want from libraries.”
  • More than 100 Bromley and Greenwich library workers to strike next week over pay – News Shopper / Yahoo. Union leader says “There are severe injustices that come with zero hours contracts and a so-called social enterprise should be ashamed to use them. “Our members are ready to fight for better pay and working conditions and we are right behind them.””
  • SLIC CEO Announces Retirement – Scottish Library and Information Council. Pamela Tulloch “A powerful and articulate advocate for libraries, during her time as chief executive she has grown and cemented the role that libraries play in all areas of social, cultural and political life, with successful and robust community initiatives which have had an impact on both the provision of funding and clear strategic lead.”
  • Spine Festival: Bringing poetry to South London’s libraries – London News Online. ACE funded. “Libraries in Lewisham, Southwark, Bromley and Wandsworth will be taking part in the festival, hosting performances across the next month. Each poet has been selected to create three relatable and fun creative writing workshops for their community’s children, exploring the themes of magic and imagination. “
  • They’re in everyone’s good books: Two librarians on shortlists for awards – London News Online. “Two dedicated and hardworking staff members at ‘Better’ libraries covering Bromley, Greenwich and Wandsworth have been shortlisted for distinguished awards from ‘Libraries Connected’.”
  • Want to rebuild the UK economy, Jeremy Hunt? Start with our beautiful public libraries – Big Issue. Jo Cornish of CILIP writes on Business and IP Centres in public libraries: “Over a three-year period (2016-2019), these centres helped no fewer than 12,388 business to launch – nearly half of which were in the ‘Northern Powerhouse’. Over the same period these ‘library start-ups’ generated £239m in additional sales, creating 7,800 new jobs in the process.”. These businesses were demographically diverse.
  • What’s the point of libraries? – Unison. “Library activists from Walsall and Hampshire explain the reality behind the stats that funding has been decimated and libraries are closing at an alarming rate” … ““It’s people in the cracks in society, without a support network around them, those are who rely on libraries.””

International news

Local news by authority

Birmingham
  • Bournemouth Christchurch Poole – BCP Council cuts hard copy newspapers in libraries – Daily Echo. “BCP Council has made the decision to cut all physical copies in its 24 libraries across the conurbation, saving the authority around £15,000 a year. Instead, around 1,000 newspapers will still be available digitally with the usual national papers and the Bournemouth Echo. ” … “Hours are set to be cut by an average of 10 hours a week, at each library, from April, which could save the authority £440,200.”
  • Bradford – Family fun at Bradford Libraries this Easter – Rombalds Radio. “Libraries will be reading stories and singing rhymes and there will be craft activities including making fluffy bunnies, designing Easter eggs, decorating bird houses, building Easter baskets, and creating Easter plant pots.”
  • Brighton and Hove – Changes to Hove Library archive stock collection – Brighton and Hove Council. “our libraries will be looking to sell a part of the archive stock collection through public auction. All funds raised from sales will be put aside for future spending on Hove Library.”
  • Bromley – Refurbishment of Southborough Library to begin soon – Bromley Council. “The council is undertaking an extensive repair programme across nine of the borough’s libraries, investing over £10m over the course of two years. The programme will deliver essential repairs to the libraries and seek to provide improved accessibility and sustainability throughout the buildings. The £500k refurbishment of Southborough Library will include a comprehensive repair programme with end of life materials replaced and repairs made to the building’s infrastructure, as well as new public access toilets with baby changing facilities.”
    • ‘Appalling’ GLL is facing strike by library workers in Bromley – Inside Croydon. “Library workers in Bromley are to take strike action over “low pay and shoddy working practices”, according to their union, Unite.” … “The union says that they employ library workers on zero hours contracts and implement “policies that do not align with local government conditions”.” … “, pay awards would have been higher if staff were still in-house.””
  • Croydon – Exploring the vague proposals on the table for Croydon’s libraries – Save Croydon Libraries. “The proposal and the consultation use misleading language, expressed in overly-positive terms, about changes that will purportedly improve access to libraries. What is being proposed is so vague that it is very difficult to understand what is really intended. For example, a ‘community book collection’ could mean anything: a box of random donated books; a shelf of library books in the corner of a post office, pub, or church hall; or a more comprehensive, well-curated offer in a large inclusive space. Self-service could mean self-service checking in and out of books, or it could refer to fully staffless ‘self-”
    • £51,000pa saved on library won’t touch council’s £1.6bn debt – Inside Croydon. “since 2019, our libraries service has had it budget reduced by more than £800,000 and opening hours have been reduced. Now, they’re at it again and Sanderstead and three other Croydon libraries are earmarked for closure as part of proposed changes. I suspect I’m not the only one who sees the cruel irony of London’s Borough of Culture proposing such an act of cultural vandalism.”
  • Darlington – Record numbers make a beeline for new look library – Darlington Council. “Among the new innovations which has proved most popular since the library reopened last September has been The Hive, a cutting-edge space designed to ignite curiosity and fascination in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) activities. After securing a £30,000 grant from LibraryOn, Darlington libraries teamed up with North East company Fuzzy Logic Studio to improve its online presence and engagement. The Hive boasts an interactive wall mural …”
  • Derby – Council invites bids to run Derby’s ten community libraries – Derby Council. “Derby City Council is inviting organisations to formally register their interest in running the city’s ten community libraries as a Trust.” … “As part of their application, organisations need to show that they have the knowledge, experience, and resources or support to manage the buildings or spaces to deliver a range of services, including library provision.”
  • Dudley – Books will be on sale at Stourbridge Library for just 25p – Halesowen News.
    • GLL to continue providing Dudley library service – Dudley Council. “Following a competitive tender process, the charitable social enterprise has been awarded the contract for the day-to-day management of the 13 libraries and Dudley Archives and Local History Service. GLL, which has been running Dudley’s libraries and archives since 2017, is committed to continuing to maintain and build on the service for borough residents. It is currently planning an official launch in the coming months of Brierley Hill Library, following it’s £670,000 refurbishment, and later this year will be launching the GLL Literary Foundation, which will support talented authors who are based near local libraries.”
  • Gloucestershire – Exciting event to return and library gets another funding win – Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Standard. “To help with the annual operating costs of the Library, the Gloucestershire County Councillor for Fairford and Lechlade-on-Thames, Dom Morris has announced that a one-off grant of £2,000 will be paid to the Library alongside the existing annual £10,000 at the start of this financial year and is to be used at the discretion of the Library volunteers to assist with any increased costs.”
  • Essex – Update on new Shenfield Library – Essex Council. “A topping out ceremony has marked a key milestone in the construction of Shenfield’s new library. The project will deliver a modern library and commercial space. Nine high quality apartments will be for sale above.”
  • Hampshire – North Baddesley Community Library raises more than £150 – Hampshire Chronicle. “Money raised will go towards buying replacement book shelves and new large print books which are popular among local readers.”. A further jigsaw sale is planned.
  • Kirklees – Kirklees Council set to sell off buildings and land to plug £47m deficit – BBC News. “Also on the list is the former Almondbury Library and community facilities including the DRAM Sport and Community Centre at Dalton.”
  • Knowsley – Teenage Writing Competition at Knowsley’s Libraries – Knowsley News. “Knowsley Libraries are running a writing competition for aspiring teenage writers. You can write a short story, poetry, a script or even a novel in any genre, the only criteria is that it should be an original piece of work and should be no more than 2,000 words in length”
  • Leicester – UK council won’t say whether two-week ‘cyber incident’ impacted resident data – Register. “Libraries and community centers remain open, and waste services continue to operate as normal, but access to public computers, Wi-Fi, and printing is down. “
  • Lincolnshire – Lincolnshire librarian in line for prestigious award – Lincolnshire World. “Georgina – who is the Partnership Marketing Programme Manager in the region – has been nominated for championing online improvements and bringing in innovative ideas which have enhanced the customers’ experience. These include a bespoke video sharing customers’ library stories, integrated catalogue functions, and room and activity booking facilities within the website.”
  • Manchester‘Unique’ south Manchester library set for major revamp – with closures announced – Manchester Evening News. “Chorlton Library will undergo a revamp, with work starting later this month. Once it fully reopens next year, the grade-II listed building will boast new meeting rooms, longer opening hours, and improved stonework and windows.”
  • North East Lincolnshire – Review of library and archive service across North East Lincolnshire closing this week – North East Lincolnshire Council. “The first stage of the review of library and archive services across North East Lincolnshire is coming to a close at the end of this week with nearly 600 people already having contributed their views. The current statutory library service and archive service is operated by Lincs Inspire Ltd …” … “The results of the first stage of consultation will inform proposals about how the services may look in the future, which will be the subject of the second stage of consultation, likely to be released in the late spring or summer of 2024.”
  • Nottingham – Nottingham library opening delayed after contractor goes bust – West Bridgford Wire. “The opening of the revamped Sherwood Library has been hampered by the collapse of a construction company and subsequent “snagging issues” – but remains on target for the summer.”
  • Redcar and Cleveland – ‘Let’s not remove the magic’: Pleas fail as council agrees library cuts – Darlington and Stockton Times / Yahoo. “The council said it received interest from 112 people who would like to become a library volunteer, while a number of organisations indicated that they would be interested in taking over Laburnum or Dormanstown Library buildings.”
  • Sandwell – CBeebies Bedtime Stories chair comes to Sandwell – Sandwell Council. “The chair will be located in Central Library, West Bromwich, for the next few months before being a tour around other libraries in Sandwell later this year. CBeebies Bedtime Stories legacy reading corners are being introduced at libraries in Sandwell, Leeds, Blackpool, Hartlepool, Leicester, Brent and Somerset.”
  • Somerset – New library scheme tackles abuse against women in Somerset – County Gazette / Yahoo. “Purple chairs are being installed in libraries across Somerset to provide a beacon of safety for women and girls. The “Purple Chair Scheme” will aim to provide safe spaces for women and girls across the county to get information about health and wellbeing, along with support and resources to help with any difficult circumstances.”
  • Somerset Libraries Neurodiversity books – Somerset Apple. “The collection includes 50 books and aims to provide ‘something for everyone’ including books for children, young people, adults, parents, women and those without an official diagnosis but who experience neurodivergent traits.”
    • Performing arts library in firing line of council cuts – BBC. “Somerset’s only performing arts library is facing closure as the council looks to save money. Located on the second floor of Yeovil library, the “unique” performing arts section offers music and drama study resources to the public. But Somerset Council is considering its removal from the Statutory Library Services.”
South Lanarkshire
  • Staffordshire – Burton Library set to undergo £1.3m refurb with extensive improvements – Staffordshire Council. “An allocation of £265,000 was secured from the Government’s Libraries Improvement Fund with Staffordshire County Council investing the remainder.” … “The refurbishment will involve repurposing the ground floor of the library into a vibrant, multi-purpose, accessible and inclusive space. It will include a flexible creative area for social activity and community learning which could be used by a range of groups and learning providers.”
  • Suffolk – Know Another Mocktail EventSuffolk Libraries. “Know Another is our new drink-awareness campaign to help you understand your alcohol intake and get advice to help cut down.”
    • Suffolk Libraries Day is coming – Suffolk Libraries. “libraries across Suffolk are hosting events and activities to raise money to support the vital work of the organisation in nurturing children’s literacy, tackling isolation and promoting wellbeing.” … “Suffolk Libraries Day has been running since 2019 and has so far raised over £50,000 to support Suffolk Libraries work in the community.”
  • Swindon – Swindon borough and parish councils to work more closely – Swindon Advertiser / Yahoo News. “One major service could be libraries. Cllr Grant’s report says:” There are five core libraries delivered by the borough council which forms part of the council’s statutory service and nine community libraries delivered by parish councils or community organisations, with agreed services such as stock management and training delivered by the borough council library service. As part of planning for sustainable delivery of library services, the council will explore the opportunities for further collaborative arrangements between the councils with regard to the future delivery of library services.””
  • Warwickshire – Warwickshire Libraries celebrates Shakespeare Week with pre-school ‘Storytelling with Shakespeare’ sessions – Warwickshire Council.
  • West Berkshire – New Thatcham Library part of wider regeneration plan for Brownsfield Road site – Newbury Today. “West Berkshire Council has allocated £1.2m in its budget for next year for a new build under ‘Thatcham Library’.”
  • West Northamptonshire – Self-funded community library calls for volunteers – BBC. Roade: “Without our volunteers it just wouldn’t exist. “You can have the funds but unless you’ve got the people to staff the library you are nowhere really.” The library is open Wednesday to Saturday and there are two volunteers at every session.”
  • Wolverhampton – Residents offered free health checks in libraries – BBC / Yahoo. “City of Wolverhampton Council said health monitors had been installed so people could also measure their height, weight, body mass index (BMI) and heart rate. No appointments are required and the checks are free and confidential, the authority said. Results are printed on a slip of paper for users to take away with them.”

The sharp end of the Curve

Editorial

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.

A “material threat”

Editorial

It’s probably safe to say that the last budget of this government’s term was not met with unfettered joy by the public library sector. The expected focus on tax (well, OK, National Insurance) cuts means that there will be very little money left for councils, already facing perhaps the most serious budgetary pressures in their history. CILIP didn’t mince words in their response, saying that the budget represented a “material threat” to the sector.

And what this means in practice does not take much in the way of effort to imagine. Also this week, Birmingham voted through possibly the deepest cuts ever in the UK, with 25 libraries likely to be closed, 11 more to become co-locations and 47 staff to be lost. In London, two councils (Haringey and Sutton) are replacing paid staff with card-entry. Scotland had some (temporary?) good news with Stirling removing all cuts while it thinks about it again but some definite bad news with South Lanarkshire confirming closure of seven branches. The good news is that the people of Northern Ireland can have access to new library books again, something one imagines has been taken for granted for generations up until the last year.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Angela Rayner Points Out A Very Obvious Problem With Nadine Dorries’ Endorsement Of Libraries – Huff Post / Yahoo. “Angela Rayner pointed out that a large flaw in Nadine Dorries’ new attempts to encourage people to go to libraries. Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, noted that hundreds of libraries have closed since the Conservatives were voted into power back in 2010, after the newly appointed culture secretary Dorries endorsed them on Sunday. Dorries tweeted: “It doesn’t matter where you’re from – a library card is a ticket to anywhere in the world. “It’s a chance to escape poverty, to broaden your horizons, to change your life, even.”. Angela replies “Why did you close 800 libraries then?
  • Jeremy Hunt, here’s all the ways your Spring Budget can start to fix our broken country – Big Issue. “Libraries are so much more than places to get books for free. They provide internet access – crucial for those claiming benefits – and in some cases act as warm spaces where community members can avoid the freezing cold. They generate £3.4 billion a year in value but are being neglected. Hard-up councils have reduced library spending by almost half since 2009/10. Libraries are often an easy target for cuts, but save the taxpayer money by improving literacy, wellbeing, employment and digital inclusion …”
  • LGA statement on Budget 2024 – Local Government Association. “It is disappointing that the Government has not announced measures to adequately fund the local services people rely on every day. Councils continue to transform services but, given that core spending power in 2024/25 has been cut by 23.3 per cent in real terms compared to 2010/11, it is unsustainable to expect them to keep doing more for less in the face of unprecedented cost and demand pressures.”
  • Librarians, apply to be an International Booker Prize Reading Challenge Ambassador – Reading Agency. “The prize is looking for three librarians from the UK and Ireland who are passionate about translated fiction to become Reading Challenge Ambassadors. The Ambassadors will be featured on the Booker Prizes and The Reading Agency’s channels, and have the chance to win tickets to the International Booker Prize 2024 ceremony. Reading Challenge Ambassadors will be sent a set of the 12 or 13 longlisted books after the announcement on 11 March”
  • Libraries: Protecting them helps everyone in the community – Herald. Regustrion required to read full article. “If the concept of a public library were proposed today, there is no doubt in my mind that it would be rejected by a great number of people as some kind of socialist utopian pipe dream.”
  • Library organisations call on government for long-term funding to protect services – BookSeller. “Libraries Connected and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) have called on the government for fair long-term funding for local government to protect libraries, in response to the Chancellor’s Budget Statement today (6th March). ” … “While both organisations welcomed the government’s announcement of new real-terms investment in cultural programmes, including £10m for the British Library North project in Leeds, they stressed the need for long-term sustainable support for libraries”
  • Passions: Libraries have been a lifelong focus from student social hub to parental inspiration and source of the latest titles – Scotsman. Registration required.
  • Show your work – finding & creating inspiration in the library sector – Artefacto. “We love seeing case studies, posts and articles from libraries and library staff celebrating their wins, whether big and small. But we also learn a lot from libraries sharing their experiences when things don’t necessarily go to plan.”
  • Statement: Libraries Minister must protect local library services – CILIP. “We hope that Government will take this final opportunity to avert further loss and hollowing-out of library services and to invest in the literacy, wellbeing and opportunity of future generations before it is too late.”
  • Sustainability in NHS Knowledge and Library Services Community of Practice joins the Green Libraries Campaign as a partner organisation – CILIP (press release). “The Green Libraries Campaign is the next stage of the Green Libraries Partnership, led by CILIP, which connects libraries across the UK through the annual Green Libraries Week and by allocating funding to enable libraries to launch green activities. It has also presented its inaugural Green Libraries Conference for knowledge sharing and green networking opportunities, and recently hosted free training workshops to support public library colleagues with tangible actions to embed and bring to life the pledges laid out in the Green Libraries Manifesto.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth asks “To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking, if any, to protect spending on public libraries.”. Lord Parkinson replies “Local authorities in England have a statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service which meets local needs. It is for each local authority to consider how best to deliver this.”

They Work For You

International news

“We needed such a mega event with a focus on libraries to bring people towards books. There’s no doubt about it that libraries symbolise the progress of civilisation,” he pointed out. “Therefore, libraries need to be preserved, protected, promoted, developed, redeveloped and reshaped. As all of you know, there are multiple benefits of reading books, which can be “most conveniently done by visiting libraries,” he remarked.

Pakistan President Dr Arif Alvi, at the Karachi Festival of Books & Libraries
  • Ukraine – Ukrainian libraries: two years under fire. An interview with Oksana Bruy – EUI Library Blog. ” The most recent data available suggests the war has affected all types of libraries in Ukraine, including national, regional, public, school, and university libraries. The number of operational libraries dropped to 26,281 by the beginning of 2023 compared to the previous year, representing a loss of approximately 4,000 libraries in the first year of war alone.”

“Ukrainian libraries remain central to communities, offering essential support services such as internet access, study spaces, legal or psychological consultations, language courses in English and Ukrainian and, of course, books. They also foster a sense of community cohesion and strength. However, in many communities in remote or frontline areas, many libraries are sadly closed, destroyed, or lack librarians. The constant threat of shelling makes it impossible for some to operate.”

  • USA – Haters attacked an inclusive public library. So its director made the whole city a book sanctuary – LGBTQ Nation. “no one from the Hoboken community, itself, seemed to oppose the event. The hate largely came from out of state, but it nonetheless made it clear that not even urban liberal enclaves in predominately blue states are safe from right-wing attacks. After the experience, Pu wanted to make it clear where her city stood. So she initiated the process of establishing the Hoboken Public Library as a book sanctuary.”

Local news by authority

  • Bradford – Family fun at Bradford Libraries this Easter – Bradford Council. “here will be craft activities including making fluffy bunnies, designing Easter eggs, decorating bird houses, building Easter baskets, and creating Easter plant pots.” Easter egg hunts.
  • Buckinghamshire – New library collections will provide invaluable resource for families with children – Buckinghamshire Council. Available at two libraries. “Parenting and Childcare Topics (PACT) is a unique collection of 170 different books designed to help parents and carers of children and young people to navigate a variety of topics from pregnancy, to dealing with complex emotions and situations, right up to approaching university. The books cover everything from general parenting tips to specific situations such as being separated parents or caring for a child with special educational needs and disabilities.”
  • Calderdale – The joy of volunteering: why your community needs you – Yorkshire Bylines. Computer help volunteer describes experience. “Perhaps it’s too easy to imagine that the people coming for help with technology must be elderly and/or lonely. This is just not the case: they come from all age groups, all social walks of life, and with a variety of lived experience. IT knowledge isn’t age or class-specific, nor is the occasional need for a cup of tea, some cheery company from outside your usual circle, and someone to chat to, even if it’s just for an hour. Of course, some folks need more help than others, but even a little is often enough to get them started on the road to tech independence. There is not just a technological need, but a social need here that’s also being unfulfilled.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Listed Cambridge library back on market after last owner pulled out of deal – BBC. “The 19th Century Mill Road Library in Cambridge was sold last year. The buyer intended to use it as a charity headquarters, but then pulled out of the deal.”
Cheshire West and Cheshire
  • Cheshire West and Chester – World Book Day: Cheshire West libraries to give free books to children – Cheshire Standard. Libraries giving out £1 books and quiz. Fancy dress swap has ended. Theatre show.
  • Croydon – ‘The council is dismantling our borough, service by service’ – Inside Croydon. “So there’s yet another consultation over the closure of certain libraries in the borough. After fighting this for many years, I think this time we can all agree that the writing is on the wall.” … “The council has been trying to close libraries for over a decade now. The cost of running the service plus the high value of the land the buildings occupy makes them a good target for a council drowning in debt” … “if the people of Croydon are happy to see this happen, then so be it. As for me I still think seeing the look on a child’s face when they sit in the library surrounded by books and realise they can take some home is worth the fight.”
  • Cumberland – World Book Day: Carlisle offers best access to libraries – News and Star. “New data from TonerGiant has uncovered the areas in England with the best, and worst, access to libraries, with northern cities Carlisle and Lancaster taking the top spot” … “he data found that residents in Carlisle and Lancaster have the best access to libraries in England, with approximately nine libraries per 100,000 people in each city.”
  • Devon – After over 18s hours party with music, drinks and food at Barnstaple Library – North Devon Today. “Libraries Unlimited has held incredibly successful Library Lates at Exeter, and more recently at Paignton, and we’re really excited it’s now Barnstaple’s turn. “Our library building is perfect for a party. There’s plenty of room to roll out a huge variety of things for everyone to enjoy.”

“Bring your friends and make a zine, or just make a noise! We’re promising a great, low-cost night out for everyone to learn something new and meet new people. There’s even a free wristband for a proper festival feel!”

  • Haringey – Councillors clash over cut to libraries service during budget debate – Haringey Community Press. “A Lib Dem proposal to find a new leisure centres provider instead of cutting the libraries budget was rejected by Labour councillors” … Lib Dems “heavily criticised the proposed library service cuts, which the council announced late last year, representing a 31% cut to spending over the next three years. The plans include reduced opening hours and using volunteers instead of professional librarians.” and “criticised the council’s decision to insource leisure centres following the termination of the council’s contract with Fusion, saying the council should have found an alternative external provider to take on the responsibility.”
    • Haringey Council defends library cuts and tennis charges – Tottenham and Wood Green Independent. “Plans for the year from April 2025 would move libraries to a ‘self-service’ model, with users given a keycard to enter library buildings, professional librarians replaced with volunteers, no toilet access without staff present and no CCTV monitoring.” … “Haringey Council said the reduction in the libraries budget was “based on efficiencies, not cuts”, and that it would be co-producing its libraries strategy with local people and staff.”
  • Manchester – Package for Val campaign launches in libraries to fight city-wide period poverty on International Women’s Day – Manchester Council. “The Package For Val campaign was first trialled at Manchester Central Library and after helping countless women and girls who endure period poverty, it has now expanded to 18 other libraries across Manchester including Newton Heath, Gorton and Withington” … “The package contains 2 sanitary towels in a discrete paper bag, supplied to anyone who asks at the library counter for a Package for Val. Posters are put in public loos to raise awareness of the scheme to anyone who needs it”
  • North Ayrshire – Kilwinning banking hub open for business in the town library – Ardrossan Herald. “Cash Access UK have opened the hub in a temporary location for now – Kilwinning Library, on St Winning’s Lane. They are now looking for a permanent base for the banking hub in the town, which opened for the first time on Monday, March 4.”
  • Northern Ireland – New library books: £1m of funding announced for NI Libraries – BBC. “In September, Libraries NI said it did not have money to buy new books as it had a “significant funding gap” in its annual budget. Libraries NI chief executive Jim O’Hagan said the organisation was “very grateful to be able to buy books again”. The £1m award brings the total funding for book stock to £3m for 2023-24.”
    • Woman with disabilities ‘sat and cried’ after news that library service was suspended – Impartial Reporter / Yahoo. “A woman with disabilities who avails of the Libraries NI Homecall service, calling it her “last lifeline”, said she “sat and cried” when she was informed that it would be suspended over the summer months. The Homecall service enables readers to contact their local library and request a selection of books to be delivered to their home if they are unable to visit the library themselves or do not have someone who can go to the library on their behalf.”
Nottingham – “Take a virtual tour of your new Nottingham Central Library from the comfort of your own home. Accompanying poem written and performed by Georgina Wilding.”
  • Nottingham – Nottingham City Council statement as 500 jobs to go and sweeping cuts to services approved – West Bridgford Wire. “Reviewing Library Service provision while maintaining a comprehensive and efficient service offer appropriate to the needs of our citizens.”
  • Orkney – Read all about it: TV’s Simon and Trish ‘Race Across Libraries’ from Exeter to Orkney – Orkney Council. “Two intrepid literary explorers are hoping they won’t be ‘overdue’ when they attempt to travel 1,100 miles across the UK to visit seven libraries – including Orkney Library & Archive – in six days to promote accessible reading services. Taking part in the challenge later this month (March) are Simon Savidge from Libraries Connected and Trish Sail from RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People). Simon is the man behind the Savidge Reads YouTube channel and broadcasts on books on Sky Arts while Trish, who is registered blind, last year won series three of the BBC’s Race Across the World with her best friend Cathie.”
South Lanarkshire: CILIPS give this caption to it: “‘Dear Library’ by Jackie Kay, created by South Lanarkshire Libraries for National Poetry Day. Closing libraries now appear at 0.23-0.30, 1.08-1.35, 2.10-2.20 and 2.27-4.26.”
  • South Lanarkshire – Dear Blantyre Library – CILIPS. ” I, along with countless others in our community, were heartbroken this weekend to hear confirmation of Blantyre Library’s closure, alongside six other branches across South Lanarkshire.” … “Here at CILIP Scotland, such news remains shocking but sadly unsurprising – you can read our archive of open letters to local authorities considering or implementing similar cuts to library services or consult the heat map we have created to visually illustrate our advocacy engagement throughout the last three years. Invariably, community campaigners with unparalleled local knowledge prove critical in calling decision makers to account. “
  • Stirling – Libraries Secure Reprieve in Budget After Massive Public Support, £100K Review Funded – BNN. “Following public support, libraries won a budget reprieve, avoiding closures and receiving £100,000 for future reviews, highlighting the community’s role in safeguarding essential services.”
  • Stoke on Trent – Longton Library refurbishment nears completion – Stoke on Trent Council. ” Longton library will temporarily close on Saturday 16 March, and will re-open to the general public on Monday 15 April. Work has been ongoing on the refurb of Longton Library since £300,000 of funding was secured from Arts Council England, as part of the Libraries Improvement Fund.”
    • Stoke-on-Trent Family Hubs introducing community book collections to mark World Book Day – Stoke on Trent Council. “Stoke-on-Trent Libraries will work with the Family Hubs to provide a wide range of books for younger readers while also catering for parents who enjoy reading. Community Book Collections will be available at Bentilee and Westfield (Normacot) Family Hubs as well as Thomas Boughey (Shelton) and Stoke North (Chell Heath) Children’s Centres.  This will complement the recent introduction of library memberships in Family Hubs, continuing the city council’s commitment to giving children in Stoke-on-Trent the best start and increasing reading levels.”
  • Suffolk – Bury St Edmunds Library team are pedalling for pounds – Suffolk Libraries. “Anyone visiting the library is welcome to join in the challenge and hop on the exercise bike in the library foyer and add as many miles as they like, making a donation in the process.”
    • Menopause & Me: the first year – Suffolk Libraries. “Suffolk Libraries runs the project in partnership with Suffolk Mind and over the past year has developed a new range of support, guidance and resources to help people in Suffolk experiencing the menopause and perimenopause. New support groups have also been launched in some libraries and courses offered to local employers and those affected by menopause.”
  • Sutton – Sutton libraries to open for longer – Sutton Council. “councillors agreed plans to introduce self access technology in all eight of the borough’s libraries.” … “he busier libraries, Sutton Central and Wallington, will be fully staffed from 9am to 5pm and will be self-access during extended hours.  Smaller libraries will remain staffed at least one day a week, but will be open for longer with extended periods of self access.” … “Lack of money means we have to find ways to save money and self-service does this.”
  • Tameside – Tameside libraries prepare for World Book Day events – Quest Media Network. “two story telling sessions, ran by the theatre company 2 Boards & A Passion.” Crafts and giving out tokens.
  • Warwickshire – Warwickshire Libraries enhance sensory offer with introduction of social stories – Warwickshire Council. “The guides include plenty of photos to help customers to the library familiarise themselves with the look, feel and layout before they visit, as well as highlighting environmental factors that may impact people with sensory differences, such as noise levels and crowded areas. “
  • Worcestershire – Great news for Rubery’s library members as Libraries Unlocked launches this week – Worcestershire Council. Staffless technology introduced “extending Rubery Library opening hours for Libraries Unlocked members to 8am – 8pm, Monday to Saturday.”. Those 15 or under can visit if accompanied someone aged over 15 who is a member.

Fire sales, trusts and irony

Editorial

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.

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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.”

Time
  • 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.”

Different stories: UK, Ireland and the USA

Editorial

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.”

A promise that government makes to its citizens

Editorial

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”

Affording it

Editorial

The “Future Libraries” report just produced is worth reading, especially for those who do not feel that budget cuts are not enough to worry about. From what I’m hearing and reading, though, about the sheer number of councils about to go bankrupt, well, that is by far the major threat at the moment. But that’s not the case everywhere. In the USA funding has gone up by 15% since 2010 while it’s reduced by, wow, 49% in England in the same period. That doesn’t mean public libraries there are having a golden time. Far from it, because censorship is the clear and present danger in the Land of the Free. This week saw a genuine video (I double-checked) of a Republican politician flamethrowing books she took from a public library. Yes, actually and literally flamethrowing them. At least, in the UK, one only has to worry about burning balance sheets.

It can be possible to see the changes in UK public libraries are seen by some as a good thing. And many indeed are. I miss the crowds of the 1990s but not the lack of story-times and reading groups. The Local Government Chronicle has a report that goes further, saying “It wouldn’t be remiss to say libraries are more community centres these days, and in the breadth of services they offer they can help improve the wider health and economic outlook for an area.”. Some changes are just sad, though. Norfolk are reinstating library fines and, from the context of the article, it’s not because there’s disagreement about the pros of getting rid of fines. Rather, it’s simply been done because of the need for money.

The changes in public libraries due to budget and council requirements is seen by some as move is too expensive. Having a library shared with a bank or just a few shelves in the council headquarters is not going to win the support of many such campaigners. The fear is that, by trying to add on so many other offers to that of the basic public library one, the sector will lose its sense of identity and no longer be seen as welcoming and friendly. Proponents of change point out, albeit between the lines, that it’s necessary if one wants a library at all.

Anyway, enough of depression. if you fancy a change of scenery, I’d advise a trip to Poland, as it has a genuinely good news story. The New Horizons Library just built there has deservedly won several awards and it’s easy to see why. To be honest, I want to move in. If I can afford the flight.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Cutting library funding comes at a high social cost – Herald. “At a time when every penny matters, libraries are proving to be crucial financial assets for individuals and families navigating the complexities of the cost of living crisis. From closing the attainment gap, to combating social isolation and bridging the digital divide, libraries connect and empower communities.”
  • Future Libraries – CILIP. “Part one is the horizon-scanning report, Come Rain or Shine: Preparing public libraries for the future in an age of uncertainty, which envisions the challenges and demands that public libraries will face from now until 2040. Come Rain or Shine provides an in-depth analysis of future scenarios that can impact public libraries to help library staff and leaders to become more agile in their strategies and activities. Like the weather, the future is unpredictable. Should we be warning about storms ahead or are we hoping for blue skies in public libraries? CILIP commissioned the report with funding from Arts Council England and in consultation with public library professionals from across the country.
  • Libraries are clearest example of successful local government transformation – Local Government Chronicle. “a library in 2024 is a lot different to a library in 2010 where book borrowing was the main focus. If you go to your local library now, you could take part in baby and toddler classes. Or drop in to a business start-up support service. If neither of them are applicable, you could use your library visit to go to your leisure centre too which is located within the building for efficiency of scale. It wouldn’t be remiss to say libraries are more community centres these days, and in the breadth of services they offer they can help improve the wider health and economic outlook for an area.” … “Councils know the social and economic value of libraries and cultural services but can’t spend what they don’t have”
  • Meet The Superhero Librarians Fighting For Their Queer Communities – Huffington Post. “Should I be worried as a librarian in the U.K.? We exist in a significantly different political climate than the U.S., and our far-right groups aren’t as large or visible. But fear, ignorance and anti-queerness exist, of course. This 2023 article in The Guardian cited research finding that a third of U.K. librarians had been asked by members of the public to censor or remove books. Librarians are an extremely valuable part of the fight against LGBTQ+ oppression, and if these attacks continue, then we’re all screwed. “
  • ‘Reading is so sexy’: gen Z turns to physical books and libraries – Guardian. “This week the 22-year-old model Kaia Gerber launched her own book club, Library Science. ” … “Gerber isn’t alone. Last year in the UK 669m physical books were sold, the highest overall level ever recorded. Research from Nielsen BookData highlights that it is print books that gen Z favour, accounting for 80% of purchases from November 2021 to 2022. Libraries are also reporting an uptick in gen Z users who favour their quiet over noisy coffee shops. In the UK in-person visits are up 71%.”
  • Thanks to a shadowy hacker group, the British Library is still on its knees. Is there any way to stop them? – Guardian. ” The very conditions that have allowed them to conduct their trade across the open plains of cyberspace are those they now aim to abuse, by shutting down the possibility for communication and knowledge-sharing, stealing and encrypting information, forcing users to buy back or lose their data, and bringing vital institutions such as libraries – which protect and share all of this knowledge for anyone to access – to their knees.”
How public libraries can work with 64 Million Artists

YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and beyond: video marketing for libraries and cultural organisations’ – CILIP. 15 March, online.

International news

  • Bangladesh – Libraries will solidify our foundation as a smart nation – Daily Star. “Libraries are beacons of ethical and sustainable development, nurturing economic and digital growth, as well as moral and ethical values. As we witness the continuous threat of isolation driven by technological and economic forces, libraries emerge as vital public spaces that connect communities and bridge the gap between knowledge and power.”
  • Canada – These books were challenged at Ottawa’s libraries last year – CBC Lite. “According to a report to the library’s board, there were seven “requests for reconsideration” during 2023. Six sought to pull books or DVDs from library shelves, while one asked to reclassify a graphic novel from the teen to the adult collection. Complaints covered everything from alleged racism or promotion of hatred to reports of inaccurate information or objectionable content.” … “According to the report, the library retained all of the materials in their existing collection areas. That includes the graphic novel, which remained in the teen section.”
  • Germany – German libraries up defences against far-right attack – Yahoo News. “Defaced and destroyed, books  torn up and political messages scrawled across their pages: the evidence of an alleged far-right vandalism spree at a city library in Berlin covers an entire table.” … “By targeting libraries, “the extremist right is trying to change the boundaries of what can be said”
  • Ireland – Clare libraries want you to Get Lost… in a Good Book – Clare Council. “Libraries throughout Clare are taking part in Ireland Reads, a campaign to get the whole country reading this month in the lead-up to a national day of reading on Saturday, 24th February.” … “Irish libraries have teamed up with publishers, booksellers, authors and others for the campaign, which is part of the government’s Right to Read programme and aims to celebrate reading and all the benefits it can have for wellbeing and enjoyment.”
  • Lithuania – Gamification – the key to attractive cultural activities and adult education in libraries – Naple Sister Libraries. “All the knowledge gained was applied by library specialists on the last day presenting new ideas for gamified education and projects, which they plan to implement upon returning to their library. The project is funded by the Erasmus+ program funds.”
  • Newcastle – Reading Ahead Challenge – Newcastle Council. “Anyone can take part in Reading Ahead. All you need to do is join the library and read 6 books (or other items) over the course of four months. Library staff in your local branch will provide you with a challenge diary for you to complete in your own time and will help you to choose reading material you’ll love. Reading Ahead participants are invited to library events, including our World Book Night celebration and Late Shows evening, and will attend a special celebration event for challenge completers.”
  • Palestine – Israeli Damage to Archives, Libraries, and Museums in Gaza, October 2023–January 2024 – Librarians With Palestine. List of libraries and museums damaged or destroyed. ” In this report, we offer a partial list of archives, libraries, and museums in Gaza that have been destroyed, damaged, or looted by Israeli armed forces since October 7, 2023. This report is necessarily incomplete. It is very difficult to determine the status of archives, libraries, and museums in Gaza during the ongoing Israeli bombardment. “
  • Poland – Biblioteka Nowy Horyzont Press Kit – Google Docs. Award-winning “New Horizons Library”. “focusing on creating three different spaces for three different personality types of users. Ensuring that each reader finds a space that suits his or her needs and character. ” … “We call the third room the room for extroverts. Its layout already allows the organization of activities in large groups, and modular furniture designed to size allows you to arrange the space according to your needs.”
Poland – New Horizons Library looks like no other library
  • USA = Maine library sparks outcry after stocking book titled ‘Irreversible Damage’ about ‘the transgender craze seducing our daughters’, with one local warning it could cause a suicide – Daily Mail.
    • Closing the book on libraries – Carolina Journal. “It’s no secret that libraries — public, academic, special, and school — have taken a sharp left turn in recent years. As more and more young people have graduated with degrees in library science, the profession has taken on a far more radical, activist turn than ever before.” … ” the radical left now controls most library organizations” … “librarians in the rank and file were quick to oblige, filling library shelves with age-inappropriate materials and leftwing propaganda. ” … the article says the reader should contact “the Association for Library Professionals (ALP), for more information, see here. A fledging association that will launch its website later this month, ALP seeks to return libraries to neutrality while stressing that libraries purchase age-appropriate materials. “
    • Library Advocacy and Funding Conference 2024 – EveryLibrary. July 24-26. “outreach, donor research, grants, legislation, coalition building, digital tactics, and marketing. And we’ll be expanding our track focused on navigating the book banning movement currently sweeping the United States.”
    • Libraries and Loneliness – Library Journal. “I’ve been worried about library visits for a while now, but my concerns have largely focused on the effect fewer visits will have on the future of libraries. What I learned is that I had it backwards. Yes, there’s a danger to libraries when fewer people use them; but the bigger threat in decreased library use is to the community itself.”
Burning library books is now seen as a votewinner. See Missouri GOP secretary of state candidate burns LGBTQ books in online video | The Hill
  • Pixelating Libraries: Bridging Books and Bytes – Public Libraries Online. “In the midst of book bans and budget cuts, I turned to art to navigate the challenges within our field. This artistic exploration delves into the unexpected but profound connection between video games and libraries. The union of video games and libraries may seem unconventional, but it has deep roots. Public libraries, once the gateway to computer experiences, evolved with the digital age. Today, as children immerse themselves in games like Roblox, it prompts contemplation on the evolving dynamics and its impact on library service”
    • This week in libraries – Publishers Weekly. ALA has five new core values “access, equity, intellectual freedom and privacy, the public good, and sustainability.” Increasing censorship, helped by social media algorithms.
    • Wake County libraries could expand to keep up with growth – WRAL. Caroline area has increasing population so libraries are looking at funding to renovate and replace libraries and add new ones.

Local news by authority

  • Bracknell Forest – Bracknell library closure claims are ‘simply not true’ – Bracknell News. “Bracknell Forest Council has plans to merge its libraries and customer services departments as part of a cost-saving drive. The plans could see volunteers take over the home library service, which delivers books to housebound people, but they don’t include closing libraries. Yet rumours that closures were in the works apparently spread among library customers and staff during December and January. Now the councillor in charge of libraries has said the claims are ‘simply not true.’” … “four management jobs would be ‘deleted’ as part of the merger. But he said there would be no reduction in opening hours or front-line staff serving library user”
  • Brighton and Hove – Proposal to freeze library fees – Brighton and Hove Council. “Like all council services, the city’s libraries have had to find savings and additional income as part of the proposals to close a £30 million budget gap for the next financial year. However, as part of the drive to minimise the impact of the cuts on frontline services that many people rely on, the proposal is to keep fees and charges across library services at the current rates, rather than introduce the 3.5% inflationary increase agreed across other council fees and charges.”
  • Buckinghamshire – Library theatre show promotes the benefits of gardening for mental health – Buckinghamshire Council. “The theatre tour is being jointly funded by Buckinghamshire Council’s Healthy Libraries programme and the national Rekindle programme. Rekindle is led by Creative Arts England and funded by Arts Council England and is designed to empower libraries to strengthen ties with local arts and make it more accessible to local communities”
  • Cardiff – Library campaigners slam council cuts proposals – Nation Cymru. “Proposals include slashing library opening times, closing some libraries on Saturday’s, more unpaid volunteers to discharge roles previously done by paid trained staff and ending provision of physical copies of newspapers and magazines. Adam Johannes from Cardiff People’s Assembly said: “If Cardiff Council’s proposals of almost half-a-million pounds worth of library cuts go through, our city library service will be devastated.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Planned cuts to some library opening hours – BBC. “a 6% reduction in opening hours spread across the area’s 22 sites, but all libraries would remain open.” … “A public consultation on the proposals runs until the start of April.”
  • Derby – Library plan set to deliver a service fit for the future – Derby Council. “Councillors will be asked to approve plans for the city’s 10 non-statutory libraries to be run by a Trust. The separate organisation could either run the community libraries itself or establish a new Trust to do so.” … “If plans are approved, the Council will launch a formal process to identify viable proposals from Trusts or organisations who want to run services. The Council could provide a grant and support packages to be negotiated as part of the formal process to find a Trust. “
  • Southend – Vital’ libraries across Southend will stay open after threat of closure – Yahoo News. “Two libraries could have closed and the opening hours of others slashed as part of proposals to tackle the council’s £10.7million financial black hole. In newly-published budget papers, all mention of reviewing the future of libraries has been removed – much to the delight of campaigning residents and councillors”
  • South Lanarkshire Hundreds sign petitions against closure of South Lanarkshire community facilities – Daily Record. ” South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture (SLLC) launched a public consultation on the closure of 37 halls, libraries and outdoor facilities.” inc. Hillhouse, Blantyre, Bothwell and Forth libraries.
  • Stirling – Dunblane Library closure fears prompts crunch meeting call – Daily Record. ““The squeezed budgets on councils all over the UK are very concerning at present but it’s about priorities and saving our libraries need to be at the heart of any budget decision process.”
  • Wandsworth – London’s ‘best libraries’ could be open for longer despite many closing down – My London News. “It comes after 154 residents signed a petition from Wandsworth Conservatives demanding the council increase the opening hours at Northcote Library in Battersea from four days a week to at least six days a week. The new library opened in April last year to replace the previous 1960s building opposite. The scheme was approved under the council’s old Conservative administration, before Labour took over in May 2022.”. Council is looking at “”how the current hours are performing, what residents need and what changes might be both beneficial and affordable”.”
  • Westmorland and Furness – Update on library services in Ulverston and Roose – Westmorland and Furness Council. “As the library is a statutory function, we’re required to consult on any changes, including any relocation of the library, so the local community will have the opportunity to comment on proposals once they are fully developed and public views will be taken into account as part of the process. We have also already been in contact with the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport to inform them of the situation and they have indicated they are comfortable with our approach. Once the options assessment is completed we will be in a position to engage with stakeholders, partners, elected members and our community, so we are committed to keeping you informed when we have clear information about the options.”

£232 million (£329m with inflation) cut to UK public libraries since 2010

Editorial

And of course that cut, which is between one-quarter and three-eighths of total public library expenditure depending on if you count inflation, is not uniform. Some places, often the wealthiest, have been cut less and some others, often not the wealthiest, have been cut more.

Anyway, happy birthday to the Library Campaign which started 40 years ago to the date I am writing this. Thank you to Terry for letting me know. I had no idea. And, wow, 250 delegates.

“On 4 February 1984 250 delegates attended The Cuts Conference, organised by Sheffield City Libraries and held in the city’s Town Hall.  Professor John Stewart (Founder and Director of the Institute of  Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham) and Paul Foot (radical investigative journalist) were keynote speakers. Dissatisfaction with the Library Association’s cautious approach to opposing cuts in library expenditure resulted in the Conference voting to establish an independent and more political campaigning group. £200 was raised on the day with Paul Foot offering to donate the royalties of his latest book to the cause. Thus was The Library Campaign born. “

Terry Hanstock

And also thanks to Chris Hamilton, an ex Chief Librarian, who has also emailed in (the comments box on the website looks to be not working) thoughts of his own below:

“My minor niggle is the impression the public and many heads of service have that central government funds (or doesn’t fund) public libraries. Many many years ago when I was a new HoS I learned with some incredulity that ‘our’ bit of the central grant wasn’t discrete but bundled in with the bit for highways maintenance – and so we were effectively doomed from the get-go.

It’s just so important – IMHO – that everyone understands how public libraries are funded and focuses any campaigning on those who have the power (if not the cash) to make a difference. Realistically, I can’t see any prospect at all of local government or central government doing anything other than squeezing libraries ever harder. With social care and schools absolutely on their knees, it’s very hard to argue convincingly for libraries.

What would help is making libraries as efficient as possible and ensuring that everyone knows what they do, wherever they are – having one good clear universal offer. The demise of the library standards should have been fought tooth and nail, and just gave cash-strapped local authorities the green light to start hacking. I remember a Chief Exec saying just after that that he understood libraries were a statutory service “but not very statutory”.   

Along with my group of ex-Chiefs, I wonder why the heck the management of public libraries isn’t centralised under one body, applying one set of standards – instead of all the replication and duplication of structures, systems and procurement. There really is a whacking great saving to be made and an opportunity for good ideas and best practice to be shared rather than wheels being reinvented by successive managements up and down the country.

If we always do what we’ve always done … we’ll just sink without trace.

I get really depressed by the constant merry-go-round of new initiatives here and cutbacks there, with inexperience and politics over-riding realism and strategy. I love libraries. They aren’t complicated. They’re in danger of sinking under the weight of reviews while the crew debates how to arrange the shelves. It would be so good if CILIP and all the other players really thought outside the box and got their act together before it’s too late.

Chris Hamilton

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Call for Speakers – Beyond the Horizon – CILIP North-East Conference – Monday 20th May 2024 (afternoon) – CILIP NE. “You could be involved with a new project, a different way of doing something, or just feel you’re already doing something great and think others would benefit from knowing about it. This is your opportunity to share something you’re excited about with other professionals, so you could talk about completed projects as well as work in progress.”
  • Can ‘super libraries’ survive spending cuts? – BBC. Varied services at Woolwich Central Library, council budget cuts mean libraries seen as easy target, “expenditure on libraries has fallen by a quarter (£232.5m) since 2010.” [Plus inflation of 47% in same era = £329m hence actually 3/8ths – Ed]. “”Books and reading are always going to be central to what libraries do,” he says, but he adds there’s a growing recognition that “libraries are a great way of delivering different things”.” but budget cuts mean this is getting harder to do.
  • CCN: council spending on libraries and culture reduces by nearly £500m – Room 151. “The research has found that in 2010/11 English councils budgeted to spend almost £1.6bn on library services, culture, heritage and tourism. However, authorities’ latest accounts show that £1.1bn was spent on these services in 2023/24, a £470m decrease from 14 years ago.”
  • Celebrate books, reading, and libraries with Bedford Borough Libraries during Love Libraries Month – Bedford Council. “The month will feature author events for fiction lovers and family-friendly events for those with young children. Special Storytime sessions at Bedford Central and Kempston libraries, for under-fives, promise an engaging experience with stories, rhymes, themed activities, library hunts, and free sticker books. The beloved Bookstart Bear will also be making an appearance at some of these sessions.”
  • Digital exclusion in the UK: Communications and Digital Committee report – House of Lords Library. “The committee found that the shift towards digital by default public services had not been accompanied by adequate support for those who struggled with digital access. It argued that libraries and communities had taken on additional responsibilities but had not been given sufficient resources or training.” … ” The government should build on existing examples [of digital inclusion hubs] in the UK, focusing on libraries and other local amenities.”
  • Governance and History: The Direction of Public Libraries in the UK since the Second World War – Public Library Governance. “Without a clear and persuasive strategic direction, the future of the public library as the great public sphere institution it has proved itself to be in the past is in great jeopardy. The approaches to public library gov­ernance and the role of the public library in the UK are tracked and the various perspectives from government, practitioners and users presented. There is a lack of clarity and consensus regarding a desired role of the public library in the twen­ty-first century.”
  • How a decade of austerity has squeezed council budgets in England – Guardian. “An exclusive Guardian analysis of 13 years of council data has detailed how local spending patterns have changed under austerity budgets. Between 2010-11 and 2022-23, net spending per person on cultural services was cut by 43% in real terms, on roads and transport spending by 40%, on housing by 35% and on planning and development by a third – with more cuts pencilled in for this year.”
  • Innovation Gathering 2024 – Libraries Connected. Wednesday 6 March, 10am to 4pm, Birmingham. “The event is aimed at library staff in development and middle management roles but is open to anyone working in public libraries. We particularly welcome attendance from anyone who hasn’t attended a Libraries Connected event before and people from ethnic minority backgrounds, who have historically been under-represented at our events.”

“replace selected chairs in the Upper Camera with heritage-style chairs in keeping with the neoclassical style of the location, whilst significantly improving the comfort of our readers”.

Meanwhile in Oxford University, they’re going with nice new posh chairs
  • Part of the Job: Patron-Perpetrated Sexual Harassment in UK Public Libraries – Public Library Quarterly. “Patron-perpetrated sexual harassment (PPSH) toward librarians is an under-researched area of sexual harassment studies and library studies. This study is the first on PPSH toward librarians in the United Kingdom and focuses on public librarians. 143 UK public librarians were surveyed about their experiences of PPSH over the past five years. Respondents had experienced 14 of the 16 sexual harassment behaviors in the survey, and 81.8% of respondents experienced at least one form of PPSH. Respondents’ age, gender, and ethnicity were also considered in relation to their experiences of PPSH. This study provides
    recommendations for the profession and future researchers”
  • Tory council cuts see care homes, creches and libraries disappear from Britain – Mirror.
  • The UK is dismantling its legacy of municipal splendour – Financial Times. “The UK government is now considering loosening the rules for allowing councils to sell off assets. This is bad news for everything from libraries to swimming pools, town halls to toilets. Since 2010, council assets have been sold off in attempt to fill a £15bn hole in central government funding. More than 800 public libraries, 1,000 swimming pools, over 200 playing fields, half of all magistrates courts and 1,000 public toilets have been closed. ”
  • World Book Day charity sparks outrage after suggesting libraries don’t encourage children to read – Manchester Evening News. “comments from the charity have caused anger after it suggested that libraries aren’t a key factor in encouraging kids to read. Listing the ‘building elements’ which support a child to read for pleasure, it asked ‘which six are correct?’ and next to ‘going to the library’, it put a red cross.” … “following last week’s criticism, it has now been changed, with World Book Day describing it as ‘an unfortunate mistake’.”

International news

  • Australia / Finland / Singapore – Playing in the “Third Place”: How Games and Play Are Transforming Public Libraries – Sage Journals. “Drawing on observation of library spaces and interviews with library staff in Australia, Finland, and Singapore (n = 27), we examine the myriad ways games and play are transforming the library: from its architectural design and furnishings to its daily rhythms, atmosphere, and acoustics.”
  • China – Feature: China’s libraries go smarter to stock more books, engage more readers – China News. “Book lovers are attracted not only to the library’s architectural design which resembles a reading space under giant ginkgo trees, but also its abundant collection of books and smart services. With a total construction area of about 75,000 square meters, Beijing Library houses over 8 million books. The towering stacks on the library’s basement floor contribute to the massive book collection capacity, which is part of the largest single entity of automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) for books in China” Public libraries seeing increase in investment.
  • New Zealand – How public libraries are aiding community engagement – RNZ.
  • USA – Public libraries in the Richmond area are being reimagined – Axios. $18m upgrade “ At 25,000 square feet, the new branch is around two-thirds larger than the old Midlo Library. ” Includes “A digital media center; Outdoor reading garden, complete with an outdoor classroom for storytime; Outdoor musical sculptures for kids; Improved seating for lounging and reading; And meeting spaces, plus a large community meeting room.”
    • Alabama pulls out of American Library Association – WSFA. “The states public library service voted to end its membership with the ALA because some members say the discourse became a distraction.” … ” Opponents contend it promotes Marxism, discriminates against faith-based organizations, and supports keeping sexual content in libraries.”. Governor wants to “restrict funds for libraries that don’t adopt policies to require more parental supervision in libraries.”
    • A Practical Guide to Privacy in Libraries – ALA. Book. “Written in a highly practical manner, this book is essential reading for library and information professionals who need to understand and support privacy in the library setting and a useful reference for students and researchers in the field who need to understand this topic in practice. “
    • Do the Research: Conspiracy Theorists and Public Libraries – Georgia Library Quarterly. “Information literacy instruction is already a traditional offering at libraries and is of imminent importance at this moment as mainstream media shares disinformation to boost ratings and compete with fringe media. Protecting patrons from information disorder, whether in the form of programming or infographics that strengthen patrons’ analytical skills, is a noble cause for libraries who are primed for the task”
    • This Week in Libraries – Publishers Weekly. Alabama censorship fight: “libraries cannot stand in place of parents on deciding what content is suitable for minors.”, censorship moves in Georgia calling the ALA “Marxist”, similar in Tennessee. USA survey discovers “75% of parents do not believe in the necessity of diverse books”
    • Trauma, Book Bans, and Libraries: A Resource Guide for Library Workers, Library Supporters, and Beyond – Book Riot. “Finding a positive to emerge out of several years of book banning feels like grasping at sand. We have watched the First and Fourteenth Amendment Rights of people be squashed, sat by as some of the most underpaid and overworked public servants in the country be called inaccurate and dangerous names, and experienced a rise in christofascism and stochastic terrorism across public schools and libraries. None of these are good, and none of these point to a healthy or thriving democracy.”

Local news by authority