We are an independent national organisation set up in 1984 to support Friends of Library groups and to campaign for improved services in publicly funded libraries. In March 2004 we became a registered charity (no. 1102634)
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The future looks blue…
There is little chance that Boris Johnson’s government will do anything for libraries. The Institute for Fiscal Studies commented that his manifesto contained very little altogether, and would look thin even as a one-year budget. IFS director Paul Johnson added: “The implication of the Conservative manifesto is that they believe most aspects of public policy are just fine as they are. Little in the way of changes to tax, spending, welfare or anything else.”
Conservative plans would leave public spending outside health by 2023-24 still 14% lower than in 2010-11. On local authorities specifically, the IFS found that the money allocated by the Conservatives would not be enough to meet rising costs and demands. Even if council tax rises by 4% a year (the maximum permitted) spending per person will be at least 20% lower than in 2009–10. Further cuts in services seem inevitable.
In the run-up to the election, Boris Johnson was quizzed by the BBC’s Andrew Marr on mass library closures since 2010. He claimed: “Some local authorities have been able to manage their finances so as to open libraries… I want to invest in libraries but we can only do that when we get the economy motoring.”
In response, CILIP chief executive Nick Poole said: “Firstly, local library services are not just the responsibility of local councils. The 1964 Public Libraries Act requires central government to oversee and improve public library services – a responsibility the previous Conservative government failed to implement.
“Secondly, while we are delighted that Mr Johnson’s local council has been able to invest in libraries, the fact that many cannot has less to do with sound financial management and more to do with the cuts of circa 30-40% handed down to them by the previous Conservative government.
“Finally, Mr Johnson appears to suggest that the country can only afford libraries when there has been an economic recovery. As we have commented time-and-again, this is a fundamentally misguided policy. By investing in libraries, you create opportunities for education and skills across the country, which in turn creates the conditions for future economic growth.”
* There is also little sign that the Conservatives have taken on board criticism of their campaign’s use of disinformation tactics – such as disguising their own Twitterfeed as an independent fact-checking site and using it to issue fake “information”. In an official complaint, CILIP said this crossed “a line which ought never to be crossed – raising the spectre of state-sponsored misinformation and the deliberate undermining of truth and accountability which should have no place in British politics.” Yet the party used exactly the same device on election night…
ELECTION MANIFESTOS AND MORE…
Predictably, libraries don’t hit the headlines in any of the main English party manifestos. But the differences are interesting…
The best-informed statement is from Labour – including a promise to restore national standards, as campaigners have demanded since they were abolished in 2008. They promise £1 billion for libraries, galleries and museums, and specifically mention updated IT for public libraries.
MEANWHILE the Conservative party has been sharply criticised by librarians for one of its “fake news” wheezes. See separate story.
Labour Party Manifesto 2019
“We will ensure libraries are preserved for future generations and updated with Wi-Fi and computers. We will reintroduce library standards so that government can assess and guide councils in delivering the best possible service.”
“We will invest in the towns and communities neglected for too long, with a £1 billion Cultural Capital Fund to transform libraries, museums and galleries across the country.”
Conservative Party Manifesto 2019
Their offer has already been announced (in October). Spread over two sectors and five years, it does not add up to much. “£250 million to support local libraries and museums ”
Green Party Manifesto 2019
One of two mentions sees libraries just as venues to lend tools. But the second at least shows the right attitude…
“Encourage a shift from models of ownership to usership, such as with car-sharing platforms and neighbourhood libraries for tools and equipment.”
“We will support councils to also use this funding to nurture arts and culture in their areas, keeping local museums, theatres, libraries and art galleries open and thriving.”
Liberal Democratic Party Manifesto 2019
The sole mention of libraries is slightly bizarre… “End period poverty by removing VAT on sanitary products and providing them for free in schools, hospitals, hostels, shelters, libraries, leisure centres, stadiums, GP surgeries, food banks, colleges and universities.”
Bobby Seagull’s manifesto
CILIP have snagged Bobby Seagull (formerly of University Challenge) to front their National Libraries Week campaign and he has devised a manifesto of stuff that he thinks are necessary for libraries of different types to succeed and /or survive. You can find the manifesto on the Libraries Deliver website mentioned in more detail below.
The manifesto has been presented to Parliament (October 15), with a call for “long-term sustainable funding for libraries” – alongside an important new report titled Public Libraries: The Case for Support. It does what it says on the tin, pulling together the evidence on public libraries’ vital role in:
• Place-shaping and inclusive economic growth
• Education, informal learning and skills
• Health, wellbeing and social care
• Digital skills and getting online
• Enterprise and business support
• Poverty prevention, social mobility and social isolation.
A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR U.S. FRIENDS
Just launched – a new resource for campaigners, formed by UK librarians’ association CILIP and a USA librarians’ resource called EveryLibrary. So – librarian-led, but potentially useful.
EveryLibrary contacted The Library Campaign well in advance of the launch. We gave campaigners’ point of view and discussed ideas. Their aim, they said, was “making sure that we are supporting your critical work as much as possible and that we are doing as much as we can to help you”.
The basic concept is to –
– make it much easier for people to move from caring about libraries to actually doing something concrete
– harness individual interest – plus the support gathered by local campaigns – into a national movement that can have an impact on the basic issues like under-funding and government indifference
– provide tools and promo material.
For the UK, EveryLibrary has branded itself as “Libraries Deliver”. That links it pretty firmly to the Libraries Deliver label used by the national libraries Taskforce. This, it’s fair to say, has so far failed to inspire the nation… but maybe that can change.
TLC will continue working with them. We think it’s well worth everyone signing up to see what happens next.
Go to https://www.librariesdeliver.uk
YOUR LIBRARY? SHUT DOWN.
- Your library? Shut down.
- Youth club? Shut down.
- Refuge? Shelter? Park? Closed.
- Your high street? Shut down.
- Nightclub? Shut down.
- Music venue? What’s one of those?
These are the opening lyrics – and libraries are the recurring theme – in ‘Shop’, latest
song by Brighton ‘punk rock poet pop’ band Gulls.
They call it ‘a clarion call to resist those who close libraries and open chainstores’.
And there is an article in the new issue of the Library Campaigner (now at the printers) by singer Rhi Kavok (a teacher) about what libraries mean to her.
The Library Campaign evidence to Arts Council England consultation.
Arts Council England is developing a strategy for the next ten years. You can find the online consultation here. The Library Campaign has submitted our views as follows:
The Library Campaign, founded in 1984 and now a charity, is the sole national representative of library users, Friends groups and campaigners. We work with Unison and Campaign for the Book through the Speak Up For Libraries coalition.
Our own website (www.librarycampaign.com) serves a large number of members and non-members, eg by maintaining the only national list of library groups. We also publish the only national magazine on public libraries.
TLC believes strongly that the arts – across the full spectrum from literature to fine arts, the performance arts to digital media – are essential to wellbeing. In an age of austerity and increasing social division, they are more vital than ever.
We also believe that both enjoyment and active participation can be available to everyone regardless of age, income, disability or background.
Everyone should be able to find a life-enhancing arts medium that suits their needs and aspirations.
The keys are wide choice and easy, everyday access.
We are therefore very happy with the outcomes identified in the report ‘Shaping the next ten years’.
In particular, we fully support:
– widening the focus beyond a narrow definition of ‘the arts’;
– valuing diversity (in its widest sense) as a criterion for policy and funding;
– making a strong case for culture’s benefits in social, health and economic terms;
– investing in ‘the culture and creativity that are part of people’s everyday lives’;
– working closely with communities and tackling the barriers to participation in people of every background;
– helping people to ‘find and access a wide range of cultural activities’.
– better provision for children, young people and families.
We trust that ACE will now appreciate even more that public libraries are not just a peripheral addition to arts provision (possibly as extra venues), with added roles in business, economic and social health that sit uneasily with a purely ‘arts’ agenda.
On the contrary, they are key to ACE’s exciting new perception.
They are a massive resource, already at work in the areas identified, at local grassroots level, nationwide. Investment in the support they badly need will be a major contributor to ACE’s ten-year aspirations. Probably the largest single contributor.
We acknowledge – and welcome – the already increasing depth of ACE’s understanding of the role of public libraries.
‘Again and again, the public tells us that they see libraries as trusted spaces, that they are welcoming to everyone and offer a safe, creative environment where knowledge is respected – people don’t feel intimidated to enter them.
‘As a result, libraries can reach many different audiences…
‘I believe that our deeper relationship with libraries will increase the availability and quality of cultural activity in public libraries for communities around the country.’
Building on this, we would argue for a fundamental re-orientation of ACE’s attitude to public libraries.
Yes, they are a convenient and uniquely accessible venue for ACE-funded arts activities. But they are far more than this. They are the bedrock of the nation’s entire culture strategy. They underpin every other endeavour.
1. They foster the basic tools required for access to, and appreciation of, the arts – literacy, emotional literacy, digital literacy, information literacy – as well as more subtle enablers such as self-esteem and self-confidence, health, social cohesion, a sense of belonging, a sense of place, acquisition of skills, the knowledge required for the exercise of citizenship, the feeling one can have influence in one’s locality, even the ability to make a decent living or launch a business or arts project.
2. Despite recent devastating cuts, they remain far more widely provided than any other cultural resource. Many local authorities have no municipal theatre, museum or art gallery. They all have libraries. In many areas libraries are, quite simply, the sole local cultural resource.
Local libraries therefore function as an irreplaceable ‘first step’ to every other aspect of the arts.
The possibilities are endless. And access is free of charge, which is far less likely to be true of other culture facilities. This is of central importance.
Properly funded and staffed libraries, within a national network, enable simple one-step access from the smallest library to a wealth of resources, both digital and physical. No other neighbourhood facility can possibly provide all this.Children, students, people on low incomes, older people, people with poor English and many other disadvantaged groups can, at the very least, sample a wide choice of books to help them discover what interests them. They can read or study in peace, meet others and join in group activities if they wish to, and experience a civilised space that belongs to them and does not demand any payment from them. Libraries are the most accessible cultural venue for all population groups – BAME people in particular – and are seen by the public to be so. The popularity of libraries among families also enables the appreciation of a full cultural offer at a formative stage for young children. This is more important than ever, with the narrowing of the school curriculum.On this basic provision has been built – up to now – a rich layer of added activity that is ‘cultural’ in the very widest sense. Obviously libraries give free access to reading (and films). A wide choice of free material enables people to experiment, go beyond the mass market offer, find things they might not have expected to like, ideas that challenge.
This is underpinned by, for instance, pre-literacy sessions for small children and book clubs catering for all ages and abilities (from children and teens to people with mental health or other disabilities), and all kinds of reading (from poetry to manga, politics to sci-fi). Reading for pleasure has been proven time and again to confer major benefits in terms of educational attainment, empathy, mental health, etc. Talking about reading is a simple step into human connection and self-expression. It comes very high on the list of popular means for cultural participation. ACE has, up to now, dedicated far too little of its overall budget to literature, support for authors and events linked to literature. It is also widely perceived to have done too little to support libraries’ work in this area. This needs to be urgently reconsidered.Reading-based activities are just the beginning. The ACE-funded report ‘Libraries welcome everyone’ spells out the enormous range of activities available in libraries nationwide. These arise quite naturally out of libraries’ basic remit to educate and entertain, and to be available to all. They are successful in attracting a diverse range of people and bringing them together. The report also notes that ‘so much of this work is seen to be “everyday” (ie, not something special) that it often passes unrecognised’. This is a point that needs emphasising.Also worth emphasising is the ‘first step’ culture opportunities these activities offer. T S Eliot defined culture widely, and summarised it as ‘simply that which makes life worth living’. All library activities enable people to meet and communicate. ACE’s research shows a keen appetite in the sector, and among the public, to encourage diversity and inter-action between different cultural groups. Most also have an obvious creative element – drawing, writing, movement, craft work, etc. These can be built on, by developing and publishing or exhibiting the results. ACE’s research shows clearly that many people see ‘art’ mainly as classical music, ballet and opera – things that are ‘not for them’. The kind of simple, very local, informal activities offered by libraries are a first step for many people intimidated by the idea of ‘art’ or the thought of going into premises such as theatres or museums. It has to be noted, of course, that many people currently see libraries as ‘not for them’. But libraries are in a far better position than any other venues to counter such prejudices: a national campaign can publicise attractions that can then be found at local level by anyone, anywhere. (This unique attribute has been badly damaged by the proliferation of volunteer libraries, which cannot be guaranteed to make any nationally consistent offer, but it has not been completely destroyed.)Above the ‘everyday’ level, many library services still manage to run author visits, local book prizes (usually working with schools), and entire literature festivals. The library also can – and does – serve as a meeting space and as a default venue for arts and crafts activities, art exhibitions (by professional artists and local clubs) and performances of all kinds (ditto). Facilities for video and music creation, 3D printing and digital arts are a growing area. A number of libraries have developed an outstanding role as venues for music performances. Festivals small and large – often multi-ethnic and multi-media – are run by library services or individual libraries, sometimes with professional performers, sometimes with considerable input from volunteers and from local cultural groups. Local-level activities do much to counter the current imbalance in provision between London and the regions. This is something ACE could nurture and build on. They also make it much easier to incorporate local people’s ideas and contributions into what is offered. This is very much wanted by the public.All these activities foster opportunities for people to do their own creative work and perform or show it, at the library or more widely. This could be as simple as reading aloud in a group, or placing something you have created in a library exhibition or craft fair. It could be writing or performing, depending on what the library offers. As well as providing personal fulfilment and self-confidence, these outlets also contribute to the diversity of the local arts scene and can stimulate insights among other participants.Libraries are thus established as the nation’s single key arts resource – simply by doing what we all know they do. This needs to be properly acknowledged. This is not a power grab for the library sector. It is a concept that can offer a great many opportunities to the cultural sector in general.We do not need to spell out the extent of the recent destruction within the public library service. Hundreds of libraries have closed, or been handed to volunteers to run as best they can. The national network function has been badly damaged. Where they survive, more and more libraries are having to cut back on any activity beyond an irreducible core. Importantly, the loss of expert staff has severely diminished libraries’ power to help people find the information they need, or to run or host arts activities of any kind.ACE therefore needs to address the current emergency in public libraries – their everyday funding and functioning. This has not, so far, been the case.We would argue that ACE needs to adjust its vision and see libraries as central, and essential, to its whole approach to the arts. To discount (and oversee further reduction in) public libraries’ considerable role in the arts is to deny access to millions of people who will have no alternative resource. It is also to deny many exciting outlets, development opportunities and new audiences to arts bodies.We recognise that libraries’ statutory status may make it a little awkward to find ways to fund basic functions.
Nevertheless, the current unprecedented situation means it is no longer possible to avoid grasping this nettle.We suggest:
1. A major national publicity campaign to make the public aware of what libraries offer. Hugely successful projects have been run by the National Literacy trust (twice) and by The Reading Agency (Love libraries) – only to be abandoned.2. A major national publicity campaign to make decision-makers – national and local – similarly aware how libraries contribute to their agendas, not just ‘arts’ as such but the whole range of ‘that which makes life worth living’. We know attempts are regularly made in this area, but a much stronger approach is needed.
3. An acknowledged role for, and support for, library users and campaigners as ACE’s partners. These are a massive resource of knowledge and ideas, should have a central role in developing policy and are a voice for libraries at local and national level that ACE sorely needs to back up its work.
4. An acknowledged role for, and support for, frontline library staff as ACE’s partners. As above.
5. Full, articulate support for the value of trained library staff, and specialist posts in arts, music, children’s work etc.
6. Grants to support special collections in art, music, drama.
7. ACE-funded posts for arts development officers in public libraries. This is merely a stratagem to enable librarians to continue doing what they have always been able to do as part of their job, but needs must.
8. ACE-funded posts for schools arts liaison in libraries. As above. We note that the need is greater than ever, with schools increasingly dropping arts provision under pressure to concentrate on ‘good’ exam results, while reading for pleasure is badly undermined by an over-analytical approach to reading and comprehension.
9. ACE-funded posts for arts outreach in libraries. As above.
10. Training in arts awareness, management and development for library staff.
11. Better access to arts contacts, and information on possible funding, via ACE. Libraries already function to some extent as chains of venues for touring performances and exhibitions. ACE could do much to strengthen this, for the benefit of both.
12. Acknowledgement by ACE that many libraries are very much in touch with their local arts scene, and actively develop budding writers and performers. Their experience and ‘finds’ should be valued and used.
13. A far larger proportion of ACE’s budget should be devoted to literature (currently a derisory 3.5%). In particular, far more funding for author visits, storytelling, books-related performances, poetry jams, local book prizes, literature festivals etc. Much of this would logically be channelled through libraries.
14. Far better use of existing knowledge and resources. In particular, MLA had a massive website with all kinds of information, from research results to reports of library projects – and evaluation of what worked, and why. This has been lost. We hope it is mothballed somewhere. It needs to be revived and made searchable.
15. Relevant further research. Top of the list is sensible evaluation of volunteer libraries. So far, research has concentrated on whether they are sustainable (Answer: we have no idea, they are all so different). Nothing has been done to find out how they match the functions of a properly staffed library – as libraries.
16. Proper use of CIPFA data. This is well known to be flawed in many ways, but can still be analysed to find out where – and how – library services flourish. A student on a recent short placement at the Taskforce has gained better value from the data than we have ever seen before. This could be followed by a (well-funded) peer review system to pass on knowledge, and distribute it widely.
17. Encouragement of easy methods to assess effectiveness of library-based activities across a wide spectrum of culture-and-wellbeing indicators, including development of the MLA Inspiring Learning for All evaluation framework. (We do, however, caution that asking questions of participants can add unwanted formality and intrusiveness in an environment that depends on being welcoming and informal.)
18. A checklist, possibly based on the Taskforce’s work in this area, to list what a full public library service should provide. This would be a useful tool for all services, and preserve awareness in volunteer libraries of what may be missing. Annotated with local information, it could serve the public as a guide to the full range of services they can access, especially if their starting point is a volunteer library. National standards would, obviously, be an even better tool.
19. A coherent national development plan, slotting together the work of disparate organisations such as ACE, CILIP, LC, TRA,Taskforce – like the Framework for the Future once used by the DCMS. Too often the different agencies seem each to want to have their own ‘vision’, ‘ambition’ or ‘offer’, leading to confusion and duplication.
20. More funding for library work in general – and a clearly articulated message that cuts to library services are endangering the whole basis of a civilised society.
National demo for Libraries & Culture 3 November
UNISON, UNITE and PCS unions have organised a national demonstration in support of libraries and culture including museums and galleries. It is on Saturday 3 November assembling behind the British Library and marching to Parliament. More details here.
Petition to protect library services by ringfencing government funding for libraries.
Libraries across the country are being closed, cut back and/or outsourced to volunteers as a result of government cuts to local authority budgets. Councils are unable to keep staffed library services open when faced with the competing demands of social care, child protection etc.
Local libraries are a vital resource for the promotion of reading, literature and culture. They are a necessity for the digitally excluded who need to go online to access benefits, health, education and employment resources.
While the commitment of volunteers is welcomed, volunteer-run library services are unsustainable long-term. The government must ringfence funding to ensure councils can fulfil their statutory duty to keep libraries services available to the general public.
You can sign the petition here. If it reaches 10,000 signatures, the government has to respond.
National meet up for Library Users 20 October 2018
Details here and in the Campaigner magazine being mailed out week beginning 24 September. The afternoon will also include the Library Campaign AGM.
Chris Riddell and Neil Gaiman advocate for libraries
See the whole strip in The Guardian
Amazing Idea to Support Libraries!
You won’t believe this – our near neighbour Ireland has come up with a bizarre idea for making public libraries better used.
Bizarre, that is, if you live in England. Unusual,anyway.
Ireland is NOT planning to “transform” the service, outsource it, make questionable deals with commercial “partners”, or dump it on to volunteers.
Nope. It simply plans to open most libraries seven days a week, 8am-10pm (partly by using “staffless” technology, but not reducing staffed hours at all – in fact they will recruit 100 more staff).
To nobody’s surprise, a pilot scheme offering longer hours in two libraries led to “increased visitor numbers of between 75 and 185 per cent over a 12-month period in 2016”.
Fines will be abolished. Forty libraries will be upgraded. More stock will be bought to attract older people. Efforts will be made to attract children, too.
The whole thing will cost just 5m euros. Ireland thus joins the long list of overseas nations that invest in
library services – and reap enormous benefits.
As our good friend Ian Anstice (www.publiclibrariesnews.com) comments:
“The scheme shows that Eire has the motivation and the infrastructure to impose such a plan. “Such is not the case in England… where the Brexit-obsessed government has done very little for libraries and is happy to neglect
them, doing the least it can to ameliorate the effect of its own austerity programme while applauding communities forced to replace paid staff with volunteers.
“In the vacuum this creates, the remaining national bodies with responsibility for libraries, Arts Council England and the newly re-minted Libraries Connected (SCL), are highly limited in what they can do with the 151 different English library services. It is up to individual councils as to what happens. “Compared to Eire, this looks like not so much a strategy as trying to make do the best one can do without one. Few can doubt which of the
two countries has more chance of success.”
10 Ways that Libraries power big cities
An interesting Australian view on why we need libraries
2018 Local Elections
Elections to District, Borough and City Councils are taking place on 3 May 2018. Campaigners and others interested in quiz their candidates could look at this page on the CILIP site for ammunition.
More on saving Northamptonshire’s Libraries
Save Northamptonshire Libraries rally 17 February
A rally will be held on 17th February taking place in front of All Saints Church, Northampton between 12.00pm and 1.00pm. There will be a range of local speakers and some live music. The rally is happening a few days before the council meeting at which the fate of libraries is to be decided. Well-known speakers have been invited and anyone who cares about the future of the County’s libraries is encouraged to be there.
A Library is not just for Christmas …
He leaned over the library counter and said “If they close this
library I will do myself in”. The old man was not someone I
recognised, meaning he was one of the many quiet ones that came in
and, a few hour later, went out again. On the outside, he looked
perfectly normal and nothing about him showed desperation. You would
never have known that he was on the edge.
But there are many people who use libraries who are like that. Indeed,
perhaps it is precisely that fact that they use libraries that it is
not obvious that they’re on the edge. The public library provides a
haven for so many people, asking no questions and demanding no money.
Anyone can come in out of the cold, and the dark, and sit down, read a
book, a newspaper, use the internet or grab a few prized words with a
fellow human being. That link with civilization, and with community,
is something that can be taken for granted in those not on the edge.
But it is something treasured by those less fortunate.
Now let’s go to the other end of the age spectrum. A child, wide-eyed,
is being read a Christmas story. It’s one of the special evening
storytimes that are done this time of year. I tell you, some of these
are downright magical. We turn the lights down, the Christmas tree
lights shine in the corner and the little ones get a Santa story read
to them. As they come in, a community choir (we’re all about
community) is singing carols and at the end, Santa (a volunteer, again
from neighbourhood) makes a “surprise” appearance. He was jangling
cow-bells a few seconds before behind the scenes so the kids could
hear the reindeer arriving. This could be the only time these kids see
a Santa over the holidays, as we don’t charge and money can be
important, especially this time of year. It will certainly be the only
time that some will be in the same room as other kids and their
parents, all engaged in the same thing. We’re teaching them how to
behave and interact at this most wonderful time of the year.
Then we have those who have nowhere else to go because the council
offices are closed on Christmas week. One chap has just made homeless
and has nowhere else to go. He needs an emergency payment for food and
a room so he’s not outside walking past the Christmas decorations in
warm people’s homes. Another is doing a job application because he’s
just been made redundant. Who sacks people in December? Well, it turns
out, quite a few people. He has a mobile phone but no internet at home
so he needs the library to do a CV. I lean over and correct some
spellings, showing him how to attach the email. He breathes out as he
pressed “send”, a weight lifted off his shoulders as a job which
should never have to be done this time of year gets done.
The thing is, public libraries are quiet over Christmas. It’s not our
busiest time of year. That’s the Summer when hordes of kids come in
with their parents and keep their reading levels up over the holidays,
rewarded by stickers and medals. But it’s the season where the people
using us most need us. They’ll do it quietly, walk in and do the
stuff, whatever it is, be it browsing the books and taking out ten
romances to keep them going over the few days we’re shut, or smiling
gratefully at a simple task done for them or nodding to a familiar
face. But it’s the time of year when they these people don’t have
anywhere else to go. And we’re there for them, which makes me so
proud, especially when I go home to my family, knowing that I’ve been
part of a Christmas story for these people the quiet equal of any
saccharine seasonal film my kids may watch on TV.
Northamptonshire to ‘redesign’ library service & Chief Exec leaves.
The futures of up to 28 libraries across Northamptonshire have been put at risk as part of cost-cutting proposals announced this week. On October 16th cash-strapped council chiefs revealed a series of early budget proposals they say will save the authority £9.6 million. However, the measures are a prelude to a far greater series of cuts due to be announced in December.
Among them the council has announced plans to “redesign” library services across the county, putting up to 28 at risk including those in Far Cotton, Kingsthorpe, and Abington – all smaller libraries in Northampton. (The word “redesign” used in the sense that Henry VIII redesigned monasteries.)
The authority is to put three separate proposals out to consultation this week – the first of which will be to invite community groups to run 21 smaller libraries around the county, saving the council £290,000 next year.
Options two and three, however, would involve simply shutting the doors of up to 28 book lending premises around the county.
Cabinet member for Public Health and Wellbeing, Councillor Sylvia Hughes (Con, Irthlingborough) said: “Faced with significant funding pressures, we have no option but to review the current model for Northamptonshire libraries.
“We are committed to maintaining a library service that continues to serve the most people who borrow items and those who use the library for other services, such as computer workshops, registration services and access to borough and district council services.”
The opposition Labour group has called today’s announcement a “dark day” for the county council. “These proposals will decimate the library services in our county,” said Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Abington and Phippsville). “In recent years libraries have become more than just borrowing books. Many things have been placed inside them such as universal services for children, training courses, birth and death registration and so on. So libraries have taken on more and more but now they are being threatened with closure. This is a dark day for Northampton and the county.”
Under all of the proposals being put forward, the mobile bus library would be withdrawn from services. Also, all of the proposals will see the county’s eight largest libraries kept. These are the Corby Cube, Kettering, Wellingborough, Abington Street (Northampton) Weston Favell (Northampton), Rushden, Daventry and Towcester.
All libraries across the county have remained shut for a day so that staff could be informed of the proposals.
Councillor Hughes said the preferred option would be to see 21 smaller libraries taken over by community groups – even though cabinet papers show the council would save around £1 million more by closing 28 of the small and medium completely.
In a separate development the Council’s Chief executive, Paul Blantern, announced that he was leaving the authority on 13 October. Coincidentally or otherwise Mr Blantern has been the Chair of the Government Libraries Taskforce which is intended to provide leadership and support to public libraries in England. The Campaign and others have been critical of the task force’s attitude to closures and volunteer-run libraries (see below).
John Glen MP has just clocked up 100 days in post as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage & Tourism. His remit also covers libraries. We tried not to read too much into this semantic oddity. Now we are
starting to wonder. He has just published a blog about his initial experiences in tourism, arts, heritage, what-have-you. Mentions of public libraries? Not a single one.
Library Campaign comments:
This will take a lot of digesting. The researcher himself says: ‘The
information collected cannot be considered a representative sample of
the community library sector as a whole’ and calls for more research –
a lot of it.
The truth is that DDCMS let the whole thing run out of control years
ago. So there’s infinite variety in what libraries do or do not
provide, and why this or that works – or not. Impossible to analyse,
or learn from.
What’s clear from this report is that ‘community libraries’ aren’t
confident about future staffing or funding – 70% of current volunteers
are aged over 60. Rather fundamental problems to have. ‘Income
generation’ can’t raise much, it’s clear. Local authority support is
needed in perpetuity. Will that happen?
It’s surprising the research does not take the route of comparing
performance in individual libraries before and after becoming
volunteer-run. There’s now plenty of ‘anecdotal’ evidence of steep
declines, which should be investigated properly.
On staffing, it looks pretty scary: ‘Librarians in traditional
libraries were found to perceive various areas of training as
essential, such as Equality and Diversity, Data Protection, Freedom of
Information, and Customer Care, whereas volunteers were less likely to
perceive training as important. Further to this, both volunteers and
librarians reported undertaking less training than that perceived as
The Library Campaign looks forward to getting comments from the many
volunteers forced to run libraries after fighting to the end to keep
them open as council-run, properly staffed libraries. And staff who
have lost their jobs.
Taskforce CEO sets the record straight
The debate rumbles on: should the official library agencies be quite so accepting of endless cuts? It reached flashpoint recently with reports of a conference appearance by Taskforce CEO Kathy Settle.
The most pithy was in PRIVATE EYE (issue no 1448):
‘LIBRARIES Taskforce chief executive Kathy Settle made the mind-boggling claim at a recent local government conference that public libraries are currently flourishing: “While people focus on libraries that have closed, there aren’t that many of those – and there are hundreds that have been opened or renovated,” she insisted. “That message doesn’t always get out.”
‘Minutes of the last Taskforce meeting, just 16 days earlier, record that Settle was present while the Taskforce discussed complaints about the lost libraries in Lancashire, Swindon, Southampton, Barnet, Bedfordshire and Darlington. Maybe she was confused by the fact that in the minutes of a three-hour meeting, covered by more than 4,500 words, “closures” were not mentioned once, instead referred to obliquely as “ongoing changes by library authorities”.’
We asked Kathy Settle for the facts. Here’s her reply.
Save your local! Should volunteers help keep our public libraries open?
Interesting Guardian article published on 8 August. Elizabeth Ash who is quoted as a Campaign trustee has stepped down from that role but we agree with what she says!
A court case, a pledge and a video from Darlington
Things are moving – not necessarily in the right direction for libraries – in Darlington. Crown Street library is being proposed for redevelopment or use as a Community centre and although the local MP has ‘pledged’ to save the building, she has not committed to it being a library. However a judicial review has been launched in support of the building remaining a library. Meanwhile local campaigners have made a series of videos documenting Crown Street and about the removal of the local mobile library. See more under Library Campaigns
GENERAL ELECTION – WHO SHOULD GET THE PUBLIC LIBRARY VOTE?
Manifesto for Libraries for the General Election 2017
The Speak Up for Libraries alliance, of which the campaign was a founder, is urging people everywhere to make public libraries a central issue in the General Election.
The election offers us another chance to make sure central government understands that libraries are a low-cost, essential council resource for all communities. They are vital to national agendas such as ‘Digital by Default’. And they are deeply valued by local residents and the nation as a whole.
Already, many library services are threatened by, or experiencing, deep cuts, widespread closures of vital local branches – or the damaging policy of turning them over to volunteers to run.
Yet the Government continues to cut the grants given to local authorities. Local councils currently face an estimated overall funding gap of £5.8bn by 2019/20. Although libraries are a statutory service, they are often seen as a soft target for cuts. Such cuts often save little but do great damage.
If people wait another five years, their own library could go. Nationally, a postcode lottery is a reality with only some communities benefitting from the presence of a council funded and professionally run library.
Libraries remain the lynchpin of communities, offering access to reading, learning, information and leisure.
Libraries are, or should be, a trusted public space for everyone.
They play a crucial role in improving literacy standards and in combatting the digital divide.
Speak Up for Libraries believes that libraries, far from being obsolete, are more important than ever. That is why we are asking the government to make a public commitment to their survival and development.
Speak Up for Libraries is asking MPs to sign up to the following manifesto when standing for election:
Give libraries a long-term future, with a vision for their future development and clear standards of service.
Enforce the commitment in law for local authorities to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service. This commitment should also include digital, ICT and e-book services.
Acknowledge that libraries are important to individuals and communities – especially in times of hardship.
Enforce the duty that local authorities have to properly consult with communities to design services that meet their needs and aspirations.
Ensure that local authorities receive sufficient funding in order to deliver properly resourced and staffed library services.
Recognise that properly resourced library services contribute to the health and well-being of local communities and of society as a whole and therefore complement the work of other public services and of national government agendas.
Download a copy of the manifesto here: SUFL – GENERAL ELECTION 2017 manifesto
As we regularly point out, libraries are a tale of two planets. Hundreds are being closed, starved or dumped on to reluctant volunteers. Yet they remain uniquely useful, popular and are fiercely defended by their communities. Their potential to develop remains unlimited.
Unless government (national and local) gets a grip, the future is grim. Meanwhile, better information is badly needed.
A new report from Carnegie UK has plenty of good news as well as bad. Veteran campaigner Tim Coates says it should have highlighted the badness – before it’s too late.
Which do you support? Take your pick. – More here.
Everyone is welcome to the AGM and meeting on 14 January 2017.
Please help us to cater for numbers by letting the Chair, Laura Swaffield, know that you plan to attend.
The Library Campaign welcomes new members and is keen to enlist new blood to the committee.
Why not join us for the AGM and meeting to find out more about the activities of the charity, offer your views and consider what contribution you might like to make?
Full details, here.
The National Pensioners Convention is holding their annual Pensioners’ Parliament in Blackpool on 14-16 June.
They would welcome any library campaign groups having a stall at this event. You might just like to attend to engage in the different sessions, including the effect of cuts, digital exclusion, loneliness and what the future holds for campaigning.
More details and the programme can be found here.
Now – Fund your library
CILIP launch a crowdfunding exercise for a library fund… Find the details here.
What are your thoughts?
A plea to the SCL, ACE and the DCMS….
Time is running out for so many public libraries….
Are there alternatives to closure of libraries in Lancashire?
Lancashire Libraries propose drastic cuts to libraries. Frances Hendrix suggests alternative models to prevent closure. Read more, here.
Our junior reporter, 11-year-old George Hamerton, speaks up for libraries at the rally and lobby of parliament on 9 February 2016.
Read his speech and report on the day, here.
Join Speak Up For Libraries on 9 February for a rally at Central Hall Westminster prior to a lobby of MPs.
It’s for everyone who cares about libraries.
The Library Campaign will even try to cover the cost of travel for anyone for who finds the cost of travel a barrier to attending.
For details and to book, click here.
Tim Coates calls for accurate and timely CIFPA data…
Tim Coates has analysed the latest CIPFA data, highlighting some extremely concerning trends…
Read more here.
My Library By Right
CILIP’s new campaign…
Read more, here.
Libraries Taskforce delivers…..
Have you seen the report and toolkit?
Read more here.
AGM and Mini-Conference – 24 October 2015
Details here: TLC AGM 2015 and mini-conference
Speak Up for Libraries Conference – Saturday, 14 November 2015
The ticket sales have launched, with an early bird booking rate of just £20, applicable to all bookings made by 20 October. There will be a session discussing the pros and cons of volunteers in libraries and another preparing for the Q and A with the Paul Blantern and Kathy Settle from the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce. And to round off the day, you’ll get to hear from John Dougherty, who has promised to bring along his guitar. What’s not to like? Grab your place now.
Phone lines – How to contact The Library Campaign
If you want to contact us, please use 0845 450 5946. The 020 8651 9552 number is now back in service, but this is a general number, mainly used for membership enquiries. Alternatively, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ed Vaizey MP wants to know what we think about culture, and how the government could… er… support it!
CILIP’s 2015 Libraries Change Lives awards finalists announced.
North Ayrshire Libraries, Portsmouth City Library Services and St. Helen’s Library Services have been shortlisted for this year’s awards. Read more here.
Super-librarian Ned Potter has come up with some great statistics, and
some great ways to present them.
Post grad student seeks experiences of those defending public libraries
If you are defending your library service, postgraduate student, David Taylor, would love to speak with you. For full details, see http://www.librarycampaign.com/post-grad-student-seeks-experiences-of-those-defending-public-libraries/
What is going on with Lincolnshire Libraries, back in the High Court?
What appeared to be a simple case is now rolling into day three. It’s a nail-biter, says the Chair of The Library Campaign, with a decision expected early next week. Read her account to date, here.
The role of FOI requests in campaigns
Have you used Freedom of information (FOI) requests in your campaigning work on libraries? A student, undertaking postgraduate research at University College, London, is keen to gain your views. Click here, for more info.
Judicial Review challenge of DCMS’s failure to investigate Sheffield library closures
Public Interest Lawyers would like to hear from individuals or campaign groups who have contacted the DCMS, asking for them to consider an inquiry into local library services. Read more here.
Help Save Walkley Library in Sheffield.
Postgrad research into the use of FOI by campaign groups.
Can you help?
Click here, for more information.
If you care about Shropshire libraries, get in touch!
A new campaign group seeks members and supporters. Find out more here.
Welsh libraries update
Wales have released guidance on volunteer managed libraries and where they sit within statutory library provision. Read more and download the report here.
There are still places available for a Campaign Workshop being run in Birmingham on 26 June 2015. Full details here.
The Library Campaign AGM is fast approaching…
We are currently looking for a suitable venue in London for a date in July. Details shortly. Could you offer help or are you considering standing as a Trustee? Please get in touch. We would welcome any offers of help and are particularly keen to encourage new Trustees to join us to strengthen and develop what we can achieve as a charity.
Ed Vaizey MP accepts challenge from Alan Gibbons to debate on the subject of Public Libraries
The Library Campaign have offered to facilitate the debate. Watch this space for details.
Ian Anstice meets with Private Eye
…and the discussion naturally turns to the plight on public libraries and their value. Read Ian’s account here.
Libraries Matter! – Election questions
A page from our latest member magazine, reproduced here, along with links to other useful resources from Speak Up for Libraries, Voices for the Library and CILIP – the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, in the run up to the general election.
Be there for libraries. The Library Campaign believes that National Libraries Day 2015 delivers an important message. Let’s make 2015 the year we make a difference for libraries.
Laura Swaffield, Chair of The Library Campaign, speaks out on the decision taken on libraries in Lincolnshire.
About 100 people packed the room for the first-ever public discussion of the Sieghart report (in the House of Commons, hosted by the All-Party parliamentary group for libraries, on 14 January). Laura Swaffield, Chair of the Library campaign, reports…