Category Archives: campaigns

Labour Party Consultation on Public Library Policy

Helen Goodman MP, Shadow Minister for Culture, the Creative Industries and Communications, is calling for comments to help inform Labour’s future policy towards public libraries. Helen sets out a series of questions that she sees as crucial to informing their policy as they move towards writing the Labour Party manifesto for the general election in 2015. Comments to the following questions are requested to be sent by 30th June to her office via

  1. Do you have any examples of good practice where libraries have taught digital skills?
  2. What are your thoughts on using libraries as centres through which we can tackle digital exclusion?
  3. Do you have any examples of good practice in co-location? What services might be co-located?
  4. Is this something with which you agree, and what would you like an amended framework to look like?
  5. Is Arts Council England the right body to carry out this work? Have your local libraries had support from ACE and in what capacity?
  6. Do you feel there needs to be an independent professional leadership body? What form would this take?
  7. What do you feel is the role of the British Library in supporting public libraries?
  8. The Welsh Government recently released an updated public library standards document.  What are your views on the document and do you believe adopting a library standards framework is desirable in England?
  9. What are your views on this?
  10. What do you think the right specification for volunteers might be? Should there be a code/codes of practice for unpaid work?
  11. How can library workers be given a say in the running of the service?
  12. What functions do you think could be shared? What potential savings could there be?
  13. Do you have any examples of good practice?

Please do send in your views by 30th June and let Helen know your thoughts on how the public library service should be delivered. This is a real opportunity to try to influence party policy on the issue and the more people who engage with the consultation the better.

The full briefing document can be found here (with thanks to Public Libraries News).

Local Elections – Speak Up For Libraries!

The Speak Up for Libraries alliance* is urging people everywhere to make public libraries a central issue in local elections.

This is a once-in-four-years chance to make sure local councils understand that libraries are a low-cost, essential resource for their work – and deeply valued by local residents.

Already, many library services are threatened by deep cuts, widespread closures of vital local branches – or the damaging policy of turning branches over to be run by volunteers

Yet the unprecedented cuts to government grant that local authorities are facing mean that libraries, despite being a statutory service that councils must provide, are once more in danger of being seen as soft targets for savings. Such cuts often save little but do great damage.

If people wait another four years, their own library could go. Nationally a postcode lottery will become a reality with only some communities benefiting from the presence of a professionally run library.

Libraries remain the lynchpin of communities, offering access to learning, reading, information and enjoyment.

Libraries are a trusted public space, a place for everyone.

They play a crucial role in improving literacy standards and in combating 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 local politicians, and the government, to make a public commitment to their survival and development.

Speak up for Libraries is asking local councillors to sign up to the following manifesto when standing for election;

  • Acknowledge that libraries are important to people – especially when times are hard for individuals and communities
  • Give a commitment to engage with communities to design services that meet their needs and aspirations.
  • Ensure library services are properly resourced and staffed. A commitment to a service that is publicly funded, managed and run by paid professional staff.
  • Recognise that properly funded library services contribute to the health and well-being of communities and so complement the work of other public services.

And lobby the Government to:

  • Give libraries a long-term future, with a vision for their future development and clear standards of service
  • Enforce the commitment in law to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service. This commitment should also include digital, ICT and e-book services.


Speak Up For Libraries is an alliance of individual campaigners and national organisations: Elizabeth Ash, Campaign for the Book, CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals), The Library Campaign, Unison, Voices for the Library.

Local Elections – This year there will be Council elections on 22 May for the London Boroughs (32), all Metropolitan Boroughs (36) and a number of unitary authorities (20). There are no local elections in Scotland or Wales or for County Councils in England. The local elections in District Councils are not relevant as they are not responsible for public library services.

Library closures:

  • Public Library Statistics produced by CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy) show that there was a net loss of 212 libraries or mobile libraries in the UK in 2011/12 and 71 libraries (including mobile libraries) in 2012/13.
  • Public Library News estimate that in 2013/14 493 libraries (including mobile libraries) in the UK were closed, or planned to be closed, or became community managed libraries managed by volunteers.
  • Since April 2014, Public Library News report that 78 libraries (including mobile libraries) are threatened with closure and 5 libraries to become community managed libraries run by volunteers

Local government funding and expenditure:

  • There was a 33% real term cut to government funding of local government in England between 2011-2015 (Comprehensive Spending Review 20112-2015)
  • A further 10% cut to Government’s Core Funding of local government in England planned in 2015/2016 (Spending Review 2016-2016)
  • Additional funding cuts are widely expected in 2016-2018

In a press release issued by the Local Government Association on announcement of the 2015/2016 Spending review, Sir Merrick Cockell, Local Government Association Chairman is quoted as saying:,

“,,,the fact remains that some councils will simply not have enough money to meet all their statutory responsibilities. Services such as culture and leisure facilities, school support, road maintenance and growth-related programmes will bear the brunt of these cuts”


Twitter @SpeakUp4Libs


Lambeth campaigners adopt the Manifesto for Libraries

We were very pleased to hear that Lambeth library supporters recently adopted the Voices for the Library public libraries manifesto formulated in consultation with library supporters.


Alongside the manifesto they are encouraging Lambeth residents to ask their local politicians to support the manifesto and pledge that they agree to the following when standing for election in May 2014:


• A commitment to increase book stock to at least the average amount of books of other London authorities – Lambeth Libraries have only 50% of the average London borough book stock

• A commitment to increase staffing to at least the average amount of staff of other London authorities – Lambeth Libraries are proposing to reduce the staffing levels to the lowest in London

• A commitment to increase public IT access to at least the average amount of other London authorities – Lambeth Libraries have only 50% of the average London borough public IT provision

• A commitment to keep all nine public libraries open with no cuts to opening hours


For more information contact: Lambeth Manifesto for Libraries c/o Lambeth UNISON 6a Acre Lane SW2 5SG,

Speak Up For Libraries Conference, 23rd November 2013

Public libraries are facing an uncertain future. While austerity continues and the cuts bite deeper library services are needed more than ever. High quality libraries fight illiteracy, support learners and are essential services in communities across the country.

Speak Up For Libraries is a coalition of organisations working to protect library services and staff, now and in the future. We are holding a conference to support those that care about their libraries – including library users, campaigners and staff – to understand more about the challenges facing libraries, what can be done and to set a national agenda. The conference takes place 10am – 4.30pm on Saturday 23 November 2013 in central London.

At the conference you will…

  • Hear what experts think what the future for public libraries looks like.
  • Hear from senior figures in libraries about what their organisations are planning for the coming years.
  • Meet Speak Up For Libraries organisations and talk to others about what they offer and their plans.
  • Have the chance to ask speakers your questions.
  • Discuss what local campaigns need.
  • Set an agenda for campaigners and organisations to pursue.

Speak Up For Libraries organisations include the Campaign for the Book, CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals, the Library Campaign, UNISON and Voices for the Library.

To register please visit 

Speak Up For Libraries conference booking now open #SUFLConf

As part of the Speak Up For Libraries coalition, Voices For The Library are pleased to announce that authors Philip Ardagh and Bali Rai will be joining the line up at the Speak Up For Libraries conference in London on Saturday 10 November 2012 to champion public library services and library staff. The day-long event will pull together library campaigners and supporters from across the UK and give them the opportunity to build on their existing campaigning skills and tactics, share ideas and strategies, and focus on a way forward to make their local campaign as effective as possible, with the goal of ensuring library services are supported, protected and preserved now and in the future.

As well as providing an update on the state of the UK library service and the extensive work undertaken by campaigners across the UK to protect libraries in the past twelve months, there will be a range of sessions exploring a variety of topics from the law and legal challenges, volunteers, alternative forms of governance including privatisation and outsourcing, influencing decision-makers, and how best to utilise local support in a community to protect services under threat.

Further details of the conference and booking details can be found on the Speak Up For Libraries site.

The Speak Up For Libraries coalition is made up of individual library campaigners Elizabeth Ash and Mar Dixon, Campaign for the Book, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), The Library Campaign, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI), UNISON, and Voices for the Library.

Speak Up For Libraries logo

Library closures – challenging the DCMS

We have been asked by Geoffrey Dron of Save Bolton Libraries Campaign to publish the following, regarding intervention requests made to the DCMS by library campaigners and the lack of response to these requests.  Geoffrey asks campaigners to contact him if they feel joint complaints ought to be made on behalf of the affected groups to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Please read his full request below for further details.


Many groups protesting against the closure of libraries in their respective areas will have lodged requests with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for intervention under its statutory duties and powers by, in particular, directing the holding of an inquiry into the library authorities’ proposals, in many cases executed in the time which has elapsed since the requests were lodged.

By way of example, Save Bolton Libraries Campaign and Bolton and District Civic Trust lodged their requests, which relate to the closure of five of Bolton Council’s libraries, by 1st February 2012.   In spite of reminders and a letter from the MP for Bolton NE, the DCMS has taken no action in relation to the requests other than seeking further information from the Council, which the latter supplied in February.  The Council’s proposals have been implemented.

It is thought that other groups have been faced with similar inaction on the part of the DCMS.  Indeed, its website reveals that in only one case (Brent) has the DCMS even gone so far as to issue a letter indicating a provisional view (in that case that it is minded not to intervene) but inviting further representations.  It is becoming difficult to escape the conclusion that the DCMS has adopted a policy of inaction in the hope that library user groups will get fed up and go away.

Whether attributable to deliberate policy or incompetence, the delay by the DCMS in dealing with the requests, even allowing for the engagement of Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State, in matters such as the Olympics and the Leveson Inquiry, has reached the point where action to compel it to express its views in ‘minded to’  form is required.  There is a strong case for suggesting that joint complaints ought to be made on behalf of the affected groups to the Parliamentary Ombudsman alleging maladministration in relation to the failure to deal with the requests in a timely manner.  Such complaints, which require endorsement by local MPs and ought to be preceded by advance notification giving a relatively short period to deal with the requests, ought to be lodged with attendant publicity and before the Olympics.

Representatives of groups whose requests for intervention are currently imprisoned in the limbo of the DCMS are asked to contact Geoffrey Dron of Save Bolton Libraries Campaign ( if they consider the approach suggested might have merit.  It is hoped to start a discussion on how to move matters forward.   Consideration might be given to a meeting of representatives at a mutually convenient venue, but the first step is probably to find out what the overall appetite is for complaints of maladministration.


In reference to the above request we have received the attached letter as follow up to Jeremy Hunt from Save Bolton Libraries Campaign, which we have been asked to publish here.

Save Bolton Libraries Letter June 2012

What’s your vision for libraries?

What should a 21st century public library service look like? (Image c/o Landeshauptstadt Stuttgart on Flickr).

Voices for the Library needs your help.  We want to create a manifesto for public libraries, a clear vision for what we believe a 21st Century library service should look like and how it should be delivered.  We have been fighting library closures across the country for a long time. When we formed Voices For The Library our intention was to highlight the positive aspects of public libraries, but our energy has been focused on fighting the immediate threat to them. Consequently we haven’t had time to build a picture of what libraries should be.  It is time to express a clear vision, so that when politicians and the media ask the question we can clearly articulate what a library service should deliver.

Until now there has been no attempt to communicate a strong statement about the basic standards we expect of our libraries in the UK, or a clear vision for the future for public libraries.  We want you, everybody who uses, loves, works in, or needs libraries, to share your ideas and tell us your vision for public libraries.  What services should they provide?  How should they be provided?  Who should run libraries? How should they be staffed?  We want you to help us to devise and communicate this vision to the media and government.

If you have any ideas that you would like to share, why not post them in the comments below (click comments at the top of this post)? If you are on Twitter use the hashtag #libfesto or join our Facebook group to share your thoughts.  So tell us: what do you think a 21st century public library service should look like?

Culture, Media and Sport Committee publish library inquiry responses

Today the Culture, Media and Sport Committee published the written evidence it received for its Inquiry into Library closures.

There were 130 written responses in total from a wide range of individuals and organisations with an interest in libraries. These included:

  • Library user and campaign groups
  • Public library authorities, councils and councillors
  • Library workers, librarians and representative organisations
  • Publishers and booksellers
  • National organisations such as Women’s Institute and UNISON who have been supportive of libraries
  • Charities
  • Individuals
  • Authors
  • Private companies

It is interesting to note the balance of responses from these different groups of respondents, especially from public library authorities. Only approximately 16 authorities or their representatives responded to the Inquiry. Considering that there are over 140 public library authorities in England this is a very low response rate. Compare this to 33 recognisable library user and campaign groups who responded, plus further individuals whose names we recognise as local campaigners.

We look forward to both reading these written responses to the Inquiry and following the oral evidence sessions which start tomorrow morning and can be viewed live here.

Why do we love our libraries? This is why…

To view at its best, please click the ‘SIDEBAR’ tabs on either side.

Our evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee

Following our submission of evidence earlier this month to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s inquiry into library closures, we have been given permission to publish it on our website.

In summary we felt that:

  • A comprehensive and efficient library service should be accessible, should be adequately resourced, should have a wide range of services and content, should have sufficiently skilled staff, and should be available to users at their point of need.
  • The English public widely value libraries as a force for social good which should be provided free.
  • Many planned library cuts and closures are incompatible with the requirements of the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964: removing qualified and trained library staff will result in a failure to provide adequate services under the terms of the Act and in many cases, councils are making decisions to close libraries based on misleading statistics, an inadequate definition of ‘comprehensive and efficient’, and the outdated Act itself.
  • There is strong evidence that communities value local public libraries and that closures would therefore have a negative impact in several ways: on children; on the physical, mental, and emotional health of communities; on lifelong learning; on community cohesion and inclusivity; and on local economies.
  • The powers of intervention given to the Secretary of State are not deficient. The failure lies with the Secretary of State’s lack of willingness to exercise these powers, coupled with lack of guidance from senior ministers and appropriate Government departments.

Our full response to the Inquiry can be found here.

We have also been invited to give oral evidence to the Committee leading the Inquiry.