Category Archives: news

Parliamentary lobby & rally 13 March 2012 #librarieslobby

An important Parliamentary lobby and rally organised by the Speak Up For Libraries coalition will take place on 13th March 2012.

The rally will take place from 11.30am at Central Hall Westminster, Storey’s Gate, Westminster, London SW1H 9NH. The lobby of Parliament will start at 2.30pm.

We urge everyone to find out more and sign up to attend via the Speak Up For Libraries website.

You can also follow Speak Up For Libraries on Twitter and on Facebook.

Speak Up For Libraries are a coalition of organisations and campaigners working to protect libraries and library staff, now and in the future.

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.

Library campaigners meeting with Ed Vaizey #savelibraries

At the end of 2011, Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson asked Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey,  if he would meet with her and a delegation of UK library campaigners. He agreed and that meeting took place yesterday (1st February) at The Houses Of Parliament.

As a representative from Voices For The Library I was fortunate to be part of that delegation, and along with Julia Donaldson, author and Campaign For The Book founder, Alan Gibbons, and Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaigner, John Holland, we met with Ed Vaizey – arranged through MP Jo Swinson (MP for Julia Donaldson’s constituency).

The four delegates were given an opportunity to present our views to Ed Vaizey with regard to the current situation in UK public libraries. We had just under 20 minutes for all of our presentations.

Julia Donaldson focused on the importance of public libraries for children and the benefits of having both librarians and good stock in providing a good library service.

Alan Gibbons highlighted the lack of intervention by the Government in local library closures decisions and asked what it would take for Ed Vaizey or Jeremy Hunt to intervene?

John Holland covered the situation in Gloucestershire Libraries and the lack of response by Ed Vaizey, The Secretary of State, and the DCMS to Gloucestershire campaigners requests and questions about the cuts and closures.

I focused on the national perspective and the fact that those deciding the fate of our libraries don’t appear to understand the value and importance of them.

Following on from this, we had between 25-30 minutes, in which Ed Vaizey responded to some of our concerns and discussed both national and local situations with us.

Ed Vaizey IRGlover

Ed Vaizey (c) IRGlover/Flickr

From my perspective, the key points in Ed Vaizey’s response/discussion were:

  • He doesn’t agree that library services are being decimated.
  • He has challenged library closures in the past, but has also supported closures of some libraries.
  • He felt it was up to the local authority to run library services, not his department.
  • The Government have no intention of removing statutory duties.
  • Community/volunteer run libraries have a place in the provision of local library services.
  • He acknowledged that some volunteer run libraries would be outside of a local authorities’ statutory service.
  • Local authorities could provide “cut-price libraries” – every library in a local authority shouldn’t be all singing, all dancing.
  • The comprehensive and efficient aspects of a local authorities duties should be focused on the way they were interpreted in the 1964 Public Libraries & Museums Act. “Comprehensive” equates to stock; “Efficient” equates to reduction of 400+ local library authorities. The 1964 Act did not focus on buildings.
  • He felt that the situations that led to Judicial Review’s in Brent, Gloucestershire, Somerset & Surrey recently were not linked directly to the need for intervention by The Secretary of State in a local situation and, using his skills as a barrister, he argued a fine line in how these two situations do not overlap.
  • There was no plan to re-introduce library standards. However, this didn’t necessarily mean that they were out of the question.
The use of volunteers in libraries was also discussed and, as Alan Gibbons highlighted, volunteers have always played a part in libraries, but there needs to be a clear balance/focus between the roles professional staff play and the roles volunteers take on, rather than an assumption that volunteers can provide a service as good as a trained professional.

It was agreed by all that it would be of benefit if examples of best practice for public libraries plans could be formulated, so that at least some guidance could be given to local authorities. Ed Vaizey pointed out that the Charteris Report (Wirral Inquiry) was seen as a good example of best practice, but as the delegates highlighted this was not a legally binding document, so did not need to be adhered to by local authorities when looking at library services.
From my perspective, one of the main issues that was highlighted at the meeting and has continually cropped up in other discussions, is the woolly and hazy area around who should take responsibility for libraries and how an “efficient and comprehensive” library service (within the scope of the 1964 Act) should be interpreted. As many of us have seen, some local authorities have interpreted the 1964 Act and statutory duties in a way that suits them and would leave their users with a substandard service, rather than a properly funded and resourced one that they should expect to have.

I should also mention that there wasn’t a single mention of the Future Libraries Programme… A flagship programme for libraries up until last year! How should we interpret this?

At the end of the meeting I don’t believe we persuaded Ed Vaizey to change his stance overnight on public libraries. But then again, I don’t think any of us believed that he would. However, it did give us the opportunity to raise the issues face-to-face with him that were our main concerns and we hope this was another of those tiny steps we keep taking that brings us a step closer to saving libraries.
Update
Below are Alan Gibbons’ and John Holland’s perspectives on the meeting.

Lobby for libraries over literacy timebomb (13th March)

UNISON, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI), Voices for the Library, The Library Campaign, Campaign for the Book and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) have today announced they will hold a joint lobby of Parliament calling on politicians to protect vital library services.

During the lobby, on 13 March, the campaigning group will highlight the importance of libraries in providing access to learning and as a vital lifeline for many communities.

The lobby will take place at:

Midday
Tuesday 13 March
Central Hall
Westminster

Heather Wakefield, UNISON Head of Local Government, said:

“Cutting libraries is not an easy solution for councils to save cash – it is a literacy time bomb for deprived communities.

“Community groups are being held to ransom by Government plans to force them to take over the running of services, or lose them. These groups don’t have the time, skills and resources to take over the jobs of experienced library staff.

“A shocking 30,000 children are leaving primary school with a reading age of seven or below and libraries are a vital lifeline for community groups. We need a national vision of a modern library service, as an investment in the future generation.”

Ruth Bond, Chair of the NFWI said:

“The NFWI is delighted to support the lobby of parliament. A threat to local library services is a threat to a community’s education and as champions of libraries for the past 96 years, WI members are gravely concerned that so many local authorities are riding roughshod over educational resources while the Government watches in silence. It is simply not good enough to assume that volunteers will step in to continue providing services previously supplied by professionals; the Government cannot rely on community-minded individuals to step into the breach to bridge the gaps, and the loss of professional expertise is irreplaceable.

“Local libraries are a fundamental information and education resource. Whilst in their essence, libraries facilitate access to books and resources, they play a much wider role in promoting shared knowledge and equality of opportunity, facilitating community cohesion, and enabling life-long learning and literacy from cradle to grave.”

Abby Barker, from Voices for the Library, said:

“Voices for the Library are urging anyone concerned for the future of the library service in the UK to get involved on March 13th. This is your chance to tell your MP how vital your local library service is, and to ask them to call the Secretary of State to task over his noticeable lack of involvement. The 1964 Museums and Public Libraries Act very clearly puts public libraries under the superintendence of the Secretary of State, however, Jeremy Hunt has yet to intervene on any level, even in the most extreme cases.”

Andrew Coburn, Secretary of The Library Campaign, said:

“Public libraries still have a wide-ranging role in encouraging literacy and education as well as providing literature for leisure and information. MPs need to know what a real 21st century library service can provide – so that they can join the thousands who are trying to prevent their branches being closed and services mutilated.”

Alan Gibbons, Author and Organiser of Campaign for the Book said:

“A reading child is a successful child. The National Literary Trust has found that a child who goes to a library is twice as likely to read well as one who doesn’t.  The UK currently stands at 25th in the PISA International Reading ranking.  Libraries are vital to improving this position.  We have to fight for the defence and extension of public library services.”

Annie Mauger, Chief Executive of CILIP said:

“The professional skills and expertise of library staff are core to providing the public with a quality library service. Volunteers should supplement and enrich a professionally led service, not replace the knowledge and skills of staff. We are concerned that public library services in England are being damaged; the impact will be felt now and in the long term. We urge the Secretary of State to use his powers of intervention where there is clear evidence that the Public Libraries & Museums Act (1964) has been potentially breached. It is wrong to view public libraries solely as a cost; by providing opportunities for learning and literacy development libraries are an investment in communities, families and individuals.”

You can follow the lobby on Twitter  using the #librarieslobby hashtag.

Ian Anstice named as Information Professional of the Year 2011

We were thrilled to learn that Ian Anstice, a member of the Voices for the Library team,  Librarian in Charge of Winsford Library in Cheshire and proprietor, editor, sub-editor, journalist and everything else at Public Libraries News, has been awarded Information Professional of the Year 2011. It’s a rare honour, as the award is not often given to public librarians.

Ian singlehandedly keeps the site going, with daily updates of news from a bewildering variety of sources. HIs Stakhanovite work has helped support campaigns around the country, as well as national organisations. Everyone, even enemies of libraries, goes to Public Libraries News to find out what’s going on. Well done Ian, congratulations!

For the official announcement, see: http://www.iwr.co.uk/professional-and-library/3011175/Public-Library-News-man-wins-IWR-award

Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry

Voices for the Library are delighted by the news that the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport will be holding an inquiry into library closures.  Such a move, due to the unprecedented cuts in library services throughout the country and the inaction of the relevant ministers, is timely.  For too long have library users been told that the DCMS is keeping a watching brief and they will act when necessary, only for no action to be taken.  We fervently hope that the committee will take into account the views so strongly held by library users and campaigners that public libraries are an essential part of community life and democratic societies, provide a highly valuable social service and are essential for the improvement of literacy.

The committee is inviting written submissions and requesting views on what constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century, the extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964, the impact library closures have on local communities and the effectiveness of the secretary of state’s powers of intervention under the 1964 Act. Voices for the Library will be submitting evidence to the committee and is happy to provide information to anyone else who wishes to do so. We urge local campaign groups to make their own statements, clearly expressing the impact that library cuts and closures will have on individuals and communities.

A Guide for Witnesses to House of Commons Select Committees is available here.

Alan Gibbons’ Campaign for the Book has called for a moratorium on all closures, saying:

The Campaign for the Book welcomes the decision by the Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport to announce an inquiry into library closures. We believe that it is incumbent upon the DCMS, in line with its duties to superintend the public library service, to order a moratorium on library closures.

Even as we write Doncaster is planning swingeing closures. This kind of strategic decision is completely at variance with the conclusions of the Charteris report that prevented a similar closure programme in Wirral in 2009 and the recent Gloucestershire and Somerset legal decision.

The decision of the Select Committee follows in the wake of the High Court decision halting library closures in Gloucestershire and Somerset. Gloucestershire County Council at the time claimed that this it had been ‘tripped up on a small technical point.’ In fact, the judge said that: “the decisions under challenge were not just unlawful but bad government.” He ordered the total quashing of the library plans and told the library to completely revise its plans. The judge said the council’s behaviour was a: “substantive error of law” and a: “substantial breach.”

We stand at a crossroads. Will the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport give clear leadership in ensuring the health and vitality of the public library service or will the effective dismantling of much of its branch network continue?

It is time to act to save our ‘comprehensive’ and ‘efficient’ service.

Voices for the Library support this request and believe that local authorities should not implement reductions to services during a period of major investigation into the detrimental impact of cuts to library services.

 ————————————————————————————————————-

Call for Contributions

We need your help in order to draft an effective response to the inquiry by the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport into library closures. We are looking for evidence that planned closures have had an impact on  your library service as per the Public Library And Museums Act 1964.

  • Have library cuts and closures affected your community?
  • Have they had an effect on staffing, opening hours, services provided, IT provisions and/or book/DVD/CD/printed music  etc. selection?
  • Have you set up or joined a Friends group in response?

Your experience is invaluable. Please contact us via our website, our Facebook page, on Twitter @ukpling, or email us at contact@voicesforthelibrary.org.uk.

Please make sure your evidence gets to us by 20th December.

Birmingham City Council’s library cuts: from world class city to mediocrity

This is an open letter from John Dolan, former Head of Libraries at Birmingham City Council, to Cllr. Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council and Cabinet Member, Culture, copied to Randal Brew Cabinet Member, Finance and Ian Ward, opposition member for Culture.

Dear Councillors Whitby and Mullaney,

The Birmingham Post sets out cuts planned for Birmingham Libraries http://bit.ly/sFdMAC .This comes out one day before the last Council public consultation meeting on its budget plans. There was no mention of libraries in list of cuts up for public consultation. In all the public papers (at http://bit.ly/hhBqvJ); the words ‘library’ or ‘libraries’ are not used anywhere.

This is actually about dismantling the service through the back door while pretending to fix the front door. Birmingham has already dismissed most of the senior and middle management.

Previous cuts: What is the financial value of cuts and savings already made this financial year? Managers and staff? Bookfund? Other resources? The closed Children’s Mobile Library? The closed Schools Library Service? Maintenance budgets? Training budgets? Reduced hours? Libraries closed “for repair”?

Investment: What is being invested in library buildings, their maintenance, on re-opening libraries closed “for repair”? How many libraries already require repairs over say, £50,000? How much will be spent on self-service machines? What’s the timescale? Who will be charged with installing them and training staff?

People: Why does this report not say that, already, nearly all senior and middle management have been made redundant, that the majority of librarians are being made redundant? Why are you deliberately getting rid of librarian skills? How will you provide library services of any quality?

Volunteers: You talk of using volunteers. What skills will they need? What will be their responsibilities? Who will manage volunteers? How will they be trained? Will they be able to do information searches, tell stories to children, advise on reading, assist with homework, show people how to use the computer, plan and run summer reading/literacy programmes? Will they have access to my personal information?

Bookstart: Who will distribute the Government-funded ‘Bookstart’ books for babies as the ‘Bookstart’ librarian has been made redundant?

Income: Where’s the business plan for leasing rooms? How many rooms? Rooms are already ‘leased’ – so does this mean the end of reduced / free room use for voluntary community groups? What is the additional income forecast?-

Co-location: Which buildings are you planning to share with others? Aston has already moved to smaller premises; which others are to move?

Library of Birmingham: You have a chance to do something special to put Birmingham on the map. How much are the “savings being made on the £187 million Library of Birmingham”? Are you still planning for the LOB to be a “world class” library – in services as well as architecture?” How will the LOB work with and support local libraries in local communities? Do you have a revenue budget for the LOB? Will it be what was envisaged or will you downgrade the world class vision to the provincial ordinary

Community libraries: How do you envisage a community library will play an active part in community life if it’s only open “two days a week”?

Birmingham Library Services: This was an historic, outstanding and innovative public service. Will the library service be reunited as one service or remain divided across constituencies, duplicating and wasting resources? How much does each constituency have to save? What if some agree and others don’t? Or what has already been agreed out of public view?

Total savings: These savings were not in the list for consultation with the total savings target. Why were they omitted? Are they extra to those announced?

Public consultation: Why has there been no public information about these proposals? Why was this information deliberately omitted from the presentations at the public meetings? Why is there no public consultation about library service cuts? What does the council intend to do about that?

Would you accept that there is actually no strategic thinking here about public library services? There has been no meaningful consultation on library service cuts or its future. Isn’t your real intention to neglect and downgrade the service to be, at best, mediocre? How therefore, do you intend to meet your duties under library legislation? You must provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service” to everyone who wishes to use it. How will you do that?

Finally, you need to be told that the budget consultation papers are in such complex language and layout as to completely shatter the Council’s own rules on plain language.

I await your comments and explanations.

John Dolan OBE

Kirklees to close seven public libraries

An anonymous source sent the following to Voices for the Library, reporting Kirklees Council’s decision to close seven out of its 26 libraries:

“Kirklees council are planning to close off access to local library service funding and national statutory obligations by moving seven ‘village’ libraries out of local authority control. This despite stating that no libraries would close and with a library service review that has yet to take place.

Public libraries at: Denby DaleGolcarHonleyKirkheatonLeptonShepley & Slaithwaite will be ‘offered’ to residents, communities, charities or private organisations as an opportunity for them to run an essential community resource. Offered on the table of financial cuts and political cowardice, Kirklees council have quite simply decided to close seven libraries.

Lacking any sense of the uniqueness or worth of free public libraries the council are blindly following the desperate policies of a number of other councils across the country. There are no examples of volunteer-run libraries delivering an inclusive service of such quality and breadth as those currently staffed by committed and professional people. There is no model upon which this scheme is based and in all likelihood no plan from Kirklees as to how this will be achieved.

  • Who made this nonsensical decision?
  • Why did they make it?
  • What details do they have?
  • Did you vote for them?

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests concerning the full disclosure of all decisions, persons, documents, minutes and other media relating to these plans should be addressed to:

The Information Access Officer
2nd Floor
Civic Centre 3
Market Street
Huddersfield
HD1 2YZ

and further information found here

Details of the councillors supposedly representing the communities around the seven libraries can be found on the search for councillors page.”

Congratulations Lauren

Last week CILIP announced that, from 1st January 2012, their new Vice President would be Voices For The Library founder member Lauren Smith. This is a one year post and following on from this, Lauren will automatically become CILIP President for one year.

Lauren has developed a high profile in the media over the past couple of years, in relation to library advocacy and activism, not only on behalf of Voices For The Library, but also for the Save Doncaster Libraries campaign. Earlier this year she was also named as one of U.S. Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers of 2011. We’re sure that Lauren will put her experience and skills to great use during her time at CILIP.

We are all sad that Lauren will be leaving Voices For The Library to undertake this new role, but we wish her well and hope that her enthusiasm will strengthen the work CILIP is doing and will inspire others to get involved and make a difference too.

Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith (c) Save Doncaster Libraries/Flickr

DCMS Taking Part survey: Imagine what could be achieved if we invested in our public libraries

This month the DCMS released their annual Taking Part survey.  The report covers the 12 month period from April 2010 to March 2011 and includes participation in culture and sport, volunteering, digital participation, and cycling and swimming proficiency.  Included in this is usage of public libraries by both adults and children.  As you would expect, it highlights some interesting data about the state of library usage in this country which should certainly be of interest to library campaigners across the country.

One of the most interesting statistics to come out of this report reflects the usage of libraries by people in both the most and least deprived areas.  Whilst The Bookseller chose to headline their coverage of the findings ‘Better off more likely to use libraries’, the reality is much less clear-cut.  The report found that 43.5% of people from the least deprived parts of England used a library last year, compared to 39.5% of those from the most deprived.  Whilst there is clearly a difference, 4% is not sufficient to conclusively argue that the ‘better off’ are more likely to use a library than the most disadvantaged.  In fact, what is most stark about these figures is that social background appears to have no bearing on library usage.  This rather contradicts the belief expressed by some that ‘libraries cater for the middle classes, not the deprived’.  The figures very much demonstrate that they cater for both.

The report also demonstrated the importance of public libraries for children, not least considering the increasing cull of school libraries.  It revealed that 76.4% of 5-10 year olds had visited their local library in the past year, up from 72.2% in 2008/9.  The impact library closures would have on literacy levels is clear and unambiguous.  With an increasing demand from the 5-10 age group and the closure of school libraries across the country, the public library has never been more important for the social and economic wellbeing of future generations.

Rhymetime Across Ediburgh

Rhymetime Across Ediburgh (c) Scottish Libraries / Flickr

The report also reveals that against a backdrop of supposed decline in library usage, adult library usage has in fact remained static.  For each of the past three years the percentage of adults using the library has remained at approximately the same level.  In fact, the proportion of adults using the public library has increased by 0.3% on last year to 39.7%.  The fact that this figure has remained constant for three years, in spite of already significant cuts to library services, also rather suggests that those arguing that libraries are ‘irrelevant’ are out of touch with both what libraries are offering and the needs of library users across the country.  If authorities are threatening to close up to 50% of libraries when usage has remained stable, will similar cuts be applied to other council services?

Overall, the Taking Part survey clearly demonstrates that reports of the rapid decline of public libraries has been greatly exaggerated.  They are not an institution solely catering for the middle-classes as some politicians and commentators have argued. They are as much used by people in the most deprived areas as those from the least, and draw users from across the whole of our society – the quintessential universal service.  Children are drawn to the library in increasing numbers, alone, with school groups and friends, and with parents, who rely on them to support their child’s literacy and development.  Despite the growth of the internet and the availability of popular ‘books in supermarkets’, people still make significant use of their free access to a wide range of books and other resources. Despite suggestions to the contrary, adult library usage is not in terminal decline.   If usage has remained stable while budgets have been slashed, imagine what could be achieved if we invested in our public libraries.  Councillors and politicians may be keen to argue that libraries are becoming irrelevant, in order to justify closing them or staffing them with volunteers. The facts suggests otherwise.