National Libraries Day – why did some authorities refuse to celebrate?

Residents in Kent resorted to doing their own thing to support National Libraries Day,

Earlier this month library authorities and library users celebrated the very first National Libraries Day.  Events took place across the country and it was great to hear so many people went out and celebrated their local library service (some photos are available here).  The extent of the celebrations showed that there is still a lot of support out there for the public library service, despite claims of its demise and irrelevance.  Amidst a background of library closures, it was great to see so many people and organisations come together in celebration.

However,whilst many authorities across the country threw their support behind National Libraries Day, some were reluctant to join in the celebrations.  One of several councils who refused to support the event was Kent.  What made this particularly concerning was that not only is Kent one of the largest authorities in the country, it is also headed by the Secretary for the Society of Chief Librarians – one of the supporters of the event.

In advance of the event, Voices for the Library lodged a Freedom of Information request to find out why the authority refused to put on any events under the National Libraries Day banner, or to even mention it on their website or Facebook Page.  The following was disclosed as a result of the request:


As well as the above information, we also received a copy of the now infamous staff briefing distributed across the county in advance of National Libraries Day:


KCC National Libraries Day staff briefing

As an organisation that seeks to highlight the value of libraries and librarians, we are deeply concerned about the actions taken in Kent.  National Libraries Day is an annual national initiative created to celebrate the vital contribution libraries make in our communities, enriching our society and providing the tools to help individuals prosper.  As a result we were very disappointed to learn that Kent and a number of other authorities including Gloucestershire, Croydon and Kensington and Chelsea (amongst others) refused to encourage the celebrations.  We hope next year that those authorities that did fail to participate this year will have a change of heart in 2013.  After all, if we can’t celebrate and promote library services on National Libraries Day, when can we celebrate them?

6 thoughts on “National Libraries Day – why did some authorities refuse to celebrate?

  1. K Parker

    This was the reply I received from Worcestershire County Council’s Library Service when I asked what they had planned for NLD:

    Thank you for your enquiry about National Libraries Day; as you may know this is usually the focus of our annual membership campaign when we have many events going on in libraries. Unfortunately however, due to capacity issues, this year only we decided that we would concentrate on maintaining our service’s positive presence in the public eye. For example, you may have last week seen Droitwich Library’s Space Day in the media when over 1500 people attended the library last Saturday? This week will see the start of the main promotional work for The Hive with both the BBC and Central News hoping to film next week, and viewings by all local and regional media.

    On the 23rd April we are participating in World Book Night (and Day) when we will be on the streets throughout the county and in other places distributing free books and promoting libraries.

    In addition, each library will also, this week, be receiving a Betterworld Books Recycling Bin. This is part of our Eco-Centres work and enables members of the public to donate their old books into the bin. Betterworld have collected discarded library books from us for some time, they then either sell them and our service gets a percentage of the profits from the sales or failing that they recycle them. Customers often wish to us to take their old discarded books and in this way we can do so in an environmentally friendly way, and may even make a little income from doing so. We do, of course, make it extremely clear to customers what will happen to their old books and they are in no way forced to put them in the bin. It is simply offering a discard service for those people who wish to use it.

    I am sorry that there isn’t anything specific to offer as part of this campaign this year. We will continue to be involved in other campaigns through the year, for example the Adult Six Book Challenge, the Summer Reading Challenge and of course just last Friday the final of the Young Poet Laureate competition.

  2. Pingback: Why did some areas fail to support National Libraries Day? | Alan Gibbons’ Blog

  3. Alan Wylie

    Absolutely incredible statements from Kent, a total disgrace! There is an ever widening gulf between those who claim to support the interests of library staff and libraries and those who actually work on the front line! The SCL realy needs to pull its members into line and decide what side of the fence they are going to come down on! Too many senior library managers are actively involved in dismantling the very service that pays their wages and if the public were to discover the level of this sabotage i’m sure they would be shocked and disgusted!

  4. Big Steve

    Perhaps Alan could tell us how SCL is supposed to “pull its members into line”?

    Its members are employed by their local authorities, not SCL. SCL has no power to compel its members to do anything, or to discipline them if they do not.

    Which is actually as it should be.

    If you have a problem with the behaviour of Kent County Council and you live in Kent, you have a vote, and I suggest you use it. If the policies of the candidates do not represent your view then stand yourself.

    1. Ian Clark Post author

      Hi Steve.

      Thank you for your comment. I think the point is that the SCL were one of the organisations who supported the event. This presumably had the support of the committee in order for them to announce their support for the event. It therefore seems a little odd that the Secretary of the SCL (who would surely have been involved in the discussions) decided not to support the event in her own authority.

      It is also worth noting, if you had read the documents provided above (which it appears you have not) you would notice that a march was mentioned that they felt might compromise the events on the day and make it appear as though the staff were engaging in a ‘political’ event. Of course, no march took place and the day itself was the national celebration that was intended.

      As for the question of voting, that doesn’t really apply in this case. Heads of Libraries aren’t voted in by library users so that will have no effect.

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