Category Archives: media

Public libraries are protected by law

This letter is reproduced with permission from Mr. Francis Bennion, a retired barrister and active writer and academic, who drafted the Bill which later became the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, the law which makes public libraries a statutory service. It is in response to the article written by Caitlin Moran, which is reproduced with her permission here. The paragraph that was omitted from the published letter (in square brackets) may be of particular interest to campaigners who are currently working on, or considering, legal challenges to library cuts.

I read Caitlin Moran’s account of the debt she owes her threatened public library as the only alma mater she has ever had (The Times Magazine, 13 August 2011) with particular sympathy. Nearly half a century ago I was struggling to draft appropriately the Bill that became the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. I was instructed to draw a reasonable line between the requirements of the public and the limited resources of local authorities. The Act is still operative. Various attempts to enforce it by judicial review are pending.

The Act says a local authority which is a library authority must “provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons . . . whose residence or place of work is within the library area of the authority or who are undergoing full-time education within that area”. Its stock of “books and other printed matter, and pictures, gramophone records, films and other materials”, must be “sufficient in number, range and quality to meet the general requirements and any special requirements both of adults and children”.

[Under this provision a severe reduction now in the public library facilities which were being provided by a particular library authority two or three years ago is likely to be unlawful. This is because there is a presumption that the earlier provision did not exceed what was required under the Act.]

The Act also says that the Government must “superintend, and promote the improvement of, the public library service provided by local authorities in England and Wales, and . . . secure the proper discharge by local authorities of the functions in relation to libraries conferred on them as library authorities”.

It does not appear that the statutory duties I have mentioned are being adequately fulfilled at present. The Act does not contain any provision for reduction of the duties because of a need for “cuts”. [1]

[1] Published in The Times 16 August 2011. The important passage in square brackets was omitted.

Voices for the Library in the Press

The Telegraph’s Martin Chilton mentioned Voices for the Library in yesterday’s piece Library campaigners helped by Nick Cave. The article highlights the success and celebrity endorsements of campaigns against public library cuts in places such as Gloucestershire, the Isle of White, Brent, Kensal Rise, and Oxfordshire.

For more information on National Libraries Day in February 2012, please see our National Love Libraries Day page. You can also find links to local campaigns on our website’s Campaigns page.

“Don’t make this our libraries’ final chapter”

Many thanks to  editor Fiona Phillips for permission to reprint this opinion piece from the Hereford Times of Thursday 30th June.

Don’t make this our libraries’ final chapter

So now we know: £200,000 can save Herefordshire Council a full library service or help pay off a senior officer already on a six figure salary – in the hope that the officer won’t sue for any more.

It’s all about priorities, you see.

Priorities like the new library Hereford should have had years ago but which was lost or forgotten about amid the all the finger-wagging over the “need” we’re told we have for more shops. Ironically, that same dream saw the city one day hosting university-level education.

Priorities like a mobile library service that reaches our remotest communities, meaning so much more than just book-lending.

When a librarian with 37 years of service says she fears for the future of that service then her former employers should listen.

But instead those employers will fork out yet more public money to some self-styled consultant pitching sacrifice at the altar of Acronym to wide-eyed devotees at a PowerPoint presentation.

That means death by a thousand cuts to the rest of us.

Libraries are unique environments and need to be. For many of us growing up, the local library was our internet. So excuse us if we don’t seem grateful that the county’s main libraries are staying open. Not only should they be staying open, but all the energy that is going into “remodelling” the service should be going into what more they can be as libraries and not, to use that grating phrase, one-stop shops.

Instead, we’re told that if we want a library in our community we had better be prepared to run it ourselves. That’s localism, the coalition’s great get-out clause: paying public servants huge salaries to cut services for communities to run themselves, while those communities still pay for such service. Genius.

As we hurtle ever downward into the abyss, there may be moss to cushion the fall. But we’re still a long way from the bottom.

News: VftL on the air 19/1/11

Lauren Smith, VftL’s media representative, will be appearing live on a number of BBC local radio stations on Weds 19/1/11. Tune in to hear Lauren talk about the campaign, and what proposed clsoures mean for your local area.


10:08 Luton

10:22 Cambridge

10:30 Wiltshire

11:08 York

11:15 Hereford & Worcester

11:22 Sheffield

11:38 Surrey & Sussex

She is also recording interviews for other areas, including Northampton, West Midlands, Leeds and Cornwall, so keep your ears peeled for the voice of VftL on the air in your area.


Lauren also debated with Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries in an interview for BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme.

‘Keep our libraries open!’ Support from Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo

Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, lends her support to those raising awareness of the social value of public libraries.Julia Donaldson

Julia Donaldson is one of the U.K’s best-selling authors. Her most famous creation, The Gruffalo, has not only sold millions of books worldwide, but as an animated film is becoming a family favourite at Christmas time with the voices of Robbie Coltrane as the Gruffalo. The Gruffalo was recently chosen as the favourite book amongst parents and children by a survey from the free reading scheme – ‘Booktime’. It was also voted the nation’s favourite bedtime story by BBC Radio 2 listeners. More locally, she is regular and popular visitor to The Cheltenham Literature Festival, where many Gloucestershire schoolchildren have seen her perform from her wide range of books from Room on the Broom to The Snail and the Whale.

Julia has lent her support to those campaigning to raise awareness of the value of public libraries, particularly for parents and children, and during times of economic crisis:

“I think it is very short-sighted to close libraries, especially because that is where a lot of children gain and develop a love of books and reading and can extend their repertoire. Sometimes governments and local authorities seem to forget that children are the adults of the future. I used to love going to my local library as a child, and quite possibly if it hadn’t been for my excellent librarian who introduced me to a wide range of books I wouldn’t be an author today. (After 50 years I am now back in touch with that librarian.) My own children also used to enjoy their jaunts to the library, and when they were small it was the main way they and I found out and sampled the wide range of books which are out there but which are not always evident in bookshops with their 3-for-2 policies. In any case, with so many bookshops closing, there is even more of a need for libraries. What’s more, many libraries are venues for mother-and-toddler rhymetime sessions and the like, so their closure would be a big blow to those children, parents and carers. Maybe the thinking is that it’s an easy way to save money, but I don’t believe that’s the case, as a less literate population will be one with more crime, social problems and all the attendant costs. So keep our libraries open!

Best wishes


Many many thanks to Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries for passing on this contribution to the library-cause!

“The librarian is not simply a checkout clerk…”

Libraries are in the news again today, with leading authors speaking out in the Guardian today, criticising government cuts and proposed library closures.

Phillip Pullman showed his support for librarians, saying:

“The librarian is not simply a checkout clerk whose simple task could be done by anyone and need not be paid for,” he said. “Those who think that every expert can be replaced by a cheerful volunteer who can step in and do a complex task for nothing but a cup of tea are those who fundamentally want to see every single public service sold off, closed down, abolished.”

Further support for libraries today came from Ipsos MORI research into how the British public view libraries, which found that:

the research shows the English public widely value public libraries as a force for good and one that should be provided free. A significant proportion (74 per cent) of current users surveyed described libraries as “essential” or “very important” in their lives. Fifty-nine per cent of non users also think libraries play an “important” or “essential” role in the community.

The research also showed that, while book stock is considered important, users (including current, lapsed and non-users) consider that other services would be more likely to increase their library usage, such as children’s activities, more online services and – crucially – better information on what libraries offer.

VftL on air!

VftL member Jo Anderson was interviewed on BBC Gloucestershire today. Jo was talking in her role as Chair of Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries, about proposed cuts to libraries in the area, and highlighted a number of reasons why publicly funded libraries remain an essential service. The program is available on BBC iPlayer for the next 7 days. The segment on libraries begins at about 2hrs 19 mins into the program.

Another VftL member has also been interviewed recently: Bethan Ruddock recorded a podcast to promote VftL’s apperance at the SLA Europe ‘Marketing Libraries outside the Echo Chamber‘ event. The podcast is available on the SLA Europe website.