Love the libraries, love the buildings! Meet conservation architect Dr Oriel Prizeman from Cardiff University’s ‘Shelf-Life’ project on revitalising these stunning buildings.
She will talk about their past, present and future:
   •    Andrew Carnegie, the man and the ethos behind his bequests.
   •    The history of the creation of the libraries, leading on to recent history.
   •    The role the libraries have played in Britain over more than 100 years.
   •    Relations between Carnegie libraries.
   •    Architectural and heritage considerations.
   •    A look towards the future.
Tea, cake and a warm welcome from the Friends at Carnegie library, 188 Herne Hill Rd, London SE24 0DG.
Information and directions:


Welcome back, PLN! If you are not a fan of this unique website, now is the time to become one – there’s a permanent link from our own website.
It’s ridiculous – but true – that there is no official source of regularly updated news on public libraries. All that we have is provided by volunteers. There’s The Library Campaign’s new monthly newsletter (available to all).
And, for many years now, there’s been a whole website updated weekly in his spare time by Cheshire librarian Ian Anstice. It now adds up to a considerable resource.
In April it came to a stop, for the worst of reasons. Ian had a heart attack. Now it’s back.
We are delighted to see Ian back in health.
By the way, he is looking for some volunteer help – nothing much – to get back up to date.

Public libraries need lots of things. A new government strategy may not be the first that comes to mind. But the hope is that it will keep public libraries on the map, and offer some useful ideas – and action.

We’ve now reached a staging post. Baroness (Liz) Sanderson has completed her task of compiling information. This has now gone to the DCMS (Department for Culture, Media & Sport). The DCMS will now write the strategy, expected next year.

TLC has been very much part of the process so far. We have met Liz Sanderson (read about it in our magazine, issue no 104, page 7) and attended a meeting of relevant organisations.

We have also contributed our own evidence. Here it is.

Libraries Connected East has conducted extensive research that happily reveals that England’s public libraries generate a value of £3.4 billion a year and we at The Library Campaign think that far more people should know about this. On their website Libraries Connected say that:

“Through extensive library visits, user interviews, and statistical analysis, the authors estimated that a branch library typically provides £1 million in value annually. They then extrapolated the findings to all of England’s 3,000 libraries, giving a national total of £3.4 billion. Using Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA) spending data for the year 2021/22, this represents a return on investment of at least six times cost.”

We hope this report is taken seriously by local authorities. Spending on libraries has fallen by 17% in the last year, while in-person visits are rapidly returning to pre-Covid levels. More and more councils are scrapping late return fees, as was reported a few months ago here in The Guardian.

The full report from Libraries Connected can be viewed as a PDF here.

(The picture is of the Millennium Library in Norwich)

Grove Park Library is one that has been run by a social enterprise organisation for some years after Lewisham Council in South London decided they couldn’t or wouldn’t afford it. That organisation has pulled out at very short notice and the Council is now trying to find an alternative provider (it looks as though they won’t or don’t want to run it directly.) There is a Change petition with over 800 signatures, which you can find here:

And late off the mark we have a Lewisham one too:

There is also an Instagram account with links and updates

If you have some thinking time over the weekend, the library world would like to know two things.
First, what do you think of the very first beta version of the national libraries website? It aims to tell everyone what libraries offer, and how to find your local branch. Find it here:
Comment here:, with subject ‘LibraryOn feedback’ And do please copy in TLC! We have our views. We’d like yours:

Second, (Baroness) Liz Sanderson continues her fact-finding mission, to feed into the coming government strategy for public libraries. There’s some cynicism out there about what it might achieve.
Especially as there’s a big elephant in the room – more funding is not on the agenda. However, it’s also fair to say that libraries have long had other faults (and strengths) that had little to do with money. Library users, we are sure, have knowledge and experience that should be taken on board.
Read the latest report here:
Comment here:
Again, do please copy in TLC! We have our views – and we’ll be feeding them direct to Liz. We’d like to add yours:

As Tolstoy didn’t quite say: ‘All happy libraries are alike; each unhappy library is unhappy in its own way.’ So, when TLC compiles evidence for a consultation, we make sure we understand the local situation in full. Thus it was in Redditch, where an outstanding local library could be demolished to create a rather empty piazza.
But some factors are always consistent from case to case. It’s always obvious that libraries are hugely popular. It’s always useful to channel this via a well informed Friends group. Friends do detailed research. They publicise things that are not always well publicised. They speak up, when council staff and members are constrained in what they can say. And they can be fully independent, when others try to make the affair a party political spat…
Both public and Friends groups always come up with original, creative alternative ideas. What a shame these never get a chance to emerge until unpopular plans are well advanced.

We’re having an OPEN MEETING for everyone interested in public libraries, whether or not they are Library Campaign members, at UNISON CENTRE, 130 EUSTON ROAD, LONDON, NW1 2AY.
GUEST SPEAKER: Isobel Hunter (Chief Executive, Libraries Connected) with LC’s analysis of the current library landscape, to start our discussions – including on the Sanderson inquiry into public libraries
in England, which foreshadows a new government Public Library Strategy.
Plus anything else you want to talk about! The venue is close to the train and tube stations at Euston and King’s Cross. We hope to see as many people as possible face-to-face (over tea,
coffee and biscuits) but… YOU CAN ATTEND ONLINE
The meeting will be available via Microsoft Teams. You do not need to download Teams to attend online but you must register on Eventbrite and say that you want to do so. A link will be sent closer to the time
of the meeting.
AFTER THAT for Library Campaign members only – OUR AGM. We’ll be brief, but we’ll cover our recent activities, the accounts, elections of officers and other trustees.
We are looking for new members of our advisory panel (called trustees because we are a charity). We want your ideas, your experiences and your news, to keep us fully in touch and responsive to your needs. It doesn’t mean a lot of work. To find out more, contact us:
BOOK for the day via Eventbrite:

One of our gripes is that there are wonderful national “weeks” or “days” where Friends could lay on some exciting events – but details of available resources come out rather late for making plans.

So hooray for British Science Week. It’s 10-19 March in 2023. And the goodies are available now. The only problem is that there is so much to choose from!

There are four activity packs: for early years, primary school age, secondary school age and community use. They have general tips for organising events, discussion suggestions plus ideas for mini-projects, with plenty of graphics to download.

These include a darts game to explore immunotherapy treatments for cancer, how to get DNA from a strawberry, how to research air pollution, an experiment based on planting two pairs of pants, making
a nature mandala… As serious or as wacky as you like! The ideas can be used all year round, of course, but March could be a good time to start.

The project to give England’s libraries a much-needed “digital presence” is gradually making progress. It now has a name – LibraryOn. We hope 2023 will show visible results. And you can get in on the ground floor – if you have photos of your library. The team (at the British Library) wants to stockpile some
“high-quality images to use on the platform that demonstrate what the modern public library does and their impact. For example:

• places where people can work, study and learn
• groups offering support, learning and companionship
• friendly interactions between staff and customers
• storytimes that children and carers enjoy together.”

“If you have pictures that fit the bill, please send them to us, including relevant information such as the name of the library and the setting. If they’re large files, you might want to send them in a zipped folder, use a file-sharing tool like WeTransfer or send us a link to an online photo album.”

“Please ensure you’ve secured all relevant permissions before submitting them, and include photo credits.” Send to:, with the subject line “Library photos”

Late, but not too late? We apologise for being slow to realise that Friends groups can nominate their library services for a prestigious national award! But time is short…
The Libraries Connected Awards were launched last year. Nominations from staff and insiders only. This year, we found the list included “anyone working in or with public libraries, including volunteers and
library partners”. We thought: “Logically, that includes Friends groups.” So we checked. And we were right.
So – if you can get something together by 31 December, please do. The awards are grouped under six categories, to match the six “offers”that libraries make:
• Culture and Creativity
• Health and Wellbeing
• Information and Digital
• Reading
• Children Promise
• Visual and Print Impaired People’s Promise
The website gives loads of advice, including FAQs and even sample entries!

It’s seldom easy to get the mainstream press to cover library stories. The Guardian is better than most. And it has started off December with – we hope – a message that can’t be brushed aside.

A Guardian leader on Saturday 3 December spelled out the seriousness of the current situation. It refers to the mass closures during “austerity” up to 2019. It links this to the loss of a quarter of their funding. This point is often overlooked in clever-dick analyses that see any decline as proof of libraries’ “irrelevance”.

Then it brings us sharply up to date: “It has taken the catastrophic cost of living crisis of the last few months to reassert the claim of the 3,000 surviving outlets to be the beating heart of their communities: places where people can go not only to find books, information and internet access, but also to play, meet up and keep warm.”  

Arts Council England, it notes, is getting the point. Improved funding for selected leading services is “a step change”. But that is still peanuts, rising from £1.5m to just £4.1m.

And it’s not the point. The Guardian quotes the recent select committee’s call for proper basic government funding for all libraries, as we reported last month. And it adds: “Responsibility for core costs remains with local authorities, and this is where the real anxieties lie, as councils struggle to balance the books in the face of yet more cuts… 

“It is vital that the government steps up. The cost of not doing so is unimaginable.”

A longer, darker, story appeared on Sunday 4 December in the Observer, the Guardian’s sister paper. It’s about Ukraine. Our Library Campaigner magazine got there first, with a feature on Ukraine’s heroic librarians in our last issue (page 15). Kate Thompson focused mainly on their humanitarian work – sheltering, comforting and equipping local people.

But the Observer looks at even deeper issues. Russia, right from the start, has deliberately bombed and ransacked archives, state records and cultural collections. Including records of its own activities, now and in the past. The aim is simple – to destroy Ukraine’s national memory, and its national identity.

Everyone should read this account of Ukraine’s impressive fightback. The people know what is at stake. Do we in the UK realise just how much libraries matter? Does the government? 

In our spring magazine we reported on a rather mysterious nationwide project. The one thing we knew was that libraries would be involved. It had begun as Theresa May’s idea to celebrate the UK’s creative
wonders in the post-Brexit world to come. It never did shake off its label as “The Festival of Brexit”, though it was never called that. At the last minute it acquired the mystifying name “Unboxed”. It didn’t help. The verdict now is that it was a poor way to spend £120m.
Participation didn’t quite reach its… ahem… “stretch target” of 66 million worldwide. 2.8 million is the latest official figure. Published comment has ranged from unconvinced to downright scathing.
But wait! The big success was the libraries! Fifteen services staged the high tech Unboxed mix of virtual reality experiences and outdoor guided trails telling local stories. The Reading Agency reports “exceptionally high footfall, with many authorities experiencing visitor numbers not seen prior to the Covid pandemic.”
“Of the high percentage of new visitors, 67% said they thought they were now more likely to visit the library as a result of experiencing StoryTrails.”
Protect partner Professor James Bennett says: “StoryTrails has provided thousands with their first taste of immersive storytelling: and they loved it! 91% rated our 3D local map experience 4* or 5*.
Most libraries reported a two- or three-fold increase in footfall, reconnecting visitors to their local library spaces which are such crucial centres of storytelling in our communities.”
Proof yet again that libraries are a uniquely trusted venue for new experiences. And that library staff are well able to learn new skills and adapt to almost anything…

Sighs of relief all round this week when the government announced – it is not changing the libraries minister! It’s still Lord Parkinson. [Apologies to those who caught up with Liz Truss’s short-lived appointment / allocation of the library brief to someone else.]

Over the years, libraries ministers have changed almost as rapidly as Prime Ministers in the past few weeks. Each time, DCMS civil servants and library bodies have patiently taken them on visits, talked to them and taught them what libraries do. They usually need it.

So it’s good not to have to start all over again. Libraries Connected trustee Ayub Khan told an LC webinar: “He’s been pragmatic and thoughtful, shown a genuine interest. I’m really, really pleased.”

Meanwhile, a well-timed boost to libraries – tying them very firmly in to the levelling up agenda (what’s left of it) – from the Parliamentary select committee for culture*. 

It endorses libraries as “an important part of a community’s infrastructure for people who are digitally excluded or who live in deprived neighbourhoods” – but also for quality of life, flourishing local high streets and as “engines for entrepreneurship, economic growth and job creation”. 

And it actually asks for proper funding. (Grim footnote: “Evidence to our inquiry posited that, for every £1 spent on library services in 2009–10, 58p was spent in 2017–18: an even sharper decline than spending on culture and heritage in the round.”)

Here again, no change is good news. Michael Gove is back in the saddle as secretary of state for levelling up. Whatever one might think of him in general, it’s good not to have to start all over again with a new boy. And the starter work he supervised was mostly well thought of. The one agreed flaw – lack of proper, stable funding…

Busy taking notes, here’s Baroness Sanderson on a fact-finding tour. She is, you’ll remember, chair of a panel working on “a new public libraries strategy”, as we reported on this website on 5 September.
We gather that the library sector was keen to get this set up before any big changes took place in the political world. How right they were!
“As someone from outside the sector,” she says, “I have a lot to learn and a lot of people to meet but my first priority was to visit frontline library staff and volunteers – to see for myself the work that they do and to understand the challenges they face.”
Her first tour included Wimbledon, Woodford, Yeovil, Taunton, Sutton and Deepings volunteer-run library in Lincs.
“Readiness to adapt, while working with the local community to address their specific needs, has been central to every library branch I’ve visited,” she reports, “whatever their size, location or management
“They should be recognised as one of the most valuable community assets we have… I feel privileged to work with the sector to help develop ideas as to how we may protect them into the future and widen
the understanding of what they do – across government departments and more widely through society.”
Hear hear to that! For her full report, go to:

A cultural festival to go with the Rugby League tournament? Why not?
The ever-ingenious Libraries Connected is partnering with the confusingly-named Rugby League World Cup 2021 to deliver arts events as part of the festival.
More than 593 libraries in 34 authorities in the north of England are involved. Events will  run for the duration of the tournament and beyond.
They include art, designing and decorating rugby balls, creative writing, dancing (“Bollywood meets Haka”), panels with rugby experts, plays, poetry and information packs on RLWC events.
RLWC2021 says: “Libraries act as a real hub for local communities, so they offer the perfect setting for bringing together sport and the arts, sparking imagination and inspiring curiosity.”

This Thursday, October 13, 4-5pm at Bethnal Green Library – all welcome. Make a (small) mark in history! The library service will be taking a photo of library lovers at the entrance, to recreate the picture taken on its opening 100 years ago. The new photo will be hung in the library. Refreshments served.
Followed by the official launch of Kate’s book about the library’s wartime underground service, with Siddy Holloway, presenter of Secrets of the Underground.

Register at

It’s back – the annual celebration of all that libraries offer, run by librarians’ association CILIP. This time (3-9 October) the theme is lifelong learning. And that, says CILIP’s enterprising Scottish branch,
means anything “from knit n natter to mindful meditation and much more”.
Follow @librariesweek on Twitter. Or head to CILIP’s website to register for updates on what’s on, some bright ideas and a heap of advice on planning and publicity. This is a resource worth consulting
whether you are taking part in Libraries Week or not:
CILIP is also holding a FREE national online chat (Tuesday 4 October, 6.30-7.45pm) with author Kate Thompson. The theme is only too topical: “the power of public libraries to support a community through the worst of times”. The reference is, of course, to her book about the World War II underground library in London’s East End. We featured this in our magazine no 102:
Today, libraries are busy planning to be “warm banks” and all-round welfare centres, but let’s hope not bomb shelters.
Register here:

The Library Campaign is very sad to report the death of Guy Daines. Most recently the Policy officer for CILIP, Guy was briefly the Campaign Secretary (before we were a charity) and had always been extremely helpful to us ever since.
He started his library career in the London Borough of Camden where he was also an active NALGO steward (NALGO became part of UNISON.) In that capacity we think he was one of those who attended the conference in Sheffield which founded the Campaign.
Later he joined the staff of the Library Association (now CILIP) initially as one of the team who advised on employment issues though as the LA / CILIP is not a trade union, this also involved liaison with the relevant unions.
After a while Guy took on a more all-embracing policy advice role. He became Policy Officer dealing with professional ethics and equalities, as well as governance and many other issues. 
As part of this role Guy represented CILIP to the Library Campaign and was involved in the set up of Speak Up For Libraries (SUFL) the coalition of organisations and individuals who  organised conferences, parliamentary lobbies and other activities in the 20-teens. 
Guy was always well  connected  -if he did not know the answer to some library question he probably knew who did. He could brief on current policy issues more or less at the drop of a hat.
Outside work Guy was sociable – always up for a drink after official business finished and keen on cricket, but also involved with his church. Indeed, when he retired, one of his ambitions was to study ecclesiastical Latin.
After his retirement we did not see much of Guy but he remained a member of the Campaign and we will miss his common sense and friendship. We understand that’s death came after a ‘short illness’. He will be much missed.

Well! There is to be ‘a new public libraries strategy due in 2023… to make sure [they] are providing the best possible service for their communities’.
Whatever that means, it will be based on work by a new ‘advisory panel’ led by one Baroness Sanderson. Her job will be to act as an ‘independent chair’ and ‘provide a fresh, challenging and impartial
perspective on libraries to help formulate innovative new policy ideas’.
It’s not yet known who will be on this panel. TLC has been quick to urge that it should include library users.
In a hastily-sent email to the Baroness, we said: ‘We believe that library users and supporters have a lot to contribute to any review of the service at national level, as well as whatever contribution they may make locally.
‘Their perspective will be different from most, if not all, of the library bodies and others who have in the past been part of this sort of panel / review.’
Baroness Sanderson is billed as ‘an experienced former journalist [for the Mail on Sunday] and government adviser [to TheresaMay] who joined the government benches in the House of Lords in 2019’.
Meanwhile, we must go by what she has so far said: ‘I’m thrilled to be taking up this new role.
‘Libraries play such an important part in our lives, be that instilling a love of reading in childhood or encouraging economic, social and mental wellbeing throughout adulthood and into old age.
‘Too often undervalued, they are one of the most critical forms of social infrastructure we have and I look forward to working alongside the experts, and listening to a wide range of voices, so that we may
help develop ideas as to how we may promote and protect our libraries into the future.’
The government claims there has only been one previous national strategy, in 2016. TLC would say there have been quite a few, under different names. If you want to check up on the 2016 version, it’s all
there in the back issues of our magazine: issue no 93, pp 8-9.

Posts navigation