The Library Campaign has received the following media request:

ITN are currently making a programme about how machines are revolutionising modern society. They’re changing the way we work and the way we live. From driverless tube trains to self-service checkout at the supermarket, our working lives are being radically altered and man is having to adapt to work around new machines.

We would love to hear from any library workers or volunteers who are experiencing a change at their library. How have new machines worked for you? How has the library changed?

Please feel free to drop me an email at – even if you’d just like a chat.


library machines

The Library Campaign is also interested in your views so feel free to leave a comment.

school library 2Don’t Privatise Libraries : 26th February
The daunting prospect of running a volunteer-led library

The above, can be read alongside :
Voices for the Library : January 2014
Data protection & volunteer-led libs 

BBC News : 27th February
Scottish Borders Council approves cultural services trust move

Selkirk Weekend Advertiser : 27th February
Scottish Borders | Trust could protect services for future

Harrow Times : 27th February
Harrow libraries get computer upgrade

The following account details the experience of a library worker on the introduction of self service kiosks in the library authority where they work:

My service has introduced self-serve into it’s branches and frontline staff are being told to ‘encourage’ users to use it, not just ‘encourage’ but basically force people to use in order to meet targets.

They are also being told that if someone refuses to use then they must take the books etc from them and put them through the kiosks….now this really disturbs me. If someone makes a conscious political or ethical decision not to use the kiosks because they are quite rightly concerned about linked job losses etc then why should we ignore their wishes and that choice? Surely we are here to serve our communities, we are supposed to be user focussed.

A significant proportion of my colleagues feel uncomfortable about doing this but are told to do it, so do it, and some try to offer choice to the user but feel that they are being watched and have to be careful about what they say to the public, which can be very hard sometimes, especially when you have people saying things like,

“Why are you doing this? You’re putting yourselves out of jobs.”

“We didn’t ask for this so why are you forcing people to use it?”

Management sold the concept of self-serve to staff by telling them that it would make their jobs more interesting and free them up to do other things but all we seem to do is deal with queries and technical problems with the kiosks, so it’s a bit of a sham really. I think most of my colleagues know it was really brought in to cut jobs which makes it even harder to swallow.

What is your experience of self service in libraries? Please leave a comment below or email your comment to so we can upload it.


If you have a comment or item of interest as a library worker or library user on this or any other library related issue and would like to share your experience, please email us on the address above. We are happy to publish your story on our website, with or without your name.

Members, watch out for details of the experience of a library user in the next issue of our magazine, The Library Campaigner,  as well as exploration of the thorny issue of volunteers in libraries and The Library Campaign’s persistence in holding Mr Vaizey to account. Issue 88 of The Library Campaigner is due to go to print later this week. If you’d like to receive a hard copy then why not join us? Details here: How to join The Library Campaign – As little as £15 ( £10 concessional rate, and only £20 for a group or campaign) to add your voice and support to the only charity championing libraries.

Libraries minister says volunteer libraries are everyone’s responsibility – except his.Ed Vaizey

The Library Campaign pursued him from May 2013 with a long list of problems on which volunteer libraries urgently need help. (See The Library Campaigner, Issue 87, page 4) The only answer (indirectly) was a post on the official government website – to all and sundry – to ‘run a library’ just for fun.

TLC summer 2013 p4

You can download the letter from: November 2013 – Letter to TLC from Ed Vaizey

The text reads:

November 2013

Dear Ms Swaffield

Thank you for your further e-mail of 17 October and for details of the common problems being experienced by volunteer libraries. I apologise for the delay in replying to your original email on 17 May.

I am aware of the recent statement by CILIP that the official Government website GOV.UK is being used to promote volunteer-managed community libraries ahead of those delivered by local authorities, staffed by professionals. I do not accept that this is the case. I acknowledge that the GOV.UK website provides detail relating to community libraries, and I think it is right to do so, but equally the website contains comprehensive detail relating to the Government’s role in overseeing library services, including the need for local authorities to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. The website is not promoting community libraries ahead of the local authority statutory service, and as I have.said previously community libraries are not replacing the comprehensive and efficient library service that a local authority is under a statutory duty to provide.

The public library service in England is run by local authorities and it is for them to determine how best to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library service to their community, within available resources. More recently library service reviews have been undertaken by many local authorities resulting in a reshaping of library services with variable levels of community involvement. These changes have seen a growth in public libraries that are either community managed or community run and in some cases libraries being run by volunteers outside of the statutory service .

The Arts Council England and Local Government Association publication “Community libraries – Learning from experience: guiding principles for local authorities” published in January this year, identified factors which local authorities might find helpful when considering how best to design and manage their own library services. Although intended primarily for local authority officers and members, it is also of interest and relevance to others, including community representatives.

Additionally, Locality, a registered charity, that receives funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) provides a nationwide network for community-led organisations that aims to help people to set up locally owned and led organisations and support organisations to exchange ideas and best practice, including running a library. Locality’s Libraries Community Knowledge Hub provides an online platform and resource for the community library network, bringing together advice and guidance, peer networking; and access to a range of resources and remote support. This detail is available at: and not only provides information on a number of issues relating to running a library, but also access to a forum to ask questions of an expert panel and network of members, or help others by answering their questions.

Further to this Cabinet Office and DCLG are developing a peer to peer networking website across a full range of community action topics, including community libraries. The peer to peer website will provide the opportunity for the community library network to share a range of good case studies illustrating the variety of models available for setting up a community run library, as well as sharing information related to running a community I volunteer library.

No matter what model is in place there is a need for support and guidance to deliver a library service and the local authorities and the community library network themselves are well placed to provide appropriate advice and guidance.

Ed Vaizey MP
Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries

More on this in the next issue of The Library Campaigner, our magazine for members, due to go to print shortly.

Ed Vaizey
Incredibly, the libraries minister has found a whole new way to do nothing.

As protests erupt nationwide, as hundreds of libraries are cut to pieces, or dumped on to reluctant ‘volunteers’ to run, Ed Vaizey announces – an inquiry into public libraries.

To report… er, by the end of the year.

Another report is the last thing we need. We are knee-deep in reports already, and they all say much the same thing.

What we need is urgent action.

For years, library users have begged the minister to take a bit of interest in what’s happening. The Library Campaign sent him a list of 23 urgent problems confronting ‘volunteer’ libraries – last May. His response? Nothing.

Library users don’t feature in the panel set to conduct the inquiry. As the minister is actively encouraging as many ‘volunteers’ as possible to ‘run a library’ – after all, any fool can do it – that’s not very funny.

A total of 470 libraries (393 buildings and 77 mobiles) are currently reported as likely to be closed or passed to ‘volunteers’ – or have already been closed/left council control just since April 1, 2013 (out
of c.4265 in the UK).

Local councils will set their budgets later this month.

Plans for further mass cuts, closures or dumping are a certainty.

In 2010, when the (former) government’s review was published, Ed Vaizey (then shadow minister) said,

“The Library Modernisation Review was a classic ministerial excuse for not acting. My view is to get down to it and get stuck in.”

Since 2010, the libraries situation has become near-catastrophic.

The Library Campaign urges all who care about libraries to contact the inquiry. And to tell the minister we are sick of his inaction.

THE BOOKSELLER : 17th December
Campaigners attack SCL on CIPFA

Spalding Guardian : 17th December
MP in fight to save library from the axe
MP John Hayes is fighting on to save Market Deeping Library from the county council axe.

Redditch Advertiser : 17th December
Volunteer sought for Alcester Library
The request is part of a call for a variety of volunteer roles across the entire county’s library service.

Nottingham Post : 17th December
Libraries and arts organisations to suffer as Nottingham City Council cut £25m from budget

Councillors have warned that they are reaching the stage where the money they give to non-statutory services could be axed completely in future as even bigger cuts loom.

Huddersfield Examiner : 17th December
Yorkshire Music Library move hits the right note
The group decided that Huddersfield provided the most ideal solution and that the collection would be managed by Fresh Horizons Ltd which has extensive experience of managing library facilities in Yorkshire.

Yorkshire Music Library

Last week, the latest official (CIPFA) statistics on public libraries were published.

Most striking was the finding that “staff numbers continued their fall, down 6.8% year on year, but in contrast there was a marked increase in the number of volunteers, with numbers increasing 44% in 2012-13”.

We all know what that means. Volunteers are not just supplementing a proper professional service, but are increasingly being forced to run branches all by themselves.

Nobody wants that. And we’d expect librarians to make this point loud and clear.

Yet the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) did the exact opposite. The Library Campaign is appalled to see the SCL express nothing beyond bland acceptance.

So we wrote them a letter…


Dear all,

We were shocked and disappointed to see SCL’s comment on the new CIPFA figures. It is wrong in so many ways.

When branch closures, and the creation of volunteer libraries, are accelerating with no control and no sensible assessment, few would agree that ‘libraries are working to achieve the right balance between maintaining and building upon the service that communities depend on and the necessity to reduce  costs’.

Library users all over the country will be appalled to see the SCL thinks current developments are ‘always in tune with local community need’. The reality is widespread mass protests and complaints of sham consultation.

Again, you record the rise in volunteers in a bland and uncritical fashion. While some volunteers have always been welcome as a complement to paid staff, the new wave forced to take on core tasks is better characterised as bitter, desperate – and often poorly supported.

We know of none who would not prefer a proper service run by professional staff. (A particular weakness is likely to be in what the SCL calls ‘completely new ways in which people access information’ – where local authority library websites record an impressive 25% rise in one year. And will volunteers run the Summer Reading Challenge?)

We appreciate that SCL members are among those setting up volunteer libraries. But we know none who argue that they provide as good a service as professionals.

It is a great pity when a major professional body fails to articulate the importance of its skills.

It is even more of a pity to do so at a time of unprecedented damage, when library services need all the help they can get to protect standards.

The bland language used implies uncritical support of the entire current race to destruction.

Sometimes – often – we feel that it is only library users and campaigners that stand up for librarians.

Yours sincerely

Laura Swaffield

Chair, The Library Campaign



Thanks to Shirley Burnham for her daily news links.  Here are today’s news items relating to libraries:

The Echo : 5th November
Live: Southend Council decide on libraries and Shoebury seawall (today)
all changes to Library Service agreed

Manchester Evening News : 5th November
Group’s last attempt to save Northenden library before it closes – this Friday

Brent & Kilburn Times : 5th November
Brent Council call in police over Kensal Rise Library fraud claims
Margaret Bailey, chair of FKRL, said:  “We applaud the action of our council and its willingness to take seriously this attempt to subvert local democracy and mislead the public.”

The Star : 5th November
Sheffield | Library protesters fear for children’s education

BBC News : 5th November
West Berkshire Council announces cuts to toilets, theatre and tourism
Libraries and children’s centres will not close but will see their funding reduced as West Berkshire Council looks to save £10m over the next two years.
for detail, see >

THE BOOKSELLER : 5th November
Campaigners seek judicial review on Moray library closures

Herald Scotland : 5th November
Libraries campaigners take action
“No authority can afford a Rolls Royce library service anymore” – Moray Council Leader

Press & Journal : 5th November
Moray | Libraries fight may cost half a million

Moray Scottish National Party : November 2013
SNP Councillors table motion aimed at stopping library closures


Some time ago the Friends of Stony Stratford Library (FOSSL) ran a very successful campaign, called ‘Wot No Books’, to save their local library, which was threatened with closure. As part of this, all the books were taken out of the library – leaving the shelves bare.

As a result of the campaign, the library building was purchased by Stony Stratford Town Council, and Milton Keynes Council continued to provide a professional library service.

To celebrate this success, FOSSL has now created a video, also called Wot No Books, which is now live on You Tube, which you can view here:


The Library Campaign – the national charity that supports library users – will make a supreme effort in November get everyone together to save public libraries.

The occasion? Saturday November 23rd: the national Speak Up For Libraries conference in London.

SUFL colour banner PNG


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

Public libraries are in crisis – with 1,000 likely soon to close or be abandoned to hard-pressed communities to run as best they can. Many more will be wrecked by cuts.

This means permanent damage to community life, literacy, education, social cohesion, citizens’ rights, the welfare of vulnerable people and the future of young people.



The day will focus on what is really needed, what’s being done – and where the gaps are. The Library Campaign will collate an action plan – and follow up to see that it is done.

THE SPEAKERS – all the major players at national level:

Brian Ashley, Director, Libraries, Arts Council England
Phil Bradley, President of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals)
Janene Cox, President of SCL (Society of Chief Librarians)
Yinnon Ezra, Advisor for Libraries, DCMS (Department for Culture, Media & Sport)
Heather Wakefield, Head of Local Government, UNISON

PLUS –  two more experts on the real situation:
Steve Davies, University of Cardiff, author of several reports on public libraries
Alan Gibbons, author, education consultant and Campaign for the Book



Laura Swaffield, chair of The Library Campaign, says:

“Responsibility for libraries is scattered all over the place. The buck stops nowhere. So we mean to make sure there is co-ordination in future.

And we mean to see that library users, workers and campaigners no longer get ignored or patronised. These people do more for libraries than many of the bodies funded to take responsibility.It’s only the government that does nothing.

There is still, in fact, some great library development work at all levels. But it’s under-publicised and under-used.’The government simply doesn’t care. We do. And we know we can all work together to start getting out of the mess we are in.”


Elizabeth Ash, Croydon Libraries campaigner and trustee of The Library Campaign, says:

“It’s time we pulled together to highlight the plight of libraries. The devastation will have long-reaching effects that will be hard to undo. Speak Up For Libraries offers the opportunity for all to engage. We must grab the chance before it is too late!

Too many have stood by helplessly and watched the decimation of much-valued library services. Communities and individuals have been silenced and disempowered by flawed consultations.

Insidious back door cuts have resulted in hollowed out services,often removing the professional librarians and experienced staff that make the service what it is. The “keeping doors open” agenda needs to
be exposed for what it is.

As for volunteers running libraries – asking communities to pay for a service and run it themselves is not only insulting but unsustainable.

We’ve got to do better than this. And we can.”


FOLLOW Speak Up for Libraries:

On Twitter : @SpeakUp4Libs #SUFLConf13
On Facebook:


The latest announcement on is of huge concern.
Take Part | Create a community library
Find out how you can help support local libraries, including taking on ownership and management.


Laura Swaffield, Chair of The Library Campaign, says

“I really had thought the government couldn’t sink any lower on libraries. But now it’s moved from lazily passive to actively hostile.

People don’t want to run libraries. Even those who end up doing it. They want a proper service run by professionals. That’s what you need in the information age.

Contrast Scotland, where Moray is the very first case of planned mass closures.  The librarians’ professional association (CILIPS) made a strong public statement as soon as the protests began in September, and now the minister has actively intervened.

What next? Create your own hospital?”

If implemented, the impact of this policy, could be very damaging, with the very real potential of establishing a handful of Super Libraries and hundreds of volunteer run book exchanges, resulting in a breach of the 1964 Act.

phonebox library

Public libraries nationwide had something to celebrate on World Mental Health Day #WMHD, 10 October. Many ran special events.


To highlight the successful launch of their Reading Well mental health promotion.

This scheme features special collections in every library – tried and tested self-help titles on anxiety, depression and other common mental health problems.

Loans of these books went up 51% in just one month.

Some titles were issued 250% more!

Simple, really. A unified public service like libraries can work together, get on board with the GPs’ and psychiatrists’ national bodies – and make help easy to find for everyone.

Everyone who still has a local library, that is.

Who got it together? A charity, The Reading Agency (TRA), and the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL).

Did the government do anything?


Is the government doing anything to halt the mass closure of local libraries?


Just since April this year, 352 libraries (309 buildings and 43 mobiles) have been closed or dumped on to volunteers, or are threatened with this fate. That’s on top of an estimated 78 (plus 14 mobiles) lost in 2012-13, and a documented 201 in 2011-12.
(We can’t give more exact figures because the government doesn’t publish them.)

Janene Cox, SCL President, says: ‘Libraries have always served the entire community and with our health offer, we have further cemented the role of libraries in helping society’s most vulnerable people.’

Debbie Hicks, of TRA, says: ‘Libraries are one of the only free places where older people can gather access a spectrum of health and well being services, from learning how to go online for health information, picking up a self help book or joining a reading group.’

The Library Campaign says: ‘Given half a chance, public libraries do fantastic work – at minimum cost. This is just one example. But this will soon be wiped out in many areas. A national network, giving convenient local access to all, will soon simply no longer exist.”

Does the government get it?


Does it care?


pharmacy library

This Is Lincolnshire : 6th October
Thousands become library users amid protests over cuts
5,294 new members joined the service during July and August.

Horncastle News : 6th October
Letter | Lincolnshire County Council will aim to keep all libraries open
from Councillor Nick Worth, Executive member for 

Horncastle News : 5th October
Letter | Lincolnshire County Council’s library article just political spin
The best letter I’ve read this year – Shirley B

Addicted to Property : 6th October
New £12m Library Proposed For Westminster

The Star : 6th October
Sheffield MP (Nick Clegg) backs residents’ fight to save their library

This Is Gloucestershire : 5th October
‘Yarn bombing’ of Cheltenham Library


Thanks to Shirley Burnham for the links that we post daily on our website.  Here is today’s round up of news relating to libraries.

The Library Campaign 
Briefing Paper for the Libraries APPG 

THE GUARDIAN : 4th October
‘Libraries are key to helping people access other public services’ The man who will run libraries in the Triborough in south-west London on why it is important to engage with local communities

Melville House : 4th October
Even the good news about Britain’s local libraries is bad

Get Hampshire : 4th October
Library space could be leased out after readers turn to technology

A plan has been approved in principle to lease out space in libraries in a bid to save money

Yellow Advertiser : 4th October
Libraries lend themselves to excellence 
Havering council’s library service scored top marks in the five areas of customer service  …. The award was given by SGS, the world’s leading inspection company.

Public Libraries News : 3rd October
Editorial | “Libraries are the ideal place for people to go and get support for their great ideas” (Eric Pickles)

ACE : 3rd October
Arts Council England announces the ten library services who will deliver economic growth in communities

BBC News : 3rd October
Islington’s The Kindness Project library opens
David Goodfellow from TKO said: “We’re trying to put the books back into people’s hands.” : 2nd October
‘Grim’ Council Cuts Probable As Shortfall Predicted To Grow
Reduce libraries expenditure by 50% over a two year period, keeping open half of those facilities that will act as hubs for welfare reform changes.


The Library Campaign has presented the following briefing paper to the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group:

You can download a copy here.




Briefing Paper for the All Party Parliamentary Library Group



1.0  Introduction


Campaigners are grateful for the opportunity to meet the All Party Parliamentary Library Group (APPLG). We hope this paper will highlight some of the issues that most concern library campaigners, library users and the volunteers who are increasingly being forced to run library services. The needs of all these groups are routinely ignored by government (both central and local). It might also perhaps enable the APPLG to discuss some or all of these issues with the DCMS (the ministry responsible for supervising and improving the English public library system) and Arts Council England (ACE), whose remit is to investigate how the service is to meet the challenges of the 21st century.


1.1     We recognise the financial pressures facing local government. Councils must make tough decisions in allocating resources. Despite its statutory nature, the public library service is often first in line for cuts (and too often thought by decision-makers to be a ‘discretionary’ service).


1.2     Campaigners acknowledge that not all professionals have promoted the service effectively, delivered maximum efficiencies or improvements, or made the best use of new technologies.  However, there is also a failure by both local and central government to grasp the “joined-up government” agenda, insofar as there is little appreciation of libraries’ impact on the priorities of the public sector and of national policies. These include health, social welfare, business, digital access and education (a human right in law, encompassing both orthodox and digital literacy).


1.3     Also ignored is extensive research demonstrating the economic and health benefits of comprehensive and efficient library services, available to all who wish to use them.



2.0     The “Leadership Void”


The underlying issue is what the APPLG once described as the “leadership void”.  Both the current Minister and the Shadow Minister have acknowledged the problem. There is no single body that provides strategic leadership, or a shared and implementable vision, or advice/support for individual authorities, or a means to share best practice.


2.1     When in Opposition the Minister supported the idea of a library development and improvement agency. However, the DCMS and ACE now favour “distributed leadership” (a concept that defies definition), by means of a poorly-co-ordinated mix of official bodies, agencies and a part-time DCMS library advisor. Many resources deemed essential by library users and volunteers are not provided at all.


2.2            Public libraries have been the subject of numerous reports and consultancy studies in recent years including Framework for the Future, Blueprint for Excellence, the two-year Library Modernisation Review, the Future Libraries Programme, the Libraries Development Initiative and the most recent, Envisioning the Library of the Future. It could be argued that the sector has been over-researched, but has lacked leadership and effective action.


2.3            There is a generally held view that the public library service is in crisis, and the DCMS, ACE and the Society of Chief Librarians are failing to provide bold, imaginative and effective leadership, or to advocate a powerful message about the value of public libraries.



3.0     The Current Situation


3.1     The DCMS and ACE, surprisingly, do not monitor closures or the transfer of libraries to volunteer groups. They rely on data collected by CIPFA, which is limited and is published many months in arrears. The most recent CIPFA data is for 2011-12, when 201 library “service points” were closed.


The only up-to-date national information service, Public Libraries News (PLN), is provided by one individual, unfunded, in his spare time. PLN publishes a comprehensive list of closures based on local press reports. This shows that at least 78 libraries were closed or transferred in 2012-13, and a further 335 have been threatened since 1 April 2013. This suggests that at least 614 libraries will have closed or transferred within three years, matching CILIP’s December 2012 forecast of about 600.   For the  current position in individual local authorities the APPLG is referred to


3.2     As the service can expect significant further cuts in the next two years (2014-16), The Library Campaign predicts that at least 1,000 libraries could be lost by 2016. This does not seem an unreasonable estimate.


  • Almost all the closures will be branch libraries, providing essential services to communities, notably in deprived and rural areas and small towns. This represents a radical change in the whole concept of the service. Yet neither DCMS nor ACE has addressed the implications.


  • Where libraries remain open, there is widespread ‘hollowing out’ and de-professionalisation of the service. Expert staff are made redundant, opening hours and stock reduced, building maintenance neglected, outreach and specialist services cut, access to information and national networks lost because counter staff lack training. Often communities – especially those most in need – lose many of the benefits offered by a ‘proper’ library service. Nationwide, people are forgetting what these are. The damage will thus become permanent.


3.3.    We recognise that a number of new or refurbished libraries have opened. These are mainly large central libraries, notably in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. However, a few shiny, new or refurbished libraries cannot disguise the nationwide loss of hundreds of community libraries. Indeed, their high costs frequently contribute to the closure of branches.


3.4            The number of library authorities in England totals 151. This is a 54% increase from before the last major local government re-organisation. Yet in Northern Ireland there is now just one single library authority. The Minister has suggested that the number of separately managed library authorities in England could perhaps be reduced by 30%, a percentage which some would regard as a minimum.


3.5     CIPFA reported that the total operating cost of the public library service in England was £896 million in 2011-2 with the main areas of expenditure as follows:


–         Library staff and management: £484m (54%)

–         Buildings: £104m (11.6%)

–         Council corporate services charges: £144m (16%)

–         Books: £55m (6.2%)


The main change in recent years has been the very significant increase in corporate service charges, funded by substantial reductions in professional staff, book and material funds.



4.0            The Impact of Closures


4.1     Announcements by individual councils that they  intend to close libraries have been met with widespread local protest.  Several requests have been made to the Secretary of State to intervene, using his/her powers under the 1964 Act, without success. This unwillingness to intervene is surprising, given the Minister’s support for a more active policy when in opposition. It has led to a number of applications for judicial review against local authorities, based on procedural failures in putting together closure schemes. As the CMS Select Committee has said, library policy should not be made in the courts.


4.2     Even where campaigners have been successful, the reaction of the local authorities has often been to remedy the procedural faults, but impose substantially the same scheme.


4.3     The major concerns have been:


–         failure to consult properly; that local groups have been forced to save their local library by taking it over, without proper support or advice; and


–         the impact of closures on the disadvantaged: those living in rural communities and those in areas of severe deprivation (the latter group whose interests the Minister strongly supported when Shadow Minister, and which were highlighted in the widely respected Wirral inquiry, under the 1964 Act).


4.4     The Culture Minister has written to councils on three occasions, reminding them in general terms of their statutory duty. However, there has been no government guidance to define the “improving”, “comprehensive and efficient” service for all who wish to use it that is required by the 1964 Act, let alone to ensure that every authority provides it. Yet clear standards are laid down in both Wales and Scotland.


4.5     Again there seems to be a lack of “joined up government” in failure to ensure that:


–         local libraries are located in conformity with the guidance on accessibility of public facilities contained in the National Planning Policy Framework, or

–         in conformity with the guidance on health issued by, for example, NICE


Nor is there any understanding that accessible local branches are needed, if libraries are to contribute to improving literacy (including digital literacy), education and access to the government’s online services.


4.6     Ironically, the closure or transfer of small branch libraries often delivers relatively small savings. The big costs are in overheads and infrastructure (and in charges for corporate services). Yet the impact on rural, small towns and deprived areas can be huge. Significantly, there is no agreed or sustainable model for volunteer-run libraries. There is no guidance on core issues such as:


–         health and safety;

–         child protection; and

–         compliance with copyright and data protection legislation.


The Library Campaign has given a list of 23 such issues to DCMS and to ACE, with no result.


4.7     Nor has anything been done to ensure that volunteer libraries are properly supported by librarians or receive adequate resources, including internet access, access to the local library management system, printed books and e-books. The lack of central support has ensured much muddle and duplicated effort at local level, further reducing any possible savings.



5.0     The Sustainability of Volunteer-run Libraries


There is increasing concern that many branch libraries have been “cast off” by their local authority without adequate support. Many are not sustainable without adequate funding, resources and professional support.


5.1     Many volunteer groups are struggling to save their local library. They have no source of advice except The Library Campaign (unfunded) and the volunteers who run Little Chalfont Community Library. The latter have so far provided ad hoc free advice to 130 organisations (latterly with some Cabinet Office funding).


5.2     The Museums, Libraries & Archives Council (MLA) did flag up some of the issues relating to volunteer-run libraries before its demise almost two years ago. The DCMS has promised to provide a report on the impact of volunteer run libraries to the CMS Parliamentary Select Committee before the end of 2013.  However:


  • volunteer groups have already been struggling with these issues for over two years.


  • Volunteer-run libraries may work, after a fashion, in well-heeled areas, but are less likely to do so less prosperous parts of the country.



  • significantly, some councils – such as Bolton – have already concluded that volunteer libraries are not the solution to the problems facing the library service.


6.0            The Closure of The Advisory Council on Libraries (ACL)


The 1964 Act requires an independent body to provide advice to the Secretary of State. When the ACL last met in 2010 it had eight members, with a wide range of expertise. The annual direct cost of the ACL was just £2,500. The head of the DCMS library unit acted as secretary.


  • The Minister announced that the ACL would be closed, not realising that it was statutory. In 2012 he appointed a retired local government officer as his part time advisor. This means greater cost, but considerably reduced expertise coupled with a perceived lack of independence.


  • The DCMS has belatedly realised that the decision to close the ACL will have to be subject to public consultation, which gives an opportunity to question its correctness.


  • To date, the advisor has not met any local campaign groups or civic trusts that have submitted formal complaints or requests for intervention about their council’s plans or, it is thought, even the councils in question.   Perhaps the advisor might be asked to explain his role to the APPLG, particularly as there is a gap in engagement with local communities which the DCMS has not attempted to fill, seemingly preferring to make decisions from the comfort of its Whitehall offices.


7.0     The Arts Council’s Involvement


ACE replaced the MLA two years ago as the strategic agency responsible for public libraries.  However:


  • there seems to have been some initial confusion as to its role but we now understand this is to “improve and develop” public libraries.


  • ACE has only a part-time library director and five regional relationship managers to support 151 library authorities.


7.1     ACE recently completed a research study costing close to £250,000 (£222,814 – plus undeclared internal costs). This repeated the results of many previous studies. It identified four traditional priorities, but specifically excluded mentioning the cuts which will fundamentally change all the report’s underlying assumptions, viz :


–         place the library at the hub of the community;

–         make the most of digital technology and creative media;

–         ensure libraries are resilient and sustainable;  and

–         deliver the right skills for those who work in libraries).


7.2     ACE has also published a report on volunteer-run libraries.  It has been widely condemned for its unquestioning acceptance of this fast-accelerating trend and its failure to analyse the implications.


7.3     ACE’s libraries director recently met representatives of The Library Campaign. A report of that meeting was published, with ACE’s approval, by Public Libraries News. It is fair to say that there was considerable disappointment with what ACE had to say, focused on:


–         ACE’s failure to provide any practical support;


–         the fact that after two years it is unable to describe any clear plan of action for “improving and developing” public libraries;  and


–         the failure to list the outcomes that it hopes to deliver.


There is, therefore, some scepticism about ACE’s level of commitment, its understanding of the issues, its level of expertise in the sector and its ability to deliver.  In a recent BBC radio programme, the director referred to the desirability of amalgamating libraries, but the problem demands far more radical solutions.



8.0            E-book Lending


8.1     A research firm has been appointed to undertake pilot studies to assess the benefits and impact of e-book lending in public libraries. The results may not be known until late in 2014. This is a disappointment to many library users and librarians, and will further weaken the ability of public libraries to compete with commercial e-book providers such as Amazon.


8.2     There is a need for a national e-book catalogue and lending service. Otherwise 151 separately managed authorities must get their act together and find funding to invest in the required technology (which is, currently, often unfriendly to users). Campaigners note the interest in the USA for Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA). This enables suppliers to give access to a comprehensive catalogue, but make payment (to publisher and author) only for actual loans.


9.0     Conclusions


This brief can give only a summary of some key issues and concerns of library campaigners. We believe that:


  • bolder and more imaginative initiatives, many of which are applicable to local government in general, could be taken by library authorities to manage their resources better, including controlling corporate charges, sharing services with other authorities, simplifying management structures, outsourcing support services, making optimum use of technologies and implementing best practice; vested interests in councils should not be permitted to prevent consideration of such steps and their adoption where appropriate.


  • despite the problems in many authorities, others continue to find efficiencies and improve their libraries to meet the specific needs of their communities. There is a woeful lack of research to identify the factors for success. The current library advisor to the Minister wrote that the service is “variable”. Others argue that the provision of a proper library service for many communities is fast becoming a postcode lottery.


  • the APPLG in the past, together with the current Minister, Shadow Minister and the professional bodies, have discussed the issue of leadership. It is clear that that the very real problems faced by the service cannot be ignored if we are to improve literacy, education and access to information, knowledge and the digital world.


  • there is an urgent need for all those responsible for delivering a “comprehensive and efficient” public library service for all to up their game. Austerity and cost-driven vandalism must not become an excuse for authorities to close libraries, transfer them to volunteers or “hollow out” the remaining libraries. Superior solutions are available, as some of the better-managed services have shown.  There is a crisis; it can be an opportunity.


Voices for the Library : 20th September
No confidence in Ed Vaizey

CILIPS Council : 20th September
Cuts to Moray Libraries – Open Letter from CILIPS Council
CILIP in Scotland is the professional body for library and information professionals.

The Scotsman : 20th September
Campaign group formed to save Moray’s libraries 
“This is an issue that affects everyone in Moray – in fact we are convinced that it will affect every community in Scotland as other local authorities seek to break away from their responsibilities in providing library services.  Already we are learning that East Ayrshire may be facing the closure of eight libraries.”

Northern Scot : 20th September
Moray Leader stands by library decision

THE BOOKSELLER : 20th September
Sheffield libraries could become wine bars

The Star : 20th September
Letter | Demand the first-class library service we deserve

London Evening Standard : 20th September
‘Faked’ emails support flats plan for library

Don’t Privatise Libraries : 20th September
A ‘clearly expressed vision’ for London Libraries? 

Lincolnshire Echo : 20th September
Broadcaster Melvyn Bragg voices support for Lincolnshire libraries

Skegness Standard : 19th September
Spilsby community rejects alternative library proposals

This Is Scunthorpe : 20th September
Council refuses to scrap library closure plans
Labour members of the authority were defeated by a close vote when they called for the council’s executive committee to scrap the current proposals.

You Tube : 19th September
Herefordshire | Save Our Libraries & Museums Campaign – D Day



logo.pngThe Library Campaign has worked, as part of the Speak Up for Libraries coalition of organisations and campaigners, to plan and deliver the second Speak up for Libraries Conference and bookings are now open.

Public libraries are facing an uncertain future. While the austerity agenda 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 are holding a conference to support those that care about  libraries – including library users, campaigners and library 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. Bookings are now open!

At the Conference you will…

  • Hear what experts think the future of public libraries looks like.
  • Hear from senior figures in libraries about what their organisations are planning for the coming years.
  • Meet the Speak Up For Libraries team 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.

The founding members of Speak Up For Libraries are:  Elizabeth Ash – library campaigner, Campaign for the Book – launched by award winning children’s author Alan Gibbons , CILIP, Mar Dixon – library campaigner, The Library Campaign, UNISON and the team at Voices for the Library.

To register please visit 

Details will be sent to all our members.

We aim to ensure that downloadable material is added so that communities and individuals can spread word of the Conference to those not part of the online community.

Bookings are being taken by CILIP but you do not need to be a CILIP member or supporter to attend. You can contact the Events Team at CILIP on  020 7255 0540 with queries or if you are unable to book online.

Join us to Speak up for Libraries to protect library services, and the staff that provide those services, now and in the future!

Please help spread the word!


Alan Gibbons Blog : 10th August
Stand up for Southend Libraries
Alan’s summary, with photographs

This Is Wiltshire : 10th August
Swindon | Shop is a lifeline for the community
Peter Mallinson, the chairman of the Walcot Community Charity Shop, said:  “We were one of the first libraries to be run entirely by volunteers. We started this four years ago not thinking that we would be so successful, it’s been a roaring success.”

This Is Lincolnshire : 10th August
Protest heads to the council over libraries
Campaigners will march on County Hall next month in a bid to save 32 libraries from closure.

This Is Lincolnshire : 8th August
Does the council only want the answers it desires over libraries?
It seems to me that Lincolnshire County Council is effectively sticking two fingers up at people in the way it is handling the issue of library closures.

Southend Libraries March - image thanks to Alan Gibbons
Southend Libraries March – image thanks to Alan Gibbons

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