Welcome to our newsletter round up of Febuary’s UK libraries news!
We continue to be inundated with dreadful stories about library plans. The sheer size of Birmingham shows up the insanity of drastic cuts (just in the culture area, 25 out of 36 libraries are to go, plus almost all cultural funding – theatre, ballet, orchestra, the lot). All 25 are listed here, with relevant petitions.Sadly, the culture destruction has had more coverage than the libraries. But even the Telegraph has noticed something’s wrong. It is urging central government to “act, and fast… [or] it will be remembered as the one that abandoned English cultural life”. (And much more…)Here we can only report a selection – stories with an interesting angle. But we always document the whole lot.Now the librarians’ association CILIP is starting to do the same. If you send us news of your own service (to thelibrarycampaign@gmail.com), please also go through the rather fiddly process of adding it to CILIP’s national map If you want to be contacted, put in your email address.CILIP has also published some brief but sensible advice on campaigning.

You have to register to see it at: https://www.cilip.org.uk/page/know-your-rights. 

Right at the bottom is an offer of direct help from CILIP – “our capacity is limited, but we will help whenever we can”. As, to be fair, it has sometimes done in the past. This help might include letters to the council, DCMS, MPs etc. or, “in extremis”, local media. Only if your library staff includes a CILIP member. But well worth a try. All this is coming rather late in the game, it has to be said. But it is good to see CILIP moving in the right direction. Meanwhile, you can find much more comprehensive advice and info straight off, here on our website or one-to-one via email.
Good news? We’ll see. Here’s proof that it’s always worth protesting when councils hint at daft plans for libraries. There was an instant outcry both inside and outside the council chamber when Kent’s deputy leader said the county has “far too many libraries” – and it was suggested that a third of the 99 could somehow be sold off to parish councils or, er… “community organisations”.
(Remember that last year, locals in Folkestone had to use legal action just to persuade Kent to discuss with them the future of their library…)  Within a week Kent was frantically back-pedalling. There are, it said, no plans to close any library.However, experience shows there are no guarantees here. Kent is still in discussion with a few parish councils, etc. Keeping libraries “open” may well not mean they remain council-run by professional staff. Best hope is Kent’s assurance that it will do nothing without consulting the public (as the law says it must). This might buy some time for better ideas.
Intriguing news from York. Here, the council outsourced its service to Explore York, an independent mutual society owned by staff and community members. A 15-year contract was signed in 2019. Outsourcing was then being pretty heavily pushed by government.
Now – York needs cuts. It proposed £600k less for Explore York. But, says Explore York, such a cut would make the service “unviable”. And a contract is a contract. One side can’t just change it unilaterally.

York said it was “confident” it could get its way by negotiating (as it always should have done). With public anger mounting, we’re not so sure. Opposition councillors have declared: “All of us are very proud at how Explore are standing up to the council over this.”
Now – the council has simply voted for the cut. York Explore says it won’t meet to negotiate until the council clarifies just how it thinks libraries can make this huge  saving!
We’re used to seeing public services crippled by money-eating, inflexible contracts with businesses, under the now-discredited “private finance initiatives”. York’s story is a whole new angle.
We look forward to developments in Greenwich, where libraries and leisure are run under contract by GLL, and the council wants to cut them by £1.05m…
Kirklees has long been one of the better services, winning awards for its innovative ideas and even opening the odd new library.It has long, also, relied on volunteers to supplement the staff at some of its 24 libraries. This is good practice, expanding the service and bringing in extra skills.Now, however, Kirklees plans to save over £1 million by cutting 47 jobs and – you guessed it – handing over eight libraries to be wholly “community-run” (though with council support).The eight have been chosen because they have strong “Friends of” groups and other local organisations.One furious local councillor points out that his local volunteers had “made it very clear they were not interested in community managed libraries when they agreed to support them…“Kirklees is now back-tracking on that commitment to try to make an easy saving and it feels like a betrayal of all the effort that the community and the library volunteers have put in.“Who will trust Kirklees to step forward when you are then punished for doing so?”
Cartoon below by Tom Gauld in the Guardian.
Oh dear! “Community-managed” libraries aren’t the solution, as Derby has found. It has 10 (it runs just five itself). These 10 were handed in 2018 to a charity called Direct Help & Advice (DHA). In 2022 DHA decided to hand them right back.  

The council paid DHA over £100,000 to hang on for a bit. It tried to find a replacement, sorting through various “expressions of interest”. Last year it found another £415,000 to take back control and keep them going, amid accusations – hotly denied – that it really wanted to close them all. And now? Derby has agreed a plan for their future. That – after “extensive research and legal advice” – is to (ahem) find “a trust”. It hasn’t appointed one yet. It could, Derby says, either run all the libraries itself or find another organisation to do it. Good luck with that.  
Croydon is in deep financial trouble. If anything, the council’s efforts for libraries have made things worse. An elaborate “options” exercise last year eventually led to a service that moves the (reduced) staff around all the time, uses some self-service and closes most of the libraries most days. Saturday opening is a rarity. Unsurprisingly, it now admits this “model” doesn’t work.

Desperately under-funded, with no hope of getting more, Croydon has now paid for consultants. They recommend a sharp reverse of the previous spread-it-thin policy – close four (out of 13) libraries completely! The reasons for choosing them don’t add up too well.

Croydon promises to retain the buildings (few believe that) in hopes “the community” can use them. Similar hopes last year got nowhere. There are vague, uncosted plans for “outreach” services. Ideas from the public are sought. Now it seems people and groups are trying to oblige, with little knowledge of how things work.

Save Croydon Libraries says: “All these libraries merit saving. The council’s own statistics and reports demonstrate this!” It urges all library users to share insights and work together. Otherwise there will be division and chaos.

It has a new petition, which is your way to more info as it comes on stream.
Scratching about for some good news… Portsmouth has not (yet) trailed any destructive plans. It has recently refurbished North End Library, partly with Arts Council money. Not a spectacular million-quid redevelopment, but new carpets, furniture and a meetings pod. We honour small projects as much as big, fancy ones. And the whole service has just become an official “Library Service of Sanctuary” for its work with refugees. 
Before they addressed Libraries at Risk (see above) CILIP published a report looking into the possible future of library services. Called Come Rain or Shine, it looks at  range of possibilities for library services (principally public libraries) depending on various scenarios.They drew upon some existing future gazing reports to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, including some from abroad (US, Australia etc.) The summary is: “We might hope and work towards one kind of future; we must also prepare for other futures which are just as likely, even if they are not what we want.” So, they look at a future where climate disruption and misinformation increase, but also the opposite. They consider the effect of wages and the NHS continuing to suffer, but also improving over time.The report is interesting to read. Whether it will be helpful depends on what the future brings, but also on whether library services adapt to the various possibilities. The opportunities identified in each section give scope for that, but of course there is no lever to ensure it happens. To help in this, there is a toolkit. It has apparently been piloted in a couple of library services. Like the report, this can be downloaded free of charge.
Last month we highlighted the report on Public Library Services in England, by Baroness Sanderson. After the immediate  response – some press reports as well as initial commentary by organisations like The Library Campaign and CILIP, things have gone a little quiet.The government also made a response, but the theory is that the Minister (Lord Parkinson) will use the report to produce a proper Government Strategy for Public Libraries. That almost certainly won’t be quick, and may well be overtaken by the General Election.

Meantime – have you been discussing what the Baroness had to say? It’s worth doing. You may be able to pull out bits and ask your library service what they think, not least on the value of Friends Groups. The Library Campaign is quoted as saying: “Some library services work with us willingly but Friends’ groups are sometimes perceived as a nuisance, sometimes even a threat. But libraries are better used and better protected where they exist.”The Library Campaign trustees will be meeting in March and will discuss our response further – comments welcome.
AND FINALLY…  Readers of Public Libraries News may have seen the story about the Library Campaign celebrating its 40th anniversary on 4 February. Thanks to Terry Hanstock -one of those who organised the conference which led to the Campaign’s founding – for that. We will have more on this and how we plan to celebrate, in a future newsletter
Thanks so much – all of us at The Library Campaign – please get in touch any time with questions or feedback and don’t forget to follow us across our social media below
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