Welcome to our newsletter round up of January’s UK libraries news!

The Library Campaign is seldom super-excited by government reviews of libraries. More money would solve a lot of their problems straight off. However, it’s better that they appear somewhere on the national agenda than not. 
So here’s a new report on libraries (England only, though), by Conservative peer Baroness (Liz) Sanderson. We were closely involved, alongside other national bodies. The report has already been endorsed by government and will form the basis of a national “strategy” this year. That will be the action bit.She accepted many things we said, but alas rejected others, including the need for a national advertising campaign. 
With this government, Liz knew better than to ask for proper funding. But her report certainly pinpoints plenty of underlying issues worth getting on with. It’s not too painfully long, at 49 pages. It’s well worth reading.
She says, to nobody’s surprise, that the core problem is not enough awareness of what libraries do – among central government, local councils, the public and even the library sector itself.RECOMMENDATIONS
1. A national data hub to better evidence the role libraries play in our society
2. A national branding campaign to raise awareness of our libraries
3. Closer involvement of the British Library
4. Expand library membership
5. Stronger volunteer network (but not replacing professionals)
6. A dedicated Libraries Minister and a more joined-up approach within government
7. A Libraries Laureate
8. Re-time Libraries Week to better involve politicians nationally and locallyLink to report & government response here and what The Library Campaign said to Sanderson here (page 14.)PHONEY WARThis month we are spoilt for choice – not in a good way. There’s a heap of stories about local councils facing real financial meltdown. Some are already seeking cuts from their libraries. More are announcing “library reviews” that probably mean bad news in the future. At this stage, the details are mostly subject to public consultation and furious rows within each council. Meanwhile, there are worried protests galore about overall under-funding from every relevant organisation – plus more than 40 Tory MPs (including, bizarrely, tax-cutting hard-liners like Robert Jenrick and Priti Patel). The background is the mad scramble to set workable council budgets for March. Not easy, given their government “settlement” was only issued just before Christmas, and is still only provisional. The 6.5% raise claimed by government turns out to depend on everyone raising council tax by 5%… Yet there’s still some good news. Often it’s a splendid refurb (started years ago when things weren’t so bad, usually funded by patchwork of odd one-off grants). So, while the bad news is still to emerge clearly, we’ll focus on the good.


▪ Bolton has opened its refurbished Central Library after 16 months’ work (£4.3m, from the Towns Fund). It has a new mezzanine floor, business centre, café, colourful children’s area and gloriously restored original (1938) features including lots of parquet flooring. ▪ Rhymney library, Caerphilly, has been refurbished with upgraded IT, office spaces and meeting rooms – as requested by local people in a survey. A new “state-of-the-art, vibrant learning space” is to become “a focal point to continue supporting the Welsh language and culture”. Partly funded by the Welsh government’s Capital Transformation Fund. ▪ Brighton & Hove has spent two years restoring the Grade II* listed library at Saltdean Lido. It’s part of a big project to return the whole lido to its 1930s glory, with poolside café, Art Deco ballroom, gym, workspace and more. The council has supplemented its £2.5m spend with money from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (£4.2m) and Historic England (£215,000) and even a crowdfunder by local people.STAFFING OR SHINY THINGS? THE RESULTS ARE IN.Outgoing CILIP CEO, Nick Poole ran a poll on X (Twitter) about what should be the priorities if a Government were to reinvest in local libraries. From almost 500 respondents rebuilding staffing came highest in people’s wants, well above having shiny new tech, an opinion that definitely resonates anecdotally.  ‘Rebuild staffing’ is well put (as opposed to ‘hire more staff’) as, since 2010 there has been an almost 50% reduction in government spending on UK Libraries, as reported at the end of last year by The Big Issue. This has already impacted on staffing levels. Over the past year we’ve witnessed (see previous newsletters) a number of libraries with staff on strike over issues such as low pay. Many libraries currently face the prospect of being rescued with the help of charities and not government intervention, read more here.  The plot thickens, if you carry on reading the X (Twitter) thread, when a user responds to say that all areas, in fact, require more funding. Nick Poole points out, that the ways libraries receive funding is not straightforward. He says:  “There’s a hidden agenda, which is that each of these represents a different kind of money. Capital, revenue, projects. The replies are highlighting exactly the core issue – what libraries need most is a balance of capital investment & reliable long-term revenue funding” He raises an important issue, which is that it’s not just how much money government gives or does not give to libraries that matters, but the form that money takes. Libraries often have to make bids for specific projects from available government funding, and may not always have the freedom to choose to spend government money where they see fit for each individual library’s circumstance. The full poll and thread can be viewed here


We’re going to miss Nick Poole! The CEO of librarians’ association CILIP will soon move on. But his eight years in post have seen CILIP become more activist – and outspoken. Being nicey-nicey in the past hasn’t on the whole got its messages taken very seriously.
He is bowing out with a strong statement in CILIP’s latest magazine. He places libraries and librarians firmly at the centre of current affairs, with a big role to play on key issues such as disinformation, civil liberties, sustainability and the scary growth of populism.A few extracts:“Our role is not to record the changes in our societies but to seek to influence them for the better through the active promotion of literacy, learning and access to knowledge… “Let us be under no illusions – the principle of universal access to a free, quality library service supported by professional library staff is under sustained assault in the UK. As local authorities begin to push back on central government cuts by challenging the legal definition of ‘minimum service requirements’, we will likely see further challenges to the idea of libraries as a universal entitlement in the months ahead…“As a profession, our responsibility is not to ‘see both sides’ of the debate about volunteerism and cuts to library services. We have a duty to call it what it is – a fraud that has been perpetrated on the tax-paying public.” BRITISH LIBRARY CYBER ATTACK Many of us have been watching with dismay the fall out from the cyber-attack on the British Library (BL). Quite apart from the possible release of personal data of users and staff there has been a significant impact on the ability to use the stock of the BL, certainly if it is held offsite. And libraries of all sorts who rely on borrowing from the BL to satisfy their users’ research etc requirements have not been able to do so. This points up the long held view of libraries of all sorts as a national – indeed international – network where one institution can help out another. The event was exacerbated by the much-criticised handling of publicity and announcements (even to  staff?!) about what had happened, what its effects were and how long it will be before order is restored.


BookTrust has launched a new campaign for something very simple – investment in books and reading for children under seven. Backed by all 12 Children’s Laureates, Reading Together makes four proposals. These aim to make reading part of family life for all incomes by providing books and support, and bringing in midwives, health visitors, librarians, family support workers and early years/primary school teachers.If you want to know why this makes so much sense, look up our magazine’s reading for pleasure issue.Meanwhile, past Laureate Michael Morpurgo told the Guardian that library closures particularly affect disadvantaged families, closing off a vital source of access to books: “We should never, ever, in this country close down a library again. I live in the middle of Devon, where the nearest library is a long way away. “We’re talking about a 35-minute drive if you have a car and a lot of people haven’t. There’s no local bookshop, even if you had the money. The library is the last lifeline to reading.” If you want to know why this makes so much sense, look up our magazine’s reading for pleasure issue.


If you volunteer at a library, you could join staff in a bit of fun – choosing the winner of this year’s Dagger in the Library. It’s one of a suite of high-prestige awards given annually by the Crime Writers Association. It highlights the special role libraries play in helping to develop and encourage writers. So it’s given for a body of work, not an individual book. If you’re a crime fan you can spend happy hours arguing about the 26 new or established writers on this year’s shortlist. Closing date 29 February.AND FINALLY…  FRIENDS OF TYLDESLEY LIBRARY – AWARD-WINNERSWe are delighted that in November the Friends of Tyldesley library in Wigan were one of the winners of the Lancastrian Awards 2023 from the ‘Friends of Real Lancashire.’ The citation said:“Today, in our #LancastrianAwards2023, we are proud to acknowledge the Friends of Tyldesley Library for their remarkable efforts in preserving a vital community resource in Tyldesley. This dedicated group campaigned passionately and persistently to save Tyldesley Library, a cornerstone of knowledge and community in a historic 100-year-old building. Their commitment involved organising two major campaign days and gathering a petition that received an overwhelming response of over 1,500 signatures. This is amazing work that’s clearly supported by a significant number of people in the historic hundred of West Derby. Thanks to the relentless efforts of the Friends group, the council revisited their plans to relocate the library. In a significant victory for the community, the council decided to scrap their relocation plans and agreed to maintain the library in its original, century-old home. The Friends of Tyldesley Library’s campaign is a testament to the power of community action and the importance of preserving our local heritage and resources. Their success not only saved a library but also protected a piece of Tyldesley’s history and identity. Join us in celebrating the Friends of Tyldesley Library for their dedication and for being a shining example of community spirit and advocacy in action.”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 Copyright (C) *2023* *The Library Campaign*. * Registered Charity No: 1102634 * All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribeLogo
Print Friendly, PDF & Email