Welcome to our newsletter round up of June’s UK libraries news!
Folk get busy in Folkestone
Things are hotting up in Folkestone, last mentioned in our March newsletter. The listed Grace Hill library was closed in December 2022. Kent County Council (KCC) claims it can’t afford to re-open it. Ever. Local people are running a brilliant campaign (see https://www.pilc.org.uk/blog/save-folkestone-grace-hill-library). Now someone is taking the bold step of judicial review.
We at TLC never advise such a move lightly. It’s financially risky and – well, you
never know with judges… However, the case is being taken by Public Interest Law Centre. PILC has had success with library JRs in the past. PILC say their initial letter to KCC “questions the decision on 23 March 2023 not to fund repair works and reopen the library, a much needed and valued community asset. It also argues that KCC have failed to follow Key Decision making policy, including non-disclosure
of material information in relation to the decision of 23 March.
“Indeed, the KCC have failed to adequately consult with relevant stakeholders regarding the closure of the library; failed to comply with its Public Sector Equality Duty; and mismanaged this Grade II listed building resulting in disrepair and high refurbishment costs which may have been avoidable.”
The letter calls for the library to be reopened and refurbished, and for all related documentation to be disclosed to the public.”
Some of these points will look pretty familiar to many of us. We await
developments with interest…
Red alert in Redditch
Redditch Borough Council (RBC) in Worcs has its eye on its big, popular library. It’s almost the busiest in the county, second only to the much better funded county library (the Hive) in Worcester. It far exceeds the Hive in the huge number of clubs it runs (from films to local history to Dungeons & Dragons), plus events and exhibitions that regularly attract 1,000 people. Lots of footfall.
It stands between the rather outmoded, part-empty Kingfisher Shopping Centre and the pretty Church Green area, again under-occupied, which locals want to see revived. How to draw footfall between the two? Demolish the library, of course! And replace it with, er… a big, empty square, which people would have to trek across in all weathers. The library service would be moved down to the bottom of the hill.The results of the consultation on the plan are now out. It was hard to find: almost 100% online, publicised only through emails, social media (and some notices in bus stops). Paper copies were kept in the library – but out of sight, with no publicity at all, and with staff forbidden to mention them unless asked a direct question. And “leave the library as it is” was not even given as a possible option!
Despite all this, 1,467 locals managed to answer – and a massive 72% oppose demolition. With a wealth of withering comments questioning the whole logic of an empty “town square” as a way to… er, tempt in footfall. Most also complained that there wasn’t enough information to judge if the relocated service would be suitable. That’s a particularly serious fault. 
But not to worry: RBC has a proven response – to say that the consultees were not a majority of the entire population. The council leader has already stated at a public meeting that the library will not be demolished if “a majority of the population of Redditch opposes it”.
The decision is for the library authority, Worcs County Council. As the process grinds on, WCC committees are already discussing what the wishes might be of “the silent majority” – people who didn’t comment. RBC says they are sure to be in favour…
Local authorities coming apart
Local government reorganisation and financial problems in some local authoritieshave resulted in some library services being split up or managed differently.Cheshire did it as far back as 2009 and Cumbria split in April this year. In between,massive financial problems at Northamptonshire eventually resulted in the Countybeing transformed into two unitary authorities, both responsible for libraries. Thereare probably other examples we have forgotten.
For a couple of years, the two Northamptonshire services have effectively been oneintegrated service but now there are signs that this will split in two. The Campaignwas asked if we had any information about the possible consequences of this (fromthose mentioned above or elsewhere) and the pros and cons.
Loss of economies of scale (for purchasing etc) and the ability to get a book easilyfrom the other half of the old library service, are two obvious issues. If any readerhas experience or views we would be interested to hear them. And if you are a userof the London bi-borough system (Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, andoriginally a tri-borough arrangement with Hammersmith & Fulham) whichamalgamated more or less all their services a few years ago, that might be of interest too.
Lewisham lunacy
You can sign this petition at the bottom of this article
Yet another case where outsourcing libraries to all and sundry proves to be a poor solution. Lewisham was a proud pioneer of this approach in 2012. The story since then has been complex, with many changes and problems. Now three of these libraries have been put in jeopardy. Lewisham was, it seems, taken completely by surprise. As was everyone else.

On 5 June, local people suddenly found out – from the staff – that Grove Park library was to close at the end of the month. The organisation running it was suddenly withdrawing, with no explanation. (They had already dumped Sydenham library some years ago, which had to be skipped to another provider.) A meeting was to be held on 13 June, in secret, to see if any takers could be found.

Cue much frantic research, a campaign, a petition (listed on our website). Soon on the case were Lewisham residents Pat and Peter Richardson, who know more about Lewisham’s troubled library history than (probably) the council itself. Letters flew, to everyone from the MP to the relevant councillor. Then it turned out that the Grove Park providers were also dumping Crofton Park library! And Sydenham library was hanging in the balance too, with yet another new provider still to sign a lease.

As we go to press, Lewisham is still sorting out the mess. Sydenham and Crofton Park are OK, it says, but nobody seems to know where Grove Park stands…
Pat Richardson says: “After 13 years since the introduction of ‘community libraries’ the council needs to do a survey/report of the provision and judge where things went right, and where they went wrong.” A Lewisham official has told her it is “thinking in terms of an annual review, due diligence, in order to prevent the near collapse that has occurred and pick up on problems with delivery of the
service”. Not before time…
You can sign the petition here and read more on our website post here.
School ready?
Libraries Connected have been busy recently, pushing home the idea that
libraries can play a fundamental role in supporting children to be school ready. You can read their new briefing note,  titled “Ready To Learn”, here.
It comes out of consultation with primary school teachers, who have for some time been raising their concern with the ‘school readiness’ of many first-time pupils across the UK.
Libraries, as we know, are so much more than just a borrowing service, with locally diverse and specific activities such as “rhyme time” and reading groups. Libraries Connected point to a poll that shows that many primary school teachers want more to be done by national and local authorities to increase the amount of school-entry-aged children using local libraries.
“Ready to Learn” includes six case studies from across the UK. It points to he role that libraries can play in our post-pandemic situation where gaps and readiness in education may still be present. The poll, conducted by Survation for Libraries Connected, included feedback from teachers and is a clear reminder that libraries can be “exciting, accessible environments that spark imagination, curiosity and a love of learning”. 
Literacy and The Queen
Queen Camilla has been using her new royal role to shed light on her passion for education and reading. She attended the inaugural Queens reading room literary festival at Hampton Court Palace along with Gyles Brandreth and Dame Judy Dench. Books chosen by Friends of the Reading Room can be viewed here.  We are hoping that Queen Camilla can inspire a love of reading and learning across the country and put in a word for public libraries along the way. She has  recently launched the National Literacy Trust coronation library in Bristol as part of her wider literacy initiatives.  12,000 children from across the UK had voted on the books to be included at the Bristol project. The opening of the library was her first solo royal engagement as queen.
And finally… Good news from Dudley!
Plans to slash the budget of library and archive services in Dudley have beenscrapped and every library will stay open, the council’s leader has said. The move to cut nearly £1.5m by the end of 2026 was approved, and saw opponents campaign against the move as Save Dudley Libraries, supported by the UNISON branch of which library staff are members, and other local organisations.
Research was carried out by the local authority into the social value of its librariesand calculated a figure of £14.8m across 2022-23, external. The study showed useof the libraries was slowly improving, and dropping the cuts was about “safeguardinglibraries for future generations.” according to the Council leader.A local campaigner said
“The social value of libraries is not a new idea, that’s cropped up since March, all of that was available before.”
The decision to remove the savings was “everything to do with the campaign”, he added.
The announcement is so recent that we don’t yet know if there is a sting in the tail ordevil in the detail but for now things are looking up.
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.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email