MARCH 2023

Welcome to this month’s newsletter! We begin with a round up of our recent public meeting…The Library Campaign meeting on 25 March was a very useful chance to talk to Isobel Hunter (Chief Executive of Libraries Connected) about her view of the future of public libraries. This was in the context of the review by Baroness Sanderson which will in turn inform a new Government Public Library Strategy.
Isobel had a list of ten issues which she saw as reasons for optimism. These included increased footfall and borrowing (maybe not back to pre-pandemic levels but on the way), better Government understanding of libraries as social infrastructure – evidenced by work during the pandemic on supporting local communities, the increase in co-location (for the right reasons even if sometimes done purely to save money), and an increase in turn out at library events.
The discussion, after a diversion about the unhelpfulness of some library catalogues, moved on to what might be said at Baroness Sanderson’s ‘Round Table’ discussion to which the Campaign has been invited in April. Two well versed and respected participants warned that the review and resultant strategy are likely to be window dressing for not much actual change or improvement but agreed that it’s better to be inside and commenting than not.
We moved on to the Library Campaign AGM at which three new trustees were nominated (in addition to the sitting tenants). They are Barney Allan, James Fish and Isadore Auerbach. We still have two vacancies (one of which is technically for the Secretary’s post) and it would be good to have some more diversity – at present there is only one woman and everyone is white. Get in touch if you are interested.
We are grateful to those who turned up, both in person and online. We should single out Alison Richards from Northamptonshire, who agreed to chair the AGM at short notice.
Meet our newest trustees!

Barney AllanBarney Allan is the founder of DCA Ltd, a supplier of content and services to libraries worldwide. Barney has previously held senior sales management positions at leading academic and trade publishers. He has long experience of serving libraries of all types and a strong network of partners in the sector. Barney will aim to help TLC forge new partnerships and grow TLC’s membership for the promotion, support, assistance and improvement of libraries. 

Isadore Auerbach GeorgeIsadore [he/him] is a librarian from London who has worked in both school and public libraries. He is the director of Book 28, a group that advocates for LGBTIQ+ library users, and runs a small queer lending library at the Outside Project community centre in Borough. He is a passionate library campaigner.

James FishJames is a leading member of the Friends of Tyldelsey library in Wigan. The library was first opened in 1909 and was temporarily closed in 2019 due to covid. In May 2022 the Council proposed to move the Library permanently into the Town Hall. James was part of ‘Friends of Tyldesley Library’ who ran a successful campaign in stopping the library being moved.
Fury in FolkestoneAmong this month’s crop of things to worry about is Folkestone in Kent. The 135- year-old listed library closed in December ‘due to flood damage’. Now Kent County Council has decided it can’t afford the £1.8m needed to fix it. Not ever.
‘KCC has to be realistic that in the current challenging financial climate, any spend has to be prioritised,’ said the council’s leader. Events are moving fast, in various very familiar ways. Furious crowds took to the streets.

A protest campaign was set up, went on Facebook – and informed TLC so we could add it to our national list. Click here to support and view the group.
The opposition demanded an explanation ‘in a public forum, open to questioning, rather than in press releases’. And with proper consultation. Public comments pointed out that half the children around the library live in poverty: ‘It’s one of the last warm, free spaces available in the town. It’s an utter disgrace.’ Others pointed to assorted KCC pet projects that have cost far more, and done far less for locals, than the library.

And, perhaps most galling and familiar of all, comes the complaint that KCC has made botched stop-gap repairs to the library’s roof for years, instead of fixing it properly. Plus warnings that other KCC libraries could be suffering in the same way…

Tom Jones, library lover?Something to smile about… Sarah Brimelow is offering a short, fun video to any group that wants to promote their library service. You can view it here.
It was made by her partner, ‘part-time musician’ John Phillips. He says: ‘During lockdown I started making videos to accompany my home recordings. I was inspired to make “My Local Library” because I was impressed with the range of services offered at Grove Vale Library in Southwark, and concerned about the threatened loss of libraries to local communities in the UK.
‘I roped in some friends to be the “guiding hands” for The Touchie-Feelies, the band performing the song in the video. The idea comes from a hit single by Tom Jones called ‘The Young New Mexican Puppeteer”, which got to no. 2 in the singles chart in 1972.

’As I say in the song, my local library “houses hope and learning”. This fun video hopefully celebrates libraries and all they stand for. I hope it can be used to promote libraries – particularly where they may be under threat of closure.’Lucky 27, but…27 library services are celebrating! Why? They are sharing £4.9m from DCMS (Department for Culture, Media & Sport) for special projects – to be administered via ACE (Arts Council England). No space in a newsletter to describe all 27… so instead we’ll step back and look at the overall picture. This is Round 2 of a Libraries Improvement Fund. Round 1 got a similar allocation of £5m, and there’s a total of £20m to be finally polished off in Round 3.
This is part of an overall £200m Cultural Investment Fund – frankly, rather a small part. The lion’s share goes to museums and ‘culture’ in general. And this, in turn, is just one of a bewildering collection of pots of money available to local councils for this or that. All have a ‘levelling up’ label, all have to be won via competitive bids (and many could logically go to libraries).

Local government organisations have long argued that these pots are fragmented, cause confusion and duplication, while bidding wastes precious core funding. Especially tough for the losers!
Nick Poole of CILIP (the librarians’ association) says: ‘Competitive funding for public libraries just accelerates the postcode lottery that has arisen in the last decade. Libraries will, of course, do fantastic things with it, but wouldn’t it be better for them all to be appropriately funded in the first place?’ Isobel Hunter of Libraries Connected (chief librarians) says: ‘While competitive funds can make a huge difference for recipients, without a more secure long-term financial settlement many councils will have no option but to consider making cuts to frontline public services, including libraries. We need government to take decisive action now to avoid a crisis in our libraries over the coming years.’

One-man website Ian Anstice ( says: ‘This is to be welcomed but it’s worth pointing out that (a) this is likely to be much less than overall funding cuts to libraries this year and (b) is for stuff that library services can’t now afford normally but in any well-funded service would have been able to. Plus also it’s sometimes for additional stuff when the core service is being cut.’ One-man library information whiz Libraries Hacked says it’s a bit like ‘watching a house burning down and asking for money to install a bouncy castle in the garden’. TLC agrees with all of this. And competing with each other is absolutely not what any public service should be all about.
HackneyThe last time we reported on Hackney Council’s attempt to cut staff and the library service, strike action was on hold for more talks. Regrettably these failed and a number of Hackney staff are now facing redundancy, many with very long service in libraries, and including leading branch activist Brian Debus. While talks to mitigate the situation continue it seems that the die is cast and many staff are unlikely to find work in the service
International newsThe Campaign does not formally operate in Scotland but we cannot ignore the decision of Aberdeen City Council to close six of its 17 library branches form 1 April 2023. This will save £280,000 and library services will be moved to community hubs and schools. This does not sound like a solution and we wish the best to the Save Aberdeen Libraries campaign.And finally…We are super grateful to all of you who found the time to fill out our questionnaire. Here is the link again for you to share to anyone interested or indeed fill out yourself if you did not yet have a chance to do so. We were very pleased to have so many thoughtful responses and it will very helpful for us moving forward to tailor the work that we do and how best to do it in terms of supporting library users and friends group. The link to the survey is below:THE LIBRARY CAMPAIGN QUESTIONNAIREThanks again – all of us at The Library CampaignCopyright (C) *2022* *The Library Campaign*. * Registered Charity No: 1102634 * All rights reserved.

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