MAY 2023

Welcome to our newsletter round up of May’s UK libraries news! On the Sanderson trail…Work grinds on, under Baroness Liz Sanderson, to collect information and ideas on public libraries.  It will all be presented to the DCMS so it can write a new “strategy” for the future.  We’ve kept you updated via our magazine, website and newsletter.

Meanwhile we’re working hard on our own evidence. And don’t forget you can still chip in your own views to us at – or direct to Liz Sanderson at

Recently, we had our turn at one of the nine regional “deep dive” sessions on different themes. Relevant organisations are invited to just one of these. We got Bristol, and the theme of “governance”. Meaning, among other things, “alternative models” for delivering a service.
With us were people from the Arts Council, the Department for Levelling Up (etc), CILIP, the Local Government Association and various library services, “alternative” and otherwise. Plus our friend Alan Wylie, a respected library campaigner and staff representative to the DCMS.
It was a friendly and very busy session. We liked Liz Sanderson’s assurance at the  start that she seeks to reduce the burden on library services, not add to it. The fact remains that more funding – the most obvious need – is not on the table.

We argued that the last thing we need is lots of different “models” complicating the picture. Or lots of odd funds – high street this, digital that, library innovation the other – with library services (among others) wasting time and effort competing for a slice. Better to invest what funds there are in collecting proper data on current performance – and getting ALL libraries up to a national standard. And then publicising them like mad. We got the impression that the whole exercise is pretty much with us, in at least considering these matters. We’re dying to know what will emerge from the other eight “deep dives”.

But the big question, we think, is: whatever the review finally recommends, just how do you get 150-odd library services to all play along?

Campaign Trustees

The new group of trustees of The Library Campaign met twice this month. The first meeting was largely an introductory / getting-to-know-each-other session but did start a debate on the direction the Campaign should take and what support is needed. The second meeting took that further and we will be trying to come up with an ‘elevator pitch’ for what we are trying to do, who our target audience(s) is /are, and what messages we are trying to  convey, before looking to see how we can achieve that and who we might approach to assist. 

One trustee missing from our last meeting was James Fish who has been elected as a Councillor (under the label of The Independent Network) in his home town of Wigan and was attending his first Council meeting. Well done to him for being elected – we hope he will be able to continue as a trustee despite the new responsibility.


The oddest item in our current case file is Peacehaven in Sussex. It has rumbled on for years as ideas circulated to revamp the Meridian shopping centre – which contains a library. Back in 2021 a planning application to East Sussex County Council (ESCC) suggested cramming it into the local youth centre in a “significantly smaller” space.

This would wreck both library and youth centre in a growing town, said furious locals. The idea was shot down in flames. Things looked up when the local Morrisons took over the Meridian and its development. They have been doing all the right things. They consulted ESCC – which is the library authority for the area – about what size of library was needed. The current library measures 1,182 sq m, including some unused space. But ESCC would be happy with a library of just 300 sq m.
Morrisons ran a big public consultation (ESCC didn’t) and got a very different answer. The size of the library emerged as a key issue. People want a library the same size.

The planning application has now gone through. Morrisons seem to be bending over backward to meet the public’s wishes. It provides for a 302 sq m library – but with an extra building attached to it that would double the size if used. ESCC is unmoved. Friends of Peacehaven Library have carried out a wealth of detailed research about the area and its growing needs. Other nearby libraries, with smaller catchment populations, are between 450 and 800 sq m. It sees no sense in singling out Peacehaven to suddenly become the smallest library for miles. We are used to stories about big, bad developers threatening libraries. In this case, it seems the library authority’s attitude is the threat. (Oh, and the planning consent for the daft youth center idea hasn’t been canceled… )

Dudley and Hackney

The fight goes on, with big demonstrations in both areas a week ago. Dudley has local hero Lenny Henry on its side. But both campaigns have no successes to report. What is striking is the sheer scale of the cuts proposed for both. Hackney is set to lose a full half of its professional staff. Dudley could lost 30% of its budget. We are no longer in “salami” slicing territory. These cuts are frighteningly large.

Good news

Yes, there is some! Congratulations to North Yorkshire – Scarborough library has just re-opened after a £450,000 revamp! Improvements include brighter decor, new carpets, a new IT area, community and exhibition space, new shelving and furniture, a better children’s area – and new books!

The money came from one of those “improvement” funds you have to bid for (£200,000), plus an admirable £250,000 from North Yorkshire County Council.

And congratulations to Barnsley, which has opened a whole new library in the city centre. We haven’t yet worked out where the money came from. But we do know that Barnsley has been adept at bidding for funds for town improvements. And that the council really understands just how important a good library service is.

And finally…

Friends’ groupsWe’re pleased to mention that we have updated our website page which lists all the Friends groups that we are aware of. If you are involved in one and wish to be listed – do get in touch!

Please check out:

The list now includes a date next to each group showing when we checked the page and how recently it was active. Some groups and campaigns remain listed, despite not being active for a while or with broken links, just in case they end up springing into action. Please check for your group to advise us if your Friends group link has changed, permanently closed, or needs special publicity at the moment: to do so email us at

And if you still have not had a chance then click the link below to fill out our questionnaire. Also, a reminder to follow us and comment across our social media: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And, as ever, you can keep up to date with the work that we do as well as join or donate at THE LIBRARY CAMPAIGN QUESTIONNAIRE

Thanks so much – all of us at The Library Campaign Copyright (C) *2023* *The Library Campaign*. * Registered Charity No: 1102634 * All rights reserved.

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