Welcome to our newsletter round up of September’s UK libraries news!
UNISON (the union that represents most library staff) does a regular podcast ontopics of interest and concern in local government . A few weeks ago it was about libraries. They talk to two library workers (and UNISON activists) about what theylike about working in libraries, why libraries are important and need advocacy, andalso about their UNISON activism. The two featured people are Shazziah Rock from Sandwell in the West Midlands, and Jo Foster-Murdoch from Norfolk. It’s an interesting half hour.
Jo Foster-Murdoch is also one of UNISON’s local government champions –celebrated earlier in the year by the production of a (limited edition) doll and on October 18 in Local Government Champions Day. Look out for local events or why not celebrate a library worker near you by giving them a present or writing to the local paper praising them and the service.
The Reading Agency (TRA) has new funding from Arts Council England for its Reading Well scheme. It’s a simple idea: collections of good books on health are chosen by national experts and people with personal experience.

They are stocked by public libraries, in attractive displays. People can just quietlypick them up. GPs (etc) know they can safely ‘prescribe’ the books. No disinformation rubbish!So far there are three collections about mental health – for adults, teens and children – plus one on dementia.

Over 3.3m books have been loaned since the scheme began in 2013. And 91% of readers have found them helpful.The money will enable TRA to develop new lists. It will also work to reach more people. It will build on existing ‘social prescribing’ partners like the NHS. In three areas it will also instal ‘community champions’ to run Reading Well activities. A pilot scheme worked well during the Covid lockdown.

It’s a great example how public services can work together for mutual benefit. Overallaim, says TRA, is to increase ‘health literacy’ through community support, andhelp people to ‘take control of their health through the power of reading’. Simply SeftonWell done, Sefton council. In May it announced exciting plans to sell off itslibrary in Crosby and replace it with (groan) a village ‘hub’ scheme.

Local people wereappalled. A petition ensued, propelled by Frank Cottrell-Boyce with furious words about ‘a massive insult to and betrayal of Crosby’. To its credit, Sefton actually listened. It found it could perfectly well keep and refurbish the library, alongside its village thingy. Seems it hadn’t really thought it through before. All it took was to make public feelings clear! Refuge in poetry

This year’s theme could hardly be more appropriate – refuge. ‘Each year we come together because voices, words and stories help to bridge understanding in our community,’ say the organisers. Find an event on the website. Or quickly rustle up your own celebration with its resources – including a selection of relevant poems. https://nationalpoetryday.co.uk/celebrate- national-poetry-day #NationalPoetryDay

As CILIP’s guidance points out

“A library is not a place in which to hide from difficult ideas, but to equip our users with the critical literacy to engage productively with difficult ideas in ideas in their proper context”

And this is clearly in contrast to the news we have seen coming out of the united states which can find out more about here ( https://www.theguardian.com/books/2023/sep/22/democracy-book-bans-us-public-schools-rise) regarding school libraries and also in this report from last year from the American Library Association https://www.ala.org/news/


A surprise happy ending in Darlington. A long battle began in 2016 over council plans to close Cockerton library and the big, beautiful listed Crown Street library. A ‘replacement’ service was to open in the Dolphin shopping centre, saving a claimed £300,000 a year. Points at issue included whether the huge costs of the move, and the cost of alterations at the Dolphin, would enable any savings at all. Let alone the cultural damage of junking an outstanding city centre building. The council remained adamant.
In mid-2018 an attempted judicial review failed. End of the road? No – a sudden change of mind! It seems the council was already reviewing its decision. In September 2018 it dropped the plan, because of ‘the rapidly changing town centre environment and the better financial position of the council in comparison to when the original decision was taken’.The campaign certainly played its part in encouraging a re-think. Now, £2.9m later, both libraries are saved – and Crown Street looks glorious. You can even explore it online here
Birmingham is the latest library authority to crash into effective bankruptcy. It won’t be the last. But its sheer size has made extra headlines, with the government sending in commissioners to sort out the mess.
A special concern is the massive central Library of Birmingham. Opened exactly 10 years ago, it cost £188m (with monthly interest payments said to be £1m). It was controversial from the start.
Many saw no reason to demolish the old brutalist building, or to spend so much.

Running it immediately led to service cuts.Now its future is part of a very nasty jigsaw. Will it be leased out to make (very short-term) savings? Or will propping it upendanger the 36 local branches? TLC’s legal adviser, Geof Dron, is exploring the numbers that serve deprived areas – the answer is most of them… Liverpool and Newcastle are among other authorities that followed the fashion for prestigious central mega-libraries. This may now have run its course. And maybe that’s no bad thing.
TLC members should now have received the latest issue of our twice-yearly colour magazine. It’s the only magazine in the country to focus purely on public libraries – a nice perk, we think.

Don’t forget we are always keen to include news and views from Friends and users.
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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