Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Advocacy under austerity, Vaizey, Northamptonshire and donations and cynical electioneering.

Advocacy under austerity

A rather excellent piece by Pedronicus on advocacy and austerity in response to a recent CILIP blog;

"In the present climate, where services are immediately and imminently under threat of extinction, in those instances I do not see any alternative other than what has been termed “protest advocacy”. There is not time to think in terms of “changing the narrative”, or “building relationships”. Libraries do not need more or even better advocacy: they need actual money to be available in local authority budgets which have been cut to impossibly low levels. They need to be nurtured and sustained at the level of national and local policy by people who are not driven by neoliberal ideology. On the level of our whole society, it needs ALL of us to reflect long and hard on whether we want to continue to allow our lives and those of our communities to be directed by values that see no worth in anything other than its monetary value or ability to generate income.
If we do that maybe we can collectively start to find some real answers."

and another very splendid piece by Ian Clark on the very same topic;
Vaizey, Northamptonshire and donations
The man who would rather not intervene, Ed Vaizey, visited a library in Northamptonshire recently. "Big deal" I here you say, well Northamptonshire is Paul Blantern (CEO of the county council and Chair of the Sieghart Taskforce) territory. Ed had some interesting things to say during his visit, things that outline the governments policy on libraries; donations, volunteers, philanthropy, hubs and private/public models.
"The visit comes weeks after the county council unveiled a new public donation scheme aimed enhancing library services.
The scheme however sparked fears that libraries in the county are under threat of closing down, something which was quickly denied by the local authority, who said it was just 'an example of the constant work in the county to make sure libraries are hubs at the very heart of our communities'.
When the Northants H&P asked Mr Vaizey for his thoughts on the scheme he said: "Libraries actually originally came into fruition mainly through generous donations.
"Andrew Carnegie is the most famous person who is responsible for hundreds of libraries in the UK, and back them libraries didn't become a statutory so they didn't start being paid for by the rate payer till about 100 years ago.
"We have a private public model for a lot of things such as local arts organisations, which gets government grants to cover the basics but they also raise money from people who support those organisations."

Cynical Electioneering

Oh you know how the government has cut local council grants by 30-50% and has refused to re-introduce the abolished English library standards and has abolished the Advisory Council for Libraries and has handed the development remit for libraries to an arts organisation and them cut it's funding and hasn't bothered to replace (as far as we know?) Yinnon Ezra (DCMS Specialist Advisor for Libraries) and sat on the Sieghart Report until one day before the xmas recess and has allowed Ed Vaizey to do bugger all about superintending the 64 Act and how 6000 library staff have lost their jobs since 2007/8 and how several hundred libraries have been closed or are at risk of closure and how 12% of all public libraries are now volunteer-led, WELLLL now they've decided that they want to promote library membership for children, is there an election coming up?


LSSI target Bakersfield raising a possible conflict of interest and Union concerns.

Library supporters concerned about privatization talk

"The idea that Kern County might take its 25 libraries and bookmobile operation private has been whispered around the county since supervisors hired Kern County Library Director Nancy Kerr in late October.
Kerr previously managed the Valencia Branch Library in the Santa Clarita library system, which was run by Library Systems & Services LLC, a for-profit Maryland company that runs public libraries across the nation.
Kerr did not return calls requesting comment on the privatization proposal. Deputy County Counsel Mark Nations said because Kerr was an LSSI employee, she has been directed to stay out of the discussion for a full year."

Debate rages over civil service rules and library privatization
"Talk of hacking civil service rules and privatizing the Kern County Library system seem to have put a crimp in the relationship between the Kern County Board of Supervisors and Kern's largest employee union."

for more on this story see;

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Barnet, Lambeth, Devon & Bryant.


An extraordinary council meeting took place in Barnet recently where the council barricades where stormed and the Mayor voted the wrong way and did a runner, anyway Mrs Angry describes it a lot better than i ever could so here's her account of the proceedings;

"The proposals to cut libraries, shut libraries, shrink libraries, squeeze them until the last book jumps off the last shelf, into a waiting skip, and they can sell a collection of vastly profitable properties for development - all this has, predictably to all but said Tory councillors, caused uproar in Broken Barnet, even unto the very heartland of their own natural born voters - a consequence now leading our three Tory MPs, Theresa Villiers, Mike Freer and Matthew Offord to be quivering with fear, on the brink as we are of the general election, and forcing them on to a desperate, unprecedented course of actually forming an opinion on a local political issue - and then expressing it.
Villiers, Freer and Offord have now, at the end of the consultation period, weighed up their chances of being re-elected and realised that they are now, and have always been, dedicated defenders of the library service about to be destroyed by their Tory colleagues. We therefore arrived at the Town Hall, last night, wondering if this declaration of concern would hold any weight with our councillors."



"Libraries change lives. They are magical portals to worlds of wonder, replete with possibility, especially for poor, working class, black and ethnic minority people, they offer a hope of rising above the limiting circumstances of our birth. For the shy, isolated and excluded child, they offer companionship and a chance to rehearse bravery, for poor, working class, black and ethnic minority people the chance to meet their full potential. Libraries are more than a material resource; they are the commitment of our community to its future. They express a faith in the power of shared imagination. Lambeth Council, one of the poorest boroughs in the country, is stopping funding to half of the borough’s libraries. Two will be immediately sold off to cash in on the rising property prices locally. Others they hope will be taken over by fantasy big society community groups, or replaced by bookshelves in pubs. Threatening half the borough’s libraries with closure is a short-sighted and irresponsible plan, public libraries are an essential part of a functioning literate nation. This is an act of vandalism against the community, signalling the death of hope that anything can ever get better. UPDATE 1 March 2015: @SaveLambthLibs have been gathering support from authors on Twitter. The following authors have retweeted the following “please show your support for #SaveLambethLibraries by RT or commenting on our author statement”:
David Almond
Philip Ardagh
Tim Atkinson
Margaret Bateson-Hill
Jag Bhalla
Elizabeth Buchanan
Cathy Cassidy
Mark Chadbourn
Marika Cobbold
Jane Costello
Jackie Collins
Cressida Cowell
Bobbie Darbyshire
John Dougherty
Stella Duffy
Katie Fforde
Catherine Gault
Alan Gibbons
Andrea Giles
Daisy Goodwin
Jeremy Hardy
Joanne Harris
Kate Harrison
Ian Hocking
Milly Johnson
Caroline Jowett
Bernadine Kennedy
Lia Keyes
Tim Lebbon
Toby Litt
Val McDermid
Anthony McGowan
Sarah McIntyre
Paul Mason
Fiona Pitt-Kethley
Bali Rai
Ian Rankin
Jay Rayner
Zelda Rhiando
Michael Rosen
Meg Rosoff
William Ryan
Marcus Sedgwick
Caroline Smailes
Irvine Welsh
Alex Wheatle
Jamie Zubairi
We are incredibly grateful to all of them for the support they have offered.


Local user groups add criticism to Lambeth Council Cultural Consultation as impact of proposals starts to be understood
"The Friends group then poses some questions for Lambeth Council and Cllr Jane Edbrooke, the Cabinet member who has put together the horror of the Cultural Consultation:
“Can it afford to replace all the services the libraries now provide (on the cheap)?
Does it realise that libraries support its own priorities in health, education, digital access, business, employment, family support, literacy, and more?
Is it happy to deprive its residents of all this – and pay for the consequences?
Does it have any idea what it is doing?”

Perhaps the most cutting observation from the Friends group is:
“The financial plan to support so-called ‘community libraries’ simply doesn’t add up. They are being set up to fail.”


Francis Maude and the Cabinet Office will be overjoyed as yet another public service spins out after all it's all just part of the governments wider agenda to offload the public sector and open it to the rigours of the market. This is not a 'road to Damascus' moment where Devon Council has suddenly decided that it wants to hand more control to its workers and communities it's a tax break.

"A mutual service with charitable status could be eligible for up to 80 per cent relief on its business rates and could also apply for grants and funds which are not available to local authorities."

For some background see; http://dontprivatiselibraries.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/mutuals.html

Chris Bryant

And last but not least Chris Bryant MP, Labour's spokesperson on libraries, recently visited Barnet where he outlined what some of us already new, that Labour's policy on libraries is weak, non-committal and substantially mimics that of the Tories. For an excellent analysis see;

"It’s official, the Shadow Culture Minister has confirmed that not only does he prefer a non-interventionist approach, that Labour will not legislate to protect public libraries, but volunteer libraries are also acceptable. In the interview Chris Bryant accuses the Government of a “dereliction of duty” but then states that he will do exactly the same.
So a hands-off, localism-centred, volunteer approach to libraries is the wrong path for the current government to pursue but if elected Mr Bryant will do precisely that. Only in politics would you get away with such blatant double-speak and expect the public to believe it! It’s a sad indication that some communities are so desperate to save their libraries that they do."


Saturday, 28 February 2015

Lambeth and Bromley.


Lambeth are once again looking to cut their library service, not very 'co-operative' of the 'co-operative council'!

Lambeth Council Cultural Consultation: Libraries hardest hit as residents asked to patch up service
"Lambeth Council wants to close the Minet and Waterloo Libraries. It proposes to flog on the land to developers. £10m is expected to be raised. This will then be invested in an endowment fund. Profit from this will then ‘enable’ residents to run the Durning, Carnegie and Upper Norwood Libraries. Council funding for these three will stop.
Ending the funding for 50% of libraries in Lambeth is essentially on the table here. The Minet and Waterloo account for 8% of all library books borrowed in the borough. The other three libraries where funding will be stopped make up 15% of library use – that’s 23% of Lambeth library book borrowing being wiped out."

Campaigners loudly protest latest budget cuts
"As well as libraries, children’s centres and day centres are also in the firing line,” said Jon Rogers, Lambeth Unison branch secretary. “We will contest every single cut.”

see also;
Rosamund Urwin; Our libraries and parks should never be under threat

for the consultation see;

for the petition see;

and for how to join/support the campaign see;


Bromley are taking a leaf or two out of Barnet's book and looking to privatise most of their services and workforce, withdraw union facility time and last but not least decimate it's library service.

Last chance to have say on libraries
"Library users can provide their views on proposals for Community Management at the six community libraries in the borough and market testing for the management of the core service."

Bromley staff balloted for strike action over ‘privatisation’ plans
"Council staff in Bromley are being balloting for strike action over claims it is to reduce its workforce from 3,000 to 300.
Unite regional officer, Onay Kasab, said: ‘Unite is drawing a line in the sand over the drive by this Tory council hell-bent on privatising and outsourcing much valued public services, such as libraries."
see also; http://howiescorner.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/bromley-council-to-withdraw-all-trade.html

Save Bromley Libraries Facebook Group

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Rally for the Library of Birmingham 7/2/15 #rally4LOB #NLD15

On National Libraries Day, 7/2/15, I spoke, on behalf of Voices for the Library, at a rally organised by the Friends of the Library of Birmingham (FOLB). The rally was held outside the LOB and although it didn't attract the numbers expected or hoped for it was a very well organised event with some great speakers and performers including poet laureates, trade unionists, authors, users/activists/campaigners and academics. All in all a very inspirational afternoon.

Here's the text of my speech;

First of all i'd like to thank FOLB and the other organisers for inviting me to speak today.
My name is Alan Wylie, i'm a public library worker, library campaigner and Unison member. I'm here today representing Voices for the Library, a national organisation advocating for public libraries and library staff.

Recently i wrote an article for the Guardian in which I outlined the crucial role that libraries play in promoting literacy and the enjoyment of reading and the hugely beneficial effect all this and more has on the wellbeing of local communities and society as a whole.

The National Literacy Trust says there's overwhelming evidence that literacy has a significant relationship to people's life chances. And I quote;
"A person with poor literacy is more likely to live in a non-working household, live in overcrowded housing and is less likely to vote. Literacy skills and a love of reading can break this vicious cycle of deprivation and disadvantage."

We also know that libraries play an important part in helping to;
bridge the digital divide,
Promote democratic involvement & social equity
And foster community empowerment & resilience

In 2013-2014 there were
230 million visits to libraries,
95 million visits to library websites,
34 million enquiries
and 200 million books and other items borrowed from libraries in England.

Surely this is proof that properly resourced libraries and trained library staff are needed now more than ever.

But and it’s a big but all this great work is taking place in a time of savage cuts, nationally since 2007/8;

·         6000 library staff culled
·         Several hundred libraries closed or taken out of public control
·         12% of all public libraries now volunteer-led, 5% of these cast adrift
·         Library opening hrs and budgets slashed

Politicians and councillors need to start seeing cuts to libraries as a false economy: the cuts are easy to make but the long-term consequences could be disastrous.

Politicians and councillors need to develop and promote the key educational and information role libraries have, More joined-up thinking is needed in local authorities and central government departments; for example when drawing up a poverty reduction or education strategy, why not involve the library service? Stronger links should also be made with local schools and further & higher education establishments.
Councils and policymakers need to conduct more research and evaluation into the social impact of libraries, as opposed to just relying on footfall, issue and economic data which is seen by many to be a poor indication of their true value.

It's claimed that many local councillors, and maybe MP’s, don't own a library card, or if they do they haven't used it in years. If this is the case, then today is a great day to start.
This might even, hopefully, influence them when making the next cut or writing the next strategy document.

Naomi Klein, the American writer and activist, in a speech she gave to the American Library Association in 2003 said that libraries and library staff are, or should be, at the forefront of protecting and promoting certain crucial values, and these are;

- Knowledge (as opposed to mere information gathering)
- Public Space (as opposed to commercial or private space)
- and Sharing (as opposed to buying and selling).

 She also said;

The best way to stay public is for library staff to be public - truly, defiantly, radically public.
It's our suit of armour and we should wear it with pride.

Unfortunately those responsible for the LOB seem to have forgotten about these key principles.
They also seem to have forgotten about local communities in Birmingham who rely heavily on the branch libraries that act as a lifeline to the poorest and most isolated of our fellow citizens.

It’s a an absolute disgrace that Birmingham City Council are proposing to cut the LOB budget by £3.3m over the next 2 years,
·         slashing the opening hrs by 40%,
·         cutting 100 staff,
·         drastically reducing outreach, housebound and the branch network
·         restricting access to the archives and special collections

Birmingham has invested £188 million in this library & but it’s costing £22m per year to run, £12m of that just in debt charges.

There has been talk of a mock mutual and of the BL stepping in but who knows what the future might bring? I've also read recently that the Institute of Directors have moved in, what can i say?

The whole thing is a bloody mess and I commend the FOLB and other campaigners for highlighting these concerns and demanding transparency and accountability from those responsible.

So what can we do individually and collectively to make our voices heard?

we can and we must back the campaign being led by the FOLB and other anti-cuts groups in Birmingham.

We can use our libraries more and support the staff.

We can lobby our councillors and mp’s

We can write to the local and national newspapers

We can start up friends and campaign groups and link them locally with trade unions and other community activists and nationally with organisations such as the Library Campaign, Voices for the Library and Speak up for Libraries.

We can ask our councillors and MP’s to sign up to the Speak up for Libraries Manifesto.

But most of all we need to oppose every library cut and campaign, march and protest together, a united front.

Thanks for listening and keep up the fight.

Friday, 6 February 2015

All Hail the Public Library User! #NLD15

With sham consultations, cuts to outreach, a seemingly universal hollowing out of local library services/staff and ever increasing push towards commercialism you can't help but wonder if anyone in authority is listening to users?
Since it's National Libraries Day I thought I'd do something to help reverse this worrying trend and hand my blog over to the people who really matter, the library users.
I asked public library users in London, adults and children, to send me comments about why they love their libraries, here's a selection;

"The library has been my salvation.
I met new friends here and have continued to enjoy the library and all that it provides.
My children have also gained so much attending the library, it’s priceless! – from the very popular Baby Rhyme time sessions; Story Explorers provided a fun storytelling and craft sessions; the summer time holiday reading challenge , a great incentive to encourage children to keep reading; learning to knit and crochet which they enjoyed immensely; to Kumon sessions to help them with their maths. But above all, to watch them become confident, avid readers and develop a great enthusiasm and enjoyment of books. It is a wonderful thing when they find a book they can’t stop reading!
During our visits we have been looked after by professional librarians, whom my children recognise and look forward to seeing."

"I love my library because it has amazing books. I like 'Horrid Henry and the Sleepover'"

"The Library has provided a lifeline to me as one of the only FREE, warm, friendly and educational places where I have been able to take my daughter as a baby, a toddler and now as a nine year old attending the local Primary School.
> Over the years, my library has proved a joy and a sanctuary to me.
> We still use it weekly, as, indeed, do all the local schools. For students, particularly from the nearby estate, it provides computer access and a warm, quiet place to study. It is the hub of the vibrant local community."

"I love my library because it's really spacious and the books aren't crammed onto the shelves. I like reading 'Alice and the Magical Dog'"

"Our library is at the heart of the community in this area and is widely used by all members of the population, from students making use of the facilities for studying, to others needing use of a computer, elderly people seeking a quiet environment to read papers and journals, as well as the more traditional use of borrowing books and DVDs. Insofar as the latter is concerned, with a burgeoning young population in this area, the children's section is ever more popular and absolutely essential for their proper development. Furthermore, the staff at the library are always friendly and helpful which must be extremely difficult for them, particularly in the current circumstances."

"I love my library because it has a SMART table and i really like to play games on it"

"Our library is part of a vibrant local community – a much used and loved local resource. My children, who are pupils at the local Primary School, regularly use the library. As a family we visit the library often – and have done since my children were much younger, when they enjoyed rhyme time and other events. As a book-lover I have visited and enjoyed libraries since my childhood – and continue to use the local library for my own reading. Having been brought up with libraries, I know from my own experience how they can become a formative part of growing up and learning to enjoy and love books and reading. Take away or reduce the library offer and this opportunity will be taken away from future generations.
But the library isn’t just for schoolchildren and young families. It’s for everyone. Every time I visit I am struck by the range of people using the library – from older residents, who perhaps don’t have internet access at home, to teenagers and young people researching career opportunities, alongside a rich variety of community groups."

"I love my library because there are so many good books to look at. I like finding out information."

"The libraries are one of the most civilising service that .......... Council is responsible for running and must continue to be provided for the benefit of all in the constituency."

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Barnet, Lambeth, Bromley, Manchester & Kent. (or selling the family silver by the ton!)


Boy has it been an eventful couple of weeks in Capitaville; first we had this;

"Barnet Council's libraries consultation is 'unfit for purpose', according to report"
"An investigation into Barnet Borough Council’s library consultation has revealed people find it “impossible" to respond in any meaningful way."
for full report see; http://www.pdf-archive.com/2015/01/16/barnetcouncillibraryconsultation16jan2015/barnetcouncillibraryconsultation16jan2015.pdf

then this response/demand;

The Libraries Consultation: a joint letter by the Barnet bloggers

Anyone who has tried to complete the consultation will already know that the consultation is loaded to the point were it's been re-named the 'nonconsultation', see; http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/brought-to-book-barnets-nonsultation-on.html

And then the BIG one;

Exclusive: "So others can get a cut of the business": who is plotting to take over Barnet Libraries?

It appears that Barnet Council are planning to franchise their libraries to Starbucks et al and hope to sell the model to other boroughs!!! Shocking but not surprising considering that Tory Barnet councillors are at the forefront of the governments 'public bad private good' onslaught.


Shocking news from Lambeth where it looks as if the council is looking to cut libraries again. A public consultation has been launched which prompted local campaigners to tweet this yesterday;

SaveLambethLibraries (@SaveLambthLibs)
@VftL_UK Latest proposals for Lambeth Libraries lambeth.gov.uk/consultations/… 800k cut, 40%+ staff reduction, 2 libraries closed & sold off

So much for being the 'Co-op Council'.


More tales of woe with proposals to hand libraries to volunteers and to privatise the rest of the service.
"Consultation is also underway regarding the market testing of the core service in order to protect the service, keeping libraries open, while making savings. Subject to the outcome of the consultation, the core library service will be subject to a full outsourcing market testing exercise, which will be taken in line with any decisions taken regarding the Community Library management options."

I've heard that a 'Save Bromley Libraries' campaign group has been set up so good luck to them.


"Seven Manchester libraries have seen visitor numbers plummet by as much as 90per cent since funding cuts led to them being run by volunteers with drastically reduced opening hours."

A shocking indictment of the volunteer-led libraries model, with tumbling footfall and usage who would have thought it?


Kent CC are proposing to hand libraries over to a trust.

Should Kent County Council transfer responsibility for its libraries to a charitable trust?
"Kent County Council is planning to transfer responsibility for its libraries to a charitable trust.
A consultation has begun on whether Kent County Council (KCC) should hand over responsibility for the library, registration and archive (LRA) services to a trust. Residents have until April 8 to make their views known."

But remember this from last year?

"In July last year, KCC confessed to a "mistake" when a job advert went out to oversee the transformation of the LRA services before publicly consulting on the change or having councillors agree to it.
The project manager role was advertised and then withdrawn when the blunder was spotted but Councillor Tom Maddison told News Shopper he was disappointed.
He said: "I don’t feel very happy about the council advertising the job before the elected members of the council have been consulted."

As pointed out recently by a local campaign group this makes a mockery of the consultation process;

Laughable “public consultation” to commence on Monday
"Obviously, we must forget the fact that a job advert went up in June last year asking for candidates who can “ensure the implementation and delivery of a trust model for Kent Libraries, Registration and Archives” because, of course, that is simply a figment of our imaginations and will have no bearing whatsoever on the entirely fair process that Kent County Council is about to embark on.
We have full confidence that, unlike Lincolnshire County Council, the consultation will be entirely above board because, unlike Lincolnshire, Kent clearly haven’t already made their decision before launching the consultation."