Tuesday, 17 May 2016

'Lewisham March For Libraries' 21/5/16

Solidarity with Unison members in Lewisham Libraries who will be on strike this coming Saturday (21/5/16) in defence of the library service. They will be joining other library supporters on a march;


Saturday 21 May

Assemble 12 midday
Limes Grove - next to Lewisham Library

199 - 201 Lewisham High St, London SE13 6LG

March to Town Hall for rally with speakers including :

Carnegie Library occupier from Lambeth
Alan Wylie - Libraries campaigner
Heather Wakefield - Unison

Save Lewisham Libraries campaigners
More speakers TBC

Please show solidarity and send messages of support to savelewishamlibraries@gmail.com , join them on the march if you can and sign the petition;

Monday, 2 May 2016

The feeling's not mutual and Staffless in Calne?

 Library Mutuals

In case you missed it another big library service spun-out from public control recently, Devon Libraries is now 'Libraries Unlimited'. And according to their website 'Libraries Unlimited' is;

"a new and independent staff and community-owned social enterprise, established in April 2016 with the support of Devon County Council. We are a company limited by guarantee with charitable status pending. Our formally registered name is Libraries Unlimited South West."

They were widely congratulated on social media, by the government and members of the Taskforce mainly, and will now join Suffolk, York and Dudley (2016?) in the brave new world of spun-out library services.
But it appears that not is all what it seems in 'Maude's Mock Mutuals Bargain Land', my Voices for the Library colleague Ian Clark, in response to a tweet stating that the Suffolk 'mutual' was "thriving", recently found out via an FOI that Suffolk (much touted by Sieghart etc) has seen a decrease in usage and by just looking at York's performance figures (issues & visits) anyone can see that there's been a decrease in usage in nearly all of York's branches, the Central Library and the Mobile service seem to be propping up the stats. I'll admit that it's still early days and usage stats aren't everything but I'm sure you'll agree that a drop in usage is hardly a definition of thriving.
Mutulisation in the public sector is really no more than a gun to the head for most employees, the "run it or we'll close it" blackmail threat unloved of most library 'volunteers'. I wish staff and users well but really can't endorse or approve of this risky & unaccountable method of privatisation. For more on the governments mutuals agenda see my earlier post

Staffless in Calne 

Well done to Calne Labour Party et al for putting up such a spirited fight against the introduction of staffless opening hours in their local library. 

"Members of the newly formed Calne Labour Party handed out leaflets outside the library on Saturday (Feb 13) to protest the reduction of staff hours.
Oliver Boaler, co-founder of the party, said: “Staff are essential to the library’s smooth running. They not only help library users choose books, use the computers and deal with queries, their supervision means the library always feels safe and is kept tidy.
“I worry about someone having a fall or somebody causing damage. A response to this wouldn’t be quick enough with the use of CCTV.” 

Similar concerns have also been raised by Unison and library campaigners in Barnet, see;

see also;


Friday, 11 March 2016

Public Libraries the DWP, Police and Fire services.

Well folks welcome back to the crazy world of libraries during wartime (otherwise known as austerity!).

The prospect (and reality) of basing Police officers in static libraries has been with us for some time but recently I spotted what I thought was a new 'mobile' development in Shropshire until that is I discovered this Norfolk based story from 2010 !
Now the arguments against (invasion of trusted/safe public space, privacy/spying, just another cuts based shoe-horning exercise etc) and for (better public access?!?) police officers in libraries are well rehearsed but when you then find out that we will also be sharing with fire stations and DWP 'advisers' you start to think "WTF?!?!"

I can imagine the discussion between councillors before deciding on sharing with the Fire Service;

"what are we discussing tonight?"
"library cuts"
"oh i haven't used a library in years"
"neither have I"
"what are we proposing?"
"to have a 'library presence' in our fire stations"
"ooh great idea, that'll come in handy when we burn the books"

And as for the decision to place DWP 'advisers' in libraries well all I can say is the remaining part of the community that hasn't been alienated by the Police presence and the constant shrieking of fire sirens will definitely be alienated by the threat of sanctions due to missing their appointments due to the library only being open for 5 hrs a week due to all the staff being replaced by volunteers or the 'open+' staffless library failing due to crappy library software glitches. (see recent goings on in Barnet)

But seriously folks all these decisions are purely ideological and cuts based and will seriously undermine and erode the concept of libraries as safe & trusted public spaces (please don't get me started on bloody 'Digital Eagles') For similar concerns re DWP 'advisers' being embedded in GP surgeries see;

Friday, 12 February 2016

Me and the amazing George speaking at #SUFLlobby16

George Hamerton loves libraries, he loves them so much he's Chief Pupil Librarian at his school library and he came all the way to London on Tuesday to tell us how much he loves them at the Speak up for Libraries Rally and Lobby of Parliament, you can hear him (and me) here;


the transcript of my speech can be found at;


Solidarity to Lambeth, Greenwich and Bromley Library Workers!

This week library workers in Lambeth (Unison), Greenwich (Unite) and Bromley (Unite) have all taken strike action against cuts, privatisation and paid/trained staff being replaced by volunteers.

On Monday Lambeth Unison was successful in bringing out it's members and closing all libraries in the borough. This is part of a long running dispute over cuts to the service and proposals to turn 3 libraries into "bookish gyms" run by Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL)


Greenwich library workers on 4 day strike to oppose the closure of mobile library service (run by GLL)

Bromley and Greenwich library staff on strike amid potential cuts


Bromley & Greenwich library strikes

10 February 2016
Libaries in Bromley were closed as a result of Unite's members industrial action and Unite is also mobilising its members in Greenwich. There was a great turnout of striking members outside of Bromley South station, which was followed with a rally and march along the high street.
- See more at: http://www.unitetheunion.org/how-we-help/listofregions/londonandeastern/londoneasternnews/bromley--greenwich-library-strikes/#sthash.NbzpsTUt.dpuf 
Bromley library protesters

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Speak up for Libraries lobby of Parliament 9/2/16 and Early Day Motion

Top authors speak up for libraries at Parliamentary lobby on 9 February

Best-seller Jake Arnott is the latest writer to sign up for the Speak Up For Libraries (SUFL) lobby of Parliament on 9 February.
‘Throughout our history,’ he says, ‘the library has proved to be the most effective and resilient memory system for our culture and civilisation.
‘The public library creates a collective consciousness. Any attack on it simply adds to a social dementia.’
The day begins with a public rally at Central Hall, Westminster (10am-1pm), with a line-up of speakers chaired by campaigning author Alan Gibbons. All welcome, whether joining a lobby or not.
Alan’s Campaign for the Book is part of the SUFL alliance, alongside librarians’ professional association CILIP, campaigners’ charity The Library Campaign, UNISON and Voices for the Library.
Supporters from as far away as Gateshead, Shropshire, Lancashire and Lincolnshire will then descend on the Commons to lobby MPs to focus on the root cause of libraries’ grim situation – apathy and ignorance in local and central government.
‘These people are fighting hard locally to keep libraries alive. They are desperate to show this is a major issue for the whole nation,’ says Laura Swaffield of The Library Campaign.
‘And it’s not too late for others to join us.’

  • Eve Ainsworth (Seven Days, The Blog of Maisy Malone) – just launching her latest novel Crush with Scholastic (‘Love hurts… but should it hurt this much?’).
  • Philip Ardagh, multiple award-winning comic writer and dramatist (the Grubtown Tales, Eddie Dickens & The Grunts series) – Guardian book reviewer and the loudest beard in literature.
  • Jake Arnott (The Long Firm, He Kills Coppers, truecrime, Johnny Come Home, The Devil’s Paintbrush, The House of Rumour) – the first two made into successful TV serials.
  • Cathy Cassidy, million selling Queen of Teen award winner (theChocolate Box Girls series, Looking-Glass Girl) – breaking off from a schools and libraries tour to promote her new paperbacks (Penguin Random House).
  • John Dougherty, irrepressible children’s writer (the Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face series) – singing by special request his classic lament ‘What’s Wrong with [libraries minister] Ed Vaizey?’
  • Dawn Finch, librarian, literacy consultant and best-selling author (Skara Brae, Brotherhood of Shades, The Book of Worth) – speaking here as President of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals)
  • Alan Gibbons, million-selling, multiple award-winning children’s writer (Shadow of the Minotaur, End Game, Hate) – tireless campaigner and international speaker.
  • Laura Swaffield & Elizabeth Ash, The Library Campaign.
  • Heather Wakefield, head of local government, UNISON.
  • Alan Wylie, Voices for the Library.
Libraries matter. They matter to all communities, but especially to those in the most deprived areas. And they matter to the little girl inside this author who discovered adventures and magic within a wonderful, and often under appreciated, haven.
Eve Ainsworth
The local library is a port of call for: books, local information, human contact, internet access, newspapers and magazines, a safe environment, a quiet environment, help with form-filling, advice, and the countless other little things that all add up to bigger things. Speak up for libraries before there’s nothing left to shout about.
Philip Ardagh
Throughout our history the library has proved to be the most effective and resilient memory system for our culture and civilisation. The public library creates a collective consciousness. Any attack on it simply adds to a social dementia.
Jake Arnott
Without libraries, I would never have had access to books as a child, would never had stood a chance of following my dreams. Now our public libraries are being closed all around us; it’s a national scandal, and we must stand together against these closures, for the sake of our children and the future of our country.
Cathy Cassidy
If we want a society that is literate, cultured, educated and compassionate, then a well-funded, professionally-staffed public library service is not a luxury. It is a necessity. And the destruction of service that our government is allowing is quite simply immoral.
John Dougherty
Libraries are the cornerstone of a well-informed society. I strongly believe that there is not a single person working at high level in their field who has not at some point turned to a library for help. It’s not rocket science, but without libraries there will be no rocket science.
Dawn Finch
The public library service is being hollowed out. This is its worst crisis. Action is urgently needed to secure its future.
Alan Gibbons
  1. Libraries have borne the brunt of public spending cuts in Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales):
(i) Over 100 were lost last year; at least 441 have closed in the past five years; 149 are currently under threat, with new threats announced almost daily.
(ii) Most surviving libraries are suffering severe cuts to staff, book funds and opening hours. Since 2010 there has been a 22% drop in staff (full time equivalents), including a 32% drop in professional staff and a 93% rise in volunteers (though on average each works just 38 hours per year).The skills, knowledge base and quality of service available to library users is being seriously eroded.
(iii) The future looks as bad – or worse. After last year’s Spending Review, the Local Government Association commented: ‘Even if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light, they will not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by2020.’
  1. MPs will be lobbied to:
  • sign the Early Day Motion supporting libraries and the lobby
  • acknowledge the importance of public libraries
  • call on government to do its job by producing statutory guidance on standards, and a development programme
  • call on local authorities to ensure adequate funding.
  1. The Early Day Motion:
That this house recognises that public libraries are hugely important to our communities; acknowledges that many have already closed and many more are under threat; welcomes the Speak Up For Libraries lobby of Parliament in support of the UK’s public library service on 9 February 2016; and therefore calls on the Government to ensure that councils have enough money to provide well staffed quality library services; to enforce the law that says local authorities must provide a comprehensive and efficient library service; to implement policy which secures people’s statutory rights to a quality library service and gives libraries a long-term future by  including a programme of library development and modernisation in the 2016-2020 DCMS Business Plan.

  • Campaign for the Book: Alan Gibbons 07889 981739 ; mygibbo@gmail.com
  • Author interviews + The Library Campaign: Laura Swaffield, 07914 491145; lswaffield1@gmail.com
  • CILIP: Cat Cooper, 020 7255 0653 (mobile 07867 455070); cat.cooper@cilip.org.uk
  • UNISON: Fatima Ayad, 020 7121 5255; press@unison.co.uk
  • Voices for the Library: Lauren Smith, 07503 173894; media@voicesforthelibrary.org.uk

The Library Campaign will consider giving lobbyists financial support for travel costs if they are otherwise unable to attend the lobby. Contact:thelibrarycampaign@gmail.com or 020 8651 9552 / 07968 491355.

Speak Up For Libraries is a coalition of organisations and campaigners working to protect libraries and library staff, now and in the future.
Twitter: @SpeakUp4Libs using lobby hashtag #SUFLlobby16