Scandalous closure of public libraries

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Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Mon May 02, 2011 5:21 pm

The secret life of libraries

They have always had a dusty image – and never more so than now – but libraries are at the heart of our communities. With the axe about to fall, Bella Bathurst reveals just what we're about to lose

Bella Bathurst The Observer, Sunday 1 May 2011



Between the lines: a reader at the British Museum library in 1952 Photograph: Bert Hardy/Getty

You can tell a lot about people from the kind of books they steal. Every year, the public library service brings out a new batch of statistics on their most-pilfered novelists – Martina Cole, James Patterson, Jacqueline Wilson, JK Rowling. But in practice, different parts of Britain favour different books. Worksop likes antiques guides and hip-hop biographies. Brent prefers books on accountancy and nursing, or the driving theory test. Swansea gets through a lot of copies of the UK Citizenship Test. In Barnsley, it's Mig welding and tattoos ("I've still no idea what Mig welding is," says Ian Stringer, retired mobile librarian for the area. "The books always got taken before I could find out.") And Marylebone Library in London has achieved a rare equality. Their most stolen items are The Jewish Chronicle, Arabic newspapers and the Bible.

But the figures show something else as well – that among all communities and in all parts of Britain, our old passion for self-improvement remains vivid. Unlike DVDs or CDs or Xbox games, books removed from public libraries have no resale value. Unless they're very rare or very specialist, even hardbacks aren't worth anything anymore. So the only reason to take books is to read them.

Even so, theft remains a sensitive subject. "If someone suggested the idea of public libraries now, they'd be considered insane," says Peter Collins, library services manager in Worksop. "If you said you were going to take a little bit of money from every taxpayer, buy a whole load of books and music and games, stick them on a shelf and tell everyone, 'These are yours to borrow and all you've got to do is bring them back,' they'd be laughed out of government." But theft – or loss, or forgetting – is not a new thing. During the 1930s, supposedly a far more upright age, 8.8m books vanished from the library system every year.

There are 4,500 public libraries in Britain, as well as almost 1,000 national and academic libraries. As local authority budgets are reduced by the government's cuts, up to 500 libraries around the country will have to close. Librarians – traditionally seen as a mild, herbivorous breed – are up in arms. Partly because public libraries are often seen as a soft target; partly because they say local authorities consistently undervalue the breadth of what they do; and partly because the cutting will be done during a recession, which is exactly when everyone starts going to the library again.

But the cuts also underscore a deeper confusion about what libraries are: what they do, who they serve, and – in an age where the notion of books itself seems mortally flawed – why we still need them. What's the point of buildings filled with print? Isn't all our wisdom electronic now? Shouldn't libraries die at their appointed time, like workhouses and temperance halls?

The old clichés do not help the cause, given that libraries are meant to be austere places smelling of "damp gabardine and luncheon meat", as Victoria Wood put it, and librarians are either diffident, mole-eyed types or disappointed spinsters of limited social skills who spend their time blacking out the racing pages and razoring Page 3.

In Worksop, Peter Collins radiates a love both of libraries and for the infinite variety of people who use them. He's 33 and "always defined myself by being a librarian. I'd say to girls: 'Guess what I do for a living?' Admittedly, they were the kind of girls who might be impressed when I told them I had an MA in librarianship, but I was just so proud of it, so in love with what I did. When I first met my future wife, she got a tirade about the magic of libraries."

Collins believes that libraries are just as vital now as they were during the 40s, when Philip Larkin complained of stamping out so many books in a week that his hand blistered. Even so, he spends much of his time in a ceaseless game of catch-up. "Libraries are always trying to prove themselves because what they provide is so intangible. How do you quantify what someone gets from a book or a magazine?"

Attempts to do so often end up in trouble. "The council once asked us for an assessment of outcomes, not output," says Ian Stringer. "Output was how many books we'd stamped out, and outcome was something that had actually resulted from someone borrowing a book. So say someone took out a book on mending cars and then drove the car back, that's an outcome; or made a batch of scones from a recipe book they had borrowed. It lasted until one of the librarians told the council they'd had someone in borrowing a book on suicide, but that they'd never brought it back. The council stopped asking after that."

The great untold truth of libraries is that people need them not because they're about study and solitude, but because they're about connection. Some sense of their emotional value is given by the writer Mavis Cheek, who ran workshops within both Holloway and Erlestoke prisons. At Erlestoke she had groups of eight men who so enjoyed the freedom and contact of the writing groups they ended up breaking into the prison library when they found it shut one day. Which authors did they like best? "Graham Greene," says Cheek. "All that adventure and penance. His stuff moves fast, it's spare and it's direct."

Greene might seem a surprising choice, but then what people choose to read in extremis often is. In London during the Second World War, some authorities established small collections of books in air-raid shelters. The unused Tube station at Bethnal Green had a library of 4,000 volumes and a nightly clientele of 6,000 people. And what those wartime readers chose were not practical how-to manuals on sewing or home repairs, but philosophy. Plato and his Republic experienced a sudden surge in popularity, as did Schopenhauer, Bertrand Russell, Bunyan and Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.

Ian Stringer worked in Barnsley just after the 1980s miners' strike. "Library issues doubled during the strike, they were the highest they've ever been. A lot of ex-miners wanted books on law because they wanted to challenge the legality of what the government was doing. Or they needed practical self-help stuff like books on growing your own, or just pure escapism." The same thing is happening now.

Paul Forrest used to go out with the mobile library around the deprived areas of Edmonton, north London. "It was quite shocking how isolated people are sometimes. At times, books or talking books are the only connection to the world they've got. And the mobile librarians really know their customers' interests – not just that they like romances, for instance, but romances with a bit of spice, not too much sex, a bit of history. Those books are almost a form of medication; I reckon we save the NHS a fortune in antidepressants."

For many years, Ian Stringer worked on Barnsley's mobile libraries. So potent was the South Yorkshire service that at one point during the 1980s, "we had four couples leaving their spouses for each other. We ended up calling it the Mile Out Club." What was going on? "I think it's because you used to have two people going out, usually a man and a woman, in the van sometimes for nine hours at a stretch. Often it would be an older man and a younger woman, and I reckon some of the younger women had married young, and this was the first chance for them to see what an older man could be like. And some of the spots they'd get out to, like the farms, they'd be quite secluded. Not that anyone ever delayed the service, of course." By the time the fourth couple got together, the erotic charge of the vans had grown so great that "all the relatives ended up having a fight on the loading bay, everyone pitching in, all chucking boxes of library tickets at each other".

Inevitably, libraries are also used as a refuge by many who never had any intention of mugging up on the latest literary prize shortlist. It's an odd thing that libraries – by tradition temples to the unfleshly – can sometimes seem such sexy places. Perhaps it's their churchiness or the deep, soft silence produced by so many layers of print, or simply the hiding places provided by the shelves. "There's a big following on the internet for sites on librarians and people with library fetishes," says Kerry Pillai, manager of Swansea library. "I don't know why. But we do have a lot of attractive staff here." Has she ever been approached? "I did get sniffed once," she says. "In the lifts."

"In the 60s, before the Lady Chatterley trial," says Ian Stringer, "you used to get block books – literally, wooden blocks in place of any books the librarians thought were a bit risqué, like Last Exit to Brooklyn. You had to bring the block to the counter and then they'd give you the book from under the desk. So of course you got a certain type of person just going round looking for the wooden blocks."

There are other uses for libraries. In Marylebone they take a lenient view of sleepers. "As long as they're vertical, it's all right," says Nicky Smith, senior librarian. "If they're horizontal or snoring, then we wake them up. Mind you," she adds cheerily, "we were always told to wake people well before closing time, because if they turn out to be dead, then you won't get home before midnight." Marylebone has particular cause to be vigilant; it has the unusual distinction of being one of the few libraries in Britain where someone has actually died. Edgar Lustgarten was well known as a TV personality during the 50s and 60s. He presented an early version of Crimewatch, talking the viewers through the topical murder- mysteries of the day. On 15 December 1978, he went to the library as usual and was found some time later, dead at his desk. What had he been doing? "Reading the Spectator."

Worksop has a resident book-eater. "We kept noticing that pages had been ripped from some of the books," says Peter Collins. "Not whole pages, just little bits. It would always be done really neatly, just the tops of the pages. And then we'd see these little pellets everywhere, little balls of chewed paper cropping up in different parts of the library. Eventually we figured out who it must be. None of us wanted to say we'd noticed him munching away at the books, so I approached him and said something like I'd noticed 'tearing' on some volumes. He said he didn't know anything about it, but we've never seen him back."

"And we had a streaker once," Collins continues. "In Tamworth. He got into the lifts, and somewhere between the first and second floors he managed to take off all his clothes, run naked through Music and Junior, and then vanish out the front doors. The library there is right next to a graveyard, so goodness only knows what happened to him. Still, all part of life's rich tapestry."

He says that reading seems to be becoming an increasingly alien concept for children. "The pace of life is different now, and people expect art to happen to them. Music and film do that, a CD will do that, but you have to make a book happen to you. It's between you and it. People can be changed by books, and that's scary. When I was working in the school library, I'd sometimes put a book in a kid's hands and I'd feel excited for them, because I knew that it might be the book that changed their life. And once in a while, you'd see that happen, you'd see a kind of light come on behind their eyes. Even if it's something like 0.4% of the population that that ever happens to, it's got to be worth it, hasn't it?"

The libraries' most powerful asset is the conversation they provide – between books and readers, between children and parents, between individuals and the collective world. Take them away and those voices turn inwards or vanish. Turns out that libraries have nothing at all to do with silence.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Mon May 02, 2011 5:24 pm

This subject- and it hasn't gone away- generated a huge response on the old ATU site. Here's what remains of the original thread:

LINK EXPIRED

Overdue, presumably.


Last edited by eddie on Sat Jun 11, 2011 11:23 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Tue May 03, 2011 12:20 am

I was an avid library user until I owned my own bookshop. I have only visted a library a few times in the past 16 years. I can see they have changed some what , but I really need to spend a lot of time in a library before I can assess if I still need to be a library member.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Wed May 11, 2011 6:40 am

Alan Bennett joins campaign against library closure

Writer speaks out over closures in appearance at threatened Kensal Rise library in London

Alison Flood guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 10 May 2011 11.51 BST


Alan Bennett. Photograph: Marco Secchi / Rex

Alan Bennett has joined Zadie Smith and Philip Pullman in the campaign to save a London library – opened by Mark Twain in 1900 – from closure.

As local campaigners announced plans to take legal action against Brent council over its decision to close six libraries, Bennett said he would be coming to Kensal Rise to help raise the £30,000 needed for the legal campaign. The much-loved author will be speaking about the library closures and reading from his work at an event on 24 May, which will also see him interviewed by Whitbread award-winning local author Tim Lott.

"We fully understand the need for cuts to be made," said Lott, who has been part of the committee to save Kensal Rise library since its inception. "This is not a head-in-the-sand campaign. However, local residents have campaigned to run Kensal Rise library on a partly voluntary and possibly self-funded basis, but have met with only indifference and stonewalling from Brent who have offered no practical help, assistance or encouragement."

Brent council voted to close six of its 12 libraries on 11 April. Councillors want to use the savings this will bring to improve services in the borough's remaining libraries, and to open a large central library near Wembley Stadium in 2013.

The six Brent libraries – Kensal Rise, which was opened by Twain, Barham Park, Cricklewood, Neasden, Preston, and Tokyngton – are looking to raise £30,000 to fund their legal challenge against Brent, which they hope will see them challenging the council on the "legitimacy" of its "flawed" local consultation process. "In reality, 82% of local residents oppose Brent's 'rationalisation' programme," said the campaigners. The council has said that although 82% of those residents who responded to its survey were against closing the libraries, they represent fewer than 1% of borough residents.

Smith, author of the Orange prize-winning On Beauty, has previously spoken out against the closures, arguing that local libraries were "gateways to better, improved lives" and attacking "the low motives [of the government] as it tries to worm out of its commitment". Pullman, learning that the closures would be going ahead, said that it was "a sad day for Brent that the council has not been persuaded, despite all the arguments put forward".

More than 400 libraries in the UK are currently under threat of closure, according to Public Libraries News, as the government looks to make budget cuts. Legal challenges are also being prepared in Gloucestershire, Somerset, the Isle of Wight, Camden and Lewisham.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Wed May 11, 2011 6:45 am

Library closure battles won, but war continues

Local victories for campaigners looking to save their services leave many others still fighting for their lives


A book being issued at a threatened mobile library in Polzeath, Cornwall. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

After all the grim news of the past year, there have been some real successes in recent days for campaigners trying to save their libraries. Just ahead of last week's local elections – and draw what conclusions you will from that timing – Suffolk council backtracked on unpopular plans to turn 29 libraries over to volunteers, while North Yorkshire decided to scrap a scheme to hand 24 over to volunteers, after strong local protests.

And there's been a significant development in Somerset and Gloucestershire, where both councils are now facing a judicial review in the High Court over their planned library cuts. The claim against them, if accepted by the court, is likely to be heard this summer, and the verdict will be eagerly awaited by campaigners in other areas too – not least Brent, home to threatened Kensal Rise library, championed by local author Zadie Smith, where residents initiated their own legal challenge on Friday.

The dogged determination of local users to defend their beloved libraries is impressive, but the battle is still barely begun. Currently, some 450 libraries around the UK are threatened with closure, and the number could still rise significantly later this year. Councils such as Oxfordshire, whose response to public anger over closures was to schedule further consultation periods, will be coming back with their revised proposals this summer. And come the autumn, there'll be a new round of budget-setting – and a potential second tranche of closure plans.

Councils will be looking closely at how the situation develops this year to see if they can get away with further cuts later on – perhaps hoping that people will simply get used to the idea that libraries are closing and come to think of it as inevitable.

In terms of leadership from government, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has been calling in groups of campaigners for chats about their concerns, but so far, although the culture secretary has the power to intervene and order an inquiry if there are grounds to think an authority is failing in their obligation to provide a proper service, words have not been followed by any decisive action. Many think Jeremy Hunt is simply sitting on his hands. Campaigners from Lewisham plan to take the issue to his doorstep and hold a demonstration outside the DCMS later this month. Meanwhile, Roy Clare, chief executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council – the quango tasked with strategic direction for libraries, which winds down this autumn – is already heading off to a new life and new job in New Zealand.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, no less, queried the level of proper public advocacy for libraries when he reflected on the closures as part of his recent Easter sermon. Referring to a visit he'd made to a clearly very successful library in a deprived area of Manchester, which was offering support and encouragement to many young people, he asked: "Space, opportunity, the time to discover a larger world to live in – where are the clearly articulated priorities in public discussion that would spotlight all this, so as to make us think twice before dismantling what's already there and disappointing more hopes for the future?" Well said.

It was an exciting moment last February when a spontaneous upsurge of protest over closures coalesced into the Save Our Libraries day. And when February 2012 comes around, there may very well be another, because there are plans afoot – supported by authors including Malorie Blackman and Michael Rosen, and organisations such as the Society of Authors and the Royal Society of Literature - to make it an annual event.

On the one hand, this a great sign – it shows the depth of passion and commitment to libraries. But it also shows that a lot of influential people in the world of books think libraries will still be in need of support and cheerleading next February, the February after that, and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Posted by Benedicte Page Tuesday 10 May 2011 16.59 BST guardian.co.uk

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Wed May 11, 2011 10:51 am

Libraries need to be resource centres now , not just where you go to get something to read.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Sun May 15, 2011 6:16 pm

Libraries are in crisis, but literary culture is thriving

There are urgent reasons to fear for this vital public resource, but the world of reading is in rude health


Ventnor Library on the Isle of Wight, currently threatened with closure. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

The assault on Britain's public libraries is a thoughtless cultural crime whose after-effects will linger for decades. Some of our best writers, from Zadie Smith to Philip Pullman, have been roused to articulate their love for, and debt to, the library system that has been a unique feature of the British literary scene. The battle is not over, but this protest has made government sit up and take notice.

The closure of so many libraries and the slashing of budgets is certainly a bleak prospect, but I am inclined to be optimistic. Alongside the death of the library (a worldwide phenomenon) there are grounds for hope.

In an entertaining recent article about libraries, Bella Bathurst writes: "The libraries' most powerful asset is the conversation they provide – between books and readers, between children and parents, between individuals and the collective world. Take them away and those voices turn inward or vanish ... libraries have nothing to do with silence."

That's not a conventional defence of libraries, but perfectly sensible. Libraries fulfil a complex function. As Umberto Eco writes in his just-published This Is Not the End of the Book, "a library is not necessarily made up of books that we've read, or even that we will eventually read. They should be the books that we can read. Or that we may read. Even if we never do."

That's the library less as an ongoing discussion and more as a potential resource. Whatever you expect from a library, a lively literary culture depends on a vigorous literary conversation. This can come from many sources. During the last decade there has been an explosion of a phenomenon which, while in no way matching the depth and complexity of libraries, has certainly generated a lot of debate. I refer to book clubs, or reading groups.

First popularised in the 1990s, they are now ubiquitous. Publishers promote them. Local councils encourage, and numerous websites advertise, book clubs across the UK (and the world). They come in all shapes and sizes. Last week, I was sent a press release from Ireland launching "The Flying Book Club", an offshoot of the city's successful application to be a Unesco City of Literature.

Certainly, such book clubs are a mixed bag. They do achieve one thing that libraries used to do: they stimulate reading. Don't get me wrong: book clubs are neither a sufficient nor a necessary replacement for libraries. But still, combined with the social network, literary festivals and the resurgence of independent bookshops, they make up a picture that is not, perhaps, quite as dire as it is sometimes made out to be.

Meanwhile, all of us in the world of books should continue to campaign against the cuts. Someone estimated that the RAF flypast at the royal wedding cost approximately £400,000 for less than a minute's entertainment. £400,000 would have financed many hundreds of books on library shelves.

Posted by Robert McCrum Thursday 12 May 2011 11.28 BST guardian.co.uk

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  tigerlily on Sun May 15, 2011 10:13 pm

Thanks for re-starting this thread Eddie study

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 11, 2011 11:15 pm

Women's Institute joins battle to save libraries

AGM votes overwhelmingly to support campaign

Alison Flood guardian.co.uk, Friday 10 June 2011 12.07 BST


The library in Bruton, Somerset, which is threatened with closure. Photograph: Sam Frost

2011 has been a dismal year for the UK's embattled libraries, but help is now finally at hand. The 208,000 members of the Women's Institute have thrown their weight behind the campaign to save them.

With more than 600 libraries in England alone under threat of closure, according to librarian body CILIP, the National Federation of Women's Institutes voted overwhelmingly in favour of campaigning in their support at their AGM on Wednesday. The organisation's members have "pledged their commitment to fight to prevent local library closures wherever they are proposed", said WI chair Ruth Bond. "WI members clearly recognise the worth that local library services bring to communities, often in isolated areas, and we will now work hard to prevent such services being removed from the areas where they are often needed most."

The vote followed an impassioned speech at the WI's AGM from CILIP's chief executive Annie Mauger, in which she warned a 4,500-strong audience in Liverpool that "if we lose libraries, they may never come back".

"We believe that 20% of the libraries in England alone are at risk. Possibly even more ... We could lose 600 libraries in 600 communities and many mobile libraries to remote areas," said Mauger. "Where library buildings are safe, it's staff, funding and opening hours that are at risk. We know that there have to be savings. But we believe that this level of cuts is disproportionate to other savings being made by local authorities. Libraries at risk are often in communities with the fewest nearby public facilities. As local libraries close, many more people will have to make long and inconvenient journeys or will stop using the library altogether."

Before the AGM, librarians had been speaking to local WI branches around the country, urging them to support the campaign to persuade the government that libraries are "an essential educational and information resource".

"From Shilton in Warwickshire to Leyland in Lancashire and Pudsey near Leeds, you have been voting to help us save libraries," said Mauger. "The Women's Institute has a special kind of power. You have influence. You can make change happen. You campaign for the things you believe in."

Libraries, she said, "help fight illiteracy, ignorance and exclusion. Libraries bring people access to the world beyond their horizon ... As a child, books open up the worlds of knowledge and imagination. All through life libraries empower people through access to information beyond anything that anyone could buy for themselves."

Following the vote for the motion that "this meeting urges HM Government to maintain support for local libraries, as an essential educational and information resource", passed by 98% of WI members, Mauger said she was "thrilled that we have a new and powerful friend fighting our corner".

"It's fabulous news for the millions of people across the UK that love their libraries. Libraries are an essential education and information resource. They are at the heart of communities across the country and are too important to lose," she said.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 11, 2011 11:21 pm

Landmark US library set to close

Troy, Michigan's public library – celebrated by numerous celebrated writers – will shut unless a dedicated local tax is voted in

Alison Flood guardian.co.uk, Friday 10 June 2011 11.22 BST


Dr Seuss's letter to Troy library readers. Photograph: Troy Library

A library "is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future," wrote Isaac Asimov 40 years ago, celebrating the opening of a Michigan library which is threatened with immediate closure.

As funding cuts hit libraries across America, famous supporters of the public library in Troy, Michigan, have helped draw attention to its case – a "particularly graphic example" of budget cuts, according to the American Library Association. As well as Asimov's letter of support, Charlotte's Web author EB White also penned a missive celebrating the library's opening, in which she wrote that "books hold most of the secrets of the world, most of the thoughts that men and women have had", while Theodor Geisel – Dr Seuss – exhorted the "children of Troy" to "Read! Read! Read!". A four-page, handwritten letter from the British illustrator Edward Ardizzone retells how he grew up in a house of books, Kingsley Amis urges children to "use your library, remembering that, whatever else you may not have, if you have books you have everything", and astronaut Neil Armstrong writes that "How we use the knowledge we gain determines our progress on earth, in space or on the moon. Your library is a storehouse for mind and spirit. Use it well."

The letters were solicited in 1971 by Troy children's librarian Marguerite Hart, who asked dozens of famous names to tell the town's children about the importance of libraries, receiving 97 replies. They were recently rediscovered by the library's head of public services Phillip Kwik, who posted them online where he says they "went viral", receiving over 25,000 hits in a month. "The letters are a living reminder of the need for a public library," said Kwik. "They reflect a time, in the US, when despite what was going on, we were a more compassionate nation. We understood the benefits of public institutions, education, and libraries in improving ourselves, our neighbours, our communities and the world. Something in the letters speaks to every one of us, and engender thoughts of a better, more informed, and more tolerant society."

Troy library has lost 14 staff since last July and had been scheduled to close in May, but a potential reprieve has been offered by a special election on 2 August which will propose establishing a dedicated local tax, or "millage". "Troy library is under threat because the city of Troy does not have the revenue to fund it any longer," said Cathy Russ, the library's director. "Currently, the library is scheduled to be open through Tuesday, August 2, the date of the special election," said Russ. "I am told that if the millage fails, 'the library will close immediately'. While I think the library will be open on Wednesday, August 3, I can't guarantee that it would be open for very much longer after that, if the millage fails."

Troy's library is not the only one struggling. Nineteen US states reported cuts in state funding for public libraries over the last year, according to the ALA's annual report, with cuts at the state level often compounded by local spending reductions. A survey of librarians by Library Journal found that 72% said their budget had been cut, while 43% reported staff cuts. The magazine described the situation as "a brutal grasping by money-starved government officials for the low-hanging fruit of library budgets".

"All across the United States, large and small cities are closing public libraries or curtailing their hours of operations," said the Pulitzer prize-winning poet Charles Simic. "'The greatest nation on earth', as we still call ourselves, no longer has the political will to arrest its visible and precipitous decline and save the institutions on which the workings of our democracy depend ... Their slow disappearance is a tragedy, not just for those impoverished towns and cities, but for everyone everywhere terrified at the thought of a country without libraries."

Russ agreed. "Libraries across the US have had to deal with budget cuts, there is no question about it. And some of the smaller libraries without dedicated millages are facing closure," she said. "It saddens me that an institution that is designed to help everyone, regardless of background, age, economic situation, is under such threat these days."

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Mon Jun 13, 2011 10:54 am

I think that to remain open and viable in the future public libraries will need to adapt and remain suited to the needs of the world.
For example when I was growing up the library was mainly a place to borrow books you wanted to read but not buy etc.
Now they need to be seen as resource centres and incude music , film , games and computing as well as daily papers and magazines .
The libraries that can adapt and retain users will survive the modern world.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Thu Jun 16, 2011 11:33 am

Also it is very important that all tiers of goverment contue to fund and support libraries as much as possible.
n Australia this meaqns local state and federal.
I like to see libraries develop relationships with community organizations such as schools and voluntary groups .
Also a partnership with bok shop where they co promote events such as a new book by a favourite auther , book week etc.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Lee Van Queef on Fri Jun 17, 2011 1:11 am

As with a lot of the cuts, it's frustrating not to know the actual facts about what is going on. I mean, even these articles drastically range in the number of libraries that are set to close (one says 400 another says over 600).

I'm relieved to say that no libraries are closing in Bristol. It does seem that some Councils have decided to decimate their libraries, I mean, what have the people of Brent done to indicate that they want half of the librararies completely closed?!

I have no idea how accurate this is, but here is a map of libraries that are set to close (pinky-red dots indicates being closed): http://libraries.fromconcentrate.net/

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Lee Van Queef on Fri Jun 17, 2011 1:13 am

Simulacrum wrote: what have the people of Brent done to indicate that they want half of the librararies completely closed?!

Government Minister says steal the books to save libraries... scratch

http://www.harrowobserver.co.uk/west-london-news/libraries/2011/02/03/lib-dem-mp-s-light-hearted-remark-sparks-library-closure-controversy-116451-28104115/

A BRENT MP has denied telling her constituents to remove all the books from a library to stop its closure.

Sarah Teather, Liberal Democrat MP for Brent Central, is alleged to have made the statement at a public meeting about the threatened Kensal Rise Library on Friday, January 28.

But the minister for children and families said she was merely pointing out what campaigners did in Milton Keynes and the Isle of Wight earlier this year.

She said: "I told a light-hearted story to highlight the ridiculous position campaigners in my constituency are in.

"I want the library to stay open and so do many of my constituents."

Brent Council is planning to close six of the borough's 12 libraries - in Barham, Cricklewood, Neasden, Tokyngton, Kensal Rise and Preston.

This week, documentary maker and writer, Louis Theroux, who lives in Brent, backed the Observer's Keep Our Libraries Local campaign.

He said: "Libraries are the lifeblood of our local communities. It would be such a shame if they closed. They are a refuge and sanctuary for people to go.

"This is short-sighted and will affect the quality of life in the borough. Surely, Brent Council can find an alternative."

Kensal Rise Library is holding a children's read-in on Saturday to highlight the importance of libraries, with storytellers, a children's entertainer and prizes.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Fri Jun 17, 2011 2:07 am

For the past 2 weeks, the London Evening Standard newspaper has been running a series of articles about the literacy crisis facing London's schoolchildren. This, I think, was the first:

A city of children who cannot read

Evening Standard 31 May 2011

Scandal: The homes without a single book


London is in the grip of a literacy crisis. One million people in this great city cannot read.

The scandal goes to the heart of our education system. One in four children is practically illiterate on leaving primary school.

This betrayal has created a generation incapable of deciphering basic words on timetables, receipts or medicine labels. In an exposé starting today, we investigate the true extent of illiteracy in the capital and why years of government initiatives and investment have failed to solve the problem.

London has unrivalled bookshops, libraries, publishers and writers. It is a world centre for the written word, yet one in three children grows up without a single book of their own. That number is rising. Without books, they have a much greater chance of spending a lifetime unable to read.

The cost to them and to us is incalculable.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Lee Van Queef on Fri Jun 17, 2011 3:05 am

Monday's Evening Standard contained an in depth report, sensationally spelling out the extent of the problem of illiteracy in the capital.

The report contains a number of shocking statistics including the finding that an estimated one million adults in London have problems reading.

Some of the statistics were also used in an (unfootnoted) report by the Centre for Policy Studies report last year. When we looked these figures at the time we raised concerns about the lack of transparency over the sources.

With the figures given a fresh airing, we decided to take a second look.

“One million (or one in six) working adults in the capital cannot read with confidence “

So far as we are able to tell this figure is sound, albeit based on a national rate and rounded up slightly. The one in six ratio is highlighted in a statistical briefing from the National Literary Trust which stated: “One in six people in the UK struggle with literacy.”

Fortunately since this is footnoted we can trace the figure back to a 2003 study for the Government which estimated that in England: “5.2 million adults (16% of the population) at Entry level 3 or below”

So, taking this admittedly slightly dated figure, and applying it to the 5,2 million working age adults (based on 2009 estimates for London) we get a figure of a little over 830,000. Not quite a million but not drastically far off.

“One in four children leaves the capital's state primaries unable to read properly. Five per cent can hardly read at all."

Taking the number of children who do not achieve Level 4 at Key Stage 2 or above, we start to see where this figure comes from.

The revised data for 2009-10 shows that in London 82 per cent of pupils at maintained schools achieved Level Four the level expected expected of 11 year olds) or higher in in Key Stage 2 tests for English. This breaks down into 74 per cent reaching the standard in writing and 85 per cent for reading.

If 85 per cent are achieving the expected level in written tests, this suggets 15 per cent were not, a smaller proportion of the one in four claimed by the Standard.

However the 25 per cent figure was also used last year as the proportion unable to read or write. The foreword to the Centre for Policy Studies report talks of “the 25 per cent who are leaving [school], at the age of 11, unable to properly read or write.”

We contacted the Evening Standard, who confirmed this was the source for their report. When we tried to find out where this figure came from last year, the Centre for Policy Studies were unable to tell us.

Perhaps the figure comes from previous years. However, it seems the Financial Times' Christopher Cook has already crunched the numbers on this. Based on the National Pupil Database (NPD), he cited a figure of 80.1 per cent - still some way higher than the figure emblazoned across the Standard's.

At Full Fact we don't have access to the NPD to see it for ourselves, but combined with the figures we have looked at, it suggests that the number of primary school children in London failing to reach Level 4 for reading and writing is closer to one in five, rather than one in four.

Just to be extra sure we ran our figures by the Department for Education, who confirmed that the figures we were using were the most recent and the most relevant.

The five per cent who struggle to read at all seems much clearer. Taking the figure for the percentage of kids achieving below Level 3 at Key Stage 2 English tests, listed in a separate table, the figure for London as a whole is given as 5 per cent.

“1 in 3 children says he or she does not own a book”

This is based on surveys conducted by the National Literacy Trust. The results of the survey showed that 66.8 per cent of children said they had their own books.

However it should be stressed that this is a national figure, not a figure for London as suggested by the front page of the Evening Standard.

“40 per cent of 11 year olds from inner-city schools have a reading age of between six and nine when they start secondary school.”

This was a claim made by the Centre for Policy Studies, in their report last year. Given the lack of footnotes we were left scratching our heads.

It was left to the author of the report to explain that the figure was based on her studies of the intake of two academies which test the literacy of their new students.

Although we were told at the time that this was a figure referenced in other secondary sources and by various education professionals, we decided that we would have needed to see a bit more evidence before this passed the Full Fact test.

Conclusion

So far it is a bit of a mixed bag so far as the statistics used by the Evening Standard are concerned.

Those about book ownership and the number of adults with reading difficulties seem sound, albeit by assuming national percentages will be replicated for the capital.

However questions will continue about the proportion of 11 year olds from inner city schools with reading ages of between six and nine.

Confusion also remains about the claim that 1 in 4 pupils leave the capital unable to read or write, as the figures we looked at suggested it is slightly less than 1 in 5.

Without knowing where the Centre for Policy Studies figures comes from, we cannot rule out that it is backed by an alternative, or out-of-date approach to the figures. But the 1 in 4 figure is not backed up by the most recent data for Key Stage Two assessments.

It is frustrating to see an unreferenced figure repeated several times in an eye-catching fashion by a newspaper, when it does not chime with what the official statistics show.

http://fullfact.org/factchecks/illiteracy_statistics_london_evening_standard-2746

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Mon Jun 20, 2011 3:43 pm

Possibly an equal danger to the threat of closure of public libraries is the possible decline in book shops .
Book selling has one of the lowest margins for retailing and is under threat from many areas.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  ISN on Tue Jun 21, 2011 12:38 am

Let them eat cake - er, I mean.....oops

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Tue Jun 21, 2011 12:51 am

ISN wrote:Let them eat cake - er, I mean.....oops
I know you are joking . But many book sellers really struggle . I got out at a good time for me but many booksellers I know have been bank rupted.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  ISN on Tue Jun 21, 2011 1:08 am

it's a sign of the times - I'm not unsympathetic to the fate of libraries or bookshops......

I wouldn't have read many of the books I have without having chanced upon them in libraries near and far......

bookshops - well, I used to love them (worked at Books Etc in Finchley Road - but the management were like Nazis)

now, like a lot of people, I find Amazon (or other online book sellers) much more handy and I'm getting a Kindle soon

I heard about the new guy who is taking over the running of Waterstone's (a favourite of Eddie's I believe)

he owns Daunt bookshops - quite the entrepreneur

the interview I read found him not one bit worried about the dire state of the 3D bookselling world - I think he might be being a bit unrealistic Rolling Eyes


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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 21, 2011 1:12 am

Poor families rarely patronise book shops.

That is not to underestimate the struggles of booksellers.

But a socially disadvantaged child's only window to an education is often the local public library.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  ISN on Tue Jun 21, 2011 1:24 am

Libraries are a treasure - and the diversity of them really makes them a treasure trove

plus here in Sydney they are getting very high-tech with searchable online catalogues where you can also renew and order books

they've also got links to other sites for reviews of books, etc....

I always check the library catalogue before buying a book......

they are good for community learning (like someone said about job-hunting and access to the internet)

favourite library probably was at Senate House on Malet Street and Goldsmith's College library

when I was a teenager living in Bangkok - I went to the American Alumni Association library to get all the books I could dream of

I don't know what is going on in the UK - it's absolutely appalling.....cutting child-care, child services, libraries and other local council services

it's totally evil......it really is

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Tue Jun 21, 2011 11:39 am

ISN wrote:it's a sign of the times - I'm not unsympathetic to the fate of libraries or bookshops......

I wouldn't have read many of the books I have without having chanced upon them in libraries near and far......

bookshops - well, I used to love them (worked at Books Etc in Finchley Road - but the management were like Nazis)

now, like a lot of people, I find Amazon (or other online book sellers) much more handy and I'm getting a Kindle soon

I heard about the new guy who is taking over the running of Waterstone's (a favourite of Eddie's I believe)

he owns Daunt bookshops - quite the entrepreneur

the interview I read found him not one bit worried about the dire state of the 3D bookselling world - I think he might be being a bit unrealistic Rolling Eyes

Like most other business's these days it is the small shops which are at threat , the franchise owners or small independants who have often risked thier life savings and have used their house as security etc
I know a lot of people use Amazon , I am not sure about the savings as many of our customers used to say that when you added postage to Amazons orders the savings were small , but others said the opposite.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Tue Jun 21, 2011 1:50 pm

eddie wrote:Poor families rarely patronise book shops.

That is not to underestimate the struggles of booksellers.

But a socially disadvantaged child's only window to an education is often the local public library.
There is truth in that however we found many poor families did visit our shop.
The love of books and reading is not dependent on socio economic status but the value books hold in your life .
Many poor people are avid readers and patronise librarfies and patiently save up to buy books at bookk shops..

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Tue Jun 21, 2011 1:53 pm

ISN wrote:Libraries are a treasure - and the diversity of them really makes them a treasure trove

plus here in Sydney they are getting very high-tech with searchable online catalogues where you can also renew and order books

they've also got links to other sites for reviews of books, etc....

I always check the library catalogue before buying a book......

they are good for community learning (like someone said about job-hunting and access to the internet)

favourite library probably was at Senate House on Malet Street and Goldsmith's College library

when I was a teenager living in Bangkok - I went to the American Alumni Association library to get all the books I could dream of

I don't know what is going on in the UK - it's absolutely appalling.....cutting child-care, child services, libraries and other local council services

it's totally evil......it really is
Very well put , we must fight all we can to save libraries.
By the way most book shops now have computers and would be only too willing to help do your research about books and also tell you availability and price etc.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

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