Scandalous closure of public libraries

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Sat Aug 06, 2011 11:43 pm

Libraries will rely on volunteers to survive, says report

More and more books will be distributed from shops, churches and village halls, predict local government and library bodies

Maev Kennedy The Guardian, Saturday 6 August 2011


Options for ensuring libraries' survival in the 21st century include running them in partnership with the private sector, charities and other councils. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Libraries will increasingly rely on volunteers and community groups, with more books distributed from shops and village halls, according to a report released on Friday from the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).

The report monitors the progress of 10 pilot projects established by the year-old Future Libraries Programme, including Bradford's book borrowing points in shops across the city; Hertfordshire's plans to expand in co-operation with adult social care and children's centres; and the money-saving combined libraries service proposed by several London councils.

Suffolk plans to recruit members of the public on to boards of governors running its libraries, and Northumberland and Durham are trialling ebooks for older people and children.

Options for ensuring libraries' survival in the 21st century include running them in partnership with the private sector, charities and other councils; integrating with community facilities including churches, shops and village halls; or providing services including health centres and police surgeries in existing libraries.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said the report shone a spotlight on innovation and creative partnerships. "It will be a hugely useful resource, inspiring local authorities to emulate the best ideas to provide a first rate library service."

Chris White, chairman of the LGA culture, tourism and sport board, said libraries were among the most valued services provided by councils.

"We know that people of all ages and from all backgrounds are quite rightly very protective over their local library."

The report is bullish about the future of libraries, suggesting that innovations can "increase numbers using libraries while delivering millions of pounds of savings". But council cuts threaten hundreds of libraries across the country.

Authors including Zadie Smith, Philip Pullman and children's laureate Julia Donaldson have joined the campaign to save local libraries.

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals estimates that a fifth of all library service points could close, with staff cut by up to 6,000.

The MLA, which has steered library policy, is being wound up and the Arts Council is taking on its responsibilities.

Alan Davey, Arts Council chief executive, said: "We recognise this is a really challenging time for libraries. I believe that working more collaboratively with museums and arts will open up exciting opportunities for libraries to develop the important role they play in our communities."

In London, councils have already begun work on pooling library services. Three, including Westminster, are planning a combined operation they believe will save £1m and keep all 21 branch libraries open.

Seven more in south-east London estimate they could save up to £615,000 a year just by sharing their home and mobile library services, and 10 times that if they fully integrated their entire library service.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Tue Aug 09, 2011 12:14 am

Governments do not seem to realiase how important public libraries are . Recent surveys indicate that well over 50% of community members attend their local libraby on a regular basis even if it is just to read a news paper.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:15 pm

BUMP

It's hardly necessary to point out the relevance of this thread to recent youth disorder in England- but I will anyway.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Lee Van Queef on Thu Aug 11, 2011 9:15 pm

Anyone else notice how it's the book shops that seem to remain untouched? Diane Abbott on newsnight last night said everything on her street was destroyed except for Waterstones, my friend confirms that same thing where he lives in Clapham Junction, someone has told me it's the same in Bristol.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Thu Aug 11, 2011 9:42 pm

Yep, I'd heard that, too. Book shops and libraries.

A book obviously has less cash value-per-ounce than a Blackberry to a fleeing looter, but even so....

Food for thought.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Lee Van Queef on Thu Aug 11, 2011 10:08 pm

The positive spin is that even these thugs/looters understand that books are sacred and wouldn't dare to jeopardise that status. Smile

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Fri Aug 12, 2011 3:53 pm

eddie wrote:Yep, I'd heard that, too. Book shops and libraries.

A book obviously has less cash value-per-ounce than a Blackberry to a fleeing looter, but even so....

Food for thought.
Books only seem to be stolen by those who want to have them to own . They have very little value as stolen goods.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Tue Sep 20, 2011 4:08 pm

I know Libraries are not bookshops and not everyone who uses a library will go to a book shop . But it must be of some concern that over 500 bookshops have closed in the United Kingdom since 2000 and already this year in Australia with the collapse of Angus and Robertson several bookstores have closed leaving many areas without bookstores .

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Lee Van Queef on Tue Sep 20, 2011 6:56 pm

I buy all my books second hand off of Amazon. I imagine most people do the same these days?

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Wed Sep 21, 2011 12:09 am

TickleCockBridge wrote:I buy all my books second hand off of Amazon. I imagine most people do the same these days?
A second habnd book has to have been sold new previously,

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Lee Van Queef on Sat Sep 24, 2011 8:03 pm

Doc Watson wrote:
TickleCockBridge wrote:I buy all my books second hand off of Amazon. I imagine most people do the same these days?
A second habnd book has to have been sold new previously,

Quite right. The last book I purchased was printed in 1992. So yeah, someone sold it new 19 years ago.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Fri Oct 14, 2011 6:46 am

High court bid to halt library closures fails

Judge rules against campaigners' claim that plans to slash London borough's library services were unlawful

Alison Flood
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 13 October 2011 12.14 BST


A reader at Kensal Rise library, one of the branches set to close. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

A high court challenge to one local authority's plans to slash its library services has failed, with worrying implications for the other campaigns to save libraries across the UK.

Residents in the London borough of Brent have been fighting to save six libraries earmarked for closure by the council. Six of Brent's 12 libraries are under threat: Kensal Rise library, which was opened by Mark Twain in 1900, Barham Park, Cricklewood, Neasden, Preston, and Tokyngton.

Campaigners raised £30,000 to mount their legal challenge to the closures through a series of events with high-profile figures including Alan Bennett, Jacqueline Wilson and Zadie Smith, gathering 10,000 signatures opposing the council's plans. Brent SOS Libraries argued that the decision to close the libraries was "flawed", saying that Brent Council had "closed its mind to alternatives to closure, did not assess community needs or the impact of closure properly, made significant mistakes about the facts, misunderstood its legal duty to provide a library service and acted unfairly".

Their High Court challenge asked the judge to declare that closing the "treasured" libraries was "fundamentally flawed and unlawful", accusing the council of failing to comply with its statutory duties to provide a "comprehensive and efficient library service", according to the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act. But today Mr Justice Ouseley rejected their arguments.

The decision is bad news for library campaigners across the country, who are battling the closures of hundreds of libraries around the UK. Campaigners in Somerset and Gloucestershire, awaiting the results of another judicial review, will be particularly disappointed.

Brent residents vowed to pursue an appeal against the decision. "The local campaign will renew its efforts to expose the senselessness of Brent's decision," said the campaign's solicitor John Halford of Bindmans. "It cannot be right to decimate the library service of an inner London borough whose children are desperate to read and study but whose parents cannot afford books nor the transport costs of regular access to distant libraries. Nor is Brent right to say the threatened libraries are unnecessary to meet local needs. The passion and commitment of the community campaign to keep them open shows that is nonsense."

The former children's laureate Jacqueline Wilson, who spoke at an event to raise money for the campaign earlier this year, said she was "desperately disappointed" at the news. "I practically lived in the library when I was a little girl," she said, explaining that she "only had about ten books as a child".

"Let us hope an appeal will work," she added. "One has to carry on and fight as well as one can [but] it seems so dreadful."

The leader of Brent council, councillor Ann John, said she was "pleased that the judge, having carefully considered all the complaints, has found in the council's favour on each and every one… It means we can push ahead with our exciting plans to improve Brent's library service and offer a 21st-century service for the benefit of all our residents," said John. "This has been a very unsettling time for libraries staff and I would like to pay tribute to them for being so professional and hard-working in continuing to deliver a first-rate service to Brent library users, in spite of these difficulties."

The council's new library service of six libraries will see each open for seven days a week, with "vastly improved" books and IT services, it said. The plans will save £1m a year, according to the council, with £185,000 of that being "immediately reinvested" in improving stock and services in its existing libraries.

Speaking for the campaigners, resident Margaret Bailey expressed her disappointment and her determination to appeal. "We believe that there are important points of principle at stake that an appeal court will decide differently. Our campaign will redouble its efforts to expose the senselessness of Brent Council's decision to close half of its libraries," she said. "Although this seems an unequal struggle between Brent Council, with its extensive resources, and the people of Brent, who have waged the largest campaign ever seen in the 45-year history of the borough, we will be redoubling our efforts to prevent six libraries being closed for ever."

She also called on secretary of state for culture Jeremy Hunt, and libraries minister Ed Vaizey, to intervene and investigate the matter.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.


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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:36 am

I see libraries as vital information centres. In my town the library is not only for borrowing , but also acts as a community meeting place and information centre . Many organizations are based there.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Thu Oct 20, 2011 8:02 pm

Brent library closures: judge fast-tracks appeal

Appeal granted against decision – opposed by campaigners at Kensal Rise and Preston Road – to close six London libraries

Caroline Davies
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 19 October 2011 12.29 BST


Campaigners to save Kensal Rise library mount a round-the-clock vigil. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian

A judge has fast-tracked an urgent hearing of an appeal against Brent council's closure of six libraries.

Lord Justice Elias granted an appeal against a ruling made last week in the high court that Brent council's decision was lawful. He ordered that attempts should be made for it to be heard before the court of appeal on two days early next month.

Brent council has agreed, in the meantime, to take no irrevocable steps to prevent the libraries reopening in the event of the appeal being won.

Campaigners have mounted vigils outside two of the threatened libraries, Preston Road, which has already been boarded up by the council, and Kensal Rise, to ensure they are not emptied of books or computers while the legal dispute continues.

Last week a high court judge rejected claims that the decision to close the "treasured" libraries in Brent, north-west London, was "fundamentally flawed and unlawful".

Residents fighting the closures are being backed by celebrities including the author Philip Pullman, playwright Alan Bennett, singer Nick Cave and the bands Depeche Mode, the Pet Shop Boys and Goldfrapp.

The landmark case is being watched by other campaign groups around the country who also have libraries threatened with closure by councils seeking to make budget cuts.

The six facing closure by Brent council are in Kensal Rise, Barham Park, Preston Road, Neasden, Cricklewood and Tokyngton.

Campaigners have complained about the "speed and ruthlessness" of the closures and warn of "serious social consequences" if the decision is not reversed. Brent council has said the decision was not a "kneejerk" one to save money, but one taken based on visitor numbers and the state of the library buildings.

The council announced plans to shut half of its libraries in April. After last week's ruling, the council said the premises were being "made secure". Kensal Rise library was been boarded up after 150 protesters gathered after the ruling. They claimed builders were reluctant to cross the protest line.

Campaigners said they were shocked at how swiftly the council had moved before the protesters had had a chance to launch an appeal.

At Wednesday's hearing Dinah Rose QC, for the campaigners, expressed "surprise" at the council's actions saying officials knew of the intention to appeal. It had forced the campaigners, who do not have legal aid, into the "intolerable" position of having to come back to court to stop irrevocable steps being taken to close the libraries before the appeal, she said.

As part of the interim agreement, the council has agreed not to board-up Kensal Rise library, on condition campaigners cover the costs of providing security for the site pending the appeal.

After the hearing John Halford, a solicitor representing the campaigners, told the Guardian: "People are very happy that the court of appeal is taking it so seriously. They now have a real fighting chance. They think the court of appeal will take a different view of matters than the high court did on this very important issue."

He said: "Essentially Brent has agreed to put everything on hold for now pending the appeal. They have also agreed, in particular, not to board-up Kensal Rise library, which people felt very strongly about. That's the purpose of the vigil, to prevent that from happening."

Brent council had asked for the building to be made secure to ensure "nothing goes missing from it", he said, adding: "Though they are the ones that are going to take anything, I suppose."

The campaign group, Brent SOS Libraries, was prepared to meet the cost of a security guard rather than see it boarded. The building was listed and they didn't want to see it damaged by "things being screwed into walls", he said. "But the more significant reason is that the library not being boarded up is highly symbolic. Not only for Kensal Rise campaigners, but campaigners in general.

"They feel very strongly that Brent has got away with far too much already in the immediate aftermath of the high court ruling and that things should go no further. And that their library should remain there, ready to be reopened if their case succeeds. That's why they have been willing to put up the money to make sure that doesn't happen."

He said campaigners were very grateful to the court for acting so swiftly. "Normally it takes months to get the court of appeal to get to the stage it's taken this court of appeal to get to in 24 hours. And the campaigners would like to articulate their appreciation to the court for dealing with it so rapidly, so that their appeal doesn't become academic because of what Brent has done in the meantime."

It was hoped the appeal would be heard either the week beginning 7 November or the following week.

During the hearing it was argued that, because campaigners had been forced to court to prevent Brent council boarding the buildings or removing items, the council should be made the pay the campaigners' legal costs.

Lord Justice Elias refused the application after Elisabeth Laing QC, for Brent, argued that the council had been entitled to act as it did as before it was first indicated on Tuesday that permission to appeal was being granted.

Laing said: "For three months the council has been struggling along trying to maintain services in these six libraries."

Brent council says the closures will help fund improvements to its remaining library service and contribute towards the £104m of savings it needs to make.

A "library outside a library" has been set up at Kensal Rise in defiance of the closure plans, using books donated by residents. Pullman is expected to join protesters at the weekend.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.


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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Mon Oct 24, 2011 8:01 pm

Children's authors join campaigners in fight to save UK's libraries

Philip Pullman and Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson to attend conference after Brent residents held vigils over library closures

Alison Flood
The Guardian, Saturday 22 October 2011


Campaigners held a vigil outside Kensal Rise library, which is threatened with closure, to prevent it from being boarded up. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Campaigners including author Philip Pullman and children's laureate Julia Donaldson are gathering in London to step up their fight for the UK's threatened public libraries.

In a week which has seen residents in Brent holding 24-hour vigils to prevent their local libraries from being boarded up by the council, about 80 campaigners from around the country will meet to share tactics and information on Saturday about how best to keep the UK's libraries open.

Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy who will close the conference, said: "One of the things which bothers me most of all is the effect on children if libraries are closed. There was a study recently, which I will quote in my speech, showing British children read for enjoyment far less than children in Kazakhstan or Albania. Another study, quite different and separate, demonstrated that children in the UK were far less happy than any other country. I think these two are probably connected.

"We must be careful what we do to our children. We must look after them better than we are doing, and that includes preserving libraries."

Librarian organisation CILIP estimates that 600 of England's libraries are under threat of closure but Laura Swaffield, chair of the conference's organiser, the Library Campaign, predicted: "If you think this year's bad then next year will be worse. This is just the phoney war."

Another reason for holding the conference now "is that it has become finally clear that the government is being utterly useless," she added. "It won't use its legal powers to intervene, even in the most extreme circumstances."

Gruffalo author Donaldson, who is touring UK libraries, said: "In times of economic downturn, it's extremely important to have a library as a community centre, as well as a place to borrow books."

The conference will also look at the privatisation of libraries and councils handing libraries over to volunteers. "If they really think people are able or willing to volunteer to run library services they are barking mad," said Swaffield.

The conference is also looking at ways to use social media to harness support, as well as the potential for campaigners to mount legal challenges to closures.

Brent campaigners were this week given leave to appeal against a high court judge's decision that the council's plans to close six of the district's 12 libraries was not, as the campaigners said, "fundamentally flawed and unlawful".

"It gives us a little breathing space," said resident Margaret Bailey, who led a 24-hour sit-in of volunteers outside Kensal Rise library to prevent the council boarding it up. Residents are now running a pop-up library outside the building until the appeal next month.

Gloucestershire and Somerset library defenders, meanwhile, are awaiting the results of a judicial review into plans to close 21 libraries.

Carnegie-shortlisted children's author Alan Gibbons, who has spearheaded the libraries campaign since 2009, said that Brent, Gloucestershire and Somerset were at the sharp end of the crisis. "The UK is languishing in 25th place in international reading rankings. This is no time to break up a vital service in the promotion of literacy and hand it over to volunteers."

In Bolton, where five out of the town's 15 libraries are set to close, Ian McHugh, secretary of the Save Bolton Libraries Campaign, said campaigners would be seeking intervention from the government to ensure the council is fulfilling its statutory duties to provide a "comprehensive and efficient library service" under the 1964 Public Libraries & Museums Act. In Camden, where the council wants to close one library and have three others run by volunteers, Alan Templeton from the Camden Public Libraries Users Group said residents would be taking their case to the Local Government Ombudsman

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said the closure of a library did not "of itself" signal an automatic breach of the 1964 act.

"Local authorities need to decide for themselves what 'comprehensive and efficient' means in their specific local circumstances. We continue to monitor and assess proposals being made about changes to library services across England and we take very seriously compliance by local authorities with their statutory duty," he said. "If a local authority is unable to demonstrate to DCMS that they will continue to discharge their statutory duties the secretary of state may intervene but this kind of action will be a measure of last resort."

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.


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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Sat Oct 29, 2011 12:27 pm

Thousands lobby culture secretary over library closures

Residents of the London borough of Brent have petitioned Jeremy Hunt to intervene over the council's closure of half of its libraries

Alison Flood
guardian.co.uk, Friday 28 October 2011 13.49 BST


Brent library users lobby the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in central London

Brent residents have handed a petition signed by thousands to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, demanding that secretary of state Jeremy Hunt intervene to reverse the closure of six of the London borough's libraries.

The 12,000 signatures, accompanied by hundreds of letters from primary school children, appealed to Hunt to hold an inquiry over Brent council's decision to close half of its libraries, replacing them with a single, £3m library by Wembley stadium. The residents say that although Hunt met Brent council in June, he has yet to let them present their case.

The Brent campaigners, who have been holding 24-hour vigils to protect their libraries, were devastated two weeks ago when they lost their judicial appeal to prevent closure of the libraries, including the branch in Kensal Rise opened by Mark Twain 100 years ago. The council moved quickly once the campaigners' arguments – that closing the "treasured" libraries was "fundamentally flawed and unlawful" – were rejected by the judge, bringing in workmen to board over branches and remove books and equipment. Once the campaigners realised what was happening, they mounted a permanent vigil outside Kensal Rise and protested at Preston library. Today, the "Brent Council wall of shame" outside Preston library is covered in angry messages railing against the council, while residents are running a pop-up library outside the Kensal Rise branch.

Supported by prominent figures including Alan Bennett, Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Wilson, Nick Cave, Depeche Mode, Goldfrapp and the Pet Shop Boys, the campaigners were given permission last week to appeal against the High Court judge's findings, with the High Court ruling that the council could not take further "irrevocable" steps pending the appeal, which is expected to be heard next month.

"With thousands of children roaming the streets during half term, there has been a total absence of alternatives. It is clear that the so-called improved library service is neither comprehensive nor efficient," say the residents, alluding to the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act requiring councils to provide a "comprehensive and efficient" library service. "Hundreds of letters and thousands of petitioners continue to call for secretary of state Jeremy Hunt to carry out a public inquiry into Brent's obligations to provide a 'comprehensive and efficient' library service for people who 'live, work or study' in the borough," they added.

Speaking on Thursday at a select committee evidence session where he was questioned on the UK's library closures, Hunt told committee members that "we take our responsibility under [the 1964] act very, very seriously".

"There are 151 library authorities, and around 140 of them are managing to modernise and deal with difficult cuts without having to have large library closure programmes," he said. "What we have to protect is not library buildings but library services. It is very important we don't stand in the way of sensible modernisation, but make sure the local authority is doing everything it can to maintain good library services."

Adding that the department was "monitoring" the situation "very closely the whole time", he stressed that "it's not about the number of buildings being closed, it's about the availability of these services".

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.


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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Sat Oct 29, 2011 12:34 pm

^

I don't anticipate any positive response from Jeremy Cunt to this petition. It's obviously in the interest of this government to make sure people remain thick.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Thu Nov 03, 2011 2:09 pm

Philip Pullman declares war against 'stupidity' of library closures

Author backs library campaigners and blasts Brent council for saying that closing half of its libraries would help it fulfil 'exciting plans to improve libraries'

Alison Flood
guardian.co.uk, Monday 24 October 2011 13.25 BST


Books battle cry ... Philip Pullman voiced support for library campaigners at their national conference. Photograph: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

Philip Pullman has lambasted Brent council for its comment that closing half of its libraries would help it fulfil "exciting plans to improve libraries", describing the statement as a "masterpiece" which "ought to be quoted in every anthology of political bullshit from here to eternity".

"All the time, you see, the council had been longing to improve the library service, and the only thing standing in the way was – the libraries," said the His Dark Materials author, speaking at the national conference of library campaigners on Saturday, where over 80 people from around the country gathered to share tactics on how to save the UK's beleaguered libraries. With 600 of England's libraries threatened with closure, Pullman called the campaigners' battle a "war against stupidity".

Citing campaigns to save libraries in Oxfordshire as well as in Brent, Pullman said "the war we're fighting is not against this party or that one, this flag or another flag, our parents or our MP or anyone else in particular: it's against stupidity. And stupidity is not to be underestimated. The poet Schiller, whose great words on the subject of Joy were set in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, knew what a huge part stupidity plays in human affairs: 'Against stupidity,' he said, 'the gods themselves struggle in vain.'"

Having worked himself as a library assistant in Charing Cross Road library in the early 70s, Pullman said that "if you really want complete freedom of choice, complete openness of information, where nobody is spying on you, no one is selling your presence to advertisers, the only place to find it is a library, where they keep books."

He highlighted the Summer Reading Challenge, run by the Reading Agency, which encourages children to read six books over the summer holidays. This year a record 780,000 children took part. "Only the libraries could provide the materials and the staff to make this possible. And nothing could be more important, if we have the well-being of our children at heart," said Pullman.

After listening in on sessions at the conference – which covered everything from legal challenges to library closures to using volunteers to keep libraries open – Pullman said he "salute[d] everyone who's come here today, everyone who's protesting and demonstrating to save this library or that one, everyone who's devising a way of preserving one of the greatest and the best gifts any society has ever given its seekers after truth, its children, its old people, everyone who is looking for help better to enjoy life or better to endure it".

"There's nothing more valuable in the war against stupidity than the public library. These are hard times, but you are each guarding a beacon," said the author. "The book is second only to the wheel as the best piece of technology human beings have ever invented. A book symbolises the whole intellectual history of mankind; it's the greatest weapon ever devised in the war against stupidity. Beware of anyone who tries to make books harder to get at. And that is exactly what these closures are going to do – oh, not intentionally, except in a few cases; very few people are stupid intentionally; but that will be the effect. Books will be harder to get at. Stupidity will gain a little ground."

The conference's organisers, The Library Campaign and Voices for the Library, said that one demand from the day was to take the fight to save libraries to a national level, with suggestions including a march on Downing Street. Pullman said that "if it was at all possible", he would join them.

"'We already share the same determination," said The Library Campaign chair Laura Swaffield. "If councils insist on fighting us instead of working with us, we will fight back. If central government goes on shirking its duty to support libraries, we will keep on at them. We won't give up. We can't."


Last edited by eddie on Thu Nov 03, 2011 2:41 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Thu Nov 03, 2011 2:15 pm

UK's biggest music and drama lending library faces closure in Wakefield

The threat to the library in Wakefield, which has 500,000 scores and 90,000 scripts, sparks outcry from arts organisations

Martin Wainwright
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 2 November 2011 10.50 GMT


Choirs and dramatic societies all over the country depend on the Wakefield library, campaigners say. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

The biggest music and drama lending library in the UK faces closure because of government spending cuts, prompting a wave of protest from arts organisations.

Expert librarians whose skill has been treasured for decades by choirs, dramatic societies and researchers face the loss of a centralised system in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, which makes loans from an unrivalled lending collection of 500,000 music scores and 90,000 playscripts.

"It is extraordinary what they can produce. I've had someone on the phone today who had tried all over the place for an obscure piece of music by Parry and they came up with the goods," said Robin Osterley, chief executive of Making Music, the national federation of music societies. "The rule among choirs all over the country is try your local library first, then Wakefield. It will be devastating if that ceases to be the case."

The library's breadth and richness of material stems from almost a century of keen collecting by the old West Riding county council, culminating in the 30-year service of its legendary last chief education officer, Sir Alec Clegg. Famous for promoting the "education of the spirit" alongside high academic results, he promoted the arts including music and drama and made sure that they were well-resourced.

The library survived the council's abolition in the 1974 local government reforms and has since been run by a consortium of 12 Yorkshire councils. Running costs have been relatively modest – the largest of the councils, Leeds, pays £20,000 a year – but the archive's home in Wakefield has structural problems and no alternative has been found.

Other services that share the space are moving to a new library but the sheer size of the music and drama collection means it cannot join them. Kate Holliday, the manager of the Yorkshire Libraries and Information Council, which runs the service, said: "It takes up 600 square metres and we just haven't got the room. If someone could come up with a large and affordable building for us, no one would be happier than we would be."

The council has been accused by library users, however, of seeing closure or dispersal of the collection as another of the economies that all local authorities are having to make. The 12 councils' representatives meet on Thursday but circulated news of the threat only 10 days ago, on 20 October, leaving just a fortnight for protests and consultation.

"We have used what time we've had well, though," said Harry Witham, a former regional secretary of Making Music who sings with St Peter's Choir in Leeds. "I know they have already heard from 600 choirs, let alone all the individuals and the users who borrow the playscripts. They have everything in there from early English music to the late 20th century, not to mention hundreds of copies of partworks for singers. We can't let that go."

The council says that use has also declined, reducing income to the point where covering the shortfall is straining local authorities' resources and good will. But the choirs and dramatic societies argue that an increase in loan fees two years ago has been working through the system, and rises in their own subscriptions will restore loan demand.

The National Operatic and Dramatic Association (Noda) has joined in protests about the threat to the loan of playscripts from pre-Shakespeare to post-Beckett. Holliday said: "We do understand the concerns, both about possible closure or a splitting-up of the collection so that inquirers would not know which council to approach. We'll be looking at all the possibilities on Thursday and the many representations which have come in."

Reg Vinnicombe, the north-east regional councillor for Noda, said: "You can't work out demand from just one year. Dramatic societies may not have borrowed scripts in the last six months but the pattern changes all the time. You can't just take a snapshot. Our greatest concern is that the library stays in one place and isn't fragmented."

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Thu Nov 03, 2011 11:14 pm

a community which loses a library is starting to die.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Thu Nov 03, 2011 11:33 pm

Doc Watson wrote:a community which loses a library is starting to die.

You've changed your tune.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  Doc Watson on Fri Nov 04, 2011 9:48 am

eddie wrote:
Doc Watson wrote:a community which loses a library is starting to die.

You've changed your tune.
Not at all I have always been big on Libraries I hauted Libraries from the time I could read. As a teacher whenever I was in a school library I would tidy it up and put the books in the correct place and classification .
What I was saying very early was that libraries need to move with the times and become more than just places to borrow books.
In Australia some I am associated with have done this . You can now use computers there , borrow music Dvds and computer software from them , plus they act as meeting places for local oreganizations.
Originally in Australia in the 19th century many towns had Mechanics Intstutes even if they were small and these doubled up as the local library.
Sadly many closed during the 20th century.

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Fri Nov 11, 2011 10:14 am

Occupy London's library provides shelf help

The improvised book-lending facility at the St Paul's protest has held a prominent position at the demonstration from the start. Richard Lea checks it out

Richard Lea
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 9 November 2011 11.06 GMT


Occupy London library: 'Very open'. Photograph: Richard Lea

"Books open up a different kind of space for discussion, a different atmosphere." The Occupy London librarian, Nathan Cravens, is in reflective mood. The rain has stopped drumming on the tents outside St Paul's Cathedral for a while, and passers-by pause to browse the table of books, chat for a moment and move on. "It seems that the books themselves attract people to have discussions on the issues and the solutions," he adds.

It's only a table and a couple of bookshelves, set up for the moment opposite the Starbucks that protesters have attracted such criticism for using, but StarBooks sees a steady flow of books being borrowed, books being dropped off. There's a constant trickle of donations as well. A man in a smart jacket asks if he can bring along a few books later on. A couple of gentlemen with neatly-trimmed beards, who say they have "access to a lot of books that would normally be given to charity", but would rather not give their names, take a more direct approach, unloading a stack of donations large enough to temporarily extend the library's collection to a second table.

Will Hutton's The State We're In is shelved alongside Subcomandante Marcos's Zapatista Stories, Dean Koontz's The Husband piled on top of Brian Friel's Translations. Simon Sebag Montefiore's novel Sashenka is cheek by jowl with John Baylis and Steve Smith's The Globalization of World Politics, while David Craig's Squandered sits under a shiny hardback of Cory Doctorow's young adult thriller Little Brother. Dog-eared paperbacks are shelved alongside political pamphlets, economics textbooks piled on top of secondhand science fiction, slim volumes of poetry slipped between hardback history.

"The ones that are political or economic or historical go very quickly, it's the novels that are left," says Cravens, suggesting that maybe fiction doesn't match up to the present situation. "We'd like to see real things, and read about real things and apply real things."

The library – or at least a table of books – has been a feature of the camp right from the very beginning. A young woman involved with the site's welfare committee who will only give the name "Jenny", says that it was "one of the first things on the [action] boards – let's start up a library". The library, in conjunction with the tent university, is a core part of what the camp is trying to achieve, she continues. "As well as finding a space for dialogue, we're looking for a space to co-educate ourselves," she says. "It ties in with what we're trying to do in terms of 'Be the change you want to see'. University is £9,000 a year and councils are being closed right now – these are real-world concerns. So we're breaking down the barriers, mostly financial barriers, which have been put around education and access to books."

According to Carver the library isn't just fulfilling a practical need, it's also demonstrating a different model of interaction, a model based on freedom and sharing, rather than "charging over the amount and creating slaves out of everyone".

"Once the book's made – that does have cost – but once it's exchanged again, then it really doesn't have a cost, that's an artificial rent, so this removes all the rents by just giving and taking," he says.

There are no membership cards, or due dates or fines at StarBooks, which Carver says has a "very open policy" on lending. "If you like it you can keep it, but you have to really like it. If you want to share the knowledge then pass it along."

He's been staying at the camp for about two weeks now, sleeping in a brown tent pitched right next to the library with a rainbow sombrero and a couple of hearts tied to the door. "If I weren't here, if this wasn't happening," he gestures at the rows of tents behind him, the assembly taking place on the steps of St Paul's, "I'd be on a piece of waste land in west London, writing notes on how we could do this theoretically, so it's good to see this applied in practice."

"The City of London want us to stay for two months, I think, but we want to stay until everything's free – or at least that's my position," he says. "I'll be staying for as long as it takes."

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:32 pm

Occupy libraries around the world - in pictures

As Occupy campaigners set up tent cities around the world, informal libraries have sprung up as part of the protests. Here we gather some of the best photographs posted to the Occupy libraries group on Flickr, to show how protesters are getting shelf help


Washington DC

The poetic side of the Occupy movement? … a crate of books at McPherson Square

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

Post  eddie on Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:41 pm


Vancouver

The American empire comes to Canada … the People's Library in Vancouver

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Re: Scandalous closure of public libraries

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