Monday, 13 December 2010

Cambridgeshire County Council Cuts - What's your view?

On Thursday, December 9, the County Council released some preliminary information of the spending cuts it is currently planning. The surprising thing was that only on Tuesday, at Full Council, the administration was refusing to release details of the cuts.

A few days earlier the Conservative administration briefed County Councillors (including Labour and Liberal Democrat Councillors) regarding the scope of the cuts. Those attending this briefing were sworn to secrecy regarding the changes - they are still unable to discuss specific areas of the cuts that have not yet been leaked by the administration into the public domain.

The BBC News covered the story here (with an interview with John Reynolds the cabinet member responsible).

One of the features of the current review is that the County Council is asking residents across Cambridgeshire to prioritise the services the County offers (i.e. say which areas should be cut and which should not). 

The survey is available here. One of the options given on the survey is to close 19 libraries across Cambridgeshire, which we believe would almost certainly include some in the city. While we have reservations about the use of such a survey, which will effectively be used by the County Council to "justify" the areas they plan to cut, we would urge those who feel strongly about their library provision to complete the survey and make their views known. If you think closing libraries in the county is a bad idea, let them know!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Campaign for the Book: Open letter to Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey

Children's author and Campaign for the Book founder Alan Gibbons has written an open letter to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in defence of local library provision across the country. While we wait to hear the full proposals for the future of Cambridgeshire's library service, we hope Cambridgeshire County Council will take note of the points his letter raises:

Open letter to Jeremy Hunt MP and Ed Vaizey MP, Ministers at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Dear Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey

Library users and staff across the country are increasingly concerned at the implications of the Comprehensive Spending Review. Over 250 library closures have been announced. Some, for example those in Oxfordshire and Lewisham, are in areas involved in the pilot of the Future Libraries Programme which promised: “A strong library service, based around the needs of local people, can play a key role in our ambitions to build the Big Society by providing safe and inclusive spaces for people to read, learn and access a range of community services.”

When the then Secretary of State Andy Burnham hesitated over halting Wirral’s attempted closure of half its libraries just over a year ago, Ed Vaizey said: "If Andy Burnham is not prepared to intervene when library provision is slashed in a local authority such as the Wirral, it is clear that he is ignoring his responsibilities as secretary of state.” Andy Burnham did, of course, change his mind under pressure after several months.

Now cuts approaching the scale of those in the Wirral are being repeated across the country, not only in Oxfordshire and Lewisham, but in Buckinghamshire, Nottinghamshire, Leeds, Brent, Gloucestershire and many, many more. Ed Vaizey has written to councils reminding them of their duty under the 1964 Libraries and Museums Act to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ service.
It is becoming commonplace for councils to close up to half their library branch networks. It would be inconsistent if the DCMS did not superintend councils acting as unjustifiably as Wirral, preventing the slashing of services.

We call on the DCMS not to ignore its responsibilities. We ask you to act in the spirit of the 1964 Act and prevent councils inflicting cuts which amount to cultural vandalism.

Yours sincerely,
Alan Gibbons

Organiser, the Campaign for the Book

The following authors, illustrators, poets, publishers, librarians, teachers, journalists, agents, screenwriters, translators, film producers and general readers have signed the Campaign for the Book petition:

Philip Pullman
Kate Mosse
Michael Holroyd
Peter Dickinson OBE
Barry Cryer, comedian and writer
Robin McKinlay
Carol Ann Duffy
Bonnie Greer
Gillian Slovo
Maureen Freely
Kathy Lette (“Closing our libraries will make us a nation of numbskulls – the Illiterati.” Kathy Lette.)
Julia Donaldson
Frank Cottrell-Boyce
Michael Rosen
Barrie Cunningham OBE
Jackie Kay
Kwei Armah
Malorie Blackman
Beverley Naidoo
Darren Shan
Geraldine McCaughrean
Joan Bakewell
Terry Jones
Lisa Appignanesi, President English PEN
Susan Barry and Marlene Johnson, Hachette Children’s Books
Danuta Kean, Deputy Director, Creative Enterprise Centre, School of Arts, Brunel University
Mark Le Fanu, Society of Authors
Professor Stuart Hall
Simon Brett
Howard Schuman
Anne Chisholm, Chair, Royal Society of Literature
Tricia Adams, Director, School Library Association
Biddy Fisher, Cilip President
Hannah Plom, Hon Secretary, Cilip YLG
Rebecca Hemming, Chair, Cilip SLG
Duncan Wright, School Librarian of the Year, 2010
Moris Farhi MBE
Leonie Flynn
Ruth Goldsmith
Gillian Cross
Matt Whyman
Joanna Briscoe
Caroline Rance
Christine Athey
Melanie Worsfold
Anne Anderson
Mavis Cheek
Zoe Allinson
Dr Jessie Hey
Pie Corbett
Melvin Burgess
Kevin Crossley-Holland
Nicola Morgan
Tim Bowler
Adele Geras
Christine Blower, General Secretary, National Union of Teachers
Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary, NUT
Robert Swindells
Brenda Swindells
Jamila Gavin
Tony Bradman
David Nicholls
James Carter
Celia Rees
Susan Shaper, Cilip’s SLG committee
Anne Cassidy
Nick Arnold
Meg Rosoff
Adele Geras
Catherine Johnson
Chrissie Gittins
Philip Ardagh
Sridhar Gowda
Geraldin Rose.
Jeremy Strong
Korky Paul
Elizabeth Kay
Tommy Donbavand
Sue Eves
Penny Dolan
Sally Nicholls
Linda Newbery
M G Harris
David Bedford
Rhiannon Lassiter
Bali Rai
Gwen Grant
Kathryn Evans
Julie Wilkie
Emma Slack
Jane Ray
Chris Priestley
Anne Rooney
Lindsey Fraser
Celia Rees
Anna Perera
Sally Prue
Lynn Breeze
Bernard Ashley
Steve Weatherill
Helena Pielichaty
Julia Jarman
Berlie Doherty
Andrew Fusek Peters
Steve Skidmore
David Belbin
Saviour Pirotta
John Foster
Prue Goodwin
Kay Green, Earlyworks Press
Mary Hoffman
Alec Williams
Peter Cox, Litopia
Sue Barrow
Ian Bland
Vanessa Harbour, Editor, Write4Children
Sally Kincaid, Divisional Secretary, Wakefield and District NUT
John Illingworth, former president NUT
Barry Conway, Secretary, Bolton NUT
Ian Harris, Secretary Wirral NUT
Mick Wattam, Doncaster UCATT treasurer
Jim Board, Secretary, Doncaster Unison
Ian Leaver, Secretary NUT Leicester
Jenny Day, President NUT Leicester
Peter Flack, Assistant Secretary NUT Leicester
Andy Reeve, Secretary Leicestershire NUT
Bernard Harper, President, Leicester and District Trades Council
Caroline Horn, Director, Reading Zone
Nikki Gamble, Write Away
Michael Thorn, ACHUKA
Jane Hunt
Lynn Huggins-Cooper
Tony Mitton
- and many hundreds more

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Library Service Featured on BBC Politics Show

The BBC Politics Show recently did a feature on library services.

It is available until the 7th November 2010 here.

The library part of the show is about 32 minutes in.

(thanks to BBC iPlayer)

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Cambridge City Council passes motion supporting city's libraries

Members of Cambridge City Council have passed a motion to support the library network and seek assurances about the future of the city's libraries.

At last Thursday's full council meeting, councillors voted unanimously to pass the motion, which was put forward by Cllr Mike Pitt, ward member for King's Hedges and a member of FOAL.

The motion reads: "This council applauds the role the library network plays in Cambridge in social cohesion, educational development, life-long learning, facilities for households with no study space and in the wider well-being of city residents. The council notes the value of the whole service across Cambridgeshire.

"This council regrets that the County Council Cabinet has to date failed to rule out library closures, which would be irreversible, and requests that the Leader of this council writes to the Leader of the County Council to seek assurance that all current libraries in Cambridge will remain open."

Thursday, 7 October 2010

7th October - National Poetry Day 2010

The theme this year is Home. Libraries throughout Cambridgeshire have been putting up Poetry Washing Lines and inviting people to peg up their favourite poem or a poem that they have written. There's still time to go and peg up a poem in your local library or in Castle Court outside room B112.

Here are 3 poems for National Poetry Day.

Best wishes

Helen Taylor
Literature Development Officer

O western wind

O western wind, when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again!

Anon 14th century

To A Daughter Leaving Home

When I taught you at eight to ride a bicycle, loping along
beside you as you wobbled away on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved path of the park, I kept waiting
for the thud of your crash as I sprinted to catch up,
while you grew smaller, more breakable with distance,
pumping, pumping for your life, screaming with laughter,
the hair flapping behind you like a handkerchief waving

Linda Pastan

And Yet The Books

And yet the books will be there on the shelves, separate beings,
That appeared once, still wet
As shining chestnuts under a tree in autumn,
And, touched, coddled, began to live
In spite of fires on the horizon, castles blown up,
Tribes on the march, planets in motion.
"We are, " they said, even as their pages
Were being torn out, or a buzzing flame
Licked away their letters. So much more durable
Than we are, whose frail warmth
Cools down with memory, disperses, perishes.
I imagine the earth when I am no more:
Nothing happens, no loss, it's still a strange pageant,
Women's dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley.
Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born,
Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.

Czeslaw Milosz

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Noor Inayat Khan - Remembrance Day Talk @ Trinity College

John Marais (our Acting Chair) is helping arrange a talk at Trinity College timed for Remembrance Day.

The subject is Noor Inayat Khan, a woman of Indian descent, coming from a prominent Sufi Muslim family, who was brought up mostly in Paris. At the outbreak of war her family fled to England, where she joined the WAAF as a radio operator and was eventually asked by the Special Operations Executive if she would be an undercover agent with the resistance in Paris. She agreed, went and did valuable work (like arranging the escape of about 30 allied airmen who'd been shot down), but got caught by the Gestapo and executed in Dachau. She was awarded the George Cross posthumously (like Violette Szabo) but there is no proper memorial to her yet. Her biographer, Shrabani Basu, has been campaigning for that, and after a bit of parliamentary pressure led by Valerie Vaz MP, permission was granted, and a bust is to be made by the same sculptress who did one for Szabo, to be situated in Gordon Square where Noor lived for a while. About £60,000 is needed to pay for it all though, so the talk is in part for fund-raising for that - free admission but 'donations welcome'.

With a pig's head being dumped outside a Cambridge mosque recently, the story of a devout muslim who volunteered for almost certain death (life expectancy of underground radio operators - average 6 weeks) to defend democracy against the Nazis is well worth highlighting.

It'll be at 6.30pm, at the Winstanley Lecture Theatre (access via Whewell's Court, opposite Trinity Great Gate), November 11th. Please pass this on to anyone you think may be interested.

County Council Cabinet Report

On Tuesday the 28th September the Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet met (in public) to review the officers' report on the Library Service review. The meeting was attended by several members of the Friends of Arbury Library and John Marais (our acting Chair) presented a petition of well over 1,000 signatures supporting the continued operation of the Arbury Court Library.

The agenda item itself is available here.

After presenting the petition there was an opportunity for Cabinet members to ask John questions. Councillor Roy Pegram was the only Cabinet member to take advantage of this opportunity and the only question he asked was how close the nearest library to Arbury Court was - John answered honestly that the nearest library was Milton Road, approximately 1-2 miles away.

Cabinet then discussed the report itself. This discussion centred around three points; the scrutiny committee had recently reviewed the library service review and had come to the conclusion that the County Council Cabinet had specified the terms of reference way too narrowly and that certain things, like opening Coffee shops in Libraries, co-locating existing services in libraries, etc had not been considered. In the view of the scrutiny committee it was wrong to not consider all the possible revenue-raising options available prior to discussion of closures. This was broadly accepted by cabinet.

The second point was that the library assessment criteria penalised rural libraries and that this should be looked at.

The third and final point was raised by Councillor Tony Orgee and was "to review Cambridge Central Library’s role with a view to integration of Library services within Cambridge City". It was clear to those present in the public gallery that this was a not-too-carefully disguised code for "Why should libraries at the edge of Cambridge stay open now that the Central Library is open?". A decision point was raised and entered in the record of the meeting require officers to investigate this as a option.

Needless to say this was both a surprising and a very disappointing move.

After discussion by Cabinet it was resolved that;

i) Cabinet notes the implementation of savings in the Library Service to date.
ii) Officers will take the following actions which will include:

  • the production of detailed business cases on:
    • externalisation options
    • alternative service delivery approach
    • assessment of libraries for either possible closure or a library access point model.
  • A full appraisal and analysis of the outcomes of the user / community engagement process which ends on 30th September 2010.
  • A review of the Cambridge Central Library’s role with a view to integration of Library services within Cambridge City.
  • To a review of the Library Assessment Methodology to ensure it fairly reflected service accessibility in both rural and urban settings.
  • the presentation - based on this further analysis of an overall strategy for the future of the Library Service:
    • for adoption by Cabinet at its 25th January 2011 meeting,
    • confirmation by full Council in February 2011.
    • Implementation from April 2011 onwards, following further detailed public consultation.

In order to inform the next phase of the Library Service Review it was agreed to:

  • support Cambridgeshire’s participation in the shared services agreement with partner authorities in the East of England, as outlined in section 3.2 of the report.
  • To continue to pursue all externalisation options
  • To look at the potential to include essential critical elements of the cost of corporate overheads in any externalisation package.
  • The Library Service fitting in with the Coalition's drive for Localism and The Big Society with an emphasis on libraries being community hubs providing wider services.

This report followed the report to the 5th July Cabinet meeting, at which Members resolved to:

  • endorse the work underway on alternative options for governance, management and support
  • agree to officers urgently pursuing an alternative approach to service delivery based on self service technology and greater community involvement
  • agree to officers undertaking an urgent review of library provision in Cambridge City and the surrounding area
  • agree to the approach suggested for identifying libraries for closure, should this be required
  • agree to the implementation of proposals for savings on support for Library Access Points, especially in relation to stock provision
  • agree to the implementation of proposals for savings on the Mobile Service, based on a move to monthly stops
  • authorise officers to proceed with full public engagement about library services and consultation on the proposals above.

The report took into account the recent announcements from the Coalition Government on ‘Localism’ and ‘The Big Society’ with Cabinet confirming their support of the Government view that Libraries could and should be encouraged to become hubs of community activity and that officers should seek to develop that approach throughout the County. This was also seen as being relevant to the Cambridge Central Library with Members wishing to see its services widened and not restricted to providing specialist services. As a result, Members agreed an additional recommendation for officers to review the role of Cambridge Central Library’s role in relation to the rest of the library service in Cambridge City especially in the context of potential closures or conversion to library access points)

There was concern that the Library Assessment methodology which dated from 2002 required review as it appeared inconsistent, disadvantaged rural libraries and did not take into account the identification of rural areas with poor public transport access. An additional resolution was therefore agreed that the scoring system required to be reviewed.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Children’s author and Friends member awards young Space Hop readers

Youngsters who took part in a summer reading programme were given medals by an award-winning children’s author at Cambridge’s Arbury Court Library yesterday (September 30).

Thousands of children spent this summer getting stuck into books as part of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Space Hop reading programme, and a group of them turned up at Arbury Court Library yesterday to be rewarded for completing the challenge.

Youngsters who read at least six books over the summer were given certificates and medals, presented by children’s author Paul Shipton, who is also a member of Friends of Arbury Library (FOAL).

FOAL is currently campaigning to protect the branch while the county council undertakes its library service review, and last month, a 1,340-signature petition in support of the library was delivered to council officials.

Paul is no stranger to awards himself – one of his books, The Pig Who Saved The World, won the NestlĂ© Children’s Book Prize Bronze award in 2006. He also writes for younger readers under the pen name Paul Cooper.

Paul said: “It was fantastic to see so many enthusiastic young readers who had all completed the library's Space Hop summer reading challenge.

“An event like this really highlights the invaluable role played by our local library and its wonderful staff.

“Along with the many signers of the Support the Library petition, I certainly hope that, in this time of service reviews and potential cuts, the council will take into account the passionate support for local libraries from their communities.”

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Petition closed - 1,340 residents sign to save Arbury Court library

The petition to save Arbury Library has now closed, but not before a whopping 1,340 people put their names to the statement, letting the decision-makers know just how strongly the community feels about its branch.

The text of the petition reads: “We, the undersigned, call upon Cambridgeshire County Council to firmly reject any suggestion to close Arbury Court Library, or to replace the existing professional service with a reduced service run by volunteers. We believe the huge social cost to the community would far outweigh the small financial gain to be made.”

John Marais, Acting Chairman of FOAL, addressed Cambridgeshire County Council's Cabinet yesterday (September 28) to put the case for protecting the branch – which had 40,391 visitors last year.

His statement said: “The 1,340 signatures on our petition indicate the strength of feeling in Arbury, King’s Hedges and Chesterton and our determination to protect Arbury Court Library from closure or any serious reduction to its services.

“We are pleased that council officers and members have said several times that they have no desire to close any libraries, but we remain anxious because that option is still on the table. There would be outrage if such a thing were put forward as a serious proposal.”

FOAL was set up in response to the ongoing library service review, but its long-term aims are to support the branch and help ensure its continued development.

Tomorrow (September 30), local NestlĂ© Award-winning children’s author and FOAL member Paul Shipton will present awards to children who took part in a summer reading scheme at the branch – demonstrating just one of the important roles the library plays in the community.

Friends group forms to protect branch library

(From August 17, 2010)

A new users’ group has been formed to support Cambridge’s Arbury Court Library, in the wake of a review of library services in the county – and more than 600 people have signed a petition to save the vital community facility.

The Friends Of Arbury Library group was officially created last week by residents who are concerned about plans that could see the branch closed or its service reduced.

Cambridgeshire County Council has launched a review of its library service as it attempts to slash £2.2m from its budget, with officials refusing to rule out the closure of community libraries.

The Friends group is campaigning to protect the Arbury Court branch, which had 40,391 visitors last year and is a much-needed resource for residents in the north of the city, many of whom find it difficult to travel into the centre to use the Central Library.

A petition against the plans has already been signed by more than 600 people. Anyone wanting to add their name to the petition can sign a copy at the Arbury Court library, or sign online at

Although the Friends group has been formed in response to the library service review, its long-term aims are to support the branch and help ensure its continued development within the community. Anyone wishing to find out more or get involved can contact the group by sending an email to: thefriendsofarburylibrary at gmail dot com.