Tuesday 31 July 2012

British libraries disappearing fast

It may not be yet quite in the realms of Fahrenheit 451, in the sense of mass book burnings etc, but we're certainly running out of libraries. The Independent has an article at www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/revealed-the-full-cost-of-the-cull-of-public-libraries-7988028.html describing how over 150 libraries in the UK have either been closed or placed into the hands of volunteers over the last 2 years. There are 2100 fewer librarian posts and 150,000 less opening hours. The article appears to deal with England, Wales and Northern Ireland only, so some additional Scottish context would be interesting if anyone has it. From the article:

The Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP) recently estimated that 2,159 posts in the library service would be lost in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from total of 20,924 staff, a reduction of more than 10 per cent, and said 3,000 opening hours were being cut a week. It forecast deeper cuts in 2013.

If you're planning on dropping off any old books to a local charity shop, it might be worth holding onto them for a few more months - you may very well end up being the town library.

(With thanks to @SueWilkes)


Check out my Scotland's Greatest Story research service www.ScotlandsGreatestStory.co.uk
New book: It's Perthshire 1866 - there's been a murder... www.thehistorypress.co.uk/products/The-Mount-Stewart-Murder.aspx (from June 12th 2012)


  1. Just came across this old post of your, Chris. I have a big problem with our libraries that involves online resources. Although access to physical items (e.g. books) usually require you to call in, this should not be the case with digital resources. However, restrictive licensing T&Cs for many of the databases either mean that only members of that particular branch can access them, or even that online access can only done from their premises (e.g. BNA) -- hardly "online" at all, really. I have a UK library card, but since each library can pick-and-choose what resources it hosts, and the associated T&Cs will exclude most other card holders, then it makes a joke of having libraries at all -- especially if you can't simply catch a bus or train to the ones hosting the data you need. It all seems daft because it's clearly possible to make National access work, and possible even make a small profit given that some databases are virtually impossible to access on a personal basis. Arrgghh!

  2. I suspect the issue lies with the fact that libraries are currently funded by local authorities, and not from a national source. I also wonder if the licensing terms are dictated by local authorities, or simply adhered to by them when designing and implementing such schemes? Genuinely don't know! A few years ago I did have access to a licensed digital collection through an English county library site, despite living in Scotland - I think I may have slipped through when someone wasn't looking!

  3. Thanks for the reply Chris. I actually wrote some of my experiences up at http://parallax-viewpoint.blogspot.com/2017/01/erudite-erasure.html, and my conclusion was pretty much the same as yours. It just seems to me that libraries are trying to survive in the digital world, but their strategy for online resources is resting heavily on old-world organisation (no central representation, no consistent IDs, your "library" is the physical one near to you, etc), and that is hampering their efforts. Needs a rethink IMHO.