Press release issued by Friends of the Library of Birmingham on 18th October 2015:
COMMENT FROM THE FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY OF BIRMINGHAM ON THE RELOCATION OF THE BRASSHOUSE LANGUAGE CENTRE TO THE LIBRARY OF BIRMINGHAM
As the Cabinet meets to discuss the move of the Brasshouse Centre into the new Library, the Library campaign is concerned that the move is being used to mask even bigger cuts to come in 2016. A further cut of £3.1m will be made to the Library of Birmingham next year following cuts of £1.3m in 2015. Despite this, huge sums are to be borrowed and spent on this move, greater than the savings claimed to be needed from cuts to LoB. How can borrowing and spending huge sums on this move be justified?
The loss of the first floor to the Language Centre will entail a major loss of space from the library, and it is important to note that this will be a permanent loss, accelerating the move of LoB from a public library to a tenanted services building with a small and restricted library service tucked away in a corner. Significant amounts of study space are planned to be lost, and the relocation of services within the remaining space will make the library cramped and congested.
The restoration of the opening hours to a very limited self service facility within a small restricted area does not make up for the loss of over half the library staff who have been made redundant.
The consultation being undertaken by the Council on these changes does not set out clearly to the public the likely impact of a massive loss of space within the library – the consultation is not fit for purpose and should be re-run.
A spokesperson for the campaign said
“Anyone using the library knows that study space is already at a premium. In future people will spend more time competing for fewer desk spaces which will be concentrated into a smaller space within the library, making it more congested and less conducive to study.”
Press release issued by Friends of The Library of Birmingham (FoLoB) on 3rd February 2015
‘Make some noise Birmingham!’ Calls for support for Library of Birmingham
Calls for support for the Library of Birmingham have been made ahead of the Rally for Birmingham’s Public libraries to be held on Saturday 7th February 2015, National Libraries Day.
Vanley Burke, whose photographic archive resides at the LoB said ‘Your library needs you! You won’t value the Library until it’s gone.’
Benjamin Zephaniah has called for Birmingham to make some noise. ‘Make some noise Birmingham. We don’t want our ‘New’ beloved library to suffer death by a thousand cuts.‘
Hundreds of people are expected to gather outside the Library of Birmingham for the Rally to oppose the £1.5m proposed cuts to the new library. The cuts would result in library opening hours being reduced by 40% and over 100 library staff could lose their jobs.
The rally will hear from historian Prof Carl Chinn, photographer Vanley Burke, and crime writer Judith Cutler. Brian Lewis, Birmingham first Poet Laureate and Adrian Blackledge, the city’s current Poet Laureate will perform some poetry and they will be joined by Serena Arthur, Birmingham Young Poet Laureate, 2014-15.
There will be a hug of the library with people linking arms around the library to express their support for the LoB at 1.20pm. At the end of the rally the 6,000 strong petition calling for the library cuts to be reversed will be presented to Cabinet member Cllr Penny Holbrook on the steps of the Birmingham Council House.
The following messages of support for the Library have been received:
Prof Carl Chinn, Professor of Birmingham Community History, University of Birmingham:
Libraries are vital resources to any city that professes to value learning. The facilities and opportunities that they provide freely to all of its citizens should be valued and as an iconic centre of learning, the Library of Birmingham – along with our community libraries – should be open and accessible morning, noon and night.
Consequently I urge the people of Birmingham to support the Friends of the Library of Birmingham and to campaign vigorously against the proposed cuts in staff and opening hours.
Vanley Burke. Photographer and artist.
A world class city needs a world class Library.
Your library needs you.
You won’t value the Library until it’s gone.
A city that close it’s Library close the door on its future.
Judith Cutler, Birmingham based Crime Writer
Libraries are the bookshelves of the mind and soul.
Press release: Rebuttal to Sir Albert Bore’s call for a Citizen Army 6th November 2013
This is a response to the quoted comments from Sir Albert Bore which appeared in the posting on the Chamberlain Files titled ‘How you could save the local library by joining Sir Albert’s army of citizen volunteers’
Birmingham’s Library Campaign responded angrily to the suggestion that the City consider situating Libraries in Starbucks and have a commercial arrangement with Amazon.
Public libraries are different from other places that buy and sell. Libraries are a professional service and should be led by qualified librarians. They must be publicly provided and funded to enable everyone without exception to walk through their doors.
A spokesperson for the Library campaign said:
‘A public library is exactly that, Public with a capital P! They offer learning and enrichment is open to all regardless of means. Many people could not afford the price of a coffee to sit in a Starbucks.’
‘Volunteers cannot be relied upon to run and provide library services nor should they.’
Press release: £4m repair bill for Birmingham’s community libraries 14th October 2013
A freedom of information response on the physical state of Birmingham’s community libraries has revealed an estimated total repair bill of over £4m . With 20 local libraries requiring repairs of £100k or more.
Hall Green Library is identified as being ‘poor condition generally and roof repairs are needed, possible concrete fatigue’ at an estimated cost of £300K.
Kingstanding Library ‘needs complete refurbishment including windows, decoration, lighting, flooring, heating, shelves etc’ again costing an estimated £300k.
The information was taken from an adjusted appraisal of the condition of community libraries in 2011. The Council points out ‘that the investment figures were outline estimates at that time.’
The information was requested by the Libraries campaign following the recent publication of the City Council ‘Developing Successful and Inclusive Communities’ Green Paper.
The Green Paper proposes that the District Committee’s review their local property portfolio’s and where possible close council buildings and integrating local council facilities.
Friends of the Libraries of Birmingham is concerned that the Community Libraries with the most expensive repairs may be vulnerable for closure by the Council District Committee’s.
The campaign is concerned about the relative underinvestment in Community libraries compared to huge amounts of money required to fund the new library.
Only £236k was allocated as capital for the Community Libraries in the Council’s budget for 2013-14. The building and development of the Library of Birmingham Council will cost the City Council over £7m a year in capital charges for the next forty years.
Jolyon Jones for the library campaign said:
The cost of one years capital charges on the Library of Birmingham would more than cover the cost of repairs to the local libraries.
In the year of the opening of our magnificent new library we call on Councillor Ian Ward to make a commitment to find the capital to repair out local libraries.
Cllr Ward has said that there is a future for libraries and that they should be at the heart of local communities, but that wont be the case if local libraries are closed!
1. The link to the Freedom of Information response can be found here:
Press release: Library users will sit on new Strategic Library Board 27th August 2013
The Cabinet member responsible for the new Library of Birmingham has conceded that the new Strategic Management Board is unrepresentative of the people of Birmingham and needs to be more inclusive.
Cllr Ian Ward has agreed that the Board should include seats for library users and will urgently consider ways to appoint them to the Board. This concession is a victory for the Friends of the Library of Birmingham who had been challenging the composition of the Board.
The Board has recently been set up by the Council to lead the development of the new Library into the future. The idea of user representation was originally dismissed by Sir Albert Bore at July’s cabinet meeting, claiming that it was unnecessary as one of the Councillors sitting on the Board of eleven had a library ticket.
The move came at a meeting held last Thursday between Cllr Ian Ward and campaigners from the Friends of the Library of Birmingham. The meeting with Cllr Ward took place in response to a request from the Library campaign to ‘call in’ the Cabinet decision to set up the strategic management board.
The Library Campaign has sought to challenge the composition of the new Management Board due to the weight of business representation upon it. Five of eleven seats are reserved to ‘five Library of Birmingham Development Trustees with connections to Birmingham businesses’.
The Development Trust was set up as a charitable body to draw in funding for the Library which would not be directly available to the Council. Trustees have been appointed to the Development Trust with a businesses background and include a member of the Birmingham Post ‘Rich list’ and the CEO of Aston Villa.
The Friends group wrote to Sir Albert Bore before the Cabinet decision objecting that ‘the selection of trustees with such a narrow range of business interests and ethnic backgrounds cannot take forward an inclusive vision of the Library of Birmingham as a cultural resource for all of the citizens of Birmingham.”
The Library campaign requested a scrutiny call-in to investigate the recruitment of the ‘Great and the Good’ to the Development Board to consider possible discriminatory bias. The call-in was refused.
Jolyon Jones from the Library campaign commented “We welcome the inclusion of Library users onto the Strategic Board but the fundamental facts haven’t changed, the Management Board remains packed with private business people. We will continue to campaign for a ‘citizen-led’ Library with professional leadership from qualified librarians.”