Recently I wrote about how the number of library closures is pretty low and how those we have seen have been overwhelmingly from Labour councils. They are responsible for 41 closures against the 14 that are the responsibility of Conservative councils. Those figures cover the last financial year and this year since April. There are over 4,000 libraries in the UK.
However, this is only one chapter in the story. There is also the matter of the new libraries opening, which I fear has not attracted enough interest for The Independent to splash across their front page – or even make into a small paragraph on page 27.
With the county council elections next year, we have several Conservative councils that have managed to open new libraries, despite the well known cuts in the central Government grant. Thus we can be proud of Conservative councils delivering more for less – cuts in spending combined with better services.
I have been able to find details of 31 libraries opening this year, another 11 scheduled for next year and another 15 major refurbishments of existing libraries. Typically the new libraries opening are bigger than the libraries being closed.
Here are some examples:
Kent County Council – the new Kent History and Library Centre opened in April. The new library and archives facilities replaced and updated services at the Centre for Kentish Studies, County Central
(Springfield) and St Faith’s libraries.
Worcestershire County Council – The Hive in Worcester, a new library and history centre – and the first ever joint public and academic library in the country – opened in July.
Devon County Council – the Passmore Edwards Centre in Newton Abbot opened in June. The Grade II listed building houses the new library, adult learning classes, cafe, railway studies collection and centre for adults with learning difficulties.
Wiltshire County Council – Trowbridge's new library is due to open in Sept 2012 following the completion of the first phase of refurbishment at County Hall.
Hertfordshire County Council – new library building in Dolphin Yard opened in January.
Leicestershire County Council – the new Leicester Forest East Library expected to open this autumn.
Staffordshire County Council – Cheslyn Hay library has relocated to a new extension built onto the village hall.
More new libraries are opening next year and beyond:
Derbyshire County Council – New library in Ashbourne is opening in March next year.
East Sussex County Council – work to start soon on a new £6m library and adult social care development in Seaford. Temporary facility operating in the meantime.
Devon County Council – Cabinet approved plans for £4.1m redevelopment of Exeter Central Library – relevant planning permissions are being sought, and it is anticipated that building work could begin from January 2013, with the new library opening in early 2014.
There are also major refurbishments being undertaken to improve existing libraries, including:
Lancashire County Council – £3m to be spent in refurbishment of 15 libraries over the next 3 years, as part of the Regenerate programme.
Warwickshire County Council – relocation of Warwick Library to Shire Hall as part of a refurbishment programme.
Derbyshire County Council – Chesterfield Library re-opened following refurbishment.
Hertfordshire County Council – the Welwyn Garden City Library is closed for
refurbishment and will be opening in autumn.
Nottinghamshire County Council – Mansfield Library reopened in January after an extensive refurbishment project.
There are also Conservative councils in London – such as Bexley, Hillingdon, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea – undertaking refurbishments and new library openings.
So it really won't do for the Labour Party to keep up their defeatist talk that spending cuts "inevitably" mean cuts in the services to residents. Across the country we have success stories which prove this is simply not the case.
The media should also pause for a moment to consider whether a small library closing is really a more significant story than a big library opening.