Monday, 28 February 2011

The County Council's own report: Elderly at risk of greater isolation due to library cuts

The Oxford Times reports:

Oxfordshire County Council's decision to withdraw funding from 20 libraries could increase the risk of isolation among the county’s elderly.

This is the conclusion in a report by the county council’s own officers.

The warning is contained in an assessment of the impact of £119m of county council spending cuts that were approved last week.

The council is required by law to carry out and publish these assessments. In their assessment of the impact of withdrawing funding for 20 of the county’s 43 libraries council officers say: “There is a great risk that the loss of suburban and rural libraries could contribute towards a greater isolation for older people.”

The report on libraries is dated January 17, 2011, and was considered by councillors before they approved the county’s budget last week.

Friday, 25 February 2011

‘Library closures will cause isolation’

The Henley Standard reports:

COUNCIL chiefs planning to close almost half of Oxfordshire’s public libraries admit the move would cut off rural communities.
Documents seen by the Standard state the proposals would “not fully address socio-economic need” and “not fully address rural isolation”.

The papers were obtained with a Freedom of Information request made by the Friends of Sonning Common library, one of three in South Oxfordshire facing closure if their funding is withdrawn.

Of course it's not just in rural areas where library closures would cause isolation. In Botley, our much-loved library is a community hub, our area's only non-denominational community asset.  A place where people go not just to exchange books, but to read the newspapers, go on the computers and have a friendly chat with the librarians. The closure of Botley library would be a massive loss to our community, leading to increased social isolation in our area. This is why the Save Botley Library campaign- and the thousands of local residents whom we represent- are so opposed to the county council's proposals.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Dr Diana Sanders: Council leader’s argument is ‘pathetic’

This report on another embarrassing ‘foot in mouth’ incident from Oxfordshire County Council leader Keith Mitchell, appears in the Oxford Mail.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Library campaigners say No to Privatised libraries!

The Oxford Mail reports:

LIBRARY campaigners criticised county council talks with a US firm which claims it can save at least some of the 20 branches under threat.

Councillors voted through £2m-a-year cuts to the library service on Tuesday, but negotiations are still going on with outsourcing company Library Systems and Service (LSSI).

But groups opposing council cuts said outsourcing would destroy the library service.

Jonathan Hood, chairman of the Friends of Summertown Library, said campaigners had been contacted by Californian activists opposed to LSSI taking over libraries in the state.
The American campaigners claim outsourcing to LSSI had led to declines in service and resources, charges for inter-library loans, and worse terms and conditions for staff.

Mr Hood said: “We are concerned at the fact the council is even talking to LSSI.
“At the moment, Summertown Library is a community resource where people go to meet or just sit in the garden.
“These are not going to be things LSSI would be keen to fund.
“Under an outsourcing firm, it may remain an efficient system for borrowing books, but libraries are far more than that.”

Neil Clark, of Save Botley Library, said: “The whole ethos of the library service would change if a private company ran it to make profits rather than as a public service.
“Outsourcing would mean losing branches and the end of the library service as we know it.”

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Save Botley Library Campaign's speech to Oxfordshire County Council

This speech was delivered by Mike Sage, chair of the The Save Botley Library campaign, to Oxfordshire County Council on Tuesday 15th February 2011.

I’m sure that you will be pleased to hear that I do not plan to use the short time that I have been given to list all of the many reasons why Botley – and the other 19 Libraries under threat of closure – should remain open, run by trained staff and librarians.

No Library Campaign is asking for libraries to be maintained by making additional cuts in other services. We are however calling upon the Council to be innovative in finding additional sources of funding for Libraries, either from central Government or from elsewhere, to add to those recently announced.

This will allow Botley and all of the other Oxfordshire Libraries to remain open, as part of an integrated network, run by trained staff and librarians providing the library service that Oxfordshire deserves.
The Save Botley Library Campaign does not support a two tier library system for Oxfordshire with 23 professionally run, Council managed, integrated libraries and a further 20 isolated, volunteer run book clubs.

We understand that if the proposed Library funding cuts are passed in the Budget today then there will be a 12 week public consultation process. If this occurs then we seek that this process be independent and transparent so that it truly reflects the views of the citizens of Oxfordshire and does not become a self justification for the proposals that have already been made.

What I have come here for is to ask on behalf of the users of Botley Library who I represent and for all library users across County, is that you do what you were elected to do - represent your constituents and rethink your plans for Oxfordshire’s libraries in order to find ways of keeping them all open.
  Nor does it support the wholesale outsourcing of Libraries to the private sector, whose profit driven motives would not guarantee the long term future for any of the existing facilities.

From the public reaction which you have seen across the County you must clearly understand that the residents reject the proposals which you have made for Oxfordshire Libraries. In Botley alone over 3500 people have to date signed a petition to keep their Library open, run by trained staff and librarians. In addition we have today delivered to Councillor Mitchell around 225 letters of protest from the residents of Botley and the surrounding area.

As intelligent people you understand that a library is more than just a place for lending out books. In Botley it is part of the local community and provides the only non-denominational place where people of all ages, socio-economic groups and political persuasions can come together. It is a place where people are welcomed to an environment staffed by professionally trained local people, who after many years of working there have extensive knowledge of the area and provide a wide range of services to assist people to access the information and entertainment that they need.

I’m sure that you are also well aware that the library is used by local primary schools during lesson time, which are part of the schools Community Cohesion role, an essential requirement for OFSTED grading. It is also an important out of school learning environment for children of all ages, including providing a safe place for teenagers to do their homework and computers for those who do not have access at home to do on-line research.

I know that you actually do understand why the “hub” system that has been proposed for Oxfordshire libraries will not provide a suitable ease and affordability of access for the elderly, the disabled and parents with small children, to name but a few.

Sitting here in Oxford and the seat of learning which it represents, I’m sure you will not want to be remembered as the Dr Beechings of the County’s libraries – those who dealt an unrecoverable death blow to 20 of Oxfordshire’s libraries.
                                                                            Thank You.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Conservatives vote for destruction of Oxfordshire's public library service

The Conservative-dominated Oxfordshire county council voted today to pass the Conservative cabinet's budget, which provides for £2m cuts to our library service and the withdrawal of funding for 20 of our libraries- including Botley.

Does this mean that our battle to Save Botley Library is over?  Far from it. There now follows a two month period of consulation. During that time, we will be redoubling our efforts to Save Botley library and to exert maximum pressure on the county council cabinet to change their mind. Those county councillors who shamefully voted for the budget today, ignoring the views of their constituents, need to be made aware that if they don't change their policy, they are likely to face challenges by anti-cuts and library campaigners at the next local elections. Considering that most only got elected on a very small turnout, they would be very vulnerable to being unseated by independent candidates, campaigning on popular local issues and not taking their cue from No 10 Downing Street.

We're told that the issue of library closures are not 'political', but the fact is that it is the Conservatives who are the ones who are threatening our library service. And the Conservative Party in Oxfordshire (and that includes Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon), must understand that they will pay a very heavy price at the next elections unless they change their approach and start listening to people.

UPDATE: It's not just the Conservative County Council which is threatening the future of our much loved library. It's the Lib Dem controlled Vale of White Horse District Council, too:

The Oxford Mail reports:

A TWO-ACRE site has been put up for sale to create a new shopping quarter in Botley.

Vale of White Horse District Council
wants to sell a site next to West Way Shopping Centre to tempt developers and major retailers to help regenerate the area.  The plot is currently home to Botley Baptist Church, Seacourt Hall and Botley Library

The Vale's own press release states:

At this preliminary stage it is intended that Botley Baptist Church will be relocated off-site in suitable alternative premises. It is expected that the reprovision of Seacourt Hall will be included as part of the agreement to develop the site. 

Botley public library, which is part of the existing site, not owned by the Vale, is currently designated for closure by Oxfordshire County Council,

So no word, at this stage anyway, that 'reprovision of Botley Library will be included as part of the agreement to develop the site'.

The Vale of White Horse District Council seems to think  that the closure of Botley Library is a fait accompli. We'll show them about that!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Local schoolchildren show their love for Botley library on St Valentine's Day!

This morning, the Save Botley Library campaign took along the many wonderful St Valentine's Day cards,  that local schoolchildren had designed, to County Hall in Oxford. We also brought along our Petition To Save Botley Library Book- the number of signatures is now heading towards 4,000!

The tv cameras and press were there, and you can watch a report of the events on the BBC South Today programme which follows tonight's main 6 0'clock news on BBC1.

This afternoon, local children and Save Botley Library campaigners handed in Valentine's Cards to the staff at Botley Library, to show how much they love them.

Tomorrow is the day that Oxfordshire County Council sets the budget, so do try and come along for the lobby of the council at 8.30am!


Friday, 11 February 2011

A great week for our campaign!

Well, what a week it has been for the Save Botley Library campaign!

On Saturday, we had the wonderfully successful Read-In, featuring Philip Pullman and Julia Golding.

The Read-Ins were hugely successful not just in Botley, but around the county, and lo and behold a couple of days after this tremendous show of support for our threatened public libraries, the county council finds it has a bit more cash after all!

Wednesday's Oxford Mail reported:

A one-off pot of £450,000 has been created to fund services that residents want to escape the axe, based on consultations to be held in the summer.

The report quoted Save Botley Library’s Neil Clark who said: “We are not interested in privatisation by a US multi-national or volunteer groups. We want them to reverse the policy, end of story.”

Then yesterday, we learnt that another £300,000 has been found!

The Oxford Mail reported:

MORE cash has been promised for Oxfordshire’s threatened libraries after County Hall netted its second Government windfall of the week.

The new money that the county council has found is of course nowhere near enough, but it is a step in the right direction and a sign that our campaign is working.

In the lead up to Tuesday’s important budget vote we must do all we can to put pressure on county councillors to vote against the Conservative cabinet's budget proposals and protect the future of Oxfordshire’s council-run library service!

So please carry on with your letter-writing and emails to council leader Keith Mitchell and Nicola Blackwood MP, and other councillors who may be planning to vote for the budget. (some useful addresses can be found here). And do try and attend tomorrow's big march in Oxford against the county council's planned cuts, organised by the Anti-Cuts Alliance, which starts at Manzil Way, Cowley at 11.30am.

You can hear Neil Clark of Save Botley Library campaign speaking on Radio Oxford's Phil Gayle Breakfast Show here (the feature on libraries comes in at 23.30 minutes into the programme). Later on, at about 45 minutes into the programme, you can hear another Save Botley Library campaigner, Gawain Little, make the case against cuts to local services.


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Love Song for my Local Library by Julia Golding

Published here, by kind permission of the author, is the poem specially written by Julia Golding for her Read-In at Botley Library on Saturday. Many thanks Julia for your lovely poem and for your support on Saturday!

You were my first pick-‘n-mix
A box of delights
A place to be a brave explorer
Maker of mistakes – at no cost.
Ant and Bee, Baba Papa
Marmalade sandwiches with a lost bear.
You were my first wardrobe
Containing my ballet shoes
My necklace of raindrops
And a worn calico print dress on the prairie.
You were my first suitcase
packed ready to see the world,
Taking me down the bright stream
Into a midnight garden
And to the house called Green Knowe.
You were my first Valentine’s card
An introduction to suitable (and unsuitable) boys
Dickon, the lad with earthy hands
Gilbert, undeterred by a girl who dyed her hair green
Eustace Scrubb who travelled a magic sea seeking
The British Consul.
If you go, there will be no secret garden for my children
Moonfleet beach will empty of smugglers
The Last Unicorn will be but a rumour.
Will we let the curtain swish
closed on our library?
Shut the way through the woods?
We want to encourage a hobbit of reading
Leave everything just so
A never-ending story…

Monday, 7 February 2011

Hundreds join forces against threat of library closures!

TOP authors and hundreds of people across Oxfordshire sent a clear message to County Hall on Saturday: Hands off our libraries!

You can read the whole of the Oxford Mail’s report on Saturday’s Save Our Libraries Day here.

Above is a picture of award-winning writers Philip Pullman and Julia Golding who took part in the hugely successful Read-In at Botley Library on Saturday.

Many thanks again  to everyone who gave their support and who made the day such a great success!


Sunday, 6 February 2011

Botley Library Read-In is a huge success!

Yesterday’s Read-In was a huge success, attracting both local and national media coverage!

Thank you to everyone who attended and who gave their support!

A full report with photographs will be posted shortly, but in the meantime, you can read about the Read-In  in the Guardian here, (scroll down to read reporter Hannah Freeman's comments at 11.28am and 11.43am (Hannah also posts a lovely picture of our Fountain of Knowledge!),
and in the Sunday Telegraph here.

There's a great report by Vanessa Thorpe in The Observer too.

Philip Pullman, who spoke publicly against the cuts last month, attended a reading at the threatened Botley Library, close to his home in the Oxfordshire village of Cumnor. The small building is not the kind of library usually associated with the university town. There are no dreaming spires here. Inside at 2.30pm yesterday , six users, of ages ranging from 11 to 68, were busy taking out books or using the computer terminals. A 56-year-old academic from Cumnor said she was "outraged… It is a mixed community here, as it should be. Much more real town than gown. This library is for people who don't have books at home. It is a matter of social justice."

The success of yesterday's Save our Libraries Day, and the great local and national publicity it received, will I hope, not go unnoticed by Oxfordshire County Councillors and Oxford West MP Nicola Blackwood.

There is no public support for Oxfordshire County Council's proposals to withdraw funding for 20 libraries in the county and we hope that after yesterday's great show of support for the libraries campaign, they will reconsider their position.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Authors Philip Pullman and Julia Golding to read in Botley library on Saturday!

Author Philp Pullman, whose speech at Oxford Town Hall two weeks ago in defence of Oxfordshire's threatened libraries has become an internet sensation (and was also published in the Guardian newspaper), will take part in a Read-In at Botley Library tomorrow (Saturday) at

The Save Botley Library campaign are also delighted that the popular children's author Julia Golding will also be reading at our library, at 11.30am.

Other activites include petition signing, the creation of a Fountain of Knowledge, a reading by local school children of poems they have wrtten and face painting for children.

Come along and join in the fun and show your support for our much-loved library!

Tomorrow's event is co-organised by Save the Botley Library campaign and the Oxfordshire Anti-Cuts Alliance.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Petition to save Botley library gathers 400 signatures

Ben Wilkinson of the Oxford Mail writes:

CAMPAIGNERS are aiming to collect 2,000 signatures to fight plans to close their library.

And the supporters of the campaign to save Botley Library, in Oxford, are already a fifth of the way towards their target after signing up 400 readers and shoppers on Saturday.

Oxfordshire County Council  wants to remove funding from 20 of the county’s 43 libraries to save £2m over four years. It has called on charities and volunteers to run libraries instead with some council cash support.

But those battling the cuts in Botley have vowed to knock on every door in the area, and present the signatures to county Council leader Keith Mitchell.

Conservative Mr Mitchell has said petitions would “not be effective” as the council does not have enough cash to keep the libraries open. But campaigner organiser Neil Clark said opponents of the move would carry on regardless.

He said: “Mr Mitchell said there is no point in doing petitions. We are going to show him what democracy is about. “It is not a waste of time and we are going to get as many signatures as we can.” 

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Oxford Mail report on Saturday's petition signing and letter writing event

A full report (and photographs) of our very successful day of petition signing and letter writing appears in today's (Tuesday's) Oxford Mail. Unfortunately the report is not yet available on line, but a copy of the article will be posted later.