Gloucestershire Library Service’s book fund – Where has all the money gone?

John Holland, FoGL member and former Assistant Head of Gloucestershire Library Service, writes: 

One area of library cuts that Gloucestershire County Council is not keen to discuss is the Book Fund, or, as it is more accurately known, the Stock Fund. From the Stock Fund, the library service buys all its new books, audio books and music CDs, subscriptions to inter-library loan services, subscriptions to online services, and soon, eBooks.

In truth, the Stock Fund is the life blood of the library service. Over 80% of library use remains the borrowing of books. Who would visit their local library if there were never any new books or other media to borrow? Like a pub with no beer, what is the point of libraries without books?

Since the early 1990s, Gloucestershire’s spending on library services in general, and the stock fund in particular,  has been one of the lowest of any shire county nationally (measured by spend per head of population). The annual spend on stock was usually between £950,000 and £1.1 million per year in Gloucestershire.  This may seem a lot but between 43 libraries is actually quite a low spend.

The figures in this table, which I recently received from GCC, show the picture, and, particularly show when the cuts began to bite.

Year

Budget £

Spend £

2007-8

1,193,863

1,221,223

2008-9

924,353

902,012

2009-10

965,663

409,130

2010-11

339,786

351,935

2011-12

675,063 (includes £100,000 of one-off funding)

TBA

This shows how cuts were already beginning to bite as early as 2009-10.  You can see that in 2009-10 the stock fund spending was cut by well over half. This was a political decision made by Councillor Antonia Noble to try to “hide” the cut in the Library Service’s budget, as, unlike library closures and cuts in opening hours, cuts in stock spending are not immediately noticeable to library users. Of course, GCC did not publicise these cuts.

Although these early cuts were raised as part of the Judicial Review, the judge did not find them decisive. Given that the 1964 Public Libraries Act states that library authorities should have “adequate stocks”, this seemed to me to be very disappointing.

And it is because the judge chose, in making his decision that GCC’s library cuts were “unlawful”, to ignore these early cuts that GCC currently only has to re-instate the cuts made during 2011-12 (ie library opening hours) and not before. Hence the Stock Fund has not been returned to its pre-2009-10 spend, and remains totally inadequate.

In our recent meetings with Jo Grills, the project leader of the new library review, I have been asking for re-consideration of the Stock Fund. Essentially I have asked for the Stock Fund to be based on the average for a shire county, or, if not, to have some justification for a reduced budget. We should know next week whether this has been considered.

John Holland

Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries

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9 Responses to Gloucestershire Library Service’s book fund – Where has all the money gone?

  1. Alistair Fisher says:

    I thought this was why the Friends of Gloucestershire Libaries was started for originally as the books wer ebeing cut. seems to me we are going round in circles withthis man hawthorrne. Doest he understand a judge has ruled, I suppose he justlikes to be in the papers silly man. Oh well here we go a gain is it

    • demelzajade says:

      Hi Alistair,

      That’s right. Johanna and others originally started FoGL (then Friends of Cheltenham Library) as there was no voice for users in the service despite big changes and cuts being made (like the stock fund reductions). Unfortunately, as John says in his report, the Judge didn’t provide a ruling on the stock fund, so they haven’t had to restore that to pre-cuts levels unlike the opening hours. Hopefully the plans released next week will be better and fairer for everyone.

      Best wishes,
      Demelza

  2. T H says:

    Good for you John. Being a librarian in a neighbouring authority I can tell you that a number of Glos residents go elsewhere and complain loudly.

  3. Pingback: Gloucestershire Library Service: where has the book fund gone? | Alan Gibbons’ Blog

  4. Olive Fowler says:

    This is most interesting and revealing. We’re sharing it on our Facebook page if that’s okay.
    All best
    Opening the Book

  5. Mike Penny says:

    I wondered if there is a proposed end time for The Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into library closures, and if it might be before GCC have completed their forthcoming consultation on the new Draft Library Strategy. Mind you – that is IF the County’s cabinet approve the go ahead for the new strategy to carry on and actually be subject to any consultation.

  6. John R says:

    In October 2010 I was getting increasingly annoyed by my failure to find favourably reviewed titles in Gloucestershire libraries so I checked for them in the neighbouring and similar-sized counties of Oxfordshire and Worcestershire. I found that both counties had more copies of the 5 books I was interested in and this was particularly marked in the case of Oxfordshire. Just a few examples: “Red Plenty” by Francis Spufford – Ox 6, Gl 0; “Potsdam Station” by David Downing – Ox 4, Gl 0; “Secret Life of Bletchley Park” by Sinclair McKay – Ox 8, Gl 1. It is very disturbing to see that Gloucestershire is reducing its already meagre budget.

  7. Two or three years ago Gloucestershire library service was unable to get me a copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses – according to Wikipedia, “recognized as a masterpiece of Golden Age Latin literature. The most-read of all classical works during the Middle Ages, the Metamorphoses continues to exert a profound influence on Western culture.”

    A search on Cllr Noble’s beloved Amazon turns up 2,388 results. Just the first page gives plenty of choice.

    I know a respected writer in the county who fiercely supports the principle of libraries but has long since given up using Gloucestershire’s as it doesn’t meet her needs.

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