More library closures set for summer

More library closures set for summer

A second wave of library closures will be announced following the May local elections and through into the summer, claim library experts.

Just over 500 public libraries, including mobile library services, are currently threatened with closure according to the Public Libraries News website, with around a quarter of the UK's 209 library authorities yet to announce their plans.

Guy Daines, director of policy at the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (Cilip), said he thought it "likely" more closures would be announced following the May elections. "It's a small political ruse that you keep bad news up your sleeve and don't announce it until re-elected," he said. "In most cases it would not be for implementation this year, but one or two might do it immediately . . . A number of authorities have put library cuts on hold while they have reviews—but clearly there will have to be an outcome of those reviews, and those will come in the late summer or autumn."

Campaigner Tim Coates said he believed his original prediction—that 600–1,000 libraries would go within 18 months of the start of closures—held good. "We've had 500 in six months," he said. "A lot of councils are waiting for the flak to die down from the first round, and think we will then all be used to the idea that libraries have to go." He predicted a new wave of announcements over the summer, adding: "Brent and Lewisham [which are closing 11 libraries between them] seem to have got away with it. The secretary of state has been asked to intervene but has not yet produced a response. He is talking to people and taking evidence, but he's just going through the motions."

Daines said he also expected a fresh wave of closures from late summer among higher education libraries. "They will have to start publishing their fees under the new regime, not for this autumn, but autumn 2012," he said. "There are likely to be institutional mergers, and we're expecting a crop of library closures as universities look to initiatives like shared services."

Ealing has become the latest centre of protests, as campaigners battle against proposals that could mean the closure of Hanwell and Perivale libraries, and a mobile library. Ealing council's consultation ends in May, with a decision due in June. Hanwell library was established by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.