Last month, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) released a series of articles on the status of public libraries in the UK. The news is dramatic. More than 300 libraries have been closed since 2010—the reported total of 343 includes 132 mobile libraries, with over 100 more on the chopping block—and almost 8,000 jobs have been lost. The advocacy drumbeat for UK libraries has been sounding for some time, with prominent authors and celebrities offering their support. Staring down the numbers reported by the BBC has spurred a barrage of public and professional response—some reinforcing negative stereotypes and others helping to build the case for more investment.
Public libraries in the United Kingdom are set to play a role in expanding public access to academic research via the recently announced “Access to Research” plan. Thousands of research journal articles will be made available for free: but only on computers located physically within a public library, not remotely.
Publishers worried about public libraries lending ebooks have not been restricted to the U.S. In 2010, the UK’s Publishers Association (PA), warned libraries that they were considering preventing remote borrowing of ebooks unless certain protections were put in place, an announcement which caused a great deal of concern on the part of librarians and library ebook distributors.