#MondayBlogs Nottm Council on the future of Central Library

The following Q&A was produced by Nottingham City Council. If you would like to respond with a separate blog, please get in contact.

Nottingham City Council has in principal agreed to explore the opportunity to redevelop the site working with a developer. If we are able to agree a sale, this would include investment to provide an updated central library facility which otherwise we couldn’t do. We understand people’s concerns about the sale and where the library will go – below is some information to provide reassurance that there is a commitment to developing a new Central Library and an outline of the early proposals to make that happen.

Is the council fully committed to keeping Central Library open?
This council absolutely recognises the value of libraries, both as community hubs and to help improve literacy and provide internet access for many who don’t have it themselves – that’s why we’re committed to not just keeping the Central Library open, but to investing in it so it remains open, relevant and popular for many years to come. We’re proud of Nottingham’s great literary heritage and our status as a UNESCO City of Literature. Our track record in recent years shows investment in modern neighbourhood libraries including Bulwell, Hyson Green and St Ann’s, often in new joint service centres which encourages more people to use them. This is in contrast to some councils facing budget cuts which have carried out large reductions in library provision to make savings. Bucking that trend, Nottingham City Council’s ruling Labour Group has had a commitment in its last two manifestos to develop the Central Library, and this is now part of the Council Plan.

Is it true Central Library is closing and being turned into offices?
No. That’s only half a story.
We are investing in new Central Library facilities through a deal which will also see new offices developed. The council has approved in principal the disposal of the Angel Row library site to developers Henry Boot Developments Ltd which would provide funding for the council to reinvest in a new and updated library facility. It also paves the way for an increase in Grade A office space to be created, meeting the demand for top quality office space in the city centre and keeping office development in the city centre where it needs to be.

Isn’t this deal more focused on office space?
No. This deal means we can build a new library at virtually no cost to local taxpayers.
This is a good deal for Nottingham and local library users. At a time when we are facing huge Government cuts to our budgets, we have to find imaginative ways to raise capital to fund ambitious plans for Nottingham and without this deal with Henry Boot Development Ltd, we wouldn’t be in a position to develop new Central Library facilities. With it, we have certainty that we can meet our commitment to develop Central Library facilities to meet modern standards and expectations. It also helps to meet the demand for top quality office space in the city – and it delivers a new Central Library at virtually no cost to local taxpayers.

Why does the library need developing?
To create a library fit for the 21st century.
The current library is not fit for purpose. The needs of library users are changing but this site is tired and not very adaptable to those changing needs. Modern central libraries should be a destination which attracts large numbers of people not only to borrow free books, but to access a wide range of services including learning, business intelligence, job clubs, literacy development and access to PCs and wi-fi, research archives, get help using new technology and so much more. Our proposals will give Central Library users the 21st century facility they deserve.

Will Central Library remain in Angel Row?
That’s the plan.
Our focus at the moment is on providing upgraded Central Library facilities on the existing site, but there are other options we are exploring to see if better value and a better outcome can be achieved.

How long will the development take and will services continue while work is underway?
It’s too early to say.
It is too early to say precisely how long the development will take, given that plans have not yet been submitted. While negotiations progress we will be looking at options that enable us to continue providing some Central Library services, but it won’t be a like-for-like service during this interim period. A number of approaches could be followed, all of which will be looked at, and it is important that we consider how we can enable people to use their local neighbourhood libraries to gain better access to the Central Library stock.

Will there be consultation on the proposals?
Proposals are at a very early stage but we will of course consult with people in due course when our proposals are more refined.

Are there any details yet about the Angel Row development?
The scheme will deliver a new Grade A office development of over 100,000sq ft. The proposal seeks to retain the existing façade facing Angel Row. It will also provide free space within the proposed new development, together with a £3m capital contribution, that can be used to provide a new Central Library within the Angel Row development. There will also be new retail units on the ground floor. A planning application has yet to be submitted.

Is there a chance the library element of the scheme is dropped?
There is a clear commitment by the Labour Party and by the Council to provide a Central Library for the City.

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Today a meeting was held with Councillor David Trimble. Dawn of the Unread were invited but we were unable to attend. We will release more information soon.


#MondayBlogs Central Library Nottingham site sold off to Property Developer

esIn the opening issue of Dawn of the Unread we made some subtle observations about the state of British Libraries. Our intention was to ask whether libraries could still be a focal point of the local community. We suggested that on a political level, libraries weren’t valued. This was represented by a hideous hybrid called the Cleggeron (representing the then coalition government of David Cameron and Nick Clegg) whose favourite game was smashing up libraries.


On an educational level we see a young teenager being dragged to the library, complaining ‘they’re boring and full of oldies.’ Our intention here was to think about how young people perceive libraries. When the teenager is given a copy of Dawn of the Unread and discovers that quite a bit has gone on in Nottingham he complains ‘My school is bobbins. They don’t teach us owt good like this.’ The implication here is that our cultural partnerships need to be better joined up and support each other. A thirst for knowledge at school leads to a thirst to learn more through books and engagement with extra curricular activities. According to an essay in Standing up for Education (2016),  50,000 teachers quit last year due to stress and the pressures of micro management. Teachers are vital in raising the aspirations of teenagers, so give them the time to do it!


We included future predictions for libraries when our heroine Edith Slitwell has to check out her book using a Tesco style self-service machine which bleeps ‘unexpected genre in the bagging area.’ The slow erosion of humans from all areas of work is gaining momentum and libraries will be no different. Money is being saved through reduced opening hours. With this in mind we had our heroine informed that she would have to leave the building as it was shutting soon. Originally I’d wanted a sign on the library wall saying ‘opening hours 2pm -2.30pm’ but it was lost in the edit.

I mention this as it has just been announced that the Central Library site has been sold off to a property developer for 4 million. The council have put out an ambiguous statement of intent and consequently it is leading to a lot of concern. The Nottingham Writers’ Studio have quickly reacted and created a small group of interested parties who will be meeting with Councillor David Trimble to express their concerns. We have been invited to join in this conversation and will report back once we have some solid facts on exactly where the library will live.


I have long been highly critical of Central Library. It is an ugly and depressing building in much need of a makeover and may very well benefit from being embedded inside a new fancy pants building. But it is called Central Library for a reason, so I do hope that the Council remember this so that it doesn’t have to be renamed ‘tucked away in one of those Sneinton Market huts that nobody uses on the outskirts of town library.’

In our Gotham Fool issue I stipulated to writer Adrian Reynolds that his narrative must mention that Central Library is a one stop centre where you can also pay your council tax. Originally, I was disgusted by this. I felt it devalued knowledge. But three years on I’ve changed my mind. Proximity may very well be the best way to encourage access to books and computers, films and music.     .

Dawn of the Unread was always meant to be a dialogue about the role of libraries. The reason that we are donating one copy of our book to every library in Nottingham is to support them. To help create conversations. To celebrate the very many positive things that have come out of Nottingham. The book is published by Spokesman Press, part of the Bertrand Russell Foundation. It was important our publisher reflected values we believe in as well as having a local connection. We sincerely hope that issues raised in our 16 part serial are taken into consideration by the Council in these very difficult times. We’re already witnessing a high rate of homeless people back on the streets, will we start to see books made homeless as well? And what will follow after that?

There are currently talks to hold a peaceful demonstration some time in December. Hopefully a silent sit in, like our reading flashmob a few years ago. We’ll post more information as and when this is confirmed through our Twitter account. @Dawnoftheunread.




#MondayBlogs Alan Gibbons on National Libraries’ Demonstration 5 Nov 2016


Alan Gibbons was our featured writer back in Issue 11 of Dawn of the Unread when he brought Robin Hood and his Merrie Men back to life for a tub-thumping protest at the demolition of library services. Now he’s urging us all to stand up and walk in protest at cuts faced by public institutions that are integral to learning.   

“Public Libraries and Museums remain the lynchpin of communities, offering access to learning, reading, history, art, information and enjoyment. Libraries are, or should be, trusted public spaces for everyone. They play a crucial role in improving literacy, in combating the digital divide and in widening democratic involvement. BUT, in the UK since 2010, we’ve LOST:

  • 8,000 paid and trained library workers (a quarter of all staff);
  • 343 libraries (600-plus including ones handed to volunteers); and
  • One in five regional museums at least partially closed.

We’ve also seen:

  • Libraries’ and museums’ opening hours cut;
  • Budgets, education programmes and mobile/ housebound/specialist services slashed;
  • An escalation in commercialisation and privatisation;
  • A 93% increase in the use of volunteers in libraries;
  • Income generation become the priority for almost 80% of museums.”

So say the organisers of the National Museums, Libraries and Galleries demonstration on 5 November  in London, PCS Culture Sector, Unite the Union, Barnet UNISON & Save Barnet Libraries, and Campaign for the Book have initiated a national demonstration to save some of our most treasured public services.


Words: Alan Gibbons. Art: Steve Larder. From Issue 11 of Dawn of the Unread ‘Books and Bowstrings’

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of Labour Party says: “I give my 100% support to this demonstration. The Tories have devastated our public services using austerity policies as justification. I promise that a Labour Government will act to ‘in-source’ our public and local council services and increase access to leisure, arts and sports across the country. We will reverse the damage the Tories have done to our communities in the cities, towns and villages.”

I will be there, marching alongside service users, staff and campaigners from around the country. Will you please join me?

When: Saturday, November 5th, noon.
Where: British Library, Euston Road, London.
Facebook page


#MondayBlogs: The Masked Booksellers


Photograph: Mike Finn

For the last decade ExLibris, part of the Federation of Masked Booksellers, have been salvaging disregarded books and selling them to raise money for charity. In this guest blog Bob and Chris Cann explain that the wearing of masks is in homage to Victorian bibliophile Josiah Saithwaite and that books can really change people’s lives in many ways….    

For over ten years, Nottingham people visiting festivals and fairs, and sometimes even wandering Carlton streets, have encountered a stall selling second–hand books.  Maybe not so unusual, until they noticed that the books are very cheap and the booksellers are masked.  What’s going on?

ExLibris, the Masked Booksellers, are book-loving volunteers who can’t bear to see books thrown away.  And they’re aware that too many local good causes are under-funded, and that landfill isn’t infinite.  So, joining the dots, they began rescuing books – first, from libraries and charity shops that were disposing of them, and then also from increasing numbers of friends and well-wishers who had to clear houses or make space on their shelves.  Books were picked off pavements, out of skips, and on one occasion intercepted as they were being chucked, down at the dump. Then more were donated by friends of friends of friends.


Photograph: Mike Finn

ExLibrisers stored all these books in their Carlton home.  Their home (which is also the home of their own very substantial book collections) filled up.  And still the books kept coming.  Sometimes ExLibrisers would return home to find boxes and bags of books piled up outside their house.  Visitors had to sleep wedged in between boxes of books, and relatives complained.

Eventually, for storage reasons, certain categories of books could no longer be accepted,  ExLibris naturally started by rejecting anything by Jeffrey Archer.  Outdated travel guides and computer manuals and tatty books were added to the list, but it proved impossible to predict all the unwanted books that would arrive.  The list now has to include books about Nazi regalia and cookery books with bits of food stuck to them.  However some wildly unpredictable titles have been welcome and aroused curiosity.  A favourite was “The Mastery of Sex through Psychology and Religion”.

Of course, books were not only coming in.  They were offered for sale at very low prices (to be affordable to all) on stalls at festivals such as the Nottingham Green Festival and Lowdham Book Festival, where they were delivered by Polo with roofbox, and displayed under a gazebo.  But this system meant that only a tiny proportion of the stock could be displayed at any stall, and so the Carlton megasales began.

Once a year, in Carlton all around the ExLibris home, the entire stock is offered for sale. The megasales have grown from using just the front of the house and the front of the garage, to using every nook and cranny. Now books are displayed in the garden, in the front porch, in the back porch, in the garage, in the purpose-built shed, in the car boot, under cold frames and in a specially-bought toilet tent – anywhere that a book can reasonably or unreasonably be sold from.  And all books are categorised and sorted, to make it easy to find particular topics.  Saithwaite House (that’s the purpose built shed), was bought to store more books, and is the venue of the booksale café “Josiah’s” as well as somewhere else to display books during the megasales.

This year’s sale will be the tenth. The first megasale in 2007 raised £189.  The ninth in 2015 raised £2023.  With prices starting at 10p, that’s a lot of books rescued, and a useful contribution to good causes.  Since ExLibris’s first ever stall (June 2006, Green Festival, £116), £10,500 has been raised and donated to good causes, mostly local.

Two charities have been the main beneficiaries – Nottingham & Notts Refugee Forum’s anti-destitution work has received over £5,800.  Hayward House, caring for people at end of life, has received over £3,600.  Other beneficiaries have included Stonebridge City Farm, the Sumac Centre, School for Parents, the Sparrows’ Nest, Nottingham Green Festival, other refugee organisations and local food banks.


Over the years, there have been some very special book donations.  Bromley House Library donated some nineteenth century overstocks.  A local businessman and collector of first editions is a regular donor, giving away previous copies if he finds a better one.  The entire personal collection of the late Keith Leonard, Mushroom Bookshop co-founder, was donated by his daughter.  Many of the books belonging to Nottingham writer, activist and broadcasterRay Gosling were donated by his sister.  Some of these books are still in the stock.

This year the megabooksale becomes a megamegabooksale, and moves from autumn to spring.  The first was held on one day.  This soon expanded to a weekend, and then three days.  This tenth sale will be held over two weekends (seven days), so even books which can’t find shelf space to start with can be put out as other books are sold.

The 10th Annual Second Hand Charity Book Sale Weekends 2016 are again in aid of Nottingham & Notts Refugee Forum and Hayward House.

Since the last sale, hardly a week has gone by without a donation of quality books.  These include: books for children and adults; new, genre, unusual, modern and classic fiction; every non-fiction subject under the sun; local interest; books on leisure pursuits such as gardening, crafts and cookery; hardbacks and paperbacks and books in really beautiful bindings; superhero comics, music scores and maps; books in many languages; collectable books at much lower prices than online, and the odd really weird book that you wouldn’t believe could or should exist.

As it’s the 10th anniversary sale, there will be surprises and treats, such as a free raffle entry for people who come wearing a mask.  And again visitors will be able to take a break from their browsing to enjoy refreshments, including drinks and home-made cakes, in “Josiah’s”.  Budding artists will be encouraged to decorate the garden path with coloured chalks.  And anyone who wants is invited to bring a tin of vegetarian food, to be donated to local food banks.

Last year’s sale raised over £2000 for charities.  ExLibris hope to see the celebratory tenth sale raise even more.  There are certainly enough books to do this!

So, why the masks?  ExLibris follows in the tradition of maverick Victorian bibliophile Josiah Saithwaite, who, it is said, rescued and distributed books very cheaply to the poor workers of Manchester, but was always masked because he believed in “doing good by stealth.”

The tenth mega charity booksale started on Friday 29 April and will be at 16 Vernon Avenue, Carlton, Nottingham NG4 3FX, from 11am – 7pm. You can still catch it on these days:

  • Monday 2 May
  • Friday 6 May
  • Saturday 7 May
  • Sunday 8 May

ExLibris on Facebook
ExLibris website 

#MondayBlogs: Turning ‘ages with Elaine Robinson



Elaine new

Elaine Robinson’s art explores connection, ancestry, nature, time and space. But in this blog she tells us about ‘Turning ‘ages’ which is both an installation and sculpture currently exhibiting nationally in city libraries around the UK. Housed inside a beautifully crafted cabinet, it contains books with personalised messages as well as other ephemera that comments on our relationship with books. I absolutely love it and visited the installation at both Nottingham and Leeds. It’s currently at Westminster Reference Library until April 2016.

Give us a quick introduction…
Born in the north of England and gaining an art and music degree, I worked in business and social work before becoming a professional artist. I have developed an approach to art and expression which works instinctively in the ‘moving moment’.

Turning ‘ages has been on the ‘move’ since 2012, visiting libraries up and down the country. Tell us more…
The idea to make Turning ‘ages first came to me during the mid 90’s whilst I was looking through an old map book of Paris dated from the late 19th century. Carefully placed inside and secured to one of the pages was a small pencil drawing of a Paris Road. It was a simple and lovely sketch and I couldn’t help wondering who the person had been who felt inspired enough to capture that moment in time. Roll forward nearly two decades, I then suddenly found myself creating ‘Turning ‘ages’.

elaine bookcase

The exhibition is housed in some beautiful wooden casing…
Tony Nielson, a skilled artisan, helped me design it. I wanted it to be like an old Victorian glass case that you might find in a museum with little stuffed birds that had once lived a life. Tony was also very helpful in terms of thinking through the design logistics, as the exhibition would need to be assembled and dismantled during the City Library Nationwide Tour. During this period it’s been moved and exhibited 11 times and it looks to continue as literary festivals have expressed an interest to exhibit.

How long does it take to assemble?
Turning ‘ages has been installed in different city library locations as part of its UK tour. It is carefully taken down from each library on the same day that it moves to its new home. The loose items in the bottom are removed first and then the hanging panel. Each element is wrapped up and lovingly placed inside the van. The antique style case goes in last. The entire process of de-installing the piece takes roughly 2 hours from start to finish.

I guess as it moves around it gained new meanings…
Turning ‘ages has become so many things since its creation. During its tour of the City Libraries all the staff started leaving signed mementos which represented their library space. Cambridge, for example, enclosed a paper origami phoenix.

elaine artefacts

The exhibition includes some very personal letters and artefacts. Any favourites?
Some of the beautiful memories found in the books of things written by people, mothers, lovers and friends have been so moving that my intrusion into the written words and memories forced me to think how I could honour their memory. That was when I decided to fan the personal letters within the installation. I love the map book of Paris with the delicate drawing of a hotel. Every time I look at it I wonder who the artist was. I’m also drawn to the love letter held in the book, Life is Elsewhere.

Where did you get the artefacts from?                                                                                                  For a very long period I went around all the second-hand book shops in my area hunting hidden memories which had fallen or been take from some of the books abandoned and forgotten. I even found an old marriage licence from the early 1970s.

Tell us about your local library and what it means to you.
I feel honoured to be part of a public service and system that was believed in – and implemented by – people who were passionate about having a fair society.


Libraries and reading feature in every issue of Dawn of the Unread. But our most explicit issue featured Geoffrey Trease and was written by Alan Gibbons and illustrated by Steve Larder.

The exhibition has a comments book. Want to share any?
I post these up on my website once the exhibition has left the respective library. When I was in Nottingham one person said they wished they had space for it in their home. A librarian said: “Maybe you should put on display things left inside books from this library- I always find find something inside books that I get from this library.” And of course you left a comment too! “I support libraries by returning books late and getting fines. I should have shared my receipts.”

Some people say it is sacrilege to deface a book. What do you think about this and do you write in books yourself?
Mmmm. Yes, I can understand people having a strong opinion about this. I always write in gifted book to friends and family, it captures a moment in time. I believe anything that enhances the relationship with the written word is positive.

elaine artefacts 2

Do physical books still have a role to play in an increasingly digital world?
Hahaha. Yes, I do believe this passionately! More than anything I think ‘turning ‘ages’ celebrates this transition and emergence. Primarily the work celebrates books and the connection and love affair we have had with the printed word as well as the celebrated library spaces. It comments and engages the observer to remember how we once used to store and keep our memories and how now, we have embraced the digital age. This blog is one way in which that conversation continues…