Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry

Voices for the Library are delighted by the news that the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport will be holding an inquiry into library closures.  Such a move, due to the unprecedented cuts in library services throughout the country and the inaction of the relevant ministers, is timely.  For too long have library users been told that the DCMS is keeping a watching brief and they will act when necessary, only for no action to be taken.  We fervently hope that the committee will take into account the views so strongly held by library users and campaigners that public libraries are an essential part of community life and democratic societies, provide a highly valuable social service and are essential for the improvement of literacy.

The committee is inviting written submissions and requesting views on what constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century, the extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964, the impact library closures have on local communities and the effectiveness of the secretary of state’s powers of intervention under the 1964 Act. Voices for the Library will be submitting evidence to the committee and is happy to provide information to anyone else who wishes to do so. We urge local campaign groups to make their own statements, clearly expressing the impact that library cuts and closures will have on individuals and communities.

A Guide for Witnesses to House of Commons Select Committees is available here.

Alan Gibbons’ Campaign for the Book has called for a moratorium on all closures, saying:

The Campaign for the Book welcomes the decision by the Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport to announce an inquiry into library closures. We believe that it is incumbent upon the DCMS, in line with its duties to superintend the public library service, to order a moratorium on library closures.

Even as we write Doncaster is planning swingeing closures. This kind of strategic decision is completely at variance with the conclusions of the Charteris report that prevented a similar closure programme in Wirral in 2009 and the recent Gloucestershire and Somerset legal decision.

The decision of the Select Committee follows in the wake of the High Court decision halting library closures in Gloucestershire and Somerset. Gloucestershire County Council at the time claimed that this it had been ‘tripped up on a small technical point.’ In fact, the judge said that: “the decisions under challenge were not just unlawful but bad government.” He ordered the total quashing of the library plans and told the library to completely revise its plans. The judge said the council’s behaviour was a: “substantive error of law” and a: “substantial breach.”

We stand at a crossroads. Will the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport give clear leadership in ensuring the health and vitality of the public library service or will the effective dismantling of much of its branch network continue?

It is time to act to save our ‘comprehensive’ and ‘efficient’ service.

Voices for the Library support this request and believe that local authorities should not implement reductions to services during a period of major investigation into the detrimental impact of cuts to library services.

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Call for Contributions

We need your help in order to draft an effective response to the inquiry by the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport into library closures. We are looking for evidence that planned closures have had an impact on  your library service as per the Public Library And Museums Act 1964.

  • Have library cuts and closures affected your community?
  • Have they had an effect on staffing, opening hours, services provided, IT provisions and/or book/DVD/CD/printed music  etc. selection?
  • Have you set up or joined a Friends group in response?

Your experience is invaluable. Please contact us via our website, our Facebook page, on Twitter @ukpling, or email us at contact@voicesforthelibrary.org.uk.

Please make sure your evidence gets to us by 20th December.

5 thoughts on “Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry

  1. alice ross

    Great to have a Select Committee consideration of the state of the Libraries BUT shouldn’t everyone beware of sudden Local Authority accelerations of closures BEFORE the Committee gets to grip with the problems?
    Shouldn’t all local Authorities be asked by the DCMS to suspend any closures until AFTER the Committee has reported?
    How about us all writing to ask for this suspension?

    Reply
  2. Don McCubbin

    As a consulttee to the Charteris Inquiry in Wirral in 2009 what struck me was the evidence given by all the affected libraries. No two evidence statements were the same and the issues were very particular to the individual libraries.
    However the themes would be familiar to many of the campaigners still having to put their cases today. The social role of the Library and its role in local communities was being ignored. The beneficial role in encouraging young children from local schools into reading. The difficulty and cost of accessing “central” sites. The benefit to older people of somewhere for social interaction without which an American study highlighted rapid decline of cognitive powers. The Wirral Inquiry is a fully evidenced piece of work which many Council’s have chosen to ignore to their residents and Library Users cost. It is to be hoped that the select committee will give this report the weight it deserves.
    Strong Friends groups will provide a good basis for community action and support and for example Friends of Irby Library in Wirral (a small village) has 300 members.

    Reply
  3. John Pateman

    I dont think that the review of the 1964 Act is necessarily a positive development. Given the nature of this government it is unlikely that they are looking to strengthen the act to protect libraries. They are more likely to weaken the act by amending it (E.g. to allow councils to charge for book loans) or repeal it all together (to allow councils to close libraries without the threat of a legal challenge). Perhaps we should be campiagning to protect the 1964 Act?

    Reply

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