Category Archives: press release

Speak Up For Libraries Conference, 23rd November 2013

Public libraries are facing an uncertain future. While austerity continues and the cuts bite deeper library services are needed more than ever. High quality libraries fight illiteracy, support learners and are essential services in communities across the country.

Speak Up For Libraries is a coalition of organisations working to protect library services and staff, now and in the future. We are holding a conference to support those that care about their libraries – including library users, campaigners and staff – to understand more about the challenges facing libraries, what can be done and to set a national agenda. The conference takes place 10am – 4.30pm on Saturday 23 November 2013 in central London.

At the conference you will…

  • Hear what experts think what the future for public libraries looks like.
  • Hear from senior figures in libraries about what their organisations are planning for the coming years.
  • Meet Speak Up For Libraries organisations and talk to others about what they offer and their plans.
  • Have the chance to ask speakers your questions.
  • Discuss what local campaigns need.
  • Set an agenda for campaigners and organisations to pursue.

Speak Up For Libraries organisations include the Campaign for the Book, CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals, the Library Campaign, UNISON and Voices for the Library.

To register please visit https://speakupforlibraries.eventbrite.co.uk/ 

Major concerns over government inaction and lack of leadership

The following press release from UK public library campaigners highlights major concerns surrounding library cuts and the current inaction of the government and its partner organisations to address the issues or provide any leadership in this situation.

DANGER: 1,000 LIBRARIES TO CLOSE

That’s a full quarter of the total in England – all of them small
branches that cost peanuts to run, & are located where people need
them most.

HOW DO WE WORK OUT THIS FIGURE?
201 library service points were closed last year.
A further 336 are threatened with closure (to date) this year.
Arts Council England predicts a further cut of at least 40% by 2016.

WHY ISN’T THE GOVERNMENT TELLING YOU THIS?
These are figures you will not see on any official website or press
release. They are compiled by a librarian in his spare time* from
local press reports.

That’s just one example of what is NOT being done by the bodies

responsible for public libraries – the government (DCMS, Department
for Culture, Media & Sport) and Arts Council England (ACE).

AND CLOSURES ARE NOT THE ONLY BAD NEWS
Many libraries have been dumped on to local communities, to run as
best they can.

Many more stay open under council control, but are losing books,
opening hours and skilled staff.

CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS?
Yet, say library campaigners, the government simply denies there is
any problem. It points to a handful of new library openings, as if
these compensate for mass closures and downgrading.
It ignores all evidence presented to it.
Even worse, it has powers to help – but chooses to do nothing.

WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING
Many campaign groups and hundreds of reports in local media show that
the real situation is bleak. Check the website for yourself*.
For instance….
= Lincolnshire plans that 32 of its 45 libraries, plus an unspecified
number of mobile units, will either close or be passed on to
volunteers. That means losing 170 highly-trained staff (55 FTE) and
177 public access computers.
= Herefordshire decided to close ALL except its one central library –
and is now dealing with a huge outcry from the public.
These are only the latest to see their library service dismantled.
Mass closures have already taken place, from Newcastle to the Isle of
Wight, Gloucestershire to Brent. And about 3,000 professional
librarians have already lost their jobs.

QUOTE
Library campaigner Shirley Burnham says: ‘The Minister, Ed Vaizey, was
vociferous in defence of libraries when in Opposition. But he has
been frozen into inaction since coming into office.
‘He and his officials are in denial, muttering “What crisis?” as
hundreds of libraries are closed, or the keys handed to volunteers –
with no support.’

QUOTE
The Library Campaign is the national group for library users.
Laura Swaffield, its chair, says: ‘Library users have appealed time
and again to the minister to intervene against mass closures. He has a
legal duty to “superintend and improve” the service**. But he does
nothing.
‘And he does nothing about libraries that stay open but now provide a
far worse service. Scotland and Wales have national minimum standards,
but not England.
‘Finally, many communities are now trying to run their own libraries,
as the only way to save them. They get no national help or advice. Not
from the government, not from Arts Council England (ACE).’
At the recent Library Campaign conference in London, Jim Brooks of the
Little Chalfont volunteer-run library in Buckinghamshire reported that
130 volunteer groups have found their way to him, desperate for help.
Laura says: ‘Jim is the only national resource giving advice. It’s absurd!’

FUTURE? WHAT FUTURE?
Brian Ashley, who holds the libraries portfolio for ACE, admitted at
the Library Campaign meeting that libraries face a further 40% cut in
funding. But ACE has no shared plan to help local authorities manage
their resources – or focus on users’ needs.
At most risk are rural
areas and deprived urban areas. If a local library closes, travel to
another one is difficult and expensive. And few have the time, money
or skills to take it over themselves.
Yet libraries offer a lifeline to many people in need – especially to
those with no internet access, families with small children, those in
education and older people. Libraries are the last refuge of a
civilised society and cost next to nothing.

WHITEHALL FARCE
The government’s refusal to intervene verges on the farcical. Bolton
campaigner, retired solicitor Geof Dron, says: ‘The council did not
believe volunteer-run libraries would be sustainable, and simply
closed five libraries.
‘Local campaigners and the Civic Trust asked the Minister to use his
legal powers (ii) to intervene. First his officials lost part of our
submission. Then they refused even to meet with us.
‘The Minister, from the comfort of his Whitehall office, has refused
our request for an inquiry. He expresses no interest in the needs of
the young, the elderly and the disadvantaged of Bolton for literacy,
education and access to computers. He is not prepared even to talk to
us.’

WHAT’S MISSING?
At the same time, many libraries still under local authority control
have lost much of their bookstock, professional expertise and ethos as
cost-free, neutral places of study, reading for pleasure and access to
information (both physical and digital). 
A multiplicity of
consultancy studies and official reports are gathering dust in
Whitehall.
What is missing, however, is any plan by government or its partners to
address the issues or to provide an iota of leadership.
This is despite pleas by the All Party Parliamentary Group, senior
politicians and the professional bodies that represent librarians. As
a speaker at the recent Society of Chief Librarians’ conference said,
the Minister ‘needs to smell the coffee’.

WHAT’S NEEDED?
Campaigners say that much can – and should – be done to halt the
hollowing out or collapse of public libraries. Destroying libraries
signifies incompetence, not necessity.
Notably, a handful of local authorities are protecting or even
enhancing provision under the same economic constraints as others. The
DCMS ignores this evidence of best practice and refuses to contemplate
national standards for libraries, a postcode lottery of service
provision is inevitable. The minister (or ACE) should find out what
works, where and in what circumstances, and use his powers.

DIVIDENDS
Other countries are investing in libraries – from Australia and New
Zealand to China and South Korea.
A high quality public library service that serves the common good and
underpins the nation’s literacy will, campaigners insist, reap
dividends for the national economy.

But only if those responsible for libraries take their heads out of the sand.

===========================================================

www.publiclibrariesnews.com gives a daily breakdown of news reports,
and summaries by local authority area.
No official source does anything like this.

** The Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 makes it a legal duty for
every council to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library
service. The Secretary of State at the DCMS has a legal duty to
‘superintend and improve’ this service – and legal powers to intervene
if council libraries are failing.

Statement on the Sieghart e-lending review

(Image c/o P^2 – Paul on Flickr.)

Voices for the Library broadly welcomes the “Independent Review of E-Lending in Public Libraries in England” written by William Sieghart, Chair of the Review panel. We hope that this report paves the way for greater collaboration between library authorities, publishers and other interested parties, as well as reinforcing the crucial role libraries must play in our digital future.

The report outlines a number of key recommendations:

  1. The lending of ebooks should be a service provided free of charge.
  2. Library members should be able to borrow digital books from their libraries remotely.
  3. Each copy of a digital book should only be loaned to one reader at a time.
  4. Digital copies should be “deemed to deteriorate”.
  5. The Public Lending Right (PLR) should be extended to cover digital, audio and e-audio books.

In submitting our evidence to the Review panel, we argued strongly that ebooks should be offered free of charge to library users.  The core ethos of a public library service is ensuring free access to information for all.  With this in mind, charging for the lending of ebooks was contrary to this core belief.  Ebooks should not be treated any different to print, particularly as there is little evidence to suggest that providing free access has an adverse impact upon ebook (or book) sales.

We also argued strongly that ebooks should be available to download remotely.  Ebooks provide a great opportunity to reach out to those who are unable to access their local library, particularly the housebound.  Ensuring that ebooks can be downloaded remotely ensures that the housebound are empowered to borrow books without having to utilise a surrogate to make their choices for them.  As a result, remote download has the potential to level the playing field in terms of access to information for the housebound and the regular library visitor.

We also accepted that each copy of a digital book should only be loaned to one reader at a time.  It is reasonable to require that libraries purchase multiple ebook editions rather than one copy that can be borrowed by multiple users at the same time.  To insist on the latter, in our view, would be unfair on publishers and book sellers and would, therefore, be an unreasonable demand to make.

We also welcome the move to conduct further research in terms of ebooks in public libraries to gather more evidence on digital lending in the UK.  We look forward to finding out more about the plan for publishers to work with the Society of Chief Librarians, the Arts Council England and The Reading Agency to establish a methodology to address the lack of evidence which will then feed into an agreed national approach for digital lending.

However, whilst we accept many of the recommendations above, we do not accept the premise that digital copies should be “deemed to deteriorate”.  This appears to suggest that an arbitrary number of issues (or time period) would be imposed upon the library authority, requiring a further purchase of a particular ebook.  As our submission clearly set out, an arbitrary figure (like that proposed by HarperCollins in 2011) assumes that all printed book stock has the same life span and usage patterns, which is an unrealistic assumption.

Overall, we are broadly supportive of the recommendations made in Sieghart’s report.  Whilst we are disappointed that more of our recommendations weren’t adopted, we accept that they were perhaps too radical to be considered at this stage.  We are pleased, however, that the recommendation we (and others) made to extend the PLR has been endorsed and we accept the majority of the recommendations made, despite our reservations about digital copies being “deemed to deteriorate”.  We hope that this report paves the way for a constructive way forward and we look forward to greater co-operation between library authorities and publishers in the future.

 

The Arts Council report on community libraries

The release of the official view on community libraries has underlined our grave concerns about the future for public libraries in the UK, and the government’s intentions towards them.  Whilst some of the contents come as no great surprise, we are deeply troubled by how this report will be interpreted by library authorities across England.

According to the report, community libraries run by volunteers are a viable alternative to a service provided by paid and trained staff (both professional and non-professional).  We simply do not agree with this conclusion.  Volunteer libraries are not a sustainable long-term option and simply offer many councils a quick fix or a useful tactic to shift responsibility for providing the service from the council to the local community.  Very often, this is done despite the local community’s preference for the service to be delivered by the local authority.  In effect, this transfer of responsibility isn’t so much recognition of “the value of communities being more involved in the provision of local libraries” (as the report claims), but a way to play on the fears of the community by informing them that they either provide the service, or it will disappear.

Indeed, we have heard from many ‘volunteer’ groups running libraries who believe strongly that the service would be in better hands if run by the local authority.  Many of these volunteers are not volunteers at all, but concerned library users who, when faced with the closure of a library service, feel duty bound to provide the service to ensure it survives in some form.  Eric Pickles, in an associated press release, claims that:

“This report shows that localism is alive and well with more people and local groups playing a bigger part than ever before in providing local services whilst also saving taxpayers money.”

We believe that this report proves the opposite is true: localism is on life support.  The will of the local population (for their library service to be provided by the local authority) is being ignored in the drive to cuts costs and shift responsibilities.

Volunteer libraries are unsustainable because they rely on a pool of people who can provide the service in their spare time.  Labour is not static. Volunteers will come and go (if they can be recruited at all) and libraries are in serious danger of closure if their pool of volunteers evaporates.  As a result, there is a serious risk that expertise will be lost or compromised to ensure that the service can still exist.

Finally, we have serious concerns that this report will pave the way for a two-tier library service.  Those living in large towns and cities will have access to a professionally run, well-resourced library service.  Those living in rural communities, unable to regularly commute to their nearest public library, will be left with a hollowed out service that is not fit for purpose.  This division in service provision is, we believe, in contravention of the obligation to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service.  For the communities, their local library will be neither comprehensive nor efficient.  We believe these communities deserve better, even if Mr Pickles and the Arts Council believe otherwise.

Overall, we are deeply disappointed in the Arts Council’s report and we are all too aware that library staff and users will be in despair at both their report and its endorsement by Eric Pickles.  We also strongly believe that this poorly researched report underlines that, in its present form, the Arts Council is not a fit and proper body to support the delivery of library services, not least because of the severe reduction in staff available to provide that dedicated support.

We still hope that true localism will prevail and the wishes of local communities, often blackmailed into providing library services, will be respected by both local authorities and national government.  But our hope is diminished by the clear intentions laid out in the report and we fear greatly what this means for the future of our public library service.

Speak Up For Libraries conference booking now open #SUFLConf

As part of the Speak Up For Libraries coalition, Voices For The Library are pleased to announce that authors Philip Ardagh and Bali Rai will be joining the line up at the Speak Up For Libraries conference in London on Saturday 10 November 2012 to champion public library services and library staff. The day-long event will pull together library campaigners and supporters from across the UK and give them the opportunity to build on their existing campaigning skills and tactics, share ideas and strategies, and focus on a way forward to make their local campaign as effective as possible, with the goal of ensuring library services are supported, protected and preserved now and in the future.

As well as providing an update on the state of the UK library service and the extensive work undertaken by campaigners across the UK to protect libraries in the past twelve months, there will be a range of sessions exploring a variety of topics from the law and legal challenges, volunteers, alternative forms of governance including privatisation and outsourcing, influencing decision-makers, and how best to utilise local support in a community to protect services under threat.

Further details of the conference and booking details can be found on the Speak Up For Libraries site.

The Speak Up For Libraries coalition is made up of individual library campaigners Elizabeth Ash and Mar Dixon, Campaign for the Book, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), The Library Campaign, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI), UNISON, and Voices for the Library.

Speak Up For Libraries logo

Lobby for libraries over literacy timebomb (13th March)

UNISON, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI), Voices for the Library, The Library Campaign, Campaign for the Book and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) have today announced they will hold a joint lobby of Parliament calling on politicians to protect vital library services.

During the lobby, on 13 March, the campaigning group will highlight the importance of libraries in providing access to learning and as a vital lifeline for many communities.

The lobby will take place at:

Midday
Tuesday 13 March
Central Hall
Westminster

Heather Wakefield, UNISON Head of Local Government, said:

“Cutting libraries is not an easy solution for councils to save cash – it is a literacy time bomb for deprived communities.

“Community groups are being held to ransom by Government plans to force them to take over the running of services, or lose them. These groups don’t have the time, skills and resources to take over the jobs of experienced library staff.

“A shocking 30,000 children are leaving primary school with a reading age of seven or below and libraries are a vital lifeline for community groups. We need a national vision of a modern library service, as an investment in the future generation.”

Ruth Bond, Chair of the NFWI said:

“The NFWI is delighted to support the lobby of parliament. A threat to local library services is a threat to a community’s education and as champions of libraries for the past 96 years, WI members are gravely concerned that so many local authorities are riding roughshod over educational resources while the Government watches in silence. It is simply not good enough to assume that volunteers will step in to continue providing services previously supplied by professionals; the Government cannot rely on community-minded individuals to step into the breach to bridge the gaps, and the loss of professional expertise is irreplaceable.

“Local libraries are a fundamental information and education resource. Whilst in their essence, libraries facilitate access to books and resources, they play a much wider role in promoting shared knowledge and equality of opportunity, facilitating community cohesion, and enabling life-long learning and literacy from cradle to grave.”

Abby Barker, from Voices for the Library, said:

“Voices for the Library are urging anyone concerned for the future of the library service in the UK to get involved on March 13th. This is your chance to tell your MP how vital your local library service is, and to ask them to call the Secretary of State to task over his noticeable lack of involvement. The 1964 Museums and Public Libraries Act very clearly puts public libraries under the superintendence of the Secretary of State, however, Jeremy Hunt has yet to intervene on any level, even in the most extreme cases.”

Andrew Coburn, Secretary of The Library Campaign, said:

“Public libraries still have a wide-ranging role in encouraging literacy and education as well as providing literature for leisure and information. MPs need to know what a real 21st century library service can provide – so that they can join the thousands who are trying to prevent their branches being closed and services mutilated.”

Alan Gibbons, Author and Organiser of Campaign for the Book said:

“A reading child is a successful child. The National Literary Trust has found that a child who goes to a library is twice as likely to read well as one who doesn’t.  The UK currently stands at 25th in the PISA International Reading ranking.  Libraries are vital to improving this position.  We have to fight for the defence and extension of public library services.”

Annie Mauger, Chief Executive of CILIP said:

“The professional skills and expertise of library staff are core to providing the public with a quality library service. Volunteers should supplement and enrich a professionally led service, not replace the knowledge and skills of staff. We are concerned that public library services in England are being damaged; the impact will be felt now and in the long term. We urge the Secretary of State to use his powers of intervention where there is clear evidence that the Public Libraries & Museums Act (1964) has been potentially breached. It is wrong to view public libraries solely as a cost; by providing opportunities for learning and literacy development libraries are an investment in communities, families and individuals.”

You can follow the lobby on Twitter  using the #librarieslobby hashtag.

Public Libraries Committed to Improve Access for Blind and Partially Sighted People

Public libraries are adopting six steps in a UK-wide effort to improve access for blind and partially sighted people. For the two million blind and partially sighted people in the UK this will be a lifeline to the leisure, learning and information resources offered by public libraries.

Libraries that have adopted the six steps are providing collections of large print and audio books, making sure accessible technology is available, and have a library champion for the reading needs of blind and partially sighted people.

Six Steps to Library Services for Blind and Partially Sighted Peopleis a joint initiative by the Society of Chief Librarians, Scottish Library & Information Council and Share the Vision.

Mark Freeman, Acting Chair of Share the Vision, said: “Public libraries are obliged to provide services to everyone. Many libraries are already doing an excellent job but standards of provision for blind and partially sighted people vary from place to place. The six steps make it clear what libraries can do to improve access.”

These steps are already making a huge difference to library users.

“I am so glad that Inverurie Library organised this event. I had given up trying to read books with my younger son and missed this time with him dearly but I can once again enjoy doing this. I also now receive the local paper in audio format, am a member of the local book club, have a better idea of the titles available and how to order audio books and lastly the confidence to ask for help if I need it.” Heather Watson, library customer, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire.

Already, 176 out of 210 library authorities have pledged.* “We call on every library in the UK to sign up,” said President of SCL, Nicky Parker. “We are determined to break down the barriers that prevent blind and partially sighted people from using the public library like everyone else.”

Scottish Library & Information Council Director, Elaine Fulton, said: “All of Scotland’s public libraries have already pledged their support for this very welcome initiative.”

Six Steps to Library Services for Blind and Partially Sighted People

1. Use Your Reading Choices with blind and partially sighted customers to assess their reading needs and facilitate access to public libraries and other relevant services (http://tinyurl.com/rnib2)

2. Use Reading Sight (www.readingsight.org.uk), the free website for library staff supporting blind and partially sighted people to access reading and reading services

3. Provide local collections of large print and audio books

4. Have a strategy in place for provision of access technology throughout your library service

5. Designate a “champion” for the reading needs of blind and partially sighted people

6. Participate in Make a Noise in Libraries Fortnight (www.rnib.org.uk/manil) run annually by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)

* For the full list of library authorities signed up to Six Steps see www.goscl.com

(Press release provided by Society of Chief Librarians)

Statement on the Future Libraries Report

The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and the Local Government Association (supported by Ed Vaizey, the Minister with responsibility for libraries) have released their long awaited Phase 1 report on the future of our public library service.  The ‘Future Libraries: Change, options and how to get there’ report unveils proposals that they claim will ‘bring libraries into the 21st Century and meeting the needs of a new generation of library users.’

 

However, Voices for the Library believes that the set of proposals outlined will lead to serious damage to our public library network, and be counterproductive to efforts to modernise libraries and meet the needs of the UK public.It has been clear throughout the process that recommendations would be made for volunteers to run libraries.  As early as January this year, when Ed Vaizey chaired a round-table discussion on volunteers in libraries, it was clear that volunteer run libraries would figure in the proposals.  In fact, the idea was initially floated as early as June last year by consultancy firm KPMG (who are one of a number of consultancy firms that have seconded staff to work with the Conservative administration).

 

As we have stated repeatedly, volunteers cannot and should not replace paid professionals and staff.  Even volunteers involved in running existing community libraries have explicitly stated that volunteers should not be seen as a solution. The suggestion that libraries can co-exist with unrelated or non-council run services is also a cause for concern.  Placing libraries in sports centres, shops and village halls raises more questions than it answers.  Will there be trained staff on hand to provide the level of service that the library users will demand?  Will the staff be able to assist in providing access to the resources the users require?  A room that is merely full of books is not a library, no matter how the councils dress it up.  Most importantly, how will authorities determine whether a ‘library’ in a sports centre has been a success?  Without being able to provide data to prove its usage, how long will it be before the council seeks to withdraw funding altogether?  After all, if they do not know its level of usage they will see it purely as expenditure they can no longer afford. As the mission of the public library is lost, councils will fail, or continue to fail, to understand why they should provide a library service to their citizens.

 

Finally, proposals to place libraries in shops or to work in partnership with the private sector also provides cause for concern.  We have seen already the impact that the private sector has had on libraries in the United States.  LSSI (one of a number of companies looking to take over libraries in this country) have made cutting overheads and replacing unionised employees central to their plans.  The implications for those who work in libraries is clear.  In terms of libraries in shops, again there are implications that are cause for concern.  Libraries and librarians are bound by a commitment not to restrict access to books on any grounds except that of the law.  Retailers are not bound by such commitment and are subject to the demands of their customers.  As has been seen before, retailers will not hesitate from removing a book if it is seen to cause offence.  How will a library based in a shop manage this?  How will they reconcile the needs of two different sets of customers?  Will they be pressured by the potential impact on their revenues if they continue to provide access to a controversial text?  And what then for those that wish to access such resources?

 

Unfortunately, at a time when real leadership and vision is required to outline a truly 21st century library service, the government is found lacking in imagination, short-sighted in its approach and blinkered by ideology.  These proposals do not outline a positive future for libraries and will only further their decline.  We strongly urge the government to tear up these proposals and truly listen to the needs and demands of local communities across the country.  Furthermore, we recommend that library users express their concerns regarding these proposals by emailing the Arts Council, the department that now has responsibility for libraries, at museums.libraries@artscouncil.org.uk.

Isle of Wight libraries need your help: press release

Press release from Friends of the Isle of Wight Library Service (18 May 11).  If you have any questions about donating, please contact David Quigley djqhda@yahoo.co.uk.  Donation methods include PayPal and cheque.

Friends and users of Isle of Wight libraries – we need your help!

 

A courageous and committed user of Brighstone library has instructed solicitors to challenge the decision taken by the Isle of Wight Council to close her library, along with many others on the island. She is fighting, on all our behalves to try and stop the reduction of this important public service. And she needs your help.

 

She was in receipt of public funding from the Legal Services Commission (i.e. legal aid) in order to take her case. The prohibitively expensive costs of legal action means this is the only way she could afford to act.

 

Her lawyers have advised her that she has a strong claim and proceedings should be issued at the High Court as soon as possible. However, the Legal Services Commission has withdrawn its support. They are stating that the case has no real prospect of success and are refusing to allow her to lodge her application at the court. Her solicitors are currently appealing this decision.

 

The Legal Services Commission is also stating that funding will only be continued (assuming the appeal is successful) if the community contributes some money towards the costs of the case. We need to raise as much money as possible, so please help and please help as quickly as you can.

 

To make a donation, which can be from as little as £1 upwards, please contact:

Dave Quigley Friends of the IWLS                    djqhda@yahoo.co.uk

 

Or,

send your donation direct to the solicitors, Leigh Day & Co Solicitors, Priory House, 18-25 St John’s Lane, London, EC1M 4LB marked for the attention of Shirley Bright.

 

Please help with this very worthy cause. Otherwise, the island will lose many of its libraries and the Council will be allowed to get away with its unlawful actions.

 

Thank you.

 

Public libraries’ legal protection under threat – CILIP press release

CILIP have issued the following press release. Please see their website for press contacts and notes to editors.

Crucial legal requirements that require local authorities to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library service have been put under review.

The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has launched a review of the statutory duties placed on local government. The DCLG are “inviting you to comment on the duties and challenge government on those which you feel are burdensome or no longer needed.”

The DCLG have identified 1,294 statutory duties that central government places on local authorities, three of these duties apply to public library services in England. All three of these duties are held by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport under the Public Libraries & Museums Act (1964).

“We are calling on everyone who cares about public libraries to explain to the Department of Communities and Local Government, loud and clear, why these statutory duties are so vital,” said Brian Hall, CILIP President, “These duties mean that local authorities have a legal obligation to provide comprehensive and efficient library services, and they allow the Secretary of state to monitor and inspect library services. Without them, it will be incredibly difficult to hold local authorities to account and local people will be much less likely to receive a quality public library service that is consistent across the country. I urge you to submit your views by the 25 April 2011.”

The Public Libraries and Museums Act requires local authorities to provide a public library service which is comprehensive and efficient, and available to all who wish to use it. The Act also gives the Secretary of State the right to gather information and inspect library services.

At an MPs debate on the 28th February, Libraries Minister Ed Vaizey stated that there are no plans to repeal the statutory provision of libraries under the Act, saying, “The statutory duty remains a very important safety net for the provision of libraries.” CILIP Chief Executive Annie Mauger has sent an open letter to Mr Vaizey; urging him to make it clear to the DCLG that there is a continuing need for these duties, and reminding him how much public concern there is about the future of public libraries.

Find out more about the DCLG’s review and submit your views via a web form.