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