Tag Archives: inquiry

Written submission to the Sieghart Panel on Public Libraries

The attached response was submitted by Voices for the Library in response to the William Sieghart Panel call for evidence to inform the report on public libraries.

The independent report was commissioned by The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Specific areas that respondents were asked to address included:

  1. What are the core principles of a public library service into the future?
  2. Is the current delivery of the public library service the most comprehensive and efficient?
  3. What is the role of community libraries in the delivery of a library offer?

Written response by Voices for the Library to Sieghart Panel call for evidence

Culture, Media and Sport Committee publish library inquiry responses

Today the Culture, Media and Sport Committee published the written evidence it received for its Inquiry into Library closures.

There were 130 written responses in total from a wide range of individuals and organisations with an interest in libraries. These included:

  • Library user and campaign groups
  • Public library authorities, councils and councillors
  • Library workers, librarians and representative organisations
  • Publishers and booksellers
  • National organisations such as Women’s Institute and UNISON who have been supportive of libraries
  • Charities
  • Individuals
  • Authors
  • Private companies

It is interesting to note the balance of responses from these different groups of respondents, especially from public library authorities. Only approximately 16 authorities or their representatives responded to the Inquiry. Considering that there are over 140 public library authorities in England this is a very low response rate. Compare this to 33 recognisable library user and campaign groups who responded, plus further individuals whose names we recognise as local campaigners.

We look forward to both reading these written responses to the Inquiry and following the oral evidence sessions which start tomorrow morning and can be viewed live here.

Our evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee

Following our submission of evidence earlier this month to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s inquiry into library closures, we have been given permission to publish it on our website.

In summary we felt that:

  • A comprehensive and efficient library service should be accessible, should be adequately resourced, should have a wide range of services and content, should have sufficiently skilled staff, and should be available to users at their point of need.
  • The English public widely value libraries as a force for social good which should be provided free.
  • Many planned library cuts and closures are incompatible with the requirements of the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964: removing qualified and trained library staff will result in a failure to provide adequate services under the terms of the Act and in many cases, councils are making decisions to close libraries based on misleading statistics, an inadequate definition of ‘comprehensive and efficient’, and the outdated Act itself.
  • There is strong evidence that communities value local public libraries and that closures would therefore have a negative impact in several ways: on children; on the physical, mental, and emotional health of communities; on lifelong learning; on community cohesion and inclusivity; and on local economies.
  • The powers of intervention given to the Secretary of State are not deficient. The failure lies with the Secretary of State’s lack of willingness to exercise these powers, coupled with lack of guidance from senior ministers and appropriate Government departments.

Our full response to the Inquiry can be found here.

We have also been invited to give oral evidence to the Committee leading the Inquiry.

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.