Tag Archives: library provision

Library closures – challenging the DCMS

We have been asked by Geoffrey Dron of Save Bolton Libraries Campaign to publish the following, regarding intervention requests made to the DCMS by library campaigners and the lack of response to these requests.  Geoffrey asks campaigners to contact him if they feel joint complaints ought to be made on behalf of the affected groups to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Please read his full request below for further details.

 

Many groups protesting against the closure of libraries in their respective areas will have lodged requests with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for intervention under its statutory duties and powers by, in particular, directing the holding of an inquiry into the library authorities’ proposals, in many cases executed in the time which has elapsed since the requests were lodged.

By way of example, Save Bolton Libraries Campaign and Bolton and District Civic Trust lodged their requests, which relate to the closure of five of Bolton Council’s libraries, by 1st February 2012.   In spite of reminders and a letter from the MP for Bolton NE, the DCMS has taken no action in relation to the requests other than seeking further information from the Council, which the latter supplied in February.  The Council’s proposals have been implemented.

It is thought that other groups have been faced with similar inaction on the part of the DCMS.  Indeed, its website reveals that in only one case (Brent) has the DCMS even gone so far as to issue a letter indicating a provisional view (in that case that it is minded not to intervene) but inviting further representations.  It is becoming difficult to escape the conclusion that the DCMS has adopted a policy of inaction in the hope that library user groups will get fed up and go away.

Whether attributable to deliberate policy or incompetence, the delay by the DCMS in dealing with the requests, even allowing for the engagement of Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State, in matters such as the Olympics and the Leveson Inquiry, has reached the point where action to compel it to express its views in ‘minded to’  form is required.  There is a strong case for suggesting that joint complaints ought to be made on behalf of the affected groups to the Parliamentary Ombudsman alleging maladministration in relation to the failure to deal with the requests in a timely manner.  Such complaints, which require endorsement by local MPs and ought to be preceded by advance notification giving a relatively short period to deal with the requests, ought to be lodged with attendant publicity and before the Olympics.

Representatives of groups whose requests for intervention are currently imprisoned in the limbo of the DCMS are asked to contact Geoffrey Dron of Save Bolton Libraries Campaign (geoffrey.dron@gmail.com) if they consider the approach suggested might have merit.  It is hoped to start a discussion on how to move matters forward.   Consideration might be given to a meeting of representatives at a mutually convenient venue, but the first step is probably to find out what the overall appetite is for complaints of maladministration.

Update

In reference to the above request we have received the attached letter as follow up to Jeremy Hunt from Save Bolton Libraries Campaign, which we have been asked to publish here.

Save Bolton Libraries Letter June 2012

The London Libraries Change Programme (LLCP)

The London Libraries Change Programme came into being in 2008 and finished in 2011. It was part of a wider initiative, the London Cultural Improvement Programme, and included the 32 boroughs and the City of London, the regional cultural agencies (Arts Council England, MLA Council, English Heritage and Sport England), London Councils and Capital Ambition and had a remit to improve cultural services in London.

In October 2008, the LLCP Board (1), Chaired by Andrew Holden, Director of Engagement at the MLA and made up of members of the ALCL and other MLA officers, commissioned the consultants RSE to prepare a feasibility study, funded by Capital Ambition, outlining the scope of the programme and the key areas for potential ‘improvement’;

 

  • Leading the sector both externally and internally.
  • Supporting the development of a strong and well utilised workforce.
  • Improving procurement and stock management processes.
  • Modernising service delivery through the use of new technology.
  • Combining skills and resources to undertake marketing and communication.

Four options were given with estimated savings over a five year period;

Option 1: Sharing best practice which is anticipated to yield savings of £1.9 million.

Option 2: Integration of library services with local authority customer services, which is anticipated to yield savings of £3.8 million.

Option 3: Joint management posts are anticipated to yield savings of £5 million.

Option 4: Sub regional library services are anticipated to yield savings of £13 million.

“Overall the potential options combined could save an estimated £2.3 across London in the first year and £19.8 million over five years. “

RSE also made some recommendations, let’s look at some of these in more detail;

2.1.1. The sector needs strong leadership

“There is a perception within the sector that the role and contribution of libraries is widely misunderstood and undervalued. The Association of Chief Librarians and Museums, Libraries and Archives Association (in London and nationally) provide leadership within the sector, but there is a clear view that this role could be strengthened and enhanced”

That the SCL and the MLA ever provided leadership in the sector is highly debateable, SCL members have been accused of pushing through policies that have resulted in cutting the sector and recently were criticised for not fully supporting National Libraries Day and the MLA were seen by many to be ineffectual and instrumental in developing the neo-liberal agenda now prevalent amongst SCL members!

2.1.3. The programme needs to tackle workforce costs and skill development

Staff accounts for 58% of all costs within Libraries……”

“It is recommended that the programme:

f. Benchmark workforce levels and productivity across London…..”

In July 2009 the LLCP Board and the London Cultural Improvement Group commissioned CFE to undertake workforce benchmarking research; the final report was published in October of that year.

“The objective of this was to provide greater understanding of how the London library workforce is utilised and to highlight areas for efficiencies that might arise from joint authority working and the development of shared services.

This report draws together findings from primary research with the library sector and wider stakeholders, and aims to:

  • Benchmark workforce structures across London libraries using a range of input, output and outcome measures to identify drivers of variation in staffing levels and effective working practices.
  • Highlight examples of best practice in staff deployment and document options for shared services, i.e. ways in which local authorities can work together to utilise library staff more effectively.
  • Identify areas where efficiencies can be realised through improvements in workforce utilisation and shared services and provide assumptions about the level of estimated savings achievable. “

The research also highlights potential cuts to the London Library workforce of anything between 1-10%.

It’s very difficult to assess the impact of the programme on subsequent cuts to library services and jobs acrossLondondue to the cuts imposed on Local Authorities by the present Government but all that can be said is that all the authorities involved in the programme have cut staff and services!

Inconclusive I know,  but until a full impact analysis of the programme is made public we will never know!

(1) “The Board comprises of Andrew Holden (Programme Sponsor and Chair) Interim Director MLA London; David Ruse Director of Libraries, London Borough Westminster; Rosemary Doyle Head of Library and Cultural Services, London Borough Islington; Sue McKenzie Head of Libraries London Borough of Brent and President of London Libraries; Cllr G. Reardon, London Borough Waltham Forest; Cllr F. Rea, London Borough Camden; plus Local Authority representatives including HR, resources and library and cultural services tbc and Ken Cole, Advisor, Capital Ambition Ex officio.”

London Library Change Programme Board; Workforce Benchmarking Project; Project Initiation Document Feb 2009

All the reports relating to the Programme can be found at;

http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/policylobbying/culturetourismand2012/lcip/londonlibrarychangeprogramme.htm

We will Speak Up For Libraries #librarieslobby

A rally and lobby of Parliament will take place tomorrow (Tuesday 13 March) in Westminster to highlight the value of public libraries and the important role they play. The event aims to persuade MPs to take action to protect public library services during these times of public sector cuts. Anybody who supports public libraries is welcome to attend.

The rally will take place from 12 noon, at Central Hall Westminster, Storey’s Gate Westminster, London SW1H 9NH. The lobby of Parliament will start at 2.30pm. Prior to the rally and lobby, Ed Vaizey’s evidence session for the Inquiry into library closures will be screened live from 10.30am in Central Hall Westminster.

The lobby has been organised by the Speak Up For Libraries coalition, an alliance of organisations and campaigners working to protect libraries and library staff. Voices For The Library are part of this coalition.

Since forming Voices For The Library, we have constantly had to defend public libraries against those in power who do not seem to understand their value. We’ve seen local campaigns emerge throughout the country in response to these cuts – campaigners fighting for their own local libraries against authorities who do not understand the purpose of libraries, and do not understand how libraries and trained library staff benefit library users, the local community, local economy and the UK as a whole. Many of these campaigners have been put into a position where they are effectively acting as superintendent to their own library service, despite this being the responsibility of Jeremy Hunt & Ed Vaizey. Local authorities have not listened to local campaigners concerns. Neither have Jeremy Hunt, Ed Vaizey or the DCMS. So now, as part of Speak Up For Libraries, we must take this to Parliament to ask MP’s to make a stand and help protect the future of the nation’s threatened public libraries.

We feel it’s important to attend tomorrow to show those who dismiss public libraries as irrelevant just how important they are and why they are essential. We would urge you to attend if you can – the more people there are there, the louder our voices will be and the clearer the message will be that we will continue to fight and Speak Up For Libraries. If you are coming please sign up on the Speak Up For Libraries site.

However, if you can’t attend, you can still show your support by doing the following:

However you chose to do it on the day, please Speak Up For Libraries!

Library campaigners meeting with Ed Vaizey #savelibraries

At the end of 2011, Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson asked Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey,  if he would meet with her and a delegation of UK library campaigners. He agreed and that meeting took place yesterday (1st February) at The Houses Of Parliament.

As a representative from Voices For The Library I was fortunate to be part of that delegation, and along with Julia Donaldson, author and Campaign For The Book founder, Alan Gibbons, and Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaigner, John Holland, we met with Ed Vaizey – arranged through MP Jo Swinson (MP for Julia Donaldson’s constituency).

The four delegates were given an opportunity to present our views to Ed Vaizey with regard to the current situation in UK public libraries. We had just under 20 minutes for all of our presentations.

Julia Donaldson focused on the importance of public libraries for children and the benefits of having both librarians and good stock in providing a good library service.

Alan Gibbons highlighted the lack of intervention by the Government in local library closures decisions and asked what it would take for Ed Vaizey or Jeremy Hunt to intervene?

John Holland covered the situation in Gloucestershire Libraries and the lack of response by Ed Vaizey, The Secretary of State, and the DCMS to Gloucestershire campaigners requests and questions about the cuts and closures.

I focused on the national perspective and the fact that those deciding the fate of our libraries don’t appear to understand the value and importance of them.

Following on from this, we had between 25-30 minutes, in which Ed Vaizey responded to some of our concerns and discussed both national and local situations with us.

Ed Vaizey IRGlover

Ed Vaizey (c) IRGlover/Flickr

From my perspective, the key points in Ed Vaizey’s response/discussion were:

  • He doesn’t agree that library services are being decimated.
  • He has challenged library closures in the past, but has also supported closures of some libraries.
  • He felt it was up to the local authority to run library services, not his department.
  • The Government have no intention of removing statutory duties.
  • Community/volunteer run libraries have a place in the provision of local library services.
  • He acknowledged that some volunteer run libraries would be outside of a local authorities’ statutory service.
  • Local authorities could provide “cut-price libraries” – every library in a local authority shouldn’t be all singing, all dancing.
  • The comprehensive and efficient aspects of a local authorities duties should be focused on the way they were interpreted in the 1964 Public Libraries & Museums Act. “Comprehensive” equates to stock; “Efficient” equates to reduction of 400+ local library authorities. The 1964 Act did not focus on buildings.
  • He felt that the situations that led to Judicial Review’s in Brent, Gloucestershire, Somerset & Surrey recently were not linked directly to the need for intervention by The Secretary of State in a local situation and, using his skills as a barrister, he argued a fine line in how these two situations do not overlap.
  • There was no plan to re-introduce library standards. However, this didn’t necessarily mean that they were out of the question.
The use of volunteers in libraries was also discussed and, as Alan Gibbons highlighted, volunteers have always played a part in libraries, but there needs to be a clear balance/focus between the roles professional staff play and the roles volunteers take on, rather than an assumption that volunteers can provide a service as good as a trained professional.

It was agreed by all that it would be of benefit if examples of best practice for public libraries plans could be formulated, so that at least some guidance could be given to local authorities. Ed Vaizey pointed out that the Charteris Report (Wirral Inquiry) was seen as a good example of best practice, but as the delegates highlighted this was not a legally binding document, so did not need to be adhered to by local authorities when looking at library services.
From my perspective, one of the main issues that was highlighted at the meeting and has continually cropped up in other discussions, is the woolly and hazy area around who should take responsibility for libraries and how an “efficient and comprehensive” library service (within the scope of the 1964 Act) should be interpreted. As many of us have seen, some local authorities have interpreted the 1964 Act and statutory duties in a way that suits them and would leave their users with a substandard service, rather than a properly funded and resourced one that they should expect to have.

I should also mention that there wasn’t a single mention of the Future Libraries Programme… A flagship programme for libraries up until last year! How should we interpret this?

At the end of the meeting I don’t believe we persuaded Ed Vaizey to change his stance overnight on public libraries. But then again, I don’t think any of us believed that he would. However, it did give us the opportunity to raise the issues face-to-face with him that were our main concerns and we hope this was another of those tiny steps we keep taking that brings us a step closer to saving libraries.
Update
Below are Alan Gibbons’ and John Holland’s perspectives on the meeting.

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.

Henry’s story – Libraries are being sidelined

Returning to a blog post forced upon most of my fellow school compatriots, in this course, I’d like to talk about Libraries. I am currently partaking in the DofE Bronze course, something that I will talk about at a later period, probably after I have completed it, due to my opinions on the true nature of it and perhaps how those comments might be taken in a way not beneficial to my completion of it,  and as part of my volunteering, I am working at a homework club, after school. This is a rather simple task, where I sit there and help children with their homework, and attempting to impart my knowledge to them in an interesting way without them vomiting profusely. But this has brought something back to me; the fact that Libraries are darn useful. I can recall myself, sitting in a library and reading books about Physics and History at the ages of 6 and 7. But Libraries are now an endangered species. They are at risk of cuts by local councils, bottlenecked by old systems and ideals for running the libraries. But as the internet is becoming more and more powerful, libraries are being sidelined. The extra services they provide over the books, such as the homework clubs, or use of the computers are required for some people, and indeed help to flourish people and their skills. But I think that for now, libraries are here to stay – for the sole reason the internet is not fully open. Libraries represent the diversity of knowledge and the freedom of that knowledge currently does not exist fully on the internet. It is possible that if several censorship laws are passed, knowledge previously garnered from the internet would have to be found in a library, a nostalgic experience for many. Thus, I think what has to happen is we use libraries as our backup, for the possible burning of the modern day Library of Alexandria; the hub of knowledge that is the internet. We require an equilibrium between the two. This may simply be the case however in countries with more wealth, but I think that in poorer countries struggling to make the jump, knowledge is what is needed, and the library can provide that. But libraries have to be supplemented by the great hive-mind of the Internet, to allow the extra services and knowledge that the library provides become a small amount compared to what the internet provides, but have enough force to show the governments that Libraries are here to stay.

I write this blogpost inspired by, and hoping to share awareness of National Libraries Day, occuring on the 4th of February. I thoroughly encourage you to spend some time in your library that day, and perhaps help out with spreading this post, and National Libraries Day.

On 2 interesting library related notes, firstly, has anyone seen my hardback copy of Snuff, by Terry Pratchett. And secondly, the library I volunteer at, well I owe them about £1350 in late fees for a book I “borrowed” when I was 5. It was about trains. Yeah…

Henry (direthoughts.com)

Who is advising Ed Vaizey?

On 26th January 2012 the following written question was raised in Parliament by MP Dan Jarvis (Shadow Culture, Media & Sports Minister).
Dan Jarvis: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport who in his Department is responsible for identifying and advising him on potential problems with the provision of library services by local authorities, including whether a library authority may be in breach of its statutory duties under the Libraries Act 1964. [91892]

Ed Vaizey: Public library services provided across England are monitored by this Department’s officials who engage directly with library authorities. They also monitor correspondence sent to the Department, monitor websites and press articles, and engage in meaningful discussion with organisations that have current information about public library service provision. These include Arts Council England, the Society of Chief Librarians and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201212/cmhansrd/cm120126/text/120126w0001.htm#12012677002292

In light of the current state of affairs regarding ongoing library cuts and closures throughout England we would be very interested to know:

  • What engagement are DCMS officials having with local authorities?
  • What advice are Ed Vaizey and the DCMS being given by these named organisations?
  • What are the DCMS and Ed Vaizey doing with that advice?
At the moment it seems that any advice being given is either being ignored or is advice that continues to help the dismantling of UK public library services.

Libraries are not free market choice

Writing Public Libraries News, I come across lots of good, and not so good quotes from people.  Recently, I was going to call one blog posting “free market choice” after an unfortunate comment from a Bexley councillor but another quote, that called libraries “weapon of mass instruction“, so beautifully summed up what a library is that it won the game hands down.
The whole point about public libraries, of course, is that they offer the complete opposite of the free market by doing such a wonderful job of “mass instruction”.
When I do junior school class visits – and I do a lot – there is a little bit of fun that sums this up.  I get two children to come up.  One play-acts taking a book from Asda (my town has no bookshops) without paying for it.  As they almost leave, I shout “beep beep beep” and “stop thief!” to general hilarity.  The other play-acts taking a book from the public library without paying for it.  I shout “thank you” and “come back again”.  This is the difference.  One does not pay to take out a book.  One can take out twenty books retailing at perhaps £8 per book for free, as many times as one likes.  The High Street or Amazon alternative is simply not an option for many of the people I deal with.  £160 every three weeks on books?  I think not.
Libraries are not a “free market choice”.  There’d be no free access to books if it was left to the free market.  In a pure market driven economy, one would not be able to read a book without having the means to pay for it.  Believe me, there’s a lot of families who would never buy a book.  A lot of children denied the greatest chance of all life chances: that of a love of books, of a love for literacy and all the advantages that that gives.  Ladies, Gentleman and Councillors from Bexley, it’s the public library or nothing for a lot of the kids when it comes to reading.  The free market would just leave them with nothing.
Ian Anstice

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.

Comment on Arts Council England “Culture, knowledge and understanding” report

The Arts Council England (A.C.E.) recently published “Culture, knowledge and understanding: great museums and libraries for everyone“, which is its first major publication covering libraries since it was announced that A.C.E. would take over the responsibility for them from the Museums Libraries and Archives Council.
It explains what the Arts Council considers as important and what they are planning to do. It starts with a summary of the situation, including this paragraph which rebuts the arguments of people who say libraries are naturally declining, stagnating or middle class:

“Although public libraries have seen a decrease in the numbers of people borrowing books, evidence shows that where there has been strategic investment – such as in promoting children’s reading – visits rise. And patterns of use are changing, with a significant increase in users accessing services digitally. Libraries have innovated in response, offering enhanced digital provision and actively promoting libraries as local social spaces which can draw in and support new users. Unlike museums or the arts, differences in people’s socio-economic status do not affect their likelihood of using a library; neither does illness or having a disability.” (p.9/10)

The Council makes very clear that they do not have large amounts of money.  In fact, they have far less than the old MLA and so are keen on things which save money while still continuing the service:

 “The Arts Council is keen to see museums and libraries continuing to innovate in their approaches to engaging with communities and making more effective use of volunteers; we are keen to see them working together to achieve this” (p.11)

This above quote shows, and it is a recurring theme in the document, the importance of Museums, Arts and Libraries in working together and learning from each other in order to spread good ideas and make the most of less money.  Similarly, the Arts Council is not against outsourcing, be it private or through trusts.  They especially like the idea of philanthropy:

“Museums and libraries similarly need to strengthen their business models, diversify their income streams and look at new ways of encouraging private giving and supporting enterprise. Likewise, they need to continue to explore new ways of collaborating and improving efficiency in order to thrive
not just survive.” (p.12)

The document lists five aims.  These are listed in colourful management-speak and would be relatively meaningless to show here in their original form.  However, a rough translation of the aims is:
  1. Funding new initiatives that show original thinking, especially if they will save money
  2. To get more people to use libraries
  3. To find ways of surviving with less council money
  4. A lessening in the dominance of white middle class staff
  5. Encourage more children in

The Council is keen on advocacy work for libraries and working with the Local Government Group, Society of Chief Librarians and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals “to develop clear messages about the public value libraries can provide and a shared vision for the library service in 10 years’ time.”.  It is perhaps at least good to see that the Council thinks libraries will still be here in 2021.

Other key points raised in the report were:
  • Libraries are at the heart of the community and are not just “nice to have”.
  • They are innovative.
  • The quality of services they provide is important.
  • They need to be invested in.
  • Communities want to be involved in the development of library services they receive.
  • Libraries help create empowered citizens and this ability to empower should be expanded right across the broader arts sector.
  • Digital access to information is important, but A.C.E. also recognises that not everything is accessible digitally/online and not everyone wants to, or can access services in this way.
  • Rural services may be able to benefit from collaboration across the arts sector.
  • Libraries have a broader impact on our wider life experiences.
  • A.C.E. recognises the educational, knowledge and informative roles libraries have, as much as their arts/cultural role.
  • Advocacy is essential at all levels of the profession.
  • Relationships and partnerships between libraries and all sectors need to be developed.

It’s encouraging to see that the report is so positive about the role/services libraries can and do provide and how they are developing to meet users needs. The acknowledgement that libraries provide opportunities for citizens that other arts sector areas don’t, but can take advantage of in the future, is important, as it demonstrates that libraries do have a uniqueness and this is partly why they have a key role to play in the future. However, how does the steady increase of removing professional staff from libraries and replacing them with volunteers tie in with A.C.E.’s acknowledgement of the importance of providing quality services?

It’s important that the report also goes some way to allaying fears that the Arts Council may have placed its focus on the cultural/arts aspects of libraries at the expense of education and knowledge, etc.

As indicated earlier in this post, the Arts Council does have a 10 year plan, but for this year, the main activity, appears to be simply to continue with the Future Libraries Programme with guidance from the Local Government Group, which may cause some worries amongst those who do not highly regard it. There are certain aspects of this programme that aren’t necessarily seen as successful by local communities or the library profession, especially when they involve reductions in service.

It is worth noting that you can email your views as to what you think is important for the Arts Council to consider to museums.libraries@artscouncil.org.uk.  Get emailing.