Tag Archives: public libraries and museums act 1964

My Library By Right Campaign

We welcome CILIP’s recently launched campaign, My Library By Right, which champions the call for access to quality public library services, including:

  • The public’s rights to libraries to be recognised and respected
  • Public libraries to be treated as the statutory services they are
  • The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to carry out their legal duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act
  • Statutory guidance for local authorities on their duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act from DCMS, with support from CILIP and the library and information profession

The campaign has also resulted in a petition to MP John Whittingdale (Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport), which we would encourage everyone to sign.

CILIP have also suggested showing your support for the campaign in the following ways:

Full details of the campaign can be found here.

 

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Francis Bennion dies

The Voices for the Library team were saddened to hear of the passing of Francis Bennion on 28th January 2015. He drafted the bill that led to the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, which makes the provision of public libraries statutory in the UK, and is an Act to which many campaigners are holding their local authorities to account during this period of extreme public spending cuts. He was a supporter of Voices for the Library and kindly wrote this article describing the intent behind the provisions of the Act, and expressing his belief that the way in which local authorities and national
government are neglecting their statutory duties. He also wrote this letter expressing his concerns about the legality of public library cuts.

We are very grateful for the work Mr. Bennion put into the Act and his support for public libraries.

Society of Chief Librarians Re-Imagining Libraries Seminar

Today The Society of Chief Librarians held the first day of a two day seminar entitled “Re-imagining the public library offer”. Without any information on the UK SCL site about the event, we imagine it is focused on the recent introduction of the key offers supported by SCL.

The keynote address was given by Ed Vaizey, and thanks to the tweeting of a number of attendees we were able to follow the key points from it. He:
  • Commented on the idea that good news stories, such as new libraries and initiatives don’t make it into the headlines. Yes, it’s true that stories about closures and cuts feature in the news (as they should, because people are rightly annoyed by them), but on the other hand there were also plenty of headlines featuring the flagship libraries such as those in Birmingham and Liverpool and other celebratory headlines.
  • Indicated that there should be annual accountability for libraries in England.
  • Said the Public Libraries Act wouldn’t be replaced, but statutory duty must remain.
  • Mentioned that extending PLR to ebooks loaned off-premises was being considered.
  • Expressed how difficult it was to engage other ministers in the work of libraries.
  • Saw the benefits of leaving public libraries under the umbrella of Arts Council England as a way reinforce the cultural focus of libraries and leverage funds.
  • Dreams of a development agency for libraries.
Questions that were raised throughout the sessions today included:
  • Do CIPFA library statistics measure all that is needed to be measured in public libraries? We would say not – not only because people are now accessing library services in new ways that aren’t accounted for in the statistics, but also because the qualitative value of library use isn’t currently measured.
  • Should we reintroduce library standards, and what role should they play? We would highlight that as other countries in the UK have library standards why shouldn’t English libraries? Without them public library authorities are testing how far they can abuse the “comprehensive and efficient” “for all” aspects of the 1964 Act.
Many of these issues could be addressed with the reintroduction of the Advisory Council on Libraries (or a similar pro-active body) and public library standards. ACL could act as a single development agency for libraries in England with a holistic approach to libraries, rather than the current situation where a number of agencies, with their own limited focus take responsibility for developing different strands of public libraries with limited effectiveness. The reintroduction of appropriate library standards would help ensure that citizens are provided with a library service that does not aim for the lowest common denominator under the banner of “comprehensive and efficient”.
Other sessions highlighted the value of libraries across society, and even though they were all worthwhile and many did sit well with a library perspsective, some of them were attempting to shoehorn libraries into roles that would need more development, consideration and research before being recommended. It makes us wonder if the core aims of libraries are being lost by those in power in an attempt to redefine the purpose of a library at all cost?
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Victory for Gloucestershire and Somerset

Gloucestershire and Somerset library campaigners heard today that they have won their claim over library cuts and closures. The judge ruled in favour of their claims regarding the councils’ neglect to consider or address the findings of the Equality Impact Assessments that had been conducted. A quashing order means that the campaigners have put a halt to the council’s current plans for libraries – both local authorities’ plans will have to be rethought.

We would like to congratulate both Gloucestershire and Somerset campaigners and their lawyers on their success. We know it has been a long battle and their determination has paid off.

Regarding the councils’ failures to comply with the public sector equality duties, His Honour Judge McKenna ruled:

“The real question on this aspect of the case, it seems to me, is whether there was a conscious directing of the mind by the decision makers to their obligations under the legislation and in particular to the need to exercise the duty to have due regard in substance and with rigour and based on sufficient information, appropriately analysed.
“In my judgment, on the preponderance of the evidence, no such due regard was had in substance.  In order to discharge their respective duties, GCC and SCC should have undertaken a sufficiently thorough information gathering exercise and then properly analysed that information.  In this case I conclude that both GCC and SCC failed to comply with that obligation, accepting as I do the substance of the Claimants’ criticisms made of their respective information gathering and analysis to which I have referred above.”

Image from The Bookseller

Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries write:

“We are delighted with the outcome of the judicial review. This outcome follows the proper scrutiny of Gloucestershire County Council’s library plans in court; scrutiny which was never allowed under the councils own processes. The judge’s decision to rule in the claimant’s favour on equality grounds is a real vindication of our campaign, which has long argued that the removal of public library services from the most disadvantaged, deprived and vulnerable members of our community is grossly unfair. We are also pleased to learn that the council have been denied permission to appeal the decision.

“However, as Gloucestershire tax payers we regret the inevitable expense that will now be incurred by the county, and which could have been avoided if only the council had listened to and engaged with service users – they have seriously let their taxpayers and electorate down. Over the last year library users and retired professional librarians have repeatedly warned the council that they were in breach of the law, but party politics was always placed before these concerns, which were again and again dismissed.

“Gloucestershire residents should never have had to go through this stressful, upsetting and expensive process and serious questions now also need to be answered by the secretary of state Ed Vaizey.  It is Mr Vaizey’s duty to intervene when authorities are not meeting their obligations to provide a library service available to all who wish to use it. Why were Gloucestershire County Council allowed to continue down this destructive path? In opposition Mr Vaizey was a vocal critic of library closures yet our many pleas for help have been ignored whilst library users were left to fight this alone – it is clear that he left his convictions at the door on entering office.

“We would like to thank supporters of the campaign locally and nationally, and urge all Gloucestershire library users to keep a close eye on the county council’s activities in the coming months to ensure they do their job properly this time round. We also need to be vigilant to cuts which may be planned for the future. Libraries are more important than ever in times of financial crises, when education costs are rising astronomically and many people are losing their jobs.  We hope that come the next county council elections, voters will remember the arrogance displayed by the Gloucestershire County Council administration on this issue.

UPDATE

“It has been brought to our attention that Cllr Hawthorne has told the press that the council “lost on a small technical point”. This is absolutely NOT the case. The judge said “the decisions under challenge were not just unlawful but bad government” hence the total quashing of the library plans and telling them they have to start again.  It was VERY serious that they lost on this point.  The judge said it was a “substantive error of law” and a “substantial breach”

“We should receive a full transcript of the judgement in due course. That Cllr Hawthorne still considers his public sector equalities duties as a “small technical point” is extremely worrying.”

See also:

 

 

Outcome of Brent Judicial Review

Voices for the Library would like to express our disappointment with this morning’s ruling over the future of Brent libraries.  We would also like to re-state our support for library campaigners in Brent who have fought so hard to protect their library service for the good of the broader community.

The victory for Brent council sends out a very worrying message for library campaigners everywhere.  Council leaders across the country may look to this ruling to justify library closures and will see this ruling as the legal backing they require to go ahead with planned library closures.  They would be wrong to do so. Mr Justice Ouseley remarked during this morning’s proceedings that he did not believe the ruling in Brent had wide significance across the country, but instead reflected a judgement purely on how Brent council had approached its local situation. Councils should not, therefore, see this outcome as an excuse to cut their own services in a similar way.

Libraries across the country provide a vital service for many across the boundaries of society.  From young and old to rich and poor, libraries provide services for everyone. In the age of the internet it is easy to assume everyone has access to a wealth of free information.  The reality is that there are 9 million people in this country who are not connected to the internet.  For those 9 million people, the library is the only resource they have.  For parents of young children, the library plays an important role in supporting their development and improving their literacy skills.  For the elderly it is a vital lifeline to ensure they are not excluded from society.

Those who care about libraries across this country must come together and ensure that this ruling does not have the effect that many council leaders desire.  Together we can make a difference.  Together we can put pressure on Ed Vaizey to fulfil his commitment as Minister for libraries and ensure that library services across the country are truly comprehensive and efficient.  Write to Ed Vaizey and your councillors, get involved in local campaigns, encourage everyone you know to support and use their local library.  Together we can stop our library service being totally destroyed by those that do not understand the benefits they bring to local communities.

To the campaigners in Brent, we also say that whilst we share your disappointment, we hope you continue to fight your case at every turn.  You can be assured that we will stand and fight with you.  Today has undoubtedly been a setback but the outpouring of support for public libraries throughout the day should remind us that our cause is right.

Campaigners from Brent and around the country will be meeting on Saturday 22nd October at  University of London Union to co-ordinate efforts. See here for more details.

See here for a response from Unison and here for a response from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

Update: 20/10/11

Brent campaigners have been granted permission to appeal the decision made by Mr Justice Ouseley. The appeal is due to be heard in three weeks.

Public libraries are protected by law

This letter is reproduced with permission from Mr. Francis Bennion, a retired barrister and active writer and academic, who drafted the Bill which later became the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, the law which makes public libraries a statutory service. It is in response to the article written by Caitlin Moran, which is reproduced with her permission here. The paragraph that was omitted from the published letter (in square brackets) may be of particular interest to campaigners who are currently working on, or considering, legal challenges to library cuts.

I read Caitlin Moran’s account of the debt she owes her threatened public library as the only alma mater she has ever had (The Times Magazine, 13 August 2011) with particular sympathy. Nearly half a century ago I was struggling to draft appropriately the Bill that became the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. I was instructed to draw a reasonable line between the requirements of the public and the limited resources of local authorities. The Act is still operative. Various attempts to enforce it by judicial review are pending.

The Act says a local authority which is a library authority must “provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons . . . whose residence or place of work is within the library area of the authority or who are undergoing full-time education within that area”. Its stock of “books and other printed matter, and pictures, gramophone records, films and other materials”, must be “sufficient in number, range and quality to meet the general requirements and any special requirements both of adults and children”.

[Under this provision a severe reduction now in the public library facilities which were being provided by a particular library authority two or three years ago is likely to be unlawful. This is because there is a presumption that the earlier provision did not exceed what was required under the Act.]

The Act also says that the Government must “superintend, and promote the improvement of, the public library service provided by local authorities in England and Wales, and . . . secure the proper discharge by local authorities of the functions in relation to libraries conferred on them as library authorities”.

It does not appear that the statutory duties I have mentioned are being adequately fulfilled at present. The Act does not contain any provision for reduction of the duties because of a need for “cuts”. [1]



[1] Published in The Times 16 August 2011. The important passage in square brackets was omitted.