Report into library closures in England published

The Commons Select Committee inquiry into public library closures in England published its report today (6th November 2012). The report can be viewed as hyperlink sections, or as a pdf.

The headline of their news page is: “Council plans for libraries risk failure to comply with legal obligations, says Committee”. This news page has a useful summary and overview of the report.

“[T]he Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee says that some local authorities, under considerable pressure to quickly find cost savings, have drawn up plans without taking proper account of local needs for library services and the variety of options available to provide them, and are therefore in danger of failing in their statutory duty to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service. Other councils, however, have found innovative and cost-effective ways of continuing to supply – and in some cases improve – their library service.”

It goes on to say “the Committee recommends the Government, with the help of the Arts Council and Local Government association, […] spread guidance encouraging a broader and more permissive interpretation of the ‘comprehensive and efficient’ requirement.”

“The Committee recommends a new approach to the use of the Secretary of State’s existing powers – without requiring a change of legislation – with a modern approach to the supervisory duty that would emphasise developing the service, promoting best practice and supporting the service through intervention at a national level in areas where there are potential efficiencies of scale.”

Remember, this is England only. Libraries are a devolved matter and in Wales we have the Welsh Public Library Standards (a fact noted in the report), and the Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage is responsible for libraries. We also have a four year strategy (Libraries Inspire 2012-16) – the lack of a national strategy in England is noted in the report.

If you’re interested in how others are responding to the report you might like to look at:

[Update 13-2-13 The DCMS have published the Westminster Government’s response to the report]

There are some interesting graphs showing library usage over time, and, one startling fact: “We need only look at the fact that 80% of August rioters arrested had poor literacy levels.”[paragraph 20]

The structure of the report is:

  • Terms of Reference
  • Summary
  • 1 Background
    • Introduction
      • This Inquiry
      • The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964
      • The Wirral Inquiry and the Charteris Report
  • Library usage and the impact of funding cuts
    • Visitor numbers and book loans
    • Local authority expenditure on libraries
    • Number of Libraries
    • Opening hours
    • Staff numbers
  • 2 A comprehensive and efficient service
    • Defining a ‘comprehensive and efficient service’
    • Assessing local needs
      • Library buildings
      • Library staff
  • 3 A library service for the 21st century
    • Co-operation and mergers
    • Community libraries and the role of volunteers
    • Responsibility for ensuring a comprehensive and efficient service
    • Role of the Secretary of State
    • Role of the Arts Council
  • Conclusions and recommendations

Both the Summary and the Conclusions are useful starting points and the report itself is about 50 pages long.

About alysontyler

Civil servant, yoga teacher and former librarian.
This entry was posted in Buildings, Consultations, England, Governance, Libraries, Public libraries, Publications and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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