House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee - Parliament

House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee

Written Evidence accepted by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee for its inquiry into Library closures

9 February 2012

List of written evidence LIB:



S R Sibley, Chief Executive Officer, W F Howes Ltd



D J Williams



Simon Barron



Lechlade & District Civic Society



Campaign for the Book



Desmond Clarke



Alice Lock



June Winifred Quigley



David James Quigley



Shirley Burnham



Mike Cavanagh



Colin F Gibb



Camden Public Libraries Users Group



Black Country Shared Library Project



Save Bolton Libraries Campaign (SBLC)



Association of Friends of Dorset Libraries



Cornwall Council



West Midlands Society of Chief Librarians



Christopher Pipe



Councillor Henry Higgins, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure at the London Borough of Hillingdon



Hereford Library Users' Group



The We Heart Libraries



Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries



Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians



Nether Stowey Community Library Steering Committee



Staffordshire County Council



Bill Welland



Councillor Timothy Godfrey, Labour and Co-operative Party Councillor for Selhurst Ward, London Borough of Croyden



The Booksellers Association



The Reading Agency



Save Preston Library Campaign



The Network



John Holland, on behalf of former librarians of Glocestershire Libraries



Professor Robert Usherwood



Graham Meadows



Sarah McClennan



Libraries and Information East Midlands



Gillian Johnson



Jules Channer



Wyre Forest Agenda



Libraries for Life for Londoners



South Gloucestershire Council



Share the Vision



Derbyshire County Council



School Library Association



Lechlade Town Council Library Working Group






Watchet Library Friends Group



Users and Friends of Manor House Library



Mrs J E Orman



Professor John Irven, Treasurer of Watchet Library Friends and Friends of Somerset Libraries



Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)



Mrs R G Lawler



Friends of Waterloo Library



The Combined Regions Ltd



Mr Tony Hoare and Mr Mike Bedford



Coucillor David Pugh, Leader of the Isle of Wight Council



Councillor Paul Lorber, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Brent Council






Friends of Carnegie Library



Friends of Goring Library



Voices for the Library



Society of Chief Librarians



Pam Jakeman



Upper Norwood Library Campaign



The Friends of York Gardens Library and Community Centre



Dorset County Council



National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI)



Sarah Tanburn



The Library Campaign



Lewisham People Before Profit



Alan Goodearl



Kirsty Braithwaite



Anne Bennet



Newnham Library Support Group



John Laing Integrated Services



The Publishers Association



Lynne Coppendale



Simon Gurevitz on behalf of Friends of Preston Library and Preston Community Library



Alan Dove



Kent County Council



Friends of Lambeth Libraries



The Reynolds Family



The Friends of Wiveliscombe Library (FOWL)



Save Friern Barnet Library Group



We Care Foundation



Simon Randall CBE, Consultant and Joanna Bussell, Partner of solicitors, Winckworth Sherwood LLP



The Bookseller



Kirkburton Parish Council



Alison Hopkins



Elizabeth Chapman



Old Coulsdon Library Supporters Group



Birmingham Library and Archives Services



Laura Collignon



Save Croyden Libraries Campaign



Saleem Yousaf



Gareth Osler



Josephine Grahl



Sara Wingate Gray, Alice Corble, The Itinerant Poetry Librarian



Department of Culture Media & Sport



National Union of Journalists



Gloucestershire County Council



Friends of the Durning Library



John Dougherty



Tim White



Save Cricklewood Library Campaign



Leicestershire County Council



Anne Howie



Councillor Henri Murison (Cabinet member for Quality of Life) and Tony Durcan (Director of Culture, Libraries and Learning) on behalf of Newcastle City Council



Roger Backhouse



Hugh Paton



Rosehill Readers, on behalf of Save Suffolk Libraries



Save Oxfordshire Libraries



Peter Griffiths



Friends of Kensal Rise Library



Library Systems and Services UK Ltd



Executive Committee of the Association of London Chief Librarians



Brent SOS Libraries Campaign



Lauren Smith



The Society of Authors



Yinnon Ezra MBE



Christina Burnett



Arts Council England



Barry Gardiner MP



Richard A Shirres



Doncaster Council



Public Interest Lawyers



London Borough of Brent



Trustees of the North Taunton Partnerships



Local Government Association (LGA)



Sue Charteris



Written evidence submitted by S R Sibley, Chief Executive Officer W F Howes Ltd (LIB 001) I am writing to you in both a professional capacity and also personal capacity. I run an audiobook Publishing business and have two children aged 27 and 22 who have both benefited in primary, secondary and tertiary education and without the availability of local and central library facilities would not have reached their current level of attainment. If one looks at the current educational problems with levels of literacy in school leavers then the impact the Public Library has on supporting and improving literacy and comprehension are clear and undeniable. Additionally this is achieved without stigma and from a genuine professional caring approach by Librarians. In the recent past while numbers of issues may have not necessarily risen the library has acted a real community centre for all ages including job seekers and immigrants and what strikes me as the most significant act is that during the summer when we experienced riots on the streets – there were no attacks on public libraries. A very public statement. I have an elderly mother who is housebound and the fortnightly visit by the library volunteer helper to bring books for here to read is an absolute highlight in her life and affords social inclusion and interaction – take it away and undoubtedly health costs will rise in some shape or form. Both of my children supplemented “A” level studies with visits to Birmingham Central library and were amazed at the resources and benefited accordingly. So what constitutes a Library function for the future where we have a population growing and levels of literacy not conducive to gaining sustainable employment. Firstly an understanding of what Libraries are offering is fundamental and there are some perceptions as to an industry that has not moved in the last few decades which could not be further from the truth. Also the embracement of on line services has been very strong and yet what we have asked of our service does not give rise to developing strong marketeers so we need to blend more carefully the resources employed in libraries to further the impact in the community. During the recession footfall at libraries increased and without doubt depression of people was offset by the library facility – what price do you put on this? Secondly locations and accessibility have to change – undoubtedly some branches would benefit from different opening hours to meet the local usage needs and with the world being a 24/7 society having branches open when workers finish their hours makes immense sense. If you reduce hours to those when people cannot attend then the numbers of users will fall and the relevance of the branch would be deemed minimal and closure would result for totally the wrong reasons. Thirdly we should have the rule of life membership when a person is borne so that they can use a branch wherever they are located or visiting. It doesn’t mean they can borrow a book in Scotland and return in London but they can access a lot of other services wherever they happen to be and have borrowing capacity at their local branch. I have had the benefit of setting up a business in Australia and it is amazing how central to life the library is to the whole population and they (Australia) did meet the recession challenge a little better than Europe and America and they also coped with mopping up disasters in Queensland by getting the public services back up and running first, including Libraries. It is clear we have to cut costs as a nation but the important aspect is to shed costs which do not lead to increase costs in other areas. It is not just the poor and the vulnerable who will


suffer it is also those who we look to help grow the country for the future who will have the edge blunted. Councils have to cut costs but it must surely be the duty of any responsible government to step in and ensure that waste is cut first, then those services which have low impact such as twinning visits and new council offices and mayoral cars. We are very good at pomp and ceremony but let’s delay some of it for a while whilst we regroup. Then my final point is that of a supplier – Libraries can streamline structure and reduce costs like any other business but if we shut branches and reduce activity then the supplier base will shrink or costs will rise and inevitably jobs will come under pressure – jobs that support an industry that is central to civilised society. Maybe the industry should actually be centralised rather than regionalised as it seems to me that different authorities derive different outputs and where one has mobile libraries travelling huge distances in one authority because it is large maybe we could better apportion boundary activity thereby reducing environmental impact aswell as serving a need at lower cost. Please do not tear down part of the fabric of our society that underpins true social need and benefit. By all means prune sensibly but ensure that feeding also takes place. November 2011


Written evidence submitted by Mr D J Williams (LIB 002) I do not need 1000 words to submit my disclosure which is simple and therefore easy to understand. The disclosure is this: The large increase in library expenditure in recent years is due to the apparent need to provide computer services for the public. The final result of this practice will be to close smaller libraries and thereby limit access to books to elderly or disabled people and who do not necessarily use computers. The people who use computers in libraries have access elsewhere. We should get back to the original use to provide books. Please do not discard this disclosure because it is not in the form you normally desire but consider my point seriously. November 2011


Written evidence submitted by Simon Barron (LIB 003) Summary • • • • • •

I am pleased that the DCMS is investigating the closure of well-used public libraries in England and the rest of the UK. The closure of libraries would not only contravene the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 but devastate local communities and public library users. A comprehensive and efficient library needs to be available to its community at their point of need. It would be difficult for volunteers to provide library services definable as ‘comprehensive and efficient’. Public libraries are a right and are absolutely necessary in an information-rich society and during an economic recession. Sweeping library closures would leave our country indefinably poorer and I hope the Committee will consider calling for a moratorium on all closures until proper inquiry and consultations have taken place.

Introduction 1. I would like to submit my personal views and evidence of public library service provision in the United Kingdom. Having worked in, campaigned for, and most importantly, used public libraries for years, I hope my thoughts can help you come to an informed and partisan decision about our public libraries and the impact of closures. I am also available to provide verbal evidence to the Committee if required. Main body 2. First of all, let me say how pleased I am that the DCMS is now investigating the public library crisis in the UK. For the past year, we’ve seen councils threatening to close well-used libraries, continuing with plans to dramatically cut public library provision despite poorly-done consultations (see the Gloucestershire and Somerset judicial review), and thousands of people petitioning Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey to look into the cultural impact of hundreds of public library closures. As such, it’s wonderful that the DCMS are going to examine the cultural impact of libraries and how the UK’s libraries operate in the 21st Century. 3. At the time of writing, there are 422 public libraries under direct threat of closure in the UK. CILIP, the professional body for librarians forecasts that 600 libraries in total are under threat accounting for 20% of the UK’s public libraries. The impact of such sweeping closures would inevitably mean that dozens of councils would fail to meet the legal requirements of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. Closing many libraries in a single area could not but have a devastating and detrimental effect on local communities impacting on everyone in the community from children whose parents lack the disposable income to buy books to elderly people finding a place to talk to others or experience some privacy to unemployed people who require Web access to apply for jobs and update their skills.


4. In order to assess whether library provision after such cuts would be ‘comprehensive and efficient’, it’s necessary to define what makes a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service in the 21st Century. A public library service needs to be available to its community: this means opening hours that meet the needs of working people including evenings and weekends; it means wide geographic coverage across an area so that those without access to a car or other private transport can reach their libraries; it means everyone should be allowed perfectly equitable access regardless of income, socio-economic background, or age. 5. Importantly, it would be tremendously difficult for volunteers to provide a comprehensive and efficient service in lieu of trained library staff. In Hudswell in North Yorkshire, the library has been moved into a local pub under a ‘community library’ model. The library now consists of a single shelf of books: there are no trained library staff; there is no access to computers or to the Web; there is no way to access information. This is simply not a library and even if it were, it could not be called ‘comprehensive and efficient’. Many councils are pursuing plans to replace professional public library workers with volunteers. Aside from concerns about the accountability of volunteers and their handling of sensitive information, it’s clear that volunteer library workers would not necessarily have the skills required to run a busy library. Cataloguing, acquisitions, reference enquiries, IT support, childcare, handling of confidential information: these are all skills that require training and simply cannot be performed by someone walking in off the street. Volunteer-run libraries – ‘community libraries’ as they are often called – are no replacement for professionally-run libraries, cannot be considered comprehensive and efficient, and do not meet the legal requirements of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. 6. Public libraries and the access to information that they provide should be considered a right rather than a privilege. In a country with falling literacy rates and increasing youth unemployment, it’s more important than ever that children and young people have access to books without the restrictions of money. Everyone in fact deserves access to humanity’s corpus of shared knowledge and public libraries can provide a local link to this vast body of information. Not everything is on the Internet and even that information that is on the Web is unorganised and often unreliable. Reliable information – our history, our literature, our culture, our science – is in books and in other documents. Only a fragment is on the Internet and there is therefore no way to say that libraries can be closed because everything is on the Internet. Even if it were, millions of people in the UK – an estimated 23% of the population – have no access to the Web, many relying instead on public libraries for their link to job websites, forums for communication, and information sources like Wikipedia. 7. I’m sure the Committee will receive hundreds of submissions similar to this one and I hope that, despite the repetition of the message, the content will be taken onboard. Library closures have a devastating impact on local communities, they contravene the requirements of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, and they leave our country indefinably poorer. Public libraries are valuable and for


too long, they’ve suffered from diminishing resources and a stark lack of marketing from councils: despite budget cuts and opening hour reductions, many have kept providing their service to the community, have kept providing a place for people, and have kept meeting the increasing demands of a society saturated with information. We live in an information-rich world and at this time it would be illogical to close portals that give access to information. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Lechlade & District Civic Society (LIB 004) Introduction This submission to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee is on behalf of the Lechlade & District Civic Society and is intended to contribute to the inquiry into library closures. It addresses two questions “what constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century” and “the impact library closures have on local communities”. The comments are based on the experience gained from Lechlade library being designated for closure by Gloucestershire County Council (GCC). Matters concerning the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 will be left to others who have the appropriate legal expertise. Executive Summary • • • • •

Given that savings must be made to County Council Budgets, they must not be achieved by closing libraries. Library closures amount to social and intellectual vandalism, the effects of which are irreversible. Expenditure on libraries can be minimised by employing best practices and entrepreneurial thinking and making use of imaginative collaborations. It is fatuous to assume that voluntary groups in local communities can do anything more than assist a proper professional core of librarians. Closures in rural communities are particularly devastating as libraries provide the focal point for vital community activities embracing the educational and social well-being of all age groups, genders, physical abilities, and income levels.

What Constitutes a Comprehensive and Efficient Library Service 1. Libraries should not just be places for lending books or accessing computers. Laudable as these roles are, libraries should be about the broadest possible concept of knowledge – its storage, retrieval, dissemination and, most important of all, its use. 2. Libraries should be in the forefront of understanding and ideas. To suggest that an effective library service could be offered to a local community, if its existing library is closed down, and its patrons be invited to travel to a nearby facility in the name of cost cutting, is disingenuous and completely misses the point of what a library service should provide. 3. There are, however, many possibilities for combining facilities, sharing management, maintenance and running costs and, most importantly, adding value to the services provided. Current GCC policy is totally negative in thinking that libraries are cost centres and therefore can be reduced or eliminated. 4. An efficient library service for the 21st century requires a mind-set that recognises that the service is an indispensable part of the community and must be embedded in that community. 5. There are many examples of best practice in the UK and these should be emulated. Every opportunity should be taken to generate income and share costs. Ideas are many


and varies so the fundamental point to be made for the 21st century is that closures are short sighted and not the answer. Every opportunity, which each individual situation offers, must be grasped to mitigate and share costs. 6. It is also completely unrealistic to expect voluntary groups to take over the running of libraries in the 21st century. The implementation of the library service, which meets the revised mind-set outlined above, requires expert professionalism at its heart, encompassing business and entrepreneurial expertise with fundamental librarianship. Voluntary groups in local communities could assist with the latter but libraries in the 21st century will require dedicated and visionary professionals. The Impact Library Closures Have on Local Communities 7. In a local rural community, such as Lechlade, the library provides an essential resource that is crucial to the vitality of the area. The library provides tangible services such as books, large print books, audio books, DVDs, access to the internet, photocopying, and local maps and information. It also provides “books on prescription” which are self-help publications on sensitive issues such as alcoholism and obesity which are recommended to patients by the town's medical practice. 8. Situated in the heart of the town it also acts as a local meeting place, as an information centre for local people and visitors and keeps people up-to-date on events in the community such as planning notices and licence applications. The Town Diary, which contains all of the key events in the community, is held in the library. Posters are displayed in the windows promoting events and information of relevance to the community. Additionally, the library hosts numerous group activities. Events for children are run on a weekly basis and informal social networking provides a venue for interaction between all generations in the town. Practical workshops are held which include local crafts, local history, and church groups. 9. Library closure in Lechlade would remove all of the above activities from the life of the town and the impact would be to tear the heart out of the community as well as remove the only tangible symbol of the benefits of a literary activity. 10. Older people are especially dependent on the library as the town is poorly served by public transport which could provide access to library facilities elsewhere. Similarly, school children are dependent on the library for access to books which are crucial in developing and maintaining their literacy levels. The Summer Reading Programme is hugely popular with local school children and parents alike. The success of the scheme has been cited by OFSTED as “a positive stimulus to maintaining reading levels” in their report on the local primary school. 11. Were the library in Lechlade to be closed, all the above attributes would be irreplaceable and lost to the local community. The impact would fall most heavily on the young and old. 12. Whilst the above relates specifically to Lechlade, it also illustrates the impact that library closures would have on local communities in general. December 2011


Written evidence submitted by Campaign for the Book (LIB 005) 1.Context: *1.1 The 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act sets the framework for the public library service. At its heart is the requirement to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ service to users. *1.2 Between 2000 and 2011 the United Kingdom’s position in the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) reading rankings has declined from seventh to twenty-fifth. *1.3 The National Literacy Trust has found that a child who visits a library is twice as likely to read well as one who does not. (Report 4.2.2011). *1.4 The National Literacy Trust has reported that one child in three does not own a book. Seven years ago it was one in ten. (Report 5.12.2011). *1.5 The Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development says that reading for pleasure is more important than social class in determining academic and social success. (2005). *1.6 600 public libraries face loss of funding or closure (CILIP). *1.7 Many School Library Services have closed in the last year and a number of school librarians have been made redundant. This further narrows users’ opportunities to access books, ICT and information. It correspondingly strengthens the case that the public library service should be developed. *1.8 One third of homes does not have access to the Internet. 1.9 We can see from this digest of reports that reading is vital especially for the young and the elderly who use libraries most heavily and are the least likely to have their own transport to travel a long distance to a library. It fosters social and academic success, social inclusion and wellbeing. With the onset of the financial and economic crisis the Public Library Service, already described as one ‘under stress’ is facing major challenges. 1.10 The UK, which has performed relatively poorly in international comparisons, can ill afford to allow the erosion of the mainstay of its reading culture, the public library service. We need a greater focus on literacy and reading, not a weaker one. Any cost-savings will prove illusory as the impact of poor literacy levels in reduced international competitiveness and social deprivation is seen. We need only look at the fact that 80% of August rioters arrested had poor literacy levels. 1.11 My name is Alan Gibbons. I am an award-winning children’s author, former teacher and Organiser of the Campaign for the book established to promote reading for pleasure. This has led me to campaign for libraries and librarians. I


organized the 110 Read Ins involving some 10,000 people on February 5th, 2010 and initiated the call for National Libraries Day. 2. What is a comprehensive and efficient service? 2.1 Library authorities have to fulfil their duty to provide a comprehensive service. They promote reading, information retrieval, knowledge, literacy and education. Communities should be able to access a local branch library easily. There is a duty to observe equal opportunities, ensuring that the young and elderly, people with English as a second language, the housebound and disabled all have equal access to facilities. This duty was a feature of the recent Gloucestershire and Somerset legal cases. A comprehensive service is not just a glittering central library in every town. Citizens should have a branch library within a mile to a mile and a half from their homes. This featured in discussions of the future of Brent libraries. 3. A comprehensive service should include the following: *3.1 Sufficient professional, full time staff working directly with the public to serve its needs. *3.2 Provision of up to date, appropriate and attractive books. *3.3 Computers and research materials. *3.4 E books for free loan. *3.5 Bright, airy, attractive buildings. *3.6 A users’ group drawn from the local community to ensure the library meets their needs. *3.7 Regular events with authors, poets, storytellers, etc. *3.8 Outreach activities with schools and community groups. 4. An efficient service should include the following: *4.1 Consistency of scale. There are currently 151 library authorities of varying size. There were 98 fourteen years ago. Merged library services could increase efficiency and reduce costs and duplication. (The consultant Tim Coates has some experience in examining these issues in Hillingdon. His expertise should be sought). *4.2 Simplicity of operation. The sharing of back office functions, the simplifying of procurement procedures, supply chain operations, central service charges should all be reviewed to place the emphasis on serving the public, ensuring the richest book stock and the widest range of services available. 5. Consistent standards: Public library service standards should be reinstated to establish the fine detail of the minimum level of service users should be able to expect. There are wide regional and local disparities at the moment. This is at odds with the notion of a comprehensive and efficient public library service.

6. The threat of closures: 6.1 CILIP estimates that up to 600 libraries are threatened with closure. Nothing like this figure of closures has occurred so far, but there has been a process of


‘hollowing out’ with job losses, reduced opening hours, the slashing of book stock and the transfer of responsibility for running libraries to volunteer groups. 6.2 This has been happening piecemeal and constitutes a betrayal of the public. 6.3 It would be far better if there were strong, strategic leadership in the form of a Library Development Board setting priorities and pursuing them singlemindedly. 6.4 The priorities are to establish a strong national network of branches open as long as possible, with good book stocks and ICT and confident, accessible staff. Where costs are an issue, these should be the priorities in the channeling of resources. 6.5 Some authorities are carrying out crude cost-cutting exercises without considering long-term effects on communities. 7. Volunteers: 7.1 Volunteers have been a feature of libraries for many years. Councils should not misuse their talents and enthusiasm however. Librarianship is a profession and full time staff are central to the running of any library. Strong, strategic leadership would place the emphasis on putting as many full time staff in direct contact with the public as possible. 7.2 Volunteers should supplement, rather than replace, full time staff. 8. Strong, strategic leadership: 8.1 The Secretary of State has a duty to ‘superintend’ library authorities and set up a local inquiry when required. A previous Secretary of State did just this in Wirral preventing the authority closing half its libraries. The current Secretary of State was vociferous in pressing Andy Burnham on such issues, but has been silent over recent ‘Wirrals’ such as Gloucestershire, Somerset, Lewisham, Isle of Wight, Bolton, Doncaster and Brent. 8.2 The All Party Parliamentary Group described leadership in the sector as ‘woeful.’ The situation has deteriorated since. There was good cause for the Secretary of State to intervene in all these cases. The silence from the DCMS was deafening. 8.3 It is high time the Secretary of State observed his duties and: *8.4 drew on the expertise of library users, campaign groups and professional bodies to establish a Libraries Development Board. *8.5 took his duty to superintend the service seriously *rejected the siren voices in the Local Government Association that want the repeal of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act


*8.6 drew up a strategic plan with a strong vision for the future health and improvement of the public library service. December 2011


Written evidence submitted by Desmond Clarke (LIB 006) 1. Executive Summary • Widespread protest reflects not just concerns about closures in rural and deprived areas but also worries about literacy, access to education and knowledge and the degradation of the library profession. • There is also a debate about how library funds are spent and the need to “streamline” the service and reduce the 151 separately managed authorities. • There has long been a concern about the “woeful” lack of leadership for the sector and the failure to promote a powerful vision for a modern library service. Both the Minister and the All Party Parliamentary Library Group previously agreed the need for some form of library development board. • A comprehensive service necessitates providing resources which are accessible to all to support literacy, reading and the acquisition of information and knowledge. • It is necessary to maintain a thriving network of branch libraries to ensure services are accessible by the young, elderly and disadvantaged. Such libraries are a highly valued local service especially in small towns and villages. We have to be concerned that a few flagship libraries do not disguise a ruined hinterland. • Public Library Service Standards should be re-introduced. They continue to be an effective measure of provision in Wales (Welsh Government: Maintaining a Valued Service 2011-14 document attached) 1 . The Scottish Executive published in 2007 A Public Library Quality Improvement Matrix for Scotland. • The development of e book lending services by library authorities is haphazard if not in turmoil. DCMS and ACE should urgently develop a strategy for a viable national service available to all. PLR should be introduced for e book loans. • Much can be done to improve efficiency, including merging library services across authorities, implementing fully national standards and simplifying processes, eradicating layers of management and sharing back-office functions. Central services charges imposed on library authorities need to be put under the spotlight. It is reasonable to suggest that across the country total gains of about £100 million could be realised. • Disproportionate cuts to services and major closures of community and mobile services are not compatible with providing a comprehensive service under the Act. These cuts often have the greatest impact on the young, the elderly and the disadvantaged as well as those in rural and deprived areas. • Ministers were wrong to close the Advisory Council on Libraries which is prescribed in the Act. The ACL should have been developed as an expert body to provide independent advice to ministers and to report annually on the condition of public libraries in this country. The Council did not incur any costs other than travel expenses for some of its members.


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• The Secretary of State has adequate powers under the Act to intervene and to set up a local inquiry if required as was shown by the Wirral and previously, the threatened Derbyshire cases. I do not doubt that councils such as the Isle of Wight were aware of this risk when they decided to amend their closure plans. • While the “light touch” adopted by the current Minister may be welcomed by the Local Government Association and councils, it does not deal effectively with the worst cases and has necessitated some local campaign groups having to seek expensive judicial reviews. It has also led to widespread criticism of ministers in the media with the often repeated complaint that they have been “sitting on their hands”. • Both the current Minister and his predecessor in the last government have rightly rejected a proposal from the LGA that the 1964 Act should be repealed. Removing the statutory duty would allow some councils to evade their responsibilities and allow the provision of quality library services to become even more a post code lottery. • There is a need for ministers and those responsible for library services provision to communicate a clear message as to what every citizen’s entitlement should be in terms of library provision (A Library Charter). • There are several examples of innovative and well managed library authorities but alas, there are an increasing number of authorities that are failing the millions of people who rely upon public libraries. The very slow process of persuading 151 separately managed authorities to change, improve and to focus on the diverse needs of their communities requires leadership, vision and the determination of the strategic agencies, the profession and local politicians to deliver. We have had numerous reports and studies, the two year Library Modernisation Review and different inquiries. What we urgently need is action. As has been said before, there is a need for everyone to “up their game”. 2. Introduction and general observations 2.1 I am a library campaigner. I retired as President and CEO of Thomson Publishing Services Group, a division of the Thomson Corporation (now Thomson Reuters). I was previously a director of Faber & Faber and I have been a Non Executive director of several businesses including a leading library and wholesale supply group and a publishing technology business. I am a former chair of the library charity, Libri. 2.2 Government and many local authorities are facing broad opposition to the disproportionate cuts being imposed on public libraries. While protests often reflect particular concern about closures in small towns and villages, they also reflect worries about literacy, access to education and knowledge, and the degradation of the library profession. There is also confusion about the volunteer agenda and how volunteers should be employed to enhance community services. 2.3 In the background is a debate about how library funds are spent, the need to “streamline” the service, and the balance between corporate and support service costs with the investment in front line services. In particular, questions are being asked about whether we need 151 separately managed library authorities in England and how this structure impedes innovation, modernisation and efficiency improvements. Related to this is the need to reduce significantly administrative costs given that about 20-25% of the budget for most library services (and in some cases, up to 50%) is committed to council recharges and library support costs.


2.4 There has long been a concern about the inability of government, its agencies and the professional bodies to provide effective leadership for the sector. There has been a failure to communicate a powerful vision for libraries in the 21st Century. What do we expect public libraries to do and how will they be relevant in 10 years time? Specifically, there needs to be a greater focus on the role libraries play in encouraging literacy through reading, in education and in bridging the “digital divide” but also in recognising their crucial role as a community hub for a range of activities from home work clubs to home delivery for the housebound. The reasons why we should all strive to support the vision must be clear to everyone, not least local politicians. There is also a need to ensure that the “library offering” is properly marketed. 2.5 The present Minister and the All Party Library Group have previously suggested the need for some form of Library Development Board to provide strategic leadership, to develop a vision for a modern library service, to encourage and support improvement, to undertake research and to share best practice. It could also establish standards for the provision of library services. That group could be hosted by the Arts Council but it is essential that it is set up with people who have the vision and expertise to work with the profession and local politicians in building a vibrant service which meets people’s real needs. 2.6 It is important to recognise that the quality, reach and efficiency of library services does vary considerably between authorities. There are several well managed authorities which deliver a quality service to the benefit of residents. There are also about 40 major renovations and new builds in progress, mainly in city centres, and a number of authorities have come together to share and improve procurement, bibliographic services and even, management. In particular, librarians are often highly motivated, caring and committed to serving their communities. 3. A Comprehensive service 3.1 Library authorities fulfil their duty to provide a comprehensive service by offering a service, inclusive to all, which supports reading, literacy, education and the acquisition of information and knowledge. Library resources should be easily accessible by public transport and available during key periods of demand. In particular an authority should ensure that children, the elderly, the disadvantaged and the housebound can access a thriving network of community libraries supported by mobile services and home delivery. We have to be concerned that a few flagship libraries in city centres do not conceal a ruined hinterland. 3.2 A comprehensive service should include: a. Suitable and appropriate access to library services b. Provision of a suitable and appropriate range of books, other materials and computers for public use c. Access to e books for free loan as these become available d. Provision of adequate staffing levels e. Provision of adequate space and attractive buildings f. Recognition that libraries often provide a unique community resource with related services that are highly valued by local residents.


g. Improvement in the quality of services to meet the changing needs of communities 3.4 Previous governments introduced Public Libraries Service Standards to set an acceptable level of service provision and authorities were required to report annually on whether these standards had been achieved. Such standards were initially welcomed though they were later revised and then, withdrawn. However, the Welsh National Assembly still requires its authorities to report annually against agreed service standards (See attached Welsh Government Maintaining a Valued Service). 2 The Scottish Executive in 2007 published A Public Library Quality Improvement Matrix for Scotland. I suggest that Public Library Service Standards should be re-introduced in England to ensure that the quality of library services does not become a post code lottery. 3.5 E books and on line information services will become an increasingly important means for delivering the written word and information. There are many licensing and copyright, technical and commercial issues related to the development of e book lending. Some will question the extent to which public libraries will ever be a major player in this market given the temptation for innovative commercial players to want to take “ownership of the customer”. It is worrying that the Arts Council’s Library Development Initiative almost ignores e books. 4 An efficient service 4.1 More can be done to improve the efficiency of the public library service. The DCMS has in the past commissioned reports by the consultants PwC and PKF to identify opportunities but insufficient work has been done to optimise potential gains. 4.2 At the heart of the problem is that we have 151 separately managed library authorities, ranging in size from a handful of libraries to those with more than 100 branches. They often use different systems and processes, have their own back-office and management structures and lack the expertise to market their services and efficiently manage resources to the optimum benefit of communities. Westminster Council has reported that it will deliver annual savings of £1.1 Million (about 10% of its controllable costs) when it merges its library services with those of two neighbouring councils. Across the country it is reasonable to suggest that by reducing the number of authorities by a third (as has been suggested by the current Minister) savings in the region of £50 Million might be delivered. This seems to be a realistic target given that there were just 98 authorities fourteen years ago, 4.3 Hillingdon Council has shown that it can deliver annual savings of £300,000 by better managing its resources, improving its procurement and removing layers of management. At the same time it is implementing a programme of refurbishment and has seen usage increase by up to 50% in its refurbished libraries. The council has been careful to introduce improvements and resources in each refurbished library which meet the particular needs of the local community. 4.4 Implementing national standards and simplifying processes in every authority has been painfully slow. The technology is often dated and sometimes incapable of communicating with the systems of neighbouring authorities. While I accept that recently there have been a number of initiatives to share back-offices and to improve procurement and the supply chain, much more could and should be done. Having to rely upon 151 separate management teams to deliver change and efficiency improvements is inevitably slow. 2

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4.5 The elephant in the room is the central services charge imposed by councils on their library service. These charges vary in their make up by authority but can equate to 20% of a library authority budget. Such charges have escalated in recent years and, with increased labour costs, have squeezed the budget available for books and other resources. 4.7 Could the public library service across the 151 English authorities deliver annual savings of about 10% of its £1 billion budget by better structuring, managing and delivering its services? The answer I suggest is YES and these savings should not impact on the service provided to library users. However, such savings will only be possible given strong leadership and the support of government, the profession and local politicians. 5. The extent to which planned closures are compatible with the Act 5.1 While CILIP estimates that perhaps 600 libraries are threatened with closure, the number of actual closures to date has been reasonably small. Councils have responded in many cases to widespread protest by offering to transfer responsibility for branch libraries to volunteer groups. Alas, there is no clear blueprint for volunteer run libraries and there is a real concern that such initiatives will be unsustainable in the longer term. Transferring responsibility to volunteer groups may simply lead to a slow death for library services in many communities, especially those in small towns and villages. 5.2 A particular concern is whether the approach of some authorities to closures and the withdrawal of services is equitable. The closure of community and mobile services can have a disproportionate impact on the young, the elderly, the disadvantaged and the housebound. Shiny central libraries may be attractive to council chiefs, and provide jobs for senior professional staff, but it is the local library which is at the centre of communities. Such libraries are valued as safe meeting places, with helpful staff and well used services such as mother and toddler groups, homework clubs, internet access and home delivery to the housebound. 5.3 The danger is that some authorities in the rush to deliver savings are simply wielding the axe. Public consultations and assessment of need are being rushed through but local protest and the recent judicial reviews have often acted as a brake, with a number of councils revising their initial proposals. 5.4 It is very questionable whether the decision to close libraries or transfer responsibility in many authorities are not compatible with the requirements of the 1964 Act. Difficult access to a library, sometimes involving several bus trips, the closure of mobile services, cuts in opening hours and much reduced resources is not compatible with the duty to ensure that the service is comprehensive. 6. Impact of closures on communities 6.1 The closure of the local library can seriously damage the local community often for little financial gain. Many villages, small towns and residential areas have already lost their post office and possibly, the local pub. The library is a safe haven, a source of valuable information, a centre for education and entertainment, the provider of internet access and other valued services. Furthermore, it is staffed by library staff anxious to help and advise. 6.2 Library closures have the greatest impact on the young, the elderly and the disadvantaged. The fact that volunteer groups have found it necessary to assume responsibility for many


libraries with the support of town and parish councils confirms the value placed on them as an essential community resource. The value of community libraries is often seriously under valued by government officials and senior council officers. One senior DCMS official once remarked that when he wanted a book, he popped into his local Waterstone branch! 6.3 Chris Smith when Secretary of State described public libraries as “the university of the street corner”. Libraries have been and will continue to be a powerful resource in supporting literacy and the acquisition of knowledge and information. In closing local libraries, hurdles, if not barriers, are placed to impede millions of people in having free and convenient access to literature, information and knowledge. 7. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Act 7.1 The 1964 Act places a duty on the Secretary of State to “superintend” library authorities and to set up a local inquiry when required. The previous Secretary of State did set up an inquiry on the Wirral when that council decided to close half of its libraries. The present minister was vociferous in demanding such action when in opposition but has been unwilling to intervene in a single case since taking office despite many requests from library users faced with large scale closures and cut backs. His defence is that libraries are a local issue. 7.2 It seems that the Minister closed the Advisory Council on Libraries, the advisory body defined in the 1964 Act, without realising that it was prescribed in statute. This was a panel of senior librarians and independent advisors, which should have existed to give the Minister advice and an assessment of the condition of the service. Removing an independent and valuable source of advice to ministers was a serious mistake. 7.3 The Local Government Association has lobbied for the 1964 Act to be repealed but this has been rejected both by the current minister and his predecessor in the last government. I am sure councils would like the freedom to provide services without any statutory duty. Removing that duty will simply allow councils to ignore or evade their responsibilities. In contrast, the Welsh Museum, Libraries and Archive Council (CyMAL) has recently warned a council that it risks intervention unless it improves its weak performance as measured against the Welsh Public Libraries Service Standards. 7.4 When the Government’s agenda stresses that decisions about council services should be taken at local level, any attempt by ministers to intervene could be open to criticism. However, that does not excuse non-intervention particularly in the worst cases. In practice, the DCMS has asked some half dozen authorities to explain their plans and MLA field officers have offered advice to several authorities. This light touch may be welcomed by council officials but it can be very frustrating for local campaign groups and does not deal effectively with the worst cases. It must be of concern that residents in three councils to date have had to resort to judicial reviews, and many other groups have had to fight long battles to get their voices heard. 7.5 There are concerns that recent involvement of Arts Council England is not well defined and that their Library Development Initiative does little to address the issues facing the sector. Their officers have made no attempt to meet with library user groups and campaigners to understand their concerns. 7.6 I suggest the real issue is not whether the Secretary of State has sufficient powers to intervene but whether ministers have communicated a clear statement (a Library Charter) as to


what library users should be able to expect from their local service. As the Minister has said, it is his responsibility to provide the leadership that the sector requires. I would echo that and add that he must also put in place the necessary structure to deliver a vibrant public library service available to all. December 2011


Written evidence submitted by Alice Lock (LIB 007) The emphasis on library closures is over shadowing other changes – in particular changes to staffing. The introduction of self service issuing has reduced overall levels of staffing. The position of specialist, experienced and professional staff has been eroded. The role of knowledgeable staff cannot be overestimated. No matter how good the cataloguing an intermediary who knows the collection, can use online material properly and can guide users from all walks of life makes the difference between a static collection of books in a building and a library service. Staff are educators, teaching research skills to users as much as finding information Staff are the human interface between information and users in a two way process which allows them to adapt the service to the requirements of users. They are particularly important in fields such as local studies as they are dealing with locally produced material, for which they may create the definitive catalogue record, or nationally produced material, for which they create finding aids adapted for specific local use. Local studies collections are very varied, not just books, so the creation of finding aids is an important part of their work, otherwise large collections are being stored but are not accessible to users. This kind of back room work is increasingly being regarded as a luxury not a necessity. New ways of making material accessible such as retrospective electronic cataloguing and digitisation of local history materials also requires staff input. Submitted as a private individual. December 2011


Written evidence submitted by June Winifred Quigley (LIB 008) The actual production of this submission is from the words of Mrs Quigley but it has been typed and sent by her husband Mr David James Quigley as Mrs Quigley is terminally ill and is unable to use a computer. Summary. This submission is made as a personal one, I have been a regular user of the East Cowes library for many years and feel that the loss of this excellent facility has had a very adverse effect on my life. I believe that the action of cutting funding to five of our Island libraries has been totally against the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, and that as here was no full Equality Impact Assessment done by the council and their consultation exercise was so flawed that it was useless, as a result of that we no longer have a Comprehensive and Adequate library service as per the requirements of the Act. There has been a significant impact on the 5 areas which have lost IW Council funding for their libraries as well as the extremely important impact on myself. I believe the DCMS have been very remiss in their lack of action on the matter of library funding withdrawal and, in view of the fact that our council have now managed an underspend of £1.8million in this financial year it would appear that many of the front line services including libraries need not have faced cutbacks at all and the DCMS should have intervened and did not, despite the large number of submissions made to them by Isle of Wight residents. Submission. 1) When plans were first announced by the Isle of Wight Council to cease funding of our libraries I helped to set up a petition to try and save our branch library and its very helpful knowledgeable staff. There were petitions raised by members of many of the other Island Libraries as well. My husband was involved in setting up the “Friends of the Isle of Wight Library Service. He and two ladies from Brighstone visited the DCMS and presented a number of submissions. These same two ladies took the Isle of Wight Council to the High Court, seeking a Judicial Review. My husband accompanied them. At this time I had been ill for some time but had kept it from my husband. The day after the High Court case I was rushed into hospital and was diagnosed as terminally ill with chronic heart failure and inoperable cancer. This has meant that I am now unable to visit the local library in East Cowes, something I have done five days a week for many years. There seems to be no real reason for the IW Council funding cuts which have seen public toilets closed, tourist information centres abolished as well as funding withdrawal from 5 or our 11 libraries,The Council has announced that it has had underspend of £1.8million this year, I understand that this is five times the money the cuts actually saved. Why therefore were these cuts necessary in the first place? 2) The 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act states that “a comprehensive and efficient library service, which must be free of charge” must be provided. On the Isle of Wight this statute has not been obeyed. In East Cowes we have seen the opening hours drop from 38 hours per week spread over 5 days to 12 hours per week over 4 days. On top of this, as well as paying for our library service through out council tax, since April 2010 we have been paying a further 21% on top of our Town Council Precept which is being used to pay for the library in the form of rental to the IW Council- The library staff are now volunteers to operate from. Our town is the most deprived part of the County and most of the library users are low income groups, ie children, unemployed, and pensioners, who will, from 1st Jan 2012 have to pay bus fares to get to Newport library, a cost to those without bus passes of £7.00 per visit. So I cannot see the second rate service, at a cost, can be classed as being either comprehensive or efficient


3) As I understand the 1964 Act it is necessary for the local authority to carry out a comprehensive Equality Impact Assessment before even considering the withdrawal of funding to any public service. This our council did not do, the actual funding decision was taken less than 24 hours after the “public consultation period” ended and no notice was taken of over 6000 signatures of the various petitions that were handed in. The Isle of Wight Council have made no attempt to study the impact that their cuts are having on the residents of the Island. In fact what they have done is to drastically reduce the access to libraries for many of the less well off whilst increasing access for those who live in Ryde and Newport,they have heavily increased costs for this same group, this is definitely not Equality, in fact it is exactly the opposite, as we now have a library service that operates double standards. In my own case I am now unable to visit a library, I am on oxygen for most of my waking hours and could, had our original hours been kept have been able to make occasional visits in the car with my husband, however that is totally impossible as the days and time that the library is open are those same days and times when I have to stay at home waiting for the nurses who are trying to keep me alive! Therefore, there is no way that there is any equality, my husband and I, along with thousands of other taxpayers, are paying twice for a library service which we cannot access! 4) There are 5 communities on the Island which have lost their council funded libraries are now paying twice for the same service, this service has been drastically reduced. The libraries are now manned by volunteers who, I’m sure do an excellent job, however I feel certain that there is a serious breach of Health & Safety in that the libraries have no paid member of staff and therefore nobody who, in law, could be held responsible for any accidents /injuries that may occur to either the single volunteer or any of the public using the library. The library has always been the hub of the community, a social meeting place for many of the elderly and unemployed, and as such it was an important part of the town. This wonderful facility has gone as has the help and assistance given to all and sundry by the professional staff. 5) The Effectiveness of the DCMS intervention. As the DCMS has a statutory duty to uphold the statutes of the 1964 Act, the title of this paragraph is not what it should say. In view of the number of submissions from all over the country asking the Secretary of State to intervene and the fact that despite the High Court finding at least 2 councils acted illegally by withdrawing funding/closing libraries, then the DCMS must be considered negligent by the fact that they have done absolutely nothing to prevent the decimation of the library service nation wide the title should perhaps read “The Ineffectiveness of the DCMS in upholding the laws of the land”. For further evidence on this matter, there has been an open letter to the Minister, Ed Vaizey, signed by many groups of library campaigners and hundreds of ordinary people like myself, I suggest the Select Committee should read and take note of the letter and the comments attached to it. December 2011


Written evidence submitted by David James Quigley (LIB 009) Summary. 1) This submission is made as a personal one, although during the campaign to save libraries on the Isle of Wight I was involved in the setting up of the Friends of the Isle of Wight Library Service. Due to my wife being diagnosed as terminally ill I have had to curtail my involvement in this group. I am 70 years of age and have served my country as a professional soldier (total 12 years), as a merchant naval officer (6 years) and finally as a science teacher /college lecturer (15 years) and am partially disabled. 2) I intend to put forward how the DCMS and the IW Council have disregarded the statutes of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act in the a) we no longer have a “comprehensive and efficient library service, b) despite the Councils protestations to the contrary , no Equality Impact Assessments were done before or after the decision to withdraw funding and the EIA eventually submitted as a legal document was in fact fabricated by the officer concerned and stating that it was her intention to do this at a public meeting. 3) I will outline the impact the Councils actions have had on the local communities involved and how it has affected me personally 4) I will also show how ineffective the DCMS has been and how their non-intervention despite the number of submissions made to them. In fact their handling of this whole matter is a National disgrace. Submission 1) When plans were first announced by the Isle of Wight Council to cease funding 5 of our 11 libraries I and my wife became involved, my wife actually setting up the petition in East Cowes. There were other petitions raised by members of a number of the other Island Libraries and we formed ‘The Friends of the Isle of Wight Library Service’. Two ladies from this group took the IW Council to the High Court seeking a Judicial Review, this was eventually refused on a technicality, legal aid had deliberately been delayed until the case was outside the time limit. I joined these two ladies in a visit to the DCMS when we presented a total of 5 submissions to them, a total of well over 500 pages of written evidence from different parts of the Island ( I had presented a personal submission through the offices of my local MP, Mr Andrew Turner who assured me that it was passed to the Secretary of State). The day after the High Court case, my wife, who had been ailing for some time, was rushed into hospital and was diagnosed as terminally ill. I will not put her case here as she is determined to make her own submission.(with my assistance). Having been a registered user of the Isle of Wight libraries since late 1945, I feel that my 66 years of membership enables me to comment on the subject. What is even more galling is the fact that the funding withdrawal has saved the IW Council around £50,000 in the current year (their figures), and yet, despite their budget cuts which have seen public toilets closed, tourist information centres abolished and many council staff being sacked etc, today (10th Dec 2010) it has been announced that there has been an underspend of £1.8million this year. Why therefore were these cuts necessary in the first place? One suggestion that has been made is that the council is so unpopular that they are building up a slush fund to bribe the electorate before the next council election in 2013. The decisions on the Island have left those living in the most deprived areas with a second rate excuse for a library


service whilst those living in the affluent areas have had their service enhanced when there appears to be no logical reason for the cuts at all. 2a) We have no longer a comprehensive and efficient library service on the Island, here in East Cowes we have a library run by volunteers, only open 3 hours a day four days a week for which we not only pay in our Council Tax but also, since April 2010, have being paying a 21% increase in our Town Council Precept. ( I understand that it is an offence for two different authorities to both charge for the same service and have been advised that the Local Government Act does not allow Town or Parish Councils to run a library service when they are not the statutory local authority). From 31st Dec 2010 the East Cowes Library will not even have a premises to operate from. The town is on of the most deprived parts of the County and most of the library users are low income groups, ie children, unemployed, and pensioners, who will, from 1st Jan 2012 have to pay bus fares to get to Newport library, a cost to those without bus passes of £7.00 per visit. This is certainly not what I would classify either as comprehensive, nor efficient. During the last few years, since my retirement (from teaching), it has been a pleasure to visit the library and to see large groups of children from the local primary school being encouraged to develop a love of books and reading- this has now had to cease due the very restrictive opening hours and that fact that the library is staffed only by volunteers, surely a very backward step when the education of our children is such a vital stage for the future of our once great country. As I understand it, most of the extra 21% that I pay on my Town Council precept is actually paid to the Isle of Wight Council in rent for the library building so they have not only sacked dedicated staff but are also being paid for doing it, this is certainly immoral if not illegal? 2b) As I understand the 1964 Act it was necessary for the IW Council to carry out Equality Impact Assessments before considering shutting/withdrawing funding from libraries, this was not done. Even when the council were asked by the lawyers representing the ladies in the High Court to send copies, nothing happened. At a meeting attended by those steering groups offering to help set up volunteer groups to run the libraries affected, they had still not done them and the female council officer who’s duty it was , asked the volunteer steering groups to do their own impact assessments and help her out. When one of the groups declined she commented, in front of the leader of the council Cllr David Pugh, “In that case I will have to make them up”. This surely is fraudulent? The Isle of Wight Council have made no attempt to really study the impact that their cuts are having on the residents of the Island. In fact what they have done is drastically reduced the access to libraries for many, heavily increased costs for those same people and at the same time have increased the access hours to the two biggest libraries on the Island- this is definitely not Equality, in fact it is exactly the opposite, as we now have a library service that operates double standards in which those who receive the worst service pay twice as much as those who receive the 1st class service! No equality there! 3) The 5 communities which have lost their council funded libraries are now paying twice for the same service, this service has been drastically reduced, in East Cowes we used to have a library open 38 hours per week, staffed by 2 paid librarians, now we have 12 hours per week. Despite the excellent work done by volunteers, in my view, there should always be a professional member of staff to supervise and to take responsibility for the health and safety of library staff and users(a duty for which a volunteer cannot be held responsible. The library was considered as a social meeting place for many of the elderly and unemployed, and as such it was a community hub. It was also an unlimited source of free, unbiased, and very helpful


information provided by the excellent professional staff, this has now gone and many of those I have spoken to, no longer use the library! A very sad outcome. The rural communities like Brighstone have a very long bus ride into either Newport or Freshwater, an expensive run for young mothers, especially as there are only a very limited number of buses each day. In my own case, my wife can only get out of the house for a short time in the car as she needs to be on oxygen for most of the time, unfortunately the times at which our library is open are on days when she has to stay at home waiting for her nurses to turn up! I might add that despite acting as 24/7 carer for my wife, I too am disabled due to arthritis caused as a result of injuries suffered firstly in a land mine explosion whilst serving my country some 45 years ago, and secondly by an accident at work! It would appear that we just do not matter to the politicians, either local of national. 4) The Effectiveness of the DCMS intervention. Having followed the progress of many library closures in the national and local press, to the extent of having many thousands of press cuttings from all over the country, it has become clear that the DCMS have had no intention whatever of intervening in the planned closures of libraries, a number of campaign groups have been to the department and presented their cases but those responsible have always replied with a “we will study your case and get back to you” followed weeks or even months later by a stereotyped letter which leaves a lot to be desired and have then sat back and done nothing at all. The DCMS have categorically refused to intervene, despite the fact that the High Court has declared the decisions of Gloucestershire and Somerset County Councils to have been illegal. Many others groups, including the Isle of Wight, have but forward similar cases to these two, some aspects being identical but in no single instance have they ‘intervened’. It would appear that the Secretary of State and his Minister are more than content to simply allow libraries to close and not to do their duty and uphold the 1964 Act in its entirety. The present government is doing its utmost to destroy as many public services as it can and by sitting back and doing nothing, as in the case of libraries, the DCMS is allowing local authorities to do the government’s dirty work! Our MP, Mr Andrew Turner (Consevative) has made representations to the Secretary of State regarding these matters on behalf of a number of his constituents, even he has been ignored . The DCMS seems to be totally ineffective in this matter and would seem to fit the current term of “unfit for purpose”. Please can the Select Committee do something to correct this lack of action and please get the DCMS to institute a full public inquiry into this matter as soon as possible. There has been an open letter written by the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries be circulated via the internet, there have been a very large number of both campaign groups and concerned individuals who have either signed the letter or commented on it, or in most cases, both. This letter is addressed to Ed Vaizey and is asking him to do the job for which he is paid as Minister responsible for libraries and the upholding of the 1964 Act. I would ask the Select Committee to request that the minister allows them to see this letter and its attached comments as it show just how deep the feeling are of those of us who are fighting for the future of the public library service in this country- an essential part of the education system which, according to frequent reports in the media, is already failing our children and therefore the future of the country. December 2011


Written evidence submitted by Shirley Burnham (LIB 010) Summary •

A ‘comprehensive’ library service - A two-tier service is not a ‘comprehensive’ service - A network of good branch libraries provides a ‘comprehensive’ service - The local library is a safe haven for all residents - Paid frontline library staff and a professional back office are key to an high standard of service - The importance of the mobile library service - Electronic media replacing books: future access to reading material will be the right of a privileged few (ref to: Hansard - 05.12.2011) - DCMS has failed to formulate the policy and provide the necessary leadership to ensure a comprehensive, sustainable service An ‘efficient library service - Those with an interest are, in error, applying only narrow economic criteria to describe an ‘efficient’ service - The adjective ‘efficient’ should more properly relate to a nationally consistent standard of service that is readily accessible to the customer - National standards for public libraries must be introduced in England. The application of national standards in Wales has contributed to a rise in borrowers of 8.3% Remember the 21st Century stakeholders of the future - No analysis has been made of the sustainability of the mishmash of library provision currently proposed, nor how that will serve future generations - Making connections with young readers, to build their love of reading and learning is one of the most important things a neighbourhood library and its professional staff can do Library Closures – their compatibility with the Law - It is those charged with ensuring that the Law is enforced, not the Law itself, who are creating a problem today - The 1964 Act’s author, Francis Bennion, has recently clarified the Law - Legal requirements under Equalities legislation are admirably met by a comprehensive network of branch libraries - Ministers were outspoken on the 1964 Act’s importance in Opposition, but have changed their views since entering Government. - The 1964 Act protects against governments exercising no oversight of the public library service when a local programme of closures may be illegal - The 1964 Act guards against governments imposing any political ideology on library service provision that might undermine the common good Current proposals for library closures are incompatible with the Charteris Report - Ms Charteris stated that the council had not adequately assessed how well its model would meet the needs of its constituent communities before taking a decision on closures



The Big Society has spawned a new definition of the ‘community library’ as a library divested in toto to volunteers. This new definition is incompatible with the “community based library service” to which Ms Charteris referred. - It is significant that Ms Charteris concluded that, had the Wirral closure plan gone ahead, the authority would have breached its statutory duties - An undertaking made by the MLA (November 2010) to identify and report “Wirral-like” examples has not been honoured The impact of closures on the community - Today campaigners across the country are faced with similar problems to those that confronted residents of Old Town, Swindon when their library was under threat - Old Town Library was ‘saved’, retaining a paid staff member - Walcot Library, Swindon, replaced all frontline staff with volunteers The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s Powers of Intervention - Precedent exists to confirm that the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 is fit for purpose to permit the Secretary of State to use his powers of intervention - Derbyshire (1991) and the Wirral Inquiry - It is those charged with ensuring that the Law is enforced, not the Law itself, who are creating a problem today - Further to a Court Judgment against it, Somerset CC has made a policy Uturn. Had the Secretary of State intervened in Somerset, residents would not have been obliged to do his job for him at their own expense The role of the CMS Select Committee - Precedent exists to suggest that the Committee’s current deliberations could be dismissed in future as a “red herring”


Introduction I am a library campaigner. The Friends of Old Town Library, Swindon, was established in February 2008 to improve the amenity’s footfall when the local authority had granted it a ‘stay of execution’. Residents subsequently improved usage by some 35%. Notwithstanding, the library became subject to a renewed threat of closure in early 2009 (for savings of cerca £17,000 p.a. in staff costs). The Friends group re-formed as the ‘Save Old Town Library Campaign. I led those two groups. Our library continues to flourish today, with paid staff, thanks to the receptiveness of Swindon Borough Council members and officers.


A ‘Comprehensive’ Library Service


A ‘comprehensive’ service must be arranged so as not to exclude the people who wish to use it. That would explain why citizens have organised themselves to defend their branch libraries and mobile library services wherever these are under threat. It is intolerable to communities when a library service is being systematically squeezed so as to exclude them from access. It is similarly intolerable to them to be presented with sub-standard substitutes and the replacement of paid staff by volunteers, when the end result does not measure up to any citizen’s definition of what a library is. A two-tier service is not a ‘comprehensive’ service.


3.1.2 A network of branch libraries provides a ‘comprehensive’ service. Unlike a vast central library or Ideas Store, the smaller library provides something different: an intimate space for study and contemplation near one’s home. It is an accessible safe-haven for all, particularly for the young, the elderly and infirm. Paid library staff are key to a library’s frontline operation (now recognised by Swindon) and specialist Librarians essential to a professional back-office operation. No less important is the mobile library service whose withdrawal results in social isolation of a particularly acute kind. It is not only a devastating loss to the more remote communities affected, but flies in the face of any notion of a comprehensive or sustainable service. These amenities are the lifeblood of communities, not least for their fundamental role in improving literacy and ensuring social inclusion. 3.2

Electronic media replacing books: future access to reading material will soon become the right of a privileged few ( ref to: Hansard - 05.12.2011) :

3.2.1 I ask the Committee to consider the Minister’s response (Hansard: 05/12/11) to a question from Caroline Nokes MP : Mr Vaizey: “The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 prevents libraries from charging for the loan of material in a form which is readable without the use of electronic apparatus. Library authorities can therefore lawfully charge to lend audio books and other audio-visual material.” 3.2.2 As e-books and online information services become an increasingly important means for delivering the written word to library users, book budgets are being slashed, even in Hounslow’s ‘privatised’ libraries. Central government has encouraged a vision for the future of the service that ignores the value of the physical book, accepting with complacency that the Law allows for the library user to be charged for alternative provision. The public, who borrow some 310m books from public libraries annually, do not accept that their ‘free’ access to reading material will become the right of a privileged few. 3.3

DCMS, under Labour and now the Coalition, has signally failed to formulate the policy and provide the leadership required to ensure that all citizens are able to rely on a library service that is ‘comprehensive’ in nature.


An Efficient Library Service


Because the provisions of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 currently represent an obstacle to local authorities’ freedom to apply swingeing cuts to library provision, those with an interest in applying narrow economic criteria to a new definition of ‘efficient’ tend to brief against the Act’s fitness for purpose, in spite of demonstrations of its adequacy in the Derbyshire Inquiry (1991) and the Charteris (Wirral) Report.

4.1.1 The DCMS has encouraged local authorities by virtue of their publications, correspondence and ministerial statements to interpret the ‘efficient’ library service as one to which narrow criteria of economic viability must be applied. That interpretation gives free rein to the application of disproportionate cuts: mass closures; mass staff redundancies and mass divestment of libraries, often for the sake of saving quite small sums of money.


4.1.2 Ministers should be requested to justify how their publications, correspondence and official statements since assuming office, including the 2011 publication Future libraries – Change, options and how to get there, have served any other purpose than to be charters for reducing costs. 4.1.3 More properly, the adjective ‘efficient’ should apply to a nationally consistent standard of service provided by public library networks to the customer. 4.1.4 National standards for public libraries must be introduced in England. The application of national standards in Wales has contributed to a rise in borrowers of 8.3% (CIPFA). When a Welsh authority fails to comply, action can be taken. Due to the absence of any national standards in England, unacceptable levels of service result, for example the failing two-tier service recently imposed on residents of Lewisham. 5.

Remember the 21st Century stakeholders of the future


It is dismaying that no analysis has been made of the sustainability of the mishmash of library provision currently proposed, nor how that will serve future generations. That dereliction of duty, from the Top down, means that prospective 21st Century residents are the country’s forgotten stakeholders, because:

5.1.1 Children now in kindergarten, the future of this country, are just beginning to learn the pleasure of books. They have not been disabused of their childish wonder at a room full of stories, free for the taking. Making connections with those early readers and building their love of reading and learning is one of the most important things a neighbourhood library and its professional staff can do. 6.

Library Closures – their compatibility with the Law (and also refer to 7.2)


It is those charged with ensuring that the Law is enforced, not the Law itself, who are creating a problem today. Frankly, it’s down to the Ministers. Any failure on their part to understand the content of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 should not be tolerated, particularly now that the Act’s author, Francis Bennion, has recently clarified it.


When HM’s Loyal Opposition is reluctant to challenge the conduct of Culture ministers, any expectation that citizens may rely on the rule of democracy and the Law is undermined.


Requirements under Equalities legislation are admirably met by the provision of a comprehensive network of branch libraries. Unless the Law is to be ignored completely, the only sensible way forward is to focus on neighbourhood branches, retain them, run them properly and resist further temptation to build more new central libraries that use up all available resources.



Ministers were outspoken on the Act’s importance when in Opposition, but since assuming the responsibilities of Government feign bewilderment as to its efficacy. That is outrageous.


The 1964 Act must be retained, as it protects against governments exercising no oversight of the public library service when a programme of closures at a local level may contravene the Law. Its provisions also guard against governments imposing any political ideology on library service provision that might undermine the common good.


Current proposals for library closures are incompatible with the Charteris Report because:


Ms Charteris stated: “I do not believe that the council adequately assessed how well this model would meet the needs of its constituent communities before taking a decision to close 11 of its 24 libraries”. She further stated: “Wirral MBC would need to be prepared to invest skills and time up front to develop a genuinely community based library service that is sustainable going forward.”

7.1.1 The Big Society has spawned a new definition of the ‘community library’ – as a library divested in toto to volunteers. This new definition is incompatible with the “community based library service” to which Ms Charteris referred, above. 7.2

It is significant that the Ms Charteris concluded that, had the Wirral closure plan gone ahead, the authority would have breached its statutory duties.


An extract from November 2010 correspondence that refers to the Wirral Inquiry is reproduced below. Officials have not honoured the undertaking made: From Roy Clare CBE, CEO, Museums, Libraries and Archives Council : November 2010 (extract - original e-mail available on request)


“MLA still has sufficient resources on the ground that can be materially valuable in the very tough processes that Councils are undertaking. And we are on the lookout for Wirral-like examples and will report them if we identify them.” 7.3.1 Where is the evidence that DCMS has been notified of any “Wirral-like examples” (e.g: Gloucestershire and Somerset 2011, or Brent 2011) or that the Secretary of State has invoked his statutory powers of intervention with regard to them? 8.

The Impact Closures Have on Communities


When residents of Old Town, Swindon, joined forces to defend the small, unprepossessing library upon which they relied, they became aware through contact with schools, businesses, families and retired people that its loss would have a far broader impact than any feelings of personal deprivation.


8.1.1 Three primary schools and a large secondary school took part in a poster competition calling on the Borough Council to save Old Town Library. It became apparent that its loss -- for the sake of cerca £17,000 savings p.a. in staff costs -would have a considerable impact on the children. 8.1.2 The mother of a severely autistic child told me when signing Save Old Town Library Campaign’s first petition that her son felt safe and happy in the small, intimate space of the library. She could not risk taking him into the town’s large Central Library, so their visits would have to cease. 8.1.3 Residents did not consider that access to the Internet at home is a substitute for a local library. They attested that easy access to libraries containing physical books and computers would always be needed. 8.1.4 Local businesses feared that the loss of the well-used library would affect footfall and reduce trade. If residents were to go out of the neighbourhood to the Central Library, they would take their custom elsewhere. 8.1.5 Numerous elderly people were distraught. To make their way to the Central Library was not an option for most older or infirm people, particularly in winter (photograph available, on request) 8.1.6 When urged to volunteer to ‘run’ their library, residents of Old Town resisted, fighting for and retaining a paid member of library staff. By contrast, Swindon’s Walcot Library replaced frontline staff with volunteers. 8.2

Today, library campaigners across the country are faced with many of the same problems that confronted residents of Swindon.


The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s Powers of Intervention


Precedent exists to confirm that the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 is fit for the purpose of permitting the Secretary of State to use his statutory powers of intervention (Derbyshire 1991 and The Wirral). The issue here is that, unless the Prime Minister or this Select Committee insists that the Secretary of State use his powers of intervention when it is evident that he should, democracy and the Law are brought into disrepute.

9.2 It is those charged with ensuring that the Law is enforced, not the Law itself, who are creating a problem today. Further to a Court Judgment against it, Somerset CC has recently announced a policy U-turn. Had the Secretary of State intervened in Somerset, Gloucestershire, Brent, and now Surrey, residents would not be obliged to do his job for him at their own expense. 10.

The Role of the CMS Select Committee

10.1.1 The Committee may find it disturbing that its current deliberations could be dismissed in future as a “red herring”. Perhaps ministers and public servants


might be asked whether they share the opinions expressed in the following correspondence: 10.1.2 From Roy Clare, MLA: December 12, 2010 (e-mail available on request) “The Select Committee report is a serious red herring from another era, with different assumptions, changed context and overlooking the incongruity of accountability and mandate. DCMS has always been on a hiding to nothing, with supposed accountability and no funding. DCLG has the funding and a duty to comply with a weak Act for libraries. MLA has never had a mandate to intervene except by invitation of Councils. You don't like it, because you can't engage with them, but local Councillors run local services. MLA and DCMS do not. No government has ever been attracted to a national library service and it simply won't happen in today's world.” 10.2

I rely on the good offices of Members of this Select Committee to ensure that the vital role of our nation’s branch libraries is recognised. I also trust that Members will ask the Secretary of State, with some urgency, to undertake all his statutory duties. I express thanks to the Committee for kindly reading my evidence.

December 2011


Written evidence submitted by Mike Cavanagh (LIB 011) 1.0 Summary •

Comprehensive and efficient are ‘wooly’ terms, which need to be defined.

An Accreditation standard and modest number of PI’s for libraries will help to achieve this.

Without this, it is subjective as to whether closures are compatible with the act.

Impact studies are required to replace anecdote with evidence of impact of services and of closures.

Politics get in the way of the Secretary of States powers to intervene. This should be separately policed.

2.0 What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st Century 2.1 Ask 100 people this question and you will get 100 different answers. This is because there is no robust criteria and the terms ‘comprehensive’ and ‘efficient’ are not defined in the act. 2.2 The museum profession has the ‘Accreditation’ standard, which lays out clearly what standards museums should be meeting. In effect, it covers the effectiveness part of what makes an efficient museum service, leaving only the economy aspect to be defined, since a combination of effectiveness and economy leads to efficiency. 2.3 The library profession urgently needs a set of robust standards (an Accreditation scheme for libraries) which could be modelled on ‘basic’, ‘good’ and ‘best’ practice to take account of different sizes and governance models of libraries. 2.4 Alongside these standards, a small set of performance indicators, with a government set ‘target’ for each, could be used to assess comprehensiveness and efficiency. 2.5 One of these PI’s would be adherence to library accreditation. 2.6 Others, might include for example, a formula to indicate clearly what comprehensive means. Examples might include: •

Some form (would need to be defined) of library service must be made available within X miles of every household (comprehensive)

A library service should cost no more than £x per user or per population (economy)


2.7 Although there will clearly be calls for ‘one size does not fit all’, the current approach that takes this mantra leaves the library profession weak in being able to clarify what comprehensive and efficient means, and this leads to inconsistencies, multiple interpretations and conflict. 3.0 The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report 3.1 Without undertaking the work advocated above, any answer to this question is entirely subjective and meaningless. If these terms (comprehensive and efficient) become defined as I’ve suggested above, then the extent to which closures comply with the act (or otherwise) would be clear and easy to demonstrate. 4.0 The impact library closures have on local communities 4.1 This is not easy to answer robustly because there is little in the way of robust research on the impact of libraries. There is some, and this should be used to determine impact, but more work is urgently required. Without this, we are left with anecdote and ‘feelings’ from some that much is being lost and from others that little is being lost, without either party being able to evidence it. 4.2 Research should be commissioned immediately. For example, I’m currently undertaking research with Aberystywyth university on the effectiveness of volunteers in delivering public libraries services. There is a huge need for this type of research, because decisions are being made now to replace staff with volunteers, based on a lack of understanding of the impact of this policy and indeed of what librarians do. The same is required on impact of closures. 5.0 The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964. 5.1 This is difficult to answer without becoming political. Clearly the Secretary of State has the power to intervene and stop closures that don’t comply with the act. However, the current administration clearly don’t wish to do so as they have made reducing spending in the public sector their key priority and intervention would conflict with this and their general ‘localism’ philosophy. 5.2 The only way to improve effectiveness of policing of local authorities that break the act is to make the policing independent of government. If this is not done, clearly there will be no intervention from this government. December 2011


Written evidence submitted by Colin F Gibb (LIB 012) 1

A personal submission by Colin F Gibb


Summary • • • • •

Clarification and revision of budgeting procedures needs to be considered From Dorset County Council I understand that all libraries provide the same services, but the mix, in terms of staffing requirements, varies The impact of this is very clear when one considers that book issues per full time employee are on average 55% greater in the community libraries than main and town libraries This imbalance is very significant but there does not seem to be any specific measure of other staffing requirements I believe in order to operate an effective frugal budget it is necessary to measure all staffing activities and assess if and where economies are appropriate


Over the last decade Dorset and other authorities have repeatedly targeted rural/community libraries for closure. Requests for the provision of performance data in support of ‘value for money’ arguments fail to be met. It is apparent that data in this form is unavailable because performance comparisons with other authorities provide the only currently used measure. If this is the case potentially flawed decisions are being made and may result in the permanent destruction of a valuable social and economic resource.


A comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century is unlikely to be achieved without direct guidance and support from within the community being served. Specific town or parish needs will vary and should be determined by local management within an approved and budgeted framework. Our local community library provides an example. In a parish of less than 4000 souls, 6 miles from the nearest town, the premises are purpose built and located within 100 yards of the doctor’s surgery, the chemist and local shops. The library provides the only high-speed broadband internet connection. Opening hours are limited (22 hours) spread over 5 days and it employs 1.03 full time equivalent staff.


The impact library closures have on local communities will be determined by current demand and latterly by future needs. The example provided in paragraph 4 is my local library and the following list of activities will, hopefully, provide members with some insight into the impact closure would have on this community. Events and Activities at Lytchett Matravers Library For Children: Songs and rhymes for the under 2’s / Stories and craft session for the under 7’s / Book group for children 7 – 11 years old / One hour sessions with mix of craft, games and stories for 4 – 11 year olds.


Sessions for children in the library but not run by the library: Under 1’s session – run by the Lytchett Matravers Health Visitors / Surestart PEEP session for 1 – 2 year olds. With local school and pre-school: Regular class visits to the library throughout the year /Participation in the School Book Week every other year when every child in all 14 classes from the school visit the library / Regular visits from the local pre-school to the library, also staff visit pre-school during the year / Provision of books to help with homework/topics (the school advise the curriculum topics to be studied during the year). For Adults: Reading Groups / Author Visits/Reader Events / Local History – Availability of books on the village to both borrow and purchase at the library / Internet Access / Regular free computer lessons for complete beginners throughout the year / Home Library – free delivery of books and audio books to customers unable to get to the library due to illness/disability using volunteers from the WRVS / Provision of books to the local care home. Surgeries by outside agencies: MP Surgery / County Councillor Surgery / District Councillor Surgery / PACT Surgery (Police & Communities Together) / Wayfinders Surgery (help and advice for the over 50’s) / Citizens’ Advice Bureau Library Usage by Other Groups: Parish Council / Lytchett Matravers Twinning Association / Lytchett Matravers W.I. / U3A local history group Despite the fact that this library has shown the highest increase in book issues and users in recent years, whilst others record declining numbers, it was recommended for closure or withdrawal of county funding. The publishing of such proposals without clearly defined supporting documentation and the manner in which consultation and management of complaints procedures is conducted make it impossible for the public to judge if the extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Library and Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report. (Wirral). January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Camden Public Libraries Users Group (LIB 013) • • • • • • •

Cost reduction is not necessarily the same as efficiency improvement. A service which excludes the less affluent, the elderly, the infirm and mothers with young children can never be a comprehensive service. Without an easily accessible local public library, poor families do not have the opportunity to acquire a reading habit and illiteracy becomes entrenched. The consultation process is very important – it is not a box ticking exercise or a publicity stunt. The public library problem can be solved/mitigated, if the will exists. Clear, firm, visible guidance is needed from the DCMS – something that was provided in the past by the Public Library Standards. There is much work necessary to stop and then reverse the falling level of literacy in this country. Closing public libraries makes the task more difficult

1. Camden Public Libraries Users Group Camden Public Libraries Users Group (CPLUG) was formed in 1998 to coordinate the activities of individual library user groups within the London Borough of Camden. In particular, it was tasked with opposing the library closure policies of that were being formulated by the local authority at that time. Since 1998, it has continued to represent the borough’s library users and to carry out research on subjects related to Camden’s libraries. 2. An Efficient Service (2.1) The UK has a major financial problem and local government has to share in the efforts to solve it. This is a fact and it has to be accepted as the starting point for any consideration of medium-term future public library policies. From this, it is reasonable to conclude that it is necessary to make all local government activities as efficient as possible i.e. to reduce costs, whilst minimizing service reduction. However, at present, the imperative appears to be to simply reduce costs and this approach often masks and overrides the need to improve efficiency. Yet, in the medium/long term, it is efficiency which is the important factor. Indeed, efficiency is a major requirement of the Public Libraries and Museums Act, but minimum cost is not. (2.2) Local authorities usually claim that proposed changes to their library policies will result in increases in efficiency and the local decision makers may genuinely believe that this is the case. However, this belief is usually based on only a sketchy understanding of the work of modern public libraries. There is usually no professional library management experience at the top of local council bureaucracies and local politicians do not have the time or resources to engage in effective research – councillors rarely enter any of the libraries they are responsible for. In these circumstances, it is sensible to critically examine the basis for improved efficiency claims. (2.3) In the 1950s, a public library provided little more than a book lending service. The add-ons to this were limited to the provision of a reference book collection and newspapers. As the average duration of a visit was short and the purpose of the visits was overwhelmingly for book borrowing, it was quite acceptable to use the cost per visit and the cost per issue as yardsticks to measure its efficiency. In more recent times, the range of services on offer has increased considerably and the average duration of visits has also noticeably increased. The library profession and local authorities have responded to these changes by placing greater emphasis on the visits figures. This approach has the advantage of using data which is easily acquired. However, it has the disadvantage of not providing an accurate measure of a library’s use, because the time element is ignored.


(2.4) If the number of visits to a library falls by 10%, but the average duration of the visits rises by 20%; the overall service provided to the local community has increased. Although this library is providing a better service to its community, at present it will be labelled as a failing library. This improving library will inevitably feature in a proposed closure list and, if it is closed, the efficiency of the service will probably diminish. Of course, if the changes to the number and duration of visits were reversed, the library would be considered a success, although the overall service to the community (and the efficiency of the library service) will have fallen. Without a reliable method of efficiency measurement, it is impossible for local authorities to make informed judgements and judicial review claims that library closures are necessary to improve efficiency cannot be proved (the evidence is missing). In spite of it being impossible to validate these improvement claims, the wide-spread local government assumption is that they are correct. It is inevitable that this will lead to further rounds of closures. (2.5) Perhaps it is a little harsh to suggest that “garbage in equals garbage out” applies to the cost reduction decisions local authorities have recently made with respect to their library services. Nevertheless, the claims of improved efficiency need to be viewed with scepticism. We are unaware of any attempt by local authorities to measure library visits in terms of man.hours (user.hours?). The retail sector has long used measurements from computer vision systems and thermal imaging systems to maximize the efficiency and safety of its outlets. A similar approach could be used by library authorities to obtain more relevant data. (2.6) A combination of ignorance at the strategic decision making level and faulty data is inevitably going to result in mistakes and councils throughout the country are being vilified for these. The DCMS has also not escaped criticism and its policy of disengagement has certainly not been helpful. Cosy, private chats with a few local government officers are no substitute for clear, firm, visible guidance. Such guidance has been lacking since the Public Library Standards were allowed to fall out of use. (2.7) Anything which restricts its room for manoeuvre is disliked by an organisation and local authorities did dislike the mild restrictions of the Library Standards. Quiet satisfaction was their response to the demise of the Library Standards and being given more freedom from supervision. A laissez faire attitude to banking regulation was also popular with banks, but it produced disaster. The current, relaxed approach to national public library guidance/supervision appears to be leading towards the same end. The difference between the two cases is that it is still possible to significantly reduce the scale of the public library disaster. The will to do so is what is missing. 3. A Comprehensive Service (3.1) Library Standard PLSS1 defined the proportion of households which should be within a specified distance of a static library (for an inner London borough, such as Camden, 100% of households should be within 1 mile of a static library). Although the standard is now obsolete, it is effectively being used by local authorities to justify library closure programmes. The standard is not being used as a guide to the minimum level of service provision which is occasionally acceptable, but as a target for the general downgrading of service provision. When used as a firm target, it is far too simplistic, as it does not take into account barriers to travel. These include lack/cost of public transport and the need to cross major roads/canals/railways. Whilst the transport difficulties do not affect many prosperous families, they are of great importance to the less affluent, the elderly, the infirm and mothers with young children. A service which excludes these groups can never be a comprehensive service. (3.2) The poor, the elderly, the infirm and mothers are obvious sectors of the community which have a higher than average need to use a local public library, but they are not the only groups where this applies. Local authorities sometimes find it convenient to consider their individual


areas as having a homogenous population. However, this is usually far from the case. Each community within that area is unique and, because of this, the usage mix is unique for the library that serves it. In inner cities, this mix can change quite rapidly. Therefore, it is important to carefully consult the local population, when library closures are contemplated. This is not a great concession, as has been claimed in Camden Council, but is an essential tool for minimizing the damage done by library closures. (3.3) The Wirral report recognised the extreme importance of good consultation, but good consultation has been conspicuously missing from the activities of many local authorities. As a result, there have been a number of legal actions by library campaigners. These represent the visible tip of a very large iceberg. There is widespread dissatisfaction with the box ticking approach used by councils for their consultations. In extreme cases, where the council is obviously engaged in manipulating the process, the dissatisfaction becomes contempt. (3.4) A public consultation has to be undertaken with an open mind, not one which has already been made up and is closed to all else. A consultation which has a predetermined outcome becomes just another public relations exercise. 4. The Impact of Library Closures (4.1) A report published at the beginning of December 2011 by the Literacy Society ( stated: “In 2005, 1 in 10 of the children and young people we surveyed said they did not have a book of their own at home; while in 2011 the figure stands at a startling 1 child in 3. With one in six people in the UK having the literacy level expected of an eleven year old, this is of great concern.” (4.2) These two sentences describe one of the effects of the general downgrading of UK public library services over the last few years. Public libraries were founded to counter illiteracy and the failure of local authorities to recognise that there is still a country-wide literacy problem has contributed to their desire to rid themselves of what they believe are outmoded institutions. (4.3) It is sometimes suggested that books are cheap and, therefore, affordable by everyone. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found that a two parent family, with a single earner and two children, needs an annual income of, at least, £31,600 to achieve a “minimum standard of living” ( Where that single earner is on the minimum wage of £6.08 per hour, he/she would need to work for 99.95 hours per week for every week of the year to give that family the minimum living standard. Even for two earners, this is an impossible task. Some things have to be sacrificed and food for the mind (books) is less immediately important than food for the stomach. (4.4) Without an easily accessible local public library, poor families do not have the opportunity to acquire a reading habit and illiteracy becomes entrenched. (4.5) A variation on the cheap books argument is the e-books one. In this case, it is suggested that library buildings are no longer necessary, because e-books can be easily downloaded via the internet. Of course, this carefully ignores the costs involved in acquiring the means to make those downloads and, as a result, is utter nonsense if a comprehensive service is to be provided. It is possible that, some time in the future, internet access may provide a valid alternative to a library building, but it cannot now or in the near term. (4.6) In the medium to long term future, it is probable that there will have to be a reassessment of which library buildings are needed for a comprehensive service to be supplied to local communities. It is essential that this takes place with clear guidelines in place. There will be a


great temptation for unsympathetic councils to use this reassessment as an excuse for wholesale closure programmes. (4.7) There is much work necessary to stop and then reverse the falling level of literacy in this country. Closing public libraries makes the task more difficult. January 2012


Written submission by the Black Country Shared Library Project (LIB 014) 1. This submission is from the Black Country Shared Library Project which includes the Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall and the City of Wolverhampton. 2. The project has been established to improve the quality and sustainability of our library services by maximising collaboration across the Black Country and achieving the efficient use of resources. Summary 3. This submission includes: a. Information on the Black Country project’s key library values and outcomes for a comprehensive and efficient library service. b. Comments on when library closure could be compatible with the act, including concern about confusion that has occurred due the terminology that has been applied to some planned changes in the ways in which services are provided. c. The context and issues around changes to the way services are provided, and how these changes are planned, to the impact on local communities. d. The view that the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Library and Museum’s Act 1964 is still valid and relevant, but that the way in which it is used and how this is communicated needs to change. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century? 4. The neutrality, universality and accessibility of the library offer is extremely important - whether the library service is in a dedicated building or a partnership setting. 5. It is not the building but the service that is important, although an appropriate space and setting are important. 6. It is important to look at the full service not just one aspect e.g. only lending books or only information. It is only a library only if it includes both of these elements with support and facilitation of access to them and a wider community linking role. 7. A comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st Century: a. Facilitates supports, informs and works with its customers acting as a hub for the community it serves. b. Is innovative, challenging and customer focused. c. Is efficient, effective and value for money d. Has reading at the centre - both for its own sake and for the benefits it brings in terms of improving literacy and health and well being benefits. e. Provides a range of services – the impact of the combination of services provided is greater than their individual parts.


f. Supports a wide range of improved outcomes including literacy; employability; health and well being; quality of life. g. Works in partnership and not in isolation. h. Has relevant professional library input to develop and manage services - as librarians are information, reading and knowledge professionals - and appropriately trained staff to run them. 8. The above should be achievable within the budgets available, but the budgets available need to take account of the complete range of services and outcomes achieved. When it is broken down to only lending books or giving information the service is under valued and not properly represented. 9. Often libraries assist other services to achieve their savings – by providing local contact spaces for other services who close their offices; by offering local information and sign posting; by supporting people who do not or cannot use IT to access information which is now only available online. The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report 10. In some instances what may be reported as a closure is actually a transfer of service to a different location or new partnership – need to be very clear about what is happening. Service not building. 11. If changes are developed with customers’ and potential customers’ needs fully considered and assessed with mitigations in place, where appropriate and affordable, closures may be appropriate in both cases. 12. If the cost of making the current building more flexible/ fit for purpose is unaffordable. 13. Need to be done looking at library services as a whole, not just buildings. Sometimes buildings are no longer suitable/ in the right place for communities. Need to separate the passion for the building from the service. 14. When focussing only on a particular building could lose the chance to create some innovative solutions for a community- but this is only possible if work with people as they will only think about/ promote/fight for things they know and have seen before. Perceptions about what libraries do need changing to help possibilities develop. The impact library closures have on local communities 15. Some library buildings are already not serving communities effectively because they are in the wrong place/ not open/ do not have the appropriate resources. They may serve a very small part of the community in which they are based in a way that is no longer affordable or sustainable in their current format.


16. The impact is greatest on those with limited ability to access services in other places either because of age (particularly the very old and the very young), disability or lack of access to resources like IT. These are the people who are often most disadvantaged in a range of ways. 17. Differs according to the community served by that library. Need to be aware of how many are only able to use that library in that location and review mitigating actions. 18. Will have an impact on a wide range of other services if library was used to access their services e.g. carers accessing information and company; children for their homework, reading and literacy; unemployed to apply for jobs; learning support for adults; all who cannot or will not access online information. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Library and Museum’s Act 1964 19. Appropriate if looking at the whole service provided and not just buildings closures – covered very clearly in the act and evidence should be easy to find. 20. Proactive and not reactive. Better if used more overtly when having dialogue with authorities in the planning stages for major changes than left to a final attempt to stop changes when issue has been building over a long period. Especially as Arts Council England have clearly stated this is not one of their roles now. This was one of the most valuable and visible areas of work carried out by the Museum, Library and Archives Council. 21. Should be based on a clear understanding of the library’s role and impact on a range of outcomes and services not just looking at libraries as isolated services. 22. Should lead to advocacy and promotion of the contributions libraries make to the outcomes required by other departments as a result of being ‘efficient and effective’. 23. Is still required as the range and quality of library services across the country is extremely variable leading to a postcode lottery. 24. Is made more difficult without any kind of standards or clear expectations against which to judge what a quality library service is. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Save Bolton Libraries Campaign (SBLC) (LIB 015) General This submission draws upon the material contained in SBLC's request to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (`the DCMS') dated 21st December 2011 for intervention under s.10 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 (`the 1964 Act') in relation to the proposals of Bolton Council to reorganise its library service, which proposals include the closure of five libraries (one third of the network) and overall reductions in hours in the remainder of the network. However, its intention is to address more general issues pertinent to (a) the closures which currently threaten libraries throughout England and Wales, and (b) the delivery of library services in the future. For the record, SBLC accepts that library services must bear their proper share of the burden of cuts to local authority funding and that, as indicated in the recent decision of the Court of Appeal in the Brent libraries case, the duty imposed on authorities under s.7 of the 1964 Act, to provide a comprehensive and efficient service for all who desire to use it has to take account of (inter alia) such financial limitations. However, those limitations must not be regarded by local authorities as carte blanche for the decimation of library services without proper regard to the important part libraries play in society or to the need to look properly at ways in which the services might be more economically delivered in accordance with the statutory obligations. Moreover, as was recognised by Sue Charteris's report in the Wirral case (to which the committee will no doubt refer), reorganisations must be based upon proper strategic assessments rather than considerations of costs savings and asset management. The need for new service standards One of the problems about the 1964 Act is that it was drafted in an era when statutory duties were often described in general terms without codes of practice or similar guidance to meaning. Thus, the parameters of library authorities' duty under s.7(1) to provide a comprehensive and efficient service are unclear and recourse has to be had to the formulations of others such as the report on the Wirral Inquiry. Until 2008, there existed Public Libraries Service Standards issued by the DCMS, which covered such matters as accessibility (by reference to distance of travel) and opening hours (by reference to population). These have been abrogated, which SBLC considers to be a retrograde step, particularly when the absence of service standards in England is contrasted with the standards (Public Libraries Quality Improvement Matrix) issued by the Scottish Executive in 2007. General statements of the purposes of libraries such as those set out in the Unesco Manifesto for Public Libraries (Introduction and Key Missions) are not adequate and the Unesco Manifesto calls for standards to be provided. The committee is asked to consider requesting the reintroduction of service standards and perhaps even producing a draft. Subject to that qualification, SBLC considers that the statutory definition of the ambit of the services to be provided by library authorities is adequate, except insofar as the detailed matters referred to in s.7(2) of the 1964 Act may need expanding.


The need for a disputes-resolution mechanism Even if new service standards are introduced, the role of the DCMS in enforcing library authorities' duties under s.1 of the 1964 Act (subject, of course, to the possibility of judicial review) should probably remain. However, there is a need for more detailed guidelines on when the DCMS will consider intervention, albeit subject to retention of the duty to secure enforcement of local authorities' statutory obligations. It is also inherently unsatisfactory that in the event that a local inquiry has to be directed into proposals by a library authority for reorganisation of its service, the inquiry has to be carried out by a consultant who may well be involved in designing the structure of such services for other local authorities. There is a shortage of such persons and the possibility of a conflict of interest is obvious. The methodology of resolving disputes must be patently fair and comply with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It is thought that the task of conducting inquiries ought to be left to the Planning Inspectorate. Access to alternative dispute resolution (under the auspices of one of the recognised ADR institutions (e.g. the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution [CEDR]) ought to back the work of the Inspectorate. Libraries and localism It has been a repeated criticism of the manner in which the DCMS have handled the issue of library closures that it has been resistant to the exercise of its statutory powers of intervention under s.10 of the 1964 Act. The supposition has been that it is concerned not to interfere with the government's localism agenda. Whilst that concern, if it does indeed underlie policy, is understandable, it is in effect anticipating amendments to the 1964 Act which do not appear in the Localism Act 2011 or any other legislation. The powers under s.10 are there to supplement the duties of supervision imposed on the DCMS by s.1 of the 1964 Act and, as such, do not permit of the degree of discretion which is the general mark of powers. Leaving that aside, the truth is that libraries, particularly the branch libraries which are most under threat, ought to be considered as assisting the development of communityled localism, and not just in their function as repositories of books for borrowing. Properly used, particularly if located with other local authority (e.g. SureStart) or public sector (e.g. NHS) service points, they form community hubs. Their importance to the elderly and to children is well documented, but, because usage by Asian communities is higher than average, they are important factors in securing cohesion. They can also be used to assist in the delivery of local authority services, a good example being Brighton and Hove City Council's Council Connect project (The Guardian — 23`' November 2011) which provides local residents who lack internet access or online skills with information technology training and support; this is aimed at enabling them to use other local authority services online more easily and develop skills useful for employment and in their personal lives. The ancillary activities provided at branches (e.g. writing and reading groups, tai chi groups, local area forums, to name but a few) all play an important part in strengthening communities.


Libraries in hard economic times The next five or more years are almost certainly going to be hard on living standards. Christopher Platt, the Director of Collections and Circulation Operations at New York Public Libraries is recorded as saying (London Evening Standard — 25th August 2011) that in times of financial difficulty, public libraries are needed more than ever. Particularly in communities which are relatively deprived (in the Bolton case the catchment areas of two of the libraries threatened with closure contain areas within the 5% most deprived in England), the importance of a free library service on the doorstep cannot be overstated, and indeed the DCMS website recognises deprivation as an important criterion in deciding whether intervention is appropriate. Benefits such as job seeker's allowance are not generous. Not only is travelling into the town centre of a large borough likely to prove expensive, particularly to e.g. a mother and two children, but in deprived areas there is relatively low internet access and/or availability of vehicular transport. In areas of high unemployment/incidence of NEETs (Bolton ranks relatively high here), branch libraries can assist in helping people into employment, because, amongst the ancillary activities, they often house job centre sessions or provide assistance in completing job applications or developing interview skills. The need for a moratorium on proposals for major reorganisations The committee will be aware that several local authorities have proposed closures and service reductions in relation to library services in their areas and that in many cases (including Bolton) are in the course of implementation (in Bolton's case completion of implementation is scheduled for 31St March 2012). It is clear that the way in which library services are delivered in the future will have to change, but it is wrong in principle that the necessary reforms should be anticipated by severe reductions in services (including closures) which go beyond the closure of one or two libraries for the purpose of securing overall improvements regarded by the DCMS as possibly acceptable (see the DCMS website). It almost goes without saying that the process of producing a scheme for reorganisation of library services throughout England and Wales, giving statutory effect thereto and implementing the changes will take several years, starting with the deliberations of the committee and the production of its report. It is also of importance that in 2011 Arts Council England initiated its Libraries Development Initiative, the overall purpose of which is to secure a vibrant library service for the future. Its four diverse projects (arts and culture within libraries; co-ordinating partnerships with other local authority departments; co-production projects relating to books and reading, and commercial partnerships) will time to reach fruition in the form of concrete proposals for the way forward. In the interim, the consideration by the DCMS of individual requests for intervention and by local authorities of alternatives to closures such as those suggested by the 2011 Future Libraries Report (Change, options and how to get there) or elsewhere (see below) will often extend beyond the periods proposed for implementation of major reorganisations (Bolton Council has rejected implementation of sharing services with


other Greater Manchester authorities on the grounds (inter alia) of the timescale involved). It is suggested that, as an initial step, the committee should write to the DCMS to request that it ask local authorities to delay implementation of any proposals which involve significant reorganisation of library services until further notice from the DCMS. It is accepted that local authorities, many of which are under great pressure to make substantial overall savings, will find difficulties in accommodating a moratorium. It is therefore suggested that the DCMS should consider interim funding. It is appreciated that the DCMS's budget is itself stretched by the overall need to make savings and more specifically the financing of the 2012 Olympics-Paralympics. Much as it is hoped that the games will be a success, they constitute a one-off event located principally in one area of the country, whereas libraries are a great national and long-term asset deserving of preservation, albeit subject to modernisation of the service. Perhaps the DCMS might also look to contributions from other government departments (e.g. the Department for Education of the Cabinet Office). Accessibility of libraries Closures of branch libraries inevitably increase the distances which users will have to travel to access the remainder of the network. The service standards in force to 2008 contained suggestions as to the proportion of households within given distances of a library; for instance, in the case of a metropolitan borough (e.g. Bolton) 95% of households should be within one mile (approx. 1600m) of a library and 100% within two miles. It appears to have been considered by many of those responsible for library services that such standards were unrealistic. However, research-based evidence published since 2000 (e.g. 'Guidelines for Providing for Journeys on Foot' —Institution of Highways and Public Transportation in 2000) suggests that 1600m is very much at the limits of acceptability and that a maximum of 1200m as walking distance would generally be more appropriate in an urban environment. The majority of trips to libraries are undertaken or started by walking, a mode of travel which is to be encouraged (DCLG Planning Guidance 13 [January 2011] at paras 19 and 74 — 76) for a number of reasons, including fitness, interaction with other members of local society, high energy costs and compliance with carbon reduction commitments. Obviously, acceptable walking distances vary from person to person and in accordance with weather and other conditions, but the sort of distances contemplated by many authorities (including Bolton) after reorganisations are likely to prove unacceptable to many of the categories of persons protected by the Equality Act 2010 and to those properly classifiable as deprived. The problems arising from excessive walking distances are also highlighted in the Wirral Report (e.g. paras 6.13.1 and 6.17). Libraries and literacy The committee will undoubtedly receive considerable evidence on the value of libraries in arresting the current decline in literacy standards in the UK and indeed more generally on education-related matters. The National Literacy Trust's report of February 2011, highlighting the fact that children who use libraries are twice as likely to be above-average readers, is just one relatively recent piece of evidence.


SBLC does not intend to duplicate the detailed evidence which will be put before the committee, but would simply observe that local branch libraries, rather than central libraries, play a hugely important role. It is in the branches where initiatives such as the annual Summer Reading Challenge is largely organised and such activities as `toddlers' tales' are provided. Furthermore, it is vital to primary schools that there should be a local library to which annual or even twice-yearly visits can be organised. If primary schoolchildren have to make a journey into a town centre, presumably in conjunction with parent(s), in order to access a library, usage is likely to drop off. Libraries and computer-literacy The RaceOnLine2012 project is designed to increase computer-literacy. The groups primarily targeted are older people and those who are on relatively low incomes. These are categories of persons to whom accessibility to local branch libraries is important. Those branches not only provide computer and internet access but often support courses on IT-related matters, a service whose continuation after the RaceOnLine project comes to an end. SBLC hopes that the committee will receive evidence from Martha Lane-Fox, who heads up the RaceOnLine project on behalf of the Cabinet Office. Alternative methods of delivering library services SBLC hopes that the committee will receive evidence from Tim Coates, ex-MD of Waterstones, whose views on how delivery of library services might be improved and closures avoided are of considerable interest. In particular, his observations on the project of modernisation of the service at Hillingdon, which was, for some unaccountable reason, never investigated in any detail by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), which is now merged with Arts Council England, need to be considered, not least because he has told SBLC that 'Roy Clare (then head of MLA) was made aware of the significance of this project at a formal private meeting with book industry leaders in 2007, shortly after he was appointed. He was told of the willingness of the trade to revise its supply systems to save money in a library service like Hillingdon. Hillingdon was to be used as an example of how improvement could be made at the same time as efficiencies. The shame is that it took 4 years for him to produce (a) scrappy set of notes, and that he never managed to do anything with them. The work could still be implemented and would save, in my view, £200m across the country.' Obviously, the general power of competence conferred upon local authorities by the Localism Act 2011 offers prospects of greater co-operation between such authorities and public and private sector bodies. At present it is unclear how this will affect delivery of library services, but the possibilities require to be examined. Subject to the general comments set out above and on the subject of a need for a moratorium to enable assessment of alternative methods of delivery, SBLC's views on some of the ideas set out in the 2011 Future Libraries Report are as follows: • Increased use of volunteers — this is acceptable if used to back up professional staff but not as a substitute therefor, and, in any event, regard must be had to the likelihood of future availability of volunteers from a corps (perhaps supplied by local school(s);


• Community Trusts — again these are likely to require input from volunteers, so similar comments apply as above, and furthermore the likely loss of business rate relief after transfer of control of such rates to local authorities will have an impact on the viability of such trusts, as will the terms upon which local authorities are prepared to release their buildings to such trusts (especially as to rent and repair) and upon which start up assistance will be offered; • Colocation with other services — this seems to be a way of achieving savings, particularly if premises are shared, and offers a way to strengthen local communities; • Locating libraries in shops — this approach is being pioneered in Bradford and Hull and clearly deserves to be investigated, particularly if the location of the shop in question is close to other community facilities; • Shared services — the Future Libraries Report identifies the possibility of substantial savings by means of sharing management and stock procurement, but some library authorities (including Bolton) are of the view that worthwhile savings are not achievable thereby, and, as MLA has supported the idea that savings are achievable in the report (but has, independently of the report, backed Bolton in its assessment), the matter must be fully investigated and SBLC hopes that the committee will receive evidence on this both from the ex-MLA personnel involved in the assessment of sharedservice schemes (particularly those involved with the Greater Manchester feasibility study) and from those in local authorities and formerly with MLA who doubt the efficacy of the concept. Conclusion SBLC has tried to deal with the issues stemming from library closures and reorganisations and proposals for the future in general terms but the committee will obviously be concerned to consider also the detailed evidence from many local authority areas in reaching its conclusions. SBLC hopes that the committee will take evidence relating directly to the impact of Bolton Council's proposals on the borough and its inhabitants and, if so, SBLC will endeavour to assist the committee. The Bourdillon Report, the basis of the 1964 Act, refers (para. 12) to the public library service as 'a great and developing national asset...'; it remains a great national asset, whose development should not be curtailed. In that spirit, SBLC welcomes the committee's intention to investigate the various issues relating to the future of library services. January 2012


Written evidence submited by Association of Friends of Dorset Libraries (LIB 016) Background to closure of Dorset Libraries • • • • • • • •

Short History of Dorset Library Service (paragraphs 1 & 2) 8-12-10 Proposed restructuring of Dorset Library Service (DLS) (paragraphs 3 & 4) 6-1-11 Formation of Ad Lib, policy to preserve all 34 Libraries (paragraphs 5 & 6) March 11- 20 July 2011 – Questionnaires - 11 Libraries reprieved (paragraphs 7 – 11) 21-7-11 County Council decision to support Option B, Vote 21 – 20. Result, retain 25 core Libraries, and close 9 Libraries, offered Community Management 31-10-11 Complaint by Ad Lib to County Council Complaints Officer 10-11-11 Rescission Motion appealing against July decision to close 9 Libraries – lost Against this background reply to issues raised by Select Committee as they relate to Dorset (paragraphs 15 onwards)

1. April 1997 Bournemouth (168,000 pop) and Poole (138,000 pop) became unitary authorities. Prior to this Dorset County Council (DCC) ran the entire countywide library service, they currently operate 34 static Libraries and 5 mobiles, one serving residential homes - Pop 404,000. 2. Since 2001 DLS have attempted to close libraries, culminating in 2006 with a proposal to close 13 libraries via an efficiency review “Making Dorset libraries more efficient”. This was successfully resisted; instead countywide reductions in opening hours and book stock were introduced. 3. July 2010. Policy Development Panel (PDP) a cross-party committee consisting of County Councillors and 2 Officers from Dorset Library Service (DLS) to review the “Modernisation of Public Libraries and Charteris Report (Wirral)”. 4. 8-12-10 DLS announced future services would be delivered through a core network of 14 Main and Town libraries, to achieve savings of £800,000. The remaining 20 libraries designated ‘Community’ would be offered a mobile service or self management, and funding would be withdrawn from April 2012. “The proposal may mean that County Council funding for libraries in up to 20 Community Libraries will cease….resulting in closure of the buildings” DLS. 5. 6-1-11 Formation of the Association of Friends of Dorset Libraries, (Ad Lib) as a coalition Friends’ Group to oppose closure, propose an alternative strategy and act as a united pressure group writing to the Secretary of State and local MPs. A petition to the County Council, achieved 13,656 signatures in one week, ensuring a full County Council debate. 6. A DCC decision on February 17th instructed the PDP and DLS to evaluate the Ad Lib alternative proposal, recommending a 40% reduction in the book fund, 10% cut in opening hours across the service, and joint management and purchasing services with the unitary authorities of Bournemouth and Poole, saving the necessary £800,000.


7. A 3 month period of consultation began in March 2011 using 2 different questionnaires, one for the 14 core libraries and other for the 20 where it was proposed to withdraw funding. Youth and Citizen Groups’ views were sought and an Equalities Impact Assessment prepared by DCC acknowledged an adverse impact on older people, users of the Home Library service served currently by community libraries, those living in rural communities, adults, children and young people, and deprivation related to rurality. 8. 20-6-11 DCC Community Overview Committee endorsed new proposals by the DLS Officers, resulting in 24 core libraries and removal of funding from 10 Community Libraries. 9. The PDP also introduced proposals which met the necessary savings, kept all 34 branches open and proposed changes in book purchases. This was supported by Ad Lib, but not the DLS Officers. 10. 30-6-11 Ad Lib instigated a formal complaint against DLS following an interim update of the questionnaire results and concern at the negative interpretation against the Community Libraries. With the reprieve of 10 Libraries during the consultation period, some of the results were invalid. 11. 6.7.11. DCC Cabinet meeting when West Moors was added to the core service, making the final decision 25 Core Libraries. 12. 21-7-11 Dorset County Council voted by 21 – 20, to close, by withdrawing funding from 9 libraries, namely Colehill, Corfe Castle, Wool, Portland Underhill, Stalbridge, Puddletown, Chickerell, Charmouth and Burton Bradstock (the Nine). Funding now to cease in September 2012 but offered a community package of support and placed outside statutory provision of the 1964 Act. 13. 31-10-11 Formal complaint sent to DCC, citing format of the 2 questionnaires; misrepresentation of results; and inadequate information and costing of the Community offer. DCC acknowledged “two mistakes in analysis and presentation of responses to consultation” but denied that “misleading, inaccurate and biased information” was presented to DCC members in making their decision to close 9 libraries. 14. 10-11-11 Rescission motion brought by Liberal Democrats, “that the County Council resolve Option D as set out in the reports be adopted.” was defeated 25 – 14, 3 abstentions. Reply to Issues raised by the Select Committee • what constitutes a comprehensive and efficient service for the 21st century 15. The 1964 Act states the “availability of full library facilities for all people wishing to use one in their place of residence, work or study”. Ed Vaizey, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, assured us this legislation is not to be repealed, but closures are denying equal availability and creating new inequalities. 16. This should not be the widespread demise of static libraries they should continue to provide access to existing library facilities, as well as appropriate additional community based services.


17. A 21st Century service requires staff who can advise, support, administrate and initiate programmes for all ages and levels of need and IT support. 18. Volunteers should be used to extend the service, supplement and complement, not replace professional staff. 19. To be efficient and comprehensive we require nationally recognised standards, subject to inspection, not a plethora of different concepts open to misinterpretation throughout the UK or within a local authority - need for a national working party. 20. An efficient service for Dorset requires a return to a joint administrative service within the County and the 2 unitary authorities of Bournemouth (12 static libraries) and Poole (11 static libraries) as evidenced by present arrangements for Police and Fire services. This would achieve a single unitary body of administration, book, audio & e-book purchasing. The latter should be organised regionally, and eventually nationally. 21. We contend the Dorset closure proposals denies to ‘the Nine’, (30,000 people), a comprehensive service. Smaller libraries record increased issues figures, against falling figures in core libraries. Some have equal populations to retained town libraries, and planned increases in population have been ignored. We argue that DCC are making financial cuts that favour the needs of larger population centres. We should be keeping people at the closest point of delivery to the full range of services and professional expertise. •

the extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Library and Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris report. (Wirral.)

22. It is not compatible with Section 7 to exclude people from the provisions of the 1964 Act. 23. The Act clearly states that the Library Service is the responsibility of the 151 Local Authorities currently responsible to the Secretary of State. This is not compatible with DCC’s attempts to persuade Town and Parish Councils to take over legal responsibilities for Community libraries, and might lead to a breach of the 1964 Act. 24. The contentious issue of “in” or “outside” statutory protection for Community supported libraries needs resolving. Currently Local authorities are interpreting their responsibilities differently, e.g. Buckinghamshire, Suffolk, Northumberland and Somerset proposing they remain inside statutory protection while Dorset, Gloucester and Kirklees, West Yorkshire are placing them outside. 25. There are no clear national criteria for retaining or closing a library but include cost per issue, annual issue figures, population size, proximity to transport routes, or another Library. In Dorset, the Main and Town Libraries have had falling issue figures in the last three years e.g. Dorchester and Christchurch, whereas it is the smaller Libraries who have recorded rising borrowing figures. Colehill, due for closure, has a bigger population and rising book issues annually, than neighbouring Wimborne. 26. In their Community Management Offer, DCC state they are placing these libraries outside statutory protection, but providing a support package. This includes continued use of DCC Library card, a circulating book issue, central reservation and renewal system, a modified library management system and self service machines.


With this degree of support these libraries and those working in them are an integral part of the DLS statutory responsibility and therefore public libraries. 27. DLS are relinquishing the funding and responsibility of premises, and expecting volunteers to run the day to day service, as well as funding their overheads; insurance, utilities, building maintenance and in some cases rent. The public are denied access to professional Library Staff, with Volunteers receiving 3 hours per week administrative staff support. 28. Cost savings are minimal e.g. books reserved have to be delivered and returned, so there are no transport cost savings. 29. Judicial Review 16 November 2011 of Somerset and Gloucester, upheld the 1964 Act and spirit of the Charteris Report.





Issues covered by the Charteris Report “Creation of further discrimination by closures”. The report raises significant issues that DCC have ignored. Charteris highlighted that closures are creating further discrimination and are outside legal provision “all persons desirous to make use thereof” and consequently the effect of closures in areas where services are to cease, have not been re-evaluated in diversity and equality terms. “Consultation needs to provide genuine opportunity for people to be consulted”. During the three month consultation period, no proper consultation with Ad Lib (except one mass meeting) or Friends’ Groups, no written evidence requested; no advertised meetings with individual libraries; 2 separate questionnaires for Core and Community Libraries and inappropriate questions about future services. DLS Policy changed during consultation, e.g. the number of Libraries to be retained. A totally negative approach by DLS Officers i.e. Library staff told not to answer questions raised by library users. Charteris disagrees that larger, better core libraries, means more resources! It actually is more books on fewer shelves. DLS maintains the book fund, known as ‘resource fund,’ cannot be reduced when there are large stock piles of books not in circulation, and disposal figures are annually higher than new buy. We endorse the comment made in Charteris that a smaller local service is not inevitably inefficient. There is a misunderstanding about what a local library offers – smaller libraries in Dorset are vibrant centres of provision to their local community.

Locality of services for children 34. This is highly relevant in Dorset, where school children have regular planned library visits, plus the Summer Reading Challenge, and sessions for pre-school children. Locality means higher use for leisure and study, computers, DVD’s etc. 35. Charteris regarded Wirral in “breach of statutory duties for ignoring local needs”, and recommended that a service should be designed to meet individual requirements. A comprehensive service does not stem from a blueprint based on large or small units. Dorset is imposing a two model system – a comprehensive urban system, or a reduced service outside statutory provision, run by volunteers. 36. Charteris criticises a negative approach, and DLS have made no attempt to be proactive in assessing what individual libraries are giving to their own communities.


37. In the Report there is “no plan as to how community managed libraries can be achieved”. Funding for ‘the Nine’ is to be withdrawn, yet DLS say they are acting in compliance with the 1964 Act. The following issues have yet to be agreed, including: transfer of assets, position of Parish and Town Councils, funding alternatives, business plans, charity status, insurance, and an amended Library Management system, recruitment and training of volunteers. 38. Charteris comments on rationalisation of service and how it could be “enhanced, shared or replicated differently.” Currently volunteers are unable to work alongside employed staff because of Unison working practices. This is achieved in Hospitals with a Volunteer contract and clearly defined roles, so why not in the Library service? 39. However we object to the replacement of Library Staff with Volunteers to save money; this is denying the public expertise assumed by the 1964 Act. •

the impact closures have on local communities


In Dorset new inequalities are being created, more polarity of provision increasing problems in rural areas, public transport reduced and costly to those ineligible for bus passes. The situation is further compounded by a reduction in post offices, pubs, school crossing patrols and day services for children the elderly and disabled. 41. The policy of District Councils to increase house supply against DCC reducing services, e.g. libraries and schools. This creates a general roll-over effect on jobs, relocation and house prices.

42. There will be further equality issues with people charged for services they do not receive. A substitute Mobile service is inadequate compared to present opening hours, depriving other rural areas of their present mobile visits. Two areas whose future needs will not be met are Portland Underhill (Urban) and Bovington Army camp (Rural), the latter within the Wool catchment area where the Middle School library will also close in July 2012. 43. Children’s needs inadequately assessed, considering 25% of Dorset library issues are to children. 44. Rural and small town Libraries tend to have better parking and access facilities. Mobiles are unsuitable for people with disabilities and limited mobility. 45. IT services are essential in libraries for study and to improve customer service, online reservation, e-books etc. Nationally, 20%-25% of households are considered not to be on line, and in rural Dorset there is limited fast Broadband service. 46. The effect of closures has not been properly re-evaluated. Most of ‘the Nine’ have Health Centres, Dental services, Village Halls, Community Centres, Post Offices, Shops, Legal services, Estate Agents, Garages etc, but are being denied a legal right not only to their library, but a community meeting place. Some are busy tourist centres on the Jurassic coast with thousands of annual visitors.


The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964

47. The Secretary of State is failing to oversee and promote “a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons in the area that want to make use of the Library service.” 48. Ed Vaizey in the Parliamentary debate, 28-2-11, states there are ”no plans to repeal statutory provision and “statutory duty a safety net for the provision of libraries” We are not seeing this in Dorset, who are trying to exclude 9 Libraries from the ‘safety net’. 49. Nothing to date from the Secretary of State or Ed Vaizey as to the unprecedented level of national protest over closures. At last a Select Committee, but why not before the public had to raise large sums of money to seek Judicial Reviews (Somerset/Gloucester and Brent)? 50. Why has a moratorium on library closures not been called pending the report of the Select Committee? 51. The Act requires the Secretary of State to inspect and monitor library services. Dorset is basing its closures primarily on financial savings. In a recent letter from the DLS dated 14-12-11, it is stated that the Department of Culture, Media & Sport have been kept informed, but it is clear they have not yet responded, as the DLS’s letter does not say their plans have been approved. 52. Capital projects and refurbishments are a Library service’s responsibility, but why have Inspectorate powers failed to question why 20, and then 9 Libraries are to close, whilst a new main Library in Dorchester, at a capital outlay of £1 million and ongoing cost of £5 million over the next 25 years is going ahead, whilst retaining the existing premises for the Mobile Library services, storage and administration. In Christchurch, refurbishment and an extension at a capital cost of £2 million starts in 2012. DCC will save at most £116,000 per annum by passing the nine libraries to be community run. No departmental investigation is inexcusable. 53. Financial stringency has to take cognisance of statutory responsibilities, but the Secretary of State has not questioned why DCC can claim to be acting lawfully with a much reduced service in 2012, than was necessary to comply with the Act in 2009 54. Dorset are planning a future service without regard to the rights of people under the 1964 Act, and stating that any community managed asset is outside statutory protection. We urge the Secretary of State to clarify this issue. 55. Department of Communities and Local Government, June 2011, Baroness Hanham. “The Government have no intention to remove statutory protection where this will have a negative impact on services .......for example, vulnerable children and libraries.” It is happening in Dorset! 56. The Appeal Court judgement re Brent (19 December 2011) has again muddied the waters by inferring that saving money has a priority over fulfilling legal obligations, and “being in no doubt that Brent Council was aware of its statutory duties” If the Secretary of State had acted decisively earlier, inappropriate use of the Judicial system would not have taken place. 57. In conclusion, we can only hope the Select Committee will make strong representations to the Secretary of State that the future of the Public Library Service


has to be firmly protected by the provisions of the current law, and that these powers have to be enforced and properly supervised. Only then can Dorset County Council be persuaded to create a comprehensive and efficient service across the whole rural County, not an urban solution only for the larger centres of population as highlighted in paragraphs 25. and 52. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Cornwall Council (LIB 017) This is the response on behalf of Cornwall Council’s Library Service in relation to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee Consultation on the ‘Impact of Library Closures’. This report outlines; • • • • • •

Cornwall Council’s financial position following the Comprehensive Spending Review. Proposals to meet to savings required whilst ensuring a sustainable service. Libraries for the Future Programme. Consultation and engagement. Improvements to service delivery. Future of Cornwall Library Service.

Background 1. Cornwall like many places across the Country suffered the knock on impact of the economic downturn. Following the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) announcement on the 20 October, Cornwall Council set an emergency budget outlining financial saving that would be required to achieve a 30% reduction in formula grant funding over the four year period. The decision was made to go early with the cuts and set a budget that would protect essential services for people in Cornwall. Cornwall Library Service operates through; •

32 static library sites 4 of which are dual use facilities within schools, and 5 of which are joint Cornwall Council One Stop Shop facilities

4 standard mobile library vans

1 specialist van which concentrates on visiting residential homes and sheltered housing

1 community library

Internet site within the Cornwall Council corporate site which provides library members with free access to subscription reference materials

Cornwall Council Library Service were required to operate on a significantly reduced budget and to take savings early wherever possible in order to reduce the impact of the reduction. The net library services budget was reduced to £3.526 million in 201112 compared with £4.264 in 2010-11. 2. In order to preserve library facilities it was proposed to achieve most of the savings through integrating libraries with One Stop Shops and the Registration Service to form a new service called Face to Face which would be a division of Shared Services, within the Communities Directorate. Prior to embarking on the organisational design of the new Service. A review of existing opening times and staffing levels was undertaken. This resulted in more efficient use of staff in providing service delivery at the busiest periods and dealt with issues of staff cover when dealing with sickness, leave and reduce issues around lone working.


3. Weekday opening hours were changed to 6pm as a result of a Public Library Service national target intended to provide open time beyond 9-5 for those customers at work during the day. National Public Library Service targets are no longer in force. Spreading the late night opening has not been an efficient use of available opening hours as the period between 5 and 6 is generally travelling time for those at work. Reverting to the previous offer of one late night open until 6.30 pm helped to reduce the lone working implications arising from staff maintaining the service during the extremely quiet evening sessions. Following consultation with staff and Local Council Members, the new proposals came into effect from 1st April and saw a number of libraries implement new opening times – in many cases this was reflected through very limited reductions in times. For example – Falmouth Library now opens from 9.30am – 17.00pm – Monday, Tuesday and Friday, from 9.00am until 18.30pm on Thursday and from 10.00am until 16.00pm on a Saturday and will remain closed on Wednesday and Sunday – resulting in the reduction of just one hour a week compared with previous arrangements. A report was requested by the Director of the Communities Directorate from Cornwall Council’s Community Intelligence team in order to improve our understanding of libraries in Cornwall. Findings supported the Library Service Review and this evidence underpinned decisions about changes to service delivery. A copy of this report and findings can be viewed at; 4. The proposals around delivering face to face services in a cost effective and efficient way by relocating One Stop Shops in with existing Library premises identified a number of benefits; •

The library infrastructure would be maintained when many other areas in the Country were stopping these services and closing down Library Facilities.

The customer receives an enhanced and improved service as more services are offered from a single location.

Provided greater opportunities to work with partners to utilise space and deliver more seamless services.

Enabled Cornwall Council to become more creative in the ways services are delivered to the public.

Develop a ‘community hub’ approach to these facilities where the community and partners can work from – developing the ‘Big Society’ concept.

The libraries/buildings/registration offices could be used outside of normal working hours by outside organisations, a natural extension of the community hub concept. Potential increase in footfall for the Library facilities from those visiting other Council functions.

Future Provision – Developing and Efficient Library Service for the 21st Century. 5. Alongside this service review Cornwall Library Service were successful in a bid to deliver Phase 1 of the Libraries For the Future Programme – as a consortium of south west


libraries. The consortium was made up of four local authorities – Cornwall, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay. The Programme had to be driven by local authorities based on the needs of individuals and communities, with the emphasis being on providing more effective, creative and sustainable services beyond traditional organisational boundaries. The aim was to consider how we could work collaboratively with other Authorities to make efficiencies in the library back office functions, encourage channel migration, and e-enabled usage of the service, and to increase access and usage. Through this collaborative approach it was estimated that savings between 4% and 15% could be achieved through the four library authorities working together. However as a result of the changing financial climate, budget cuts and existing reviews taking place to ensure a sustainable service for Cornwall was coupled with the timing of the implementation of this programme – which was problematic and the original estimation of savings was not achievable. However the benefits that were achievable would help contribute to developing a strong library service for the future. The Libraries for the Future Programme allowed a mechanism to review library services and build on existing partnerships across traditional local authority boundaries and to assist to drive out efficiencies and work more collaboratively together. The aim of the south west consortium was to design a single entity to be able to deliver what came to be called the ‘library technical’ elements of library provision – particularly focusing around systems and processes relating to stock procurement and management. This technical approach to ‘back office’ functions focused the programme to concentrate consulting with the stakeholders that were directly involved in this process. Since the project centred on ‘back office’ functions it was difficult to consider the needs of service users. However partners involved in the process recognised the value of keeping customers at the centre of the discussions as the aim of the project was ultimately to deliver a more efficient and effective service to individuals and communities. In August 2010, a Member Working Group, was established by the Cabinet Member for Customer First and Culture. Members carried out substantial work during August 2010 and March 2011 to develop a number of recommendations. An implementation plan was then produced based on the 12 recommendations. This demonstrates that library provision across Cornwall is given a high priority within the authority. Recommendations from the Member Working group 1. Partnership across library services - Cornwall Council should explore and evaluate cross authority partnership working 2. Professional capacity and expertise - the Face to Face division of Shared Services should retain sufficient capacity and professional expertise within its library function to fulfil its potential to support key Cornwall Council objectives. 3. Community Hubs - explore the role of libraries as community hubs. 4. Social and learning outcomes - to meet the social and learning needs of the people of Cornwall a review of the library core service should be undertaken, bid for funding to deliver specific outcomes to support corporate and other objectives and explore the use of volunteers to support delivery of social and learning outcomes.


5. Cultural offer - Cornwall Libraries should clearly define the role it plays in the wider strategic cultural offer of Cornwall. 6. Public access to computers - Cornwall Council should provide a corporate budget for supplying and maintaining public access computers in libraries in order to support its objective of increasing the uptake of online access to council services 7. Marketing - Cornwall Council should provide a specialist marketing officer to support the Cornwall Libraries to market its services in 2011. Cornwall Council’s Community Intelligence Unit should provide the data to enable Cornwall Libraries to use the trigger points described in the MLA report to help target marketing of all services, not just those related to online services 8. Technological change - explore opportunities to provide more services in digital formats in order to provide sustainable alternatives to traditional library services 9. Income generating opportunities from IT 10.Investment in self service technology - Cornwall Libraries should submit a bid for capital funding to replace and update the public access and self service machines in 2011 11.Community libraries - Cornwall Libraries should explore a range of options for sustainable models of library provision to rural communities. The libraries at Upton Cross, St Keverne, St Dennis and Stithians should become the pilots for the delivery of library and other council services from sites within those communities; supported by Cornwall Libraries but staffed by local volunteers. A cost benefit analysis should be undertaken to explore replacing some traditional mobile services with a postal or courier alternative combined with a computer access facility within a community location 12.Volunteers - In order to reduce social isolation among those unable to access library and other council services and to encourage community participation in supporting services in rural communities Cornwall Libraries should explore opportunities to work with community transport groups and existing school transport providers across Cornwall, to replace some traditional mobile library services and Home Library Services with transport to libraries Successes of the Service Review •

Greater economy of scales recognised around information services, management services and more streamlined IT support.

A library service that is fit for purpose in an environment of reduced costs but potentially increased demand as the population grows and the ‘Big Society’ approach is embedded.

A service that encompasses other local authority service areas e.g. Adult Care and Support, Children and Young people.

Improved delivery of service to customers, community engagement, develop coproduction and community cohesion.

A more efficient service meeting customer needs

Greater involvement from community groups in areas where the pilot for Adopt a Library initiative


Greater opportunities to work with our communities to develop new ways of providing services to local communities.

Staff development and training opportunities and multi skilling staff.

Opportunities for increased income generation through the introduction of a Business and Development Team

Ongoing consultation with users and non users of the library/OSS e.g. Performing Arts Library and Specialist collections enables us to ensure we are customer focussed when delivering these specialist Services.

Consistent standard of Service across Cornwall whilst meeting the needs of the local communities.

Cornwall Library Provision. 8. The proposals to integrate facilities and services into shared locations would have an impact on employees and customers accessing services. It was therefore vital that a full consultation with affected individuals/ organisations took place. Consultation. 9. There was a significant consultation undertaken as part of the development of the integration. This consisted of a 6 week consultation period with Meetings with union representatives, Library and One Stop Shop staff and mangers, Elected Members and Town and Parish Council in affected areas. A number of meetings with in house services e.g. property, legal services, facilities management and housing services. Meetings with external partners who use existing facilities and organisations who could share facilities e.g. CAB, Volunteer Cornwall, Police, Credit Unions and Working Links. All proposals had robust equality impact assessments completed against the relocations and where any negative impacts were recognised mitigating actions were also identified to reduce any negative affects from the moves. The proposals were submitted that would have the most limited impact on local communities. Summary 10.Unlike other areas in the country Cornwall Council worked hard to ensure that a sustainable service could be retained throughout the financial cuts, with a number of improvements to service delivery being recognised. Benchmarking data draw from ‘The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’ (CIPFA) website compares Cornwall Council with 54 other Unitary Authorities. See table below which highlights that Cornwall has lower than average numbers of staff per 1000 population and demonstrates a higher than average hours committed by volunteers across the County.


Measure No. of staff /1000 population No. of volunteer hours

Cornwall 0.23 31,296

Club Average 0.35 3963

Cornwall Libraries also have the lowest revenue spend per 1000 population in the South West and spending is at around 50% of the all England average. The Service is working with partners to maximise the opportunities provided by the Superfast Broadband project. The focus has changed of former Study Support Officers who delivered one to one computer training to people who were not sufficiently confident to attend formal group tuition. In place now is an Online Support Officers Network who work with partners such as BBC First Click, Citizensonline, BT and UKonline and with volunteers to help people to get online. This not only supports the services digital literacy aspirations but also increases the take up of online access to Cornwall Council Services. Cornwall had a very successful Summer Reading Challenge this year and have begun a successful relationship with young volunteers who listen to the participants reviews of the books they have read for the challenge. Many of the volunteers were former Summer Reading Challenge participants and their continued involvement shows how much they value the benefits of the scheme. Cornwall Library service is committed to ensuring that provision is sustainable and meets the needs of customers in the County. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by the West Midlands Society of Chief Librarians (LIB 018) 1


1.1 The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) is a local government association made up of the chief librarian of each library authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The West Midlands SCL is a network of 14 chief librarians representing library authorities across the region. 1.2 The West Midlands membership commissioned two pieces of work relevant to the inquiry, and specifically to how libraries will meet the needs of the 21st century. 1.3 The first, completed in October 2010, is a strategy and toolkit for developing the health and well-being agenda in libraries through reading activities. 1.4 The second, from November 2010, makes the case for sharing or merging services sub-regionally to achieve efficiencies and savings whilst maintaining high standards of public service. 1.5

Both documents are attached in full and briefly summarised below:

2 The West Midlands Public Library Health and Well-being Partnership Toolkit 2.1 West Midlands SCL commissioned The Reading Agency to design a toolkit to help regional libraries extend their health and well-being offer, and develop closer working partnerships with the health and social service sectors. Their report looks at regional case studies, the wider strategic context, and the evidence available for the benefits of reading, and social reading groups, both to specific audiences and more generally. 2.2 The benefits of ‘bilbiotherapy’ explored include helping older people stay mentally agile and independent, combating loneliness, isolation and low self-esteem, reducing stress levels, and generally promoting both physical and mental health and well-being. 2.3 Emphasis is placed on the fact that libraries are a neutral, non-clinical environment which ‘widens access and helps to normalise the experience of healthrelated activities’. Libraries also offer partners ‘unrivalled community access reaching older people, children and families, BME groups and deprived communities’. 2.4 Recent case studies covered include the development of specially-branded health zones within libraries offering information and events, and reading activities for isolated and vulnerable groups, including people with learning disabilities or mental health problems.


2.5 Stoke-on-Trent library service is working in partnership with NHS Stoke-on-Trent to improve health literacy in the city through increased access to high quality health information and signposting to health services: 2.6 People will use the library who won’t use other services … the more you can invest in prevention, the less it is going to cost you in cure. Linda Clark, NHS Stoke-on-Trent 2.7 Dudley library service is working with a range of partners to provide social reading activities for people with learning disabilities, including separate sessions for Asian communities. Their aim is to improve the quality of life and promote the well-being of reading group members - building confidence, supporting learning and increasing social and community engagement: 2.8 The staff were extremely motivated and passionate about providing a reading group service for our service users… some who attended this group had a profound learning disability, whilst others had complex needs due to sensory, mobility and mental health needs. Debbie Cooper, Team Leader Amblecote Centre for Learning Disability 3

West Midlands Libraries: The Case for Efficiency through Cooperation

3.1 West Midlands SCL commissioned Black Radley Ltd to work on a business case for regional partners to share or merge some of their frontline and back-room library operations. The research was commissioned in response to anticipated library service budgets cuts of around 30% and the opportunities these presented for radical change unthinkable in more normal times. 3.2 The commissioned report was aimed at local authority decision-makers – chief executives and chief officers - as well as library professionals. Black Radley concluded that cross-boundary cooperation between regional library authorities could achieve worthwhile savings. 3.3

Progress has since been made: Solihull, Warwickshire, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire are already operating shared mobile library services. Anticipated combined savings between Solihull and Warwickshire, for example, will be around £100,000. Other ways to cooperate - such as shared stock services and library management systems - are currently being explored by regional partners. 3.4 The Black Radley report also looked at wider issues, highlighting the role of libraries in building social capital and the ‘Big Society’, describing them as a catalyst for relationships between citizens, between citizen and state, and between public sector partners. Importantly: 3.5 Libraries are one of the very few public services which offer unconditional space and a service based on pleasure. As such, they have a unique potential for being the “killer app” which brings in the public, enabling wider health, welfare, educational and


other messages to be conveyed. They have the ability to make the “hard to reach” less hard to reach. West Midlands SCL hopes the above summary and attached reports [not printed] will be useful to the inquiry. Please send a copy of the report to the chairman. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Christopher Pipe (LIB 019)

Context I am a chartered librarian with experience of running libraries in three state schools and of advising one private school. I now work as a freelance editor and researcher but carefully watch developments in librarianship, especially school libraries. I am a lifelong user of public libraries.   Summary •

Public libraries support self-improvement through personal development, independent learning and business enterprise. This is a service driven by professional expertise, not just a random accumulation of books.

Comprehensive service should include range and format of resources as well as all kinds of users.

Where library provision is inadequate, people must buy resources privately, which is inefficient. Those who cannot afford their own resources will lack important means of personal development, learning and informed enterprise, to the detriment of society and the economy as a whole.

School library provision varies in quality and when funding is reduced some headteachers look to make savings on library budgets, even to the extent of making skilled librarians “redundant”. Public libraries are then of special importance in supporting the development of children’s literacy and information skills.

Financial decisions are made by national government, local authorities, chief librarians and head teachers. If libraries budgets are cut, learners suffer, whoever made the decision, and some cuts are illusory because they merely shift the burden of funding from one fund holder to another.

1 Supporting learning 1.1 Libraries serve to link readers and researchers with books and information, exploiting the resources available for maximum effect. (See also the Appendix, section 5 below.) The knowledge business is highly complex and the domain of skilled professionals but many people, including decision makers, fail to


appreciate the work that is done behind the scenes to give people access to knowledge. 1.2 I have worked in both public and school libraries as a volunteer, and when I was running school libraries I made great use of pupils as library assistants. The role of volunteers is important not only in keeping inadequately staffed libraries running smoothly but also in developing the volunteers’ own awareness of library resources, building appropriate relationships between staff and users, and promoting the personal development and self-confidence of the volunteers themselves. 1.3 I cannot see how any library can be run successfully if it is not under the close personal oversight of qualified and experienced professional staff. I remain to be convinced that the management and training of volunteers can be done by one highly paid officer working at local-authority level. 1.4 The views of professional librarians threatened with budget cuts and redundancy have rarely been heard – partly because their contracts of employment may forbid public comment on their employers’ decisions – but this means the considered views of experienced professional staff are often never known. Library users may never be sure whether the proposed cuts are fiercely opposed and resented by the library staff, or are part of a genuine vision for a different pattern of future library provision. This is the more regrettable if it means that decision makers such as local councillors remain unaware of the implications of their decisions. 1.5 Public protests have mainly focused on the local branch library as a valued community centre, as a provider of recreational reading and of help for the unemployed, not to mention its importance to children’s development as readers. Much less evident has been any understanding of the vital role played by libraries in serving the needs of students, independent researchers and businesses. 1.6 The media (including letters pages) tend to assume that libraries are valued by those who “like reading” and are assumed to be happy with almost any sort of reading; they can therefore be directed to charity shops for a source of “reading”. Charity shops are not, however, of any use whatever to those whose reading is more purposeful, or indeed to those who are discriminating in the authors, titles and genres they seek.

2 A comprehensive service 2.1 Public libraries should serve all age groups: children, young people, working and unwaged adults, the elderly. They should serve all social classes: the working class, the leisured middle classes, the senior executives and


politicians. They should serve those of all educational standards: those with learning difficulties, those flying through school and needing to read voraciously, those struggling through college, those undertaking study or research. They should provide for those of all ethnic groups and for those with physical disabilities including mobility difficulties and visual impairment. Library stocks should include a comprehensive range of media formats (printed books, maps, sound recordings, films etc.) covering a full range of subjects at all levels of understanding and from a range of viewpoints (political, social, male/female etc.). Without this range, libraries cannot serve the three categories of users mentioned in the 1964 Act, namely those who live, work and study in the area. 2.2 Special mention has to be made of school library provision because the quality of education is coming under attack from three directions: 2.2.1 School budgets are suffering cuts (despite what some politicians wish us to believe), and head teachers are reducing the funds allocated to library staff and stock. 2.2.2 Local authority budgets are being cut, and the school library services (funded through education or libraries budgets or both) are being destroyed. 2.2.3 Public libraries are under threat of closure and some of those remaining are being deprofessionalised and their stock and buildings run down. They do not have the capacity to support teachers and pupils. No one seems prepared to take responsibility for seeing that school pupils have the benefit of expert guidance by specialists in children’s literature and the multiple literacies required in our complex society.   3  An efficient service   


Not efficient 


Purchase of resources is shared   

Each individual/family/business has to buy  resources separately 

3. 2  People take turns to use resources  for a limited time   

People pay the full price of ownership and  try to find buyers for resources which are  no longer needed 

  3.2.1 As an example, I listed ten books which I read or consulted recently, or plan to read or consult in the near future. None was out of print; none was available as a free ebook. The cost of purchasing them (in ebook format if


available) would have been £427.26. The cost of ordering them from the library (including the charges for reservation or inter-library loan where applicable) came to £29.20 – it would have been less if my local library had a larger stock and had some of them sitting on the shelf, and/or if my library had had more of them in the system without requiring loans from the British Library or other public library systems. I have no need to own these books permanently, and other readers will be able to use them once I have finished with them. Even with overheads taken into consideration, no one can persuade me that it would have been more efficient for me to buy all these books myself. Libraries are efficient!    


Not efficient 


Licences to use online resources  are negotiated on behalf of large groups  of users 

Each individual/family/business must   subscribe separately to online resources  separately to online resources 


Experienced stock editors, with local  knowledge, are employed to keep abreast of  new resources (books, recordings, technology,  online databases and services) and buy or  licence what users are likely to find useful       

Each individual/family/business has to keep  abreast of new titles/technologies/   developments, or miss out on things   through ignorance of what is available.  This is not only economically inefficient,  it also fails to make the most of human  potential 


Collections and study spaces are provided  in local libraries for anyone to use            

Each user must travel to a major central  library, or else must find his or her own  space which is conducive to study and has  the printed and computer resources  needed – which is highly desirable but not   practicable for everyone 

4 Decision making 4.1 Some politicians and local councillors, and (I believe) civil servants and local government officials who advise them, lack any vision for how public libraries can serve the intellectual and economic well-being of private individuals and the whole nation. Funding decisions are taken in many different quarters, but the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has a statutory duty to promote the improvement of the public library service and secure the proper discharge by local authorities of their functions in relation to libraries. He has conspicuously failed to do so, ignoring repeated demands for his intervention. Arts Council England has ostensibly been charged with some responsibility but


its funding for library work has been cut from the former MLA’s £13m to a mere £3m. 4.2 The Future Libraries document fails to engage with the real issues, lacks vision and has even been described as “absurd”. 4.3 It is difficult to judge how effective the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention could be, since he has refused to use them. The law and the courts say it is his job to supervise library services, but he watches from the sidelines while local authorities (who are deprived of funds by central government restrictions) destroy their comprehensive and efficient service. It cannot have been Parliament’s intention in 1964 that the Act should result in this buckpassing farce. 5 Appendix: Some typical users and their needs Voices for the Library recently published a list of 93 jobs done by librarians (with the emphasis on public libraries). Here is a complementary list of user needs that often go unrecognised in the media and by local councillors: Alison enjoys books by a certain living author. What books has he written since the last one Alison read? (Finding out from the catalogue ought to be easy, but is often complicated.) What similar writers might Alison enjoy? Brian has a keen interest in local history. What books or articles have been published on the area recently? Colin runs a small business making widgets. A recent research report could suggest ways of making them much more efficiently – but there again, it might not. Colin is clearly not going to invest £185 (the published price) in a report whose relevance is not certain. Can a copy be obtained on interlibrary loan? Dolores is a keen knitter running out of ideas. She needs to compare a large range of books to see which will provide her with patterns and ideas which (a) she has not used before, and (b) are appropriate for the ages and styles of the people she knits for. Eddie was never a high-flier academically but has recently become a voracious teenage reader of certain sorts of fiction, getting through two or three books a week either printed or in electronic format. He doesn’t earn a lot from his Saturday job, so to build on his new-found confidence as a reader he needs to borrow lots of titles either from his school library or from his local public library. Fran has three children under the age of 10. She’s a single mother living on benefits and doesn’t have time to read much for herself, but has taken her children to the library regularly and they love choosing a dozen books each week for bedtimes and homework. (Sometimes dad or gran will read to them at


weekends.) Now their local library is under threat. Will their love of books survive till they reach secondary school? And when they move up to “big school”, will there be a librarian there to foster their enthusiasm and lead them on to greater things? Grant hopes to complete his professional exams next year. He needs to do a lot of revision and extension reading, but although he can use computers when at work there is no usable broadband coverage where he lives, and he needs fast internet access to help him study in the evenings. Hattie (her full name is quite unpronounceable by English speakers!) only arrived in England a year ago and is struggling with her school work, but she is a bright girl who needs to read news and magazine features and stories in her own language as well as relevant English fiction written in language that isn’t too demanding. Who will help her find these? Ian was made redundant last month and is struggling to come up with a viable plan to keep his life and his home afloat. It isn’t just finding the job adverts and applying online that are proving difficult – he needs to do a lot of reading and thinking to see if there may be a different career which would offer better job prospects whilst using some of his existing skills. Or he might seek retraining for something completely different – but what? He needs a range of newspapers and magazines, contact details for people and organisations that could help him, and even some technical journals or websites that might help him formulate a Plan B. Jasmine is wheelchair-bound; she cannot access the mobile library and although the central library is physically accessible, it is some miles away and the trip is a bit daunting. She has hitherto used a more local branch but its future is uncertain. Keith is a governor of his local school – an unpaid position. He likes to follow the latest ideas in education but some of the reports are quite expensive and online sources give only brief summaries of them. He would like to borrow such titles to look at them in more detail at home. Leila teaches pupils with special educational needs and wants to see what recent research has been published. She belongs to one or two online discussion forums which often refer to research published in specialist journals but access to these are often by subscription only. Where can she gain access to them without paying hundreds of pounds a year? Molly is elderly and her sight is poor. She can (for the time being) cope with the large-print books in her local branch library but feels she would keep her mind more active if she could read a wider range of books. The big central library has a marvellous machine that displays any ordinary book on a screen at a great


magnification – but Molly’s driving days are over and the bus service only operates twice a week, and then wouldn’t give her long enough in town to make full use of the library there. Neighbours are willing enough but she doesn’t like to impose on them to take her all that distance and for as long as she would need. She doubts if her local branch library will get one of those machines, and with staff cutbacks she’s not even sure if they would know about any scheme that would help her. Najendra wants to help a cousin who is having trouble with the immigration laws. Conflicting information seems to be given depending on who is giving it. Where can the family turn for impartial advice and reliable, detailed information? Olly is thinking of volunteering as his local library is likely to close. As a competent driver with an MPV, he could offer to spend two or three mornings a week picking up elderly neighbours and taking them to the nearest remaining large library, some 15 miles away, waiting while they choose new books and bringing them home again. He may not need special insurance cover, but he would like to be reimbursed at casual car user rates and would feel more confident if someone could pay for him to do a passenger care course and a first aid course in case of accidents or medical emergencies. Pete is a taxi driver and the traffic police have told him he can’t take bookings on his mobile phone. He doesn’t want to flout the law, but other cab drivers have assured him the police were wrong. Where can he check what the law actually says, as opposed to how the policeman interpreted it? Queenie is five and her sister faces hospital treatment for a life-threatening condition. What books does the library have that might help her (or her sister) cope with the emotional and spiritual challenge the family faces? If suitable books are available but are not in stock, how quickly could they be obtained? Rajesh is involved with a local pressure group. He has written letters to his MP and to council officials, but the replies he gets don’t give him much satisfaction. Sometimes it seems as if they don’t even know as much about the law as he does. He needs to check whether what they are saying is right or whether there is scope for further lobbying. How many of these users will find their needs met at a branch run by volunteers? What training will those volunteers need (and at what cost) to enable them to offer a comprehensive library service? And where it is not feasible to offer such a service in local branches, which of the users described will find their needs met by visiting the nearest main library either in person or online? What extra costs (in money or time) might this involve? Will this be efficient? January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Councillor Henry Higgins, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure, London Borough of Hillingdon (LIB 20) I am aware that the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee are holding an inquiry into Library closures and would welcome the opportunity to attend a session and give some oral evidence at a time of your convenience. A lot has been written and spoken about the Library service offered by the London Borough of Hillingdon. We are very proud of the achievement of cutting costs by 20%, whilst tripling the use of the service. It started in 2007 when we decided to take a unique approach. We decided to find out what our residents wanted, what would make them use Library services. So after a lengthy consultation period, we introduced Starbucks coffee (sold at 30% cheaper than the high street price) and we created a partnership with Apple to bring in Mac computers and new comfortable seating so students would come into the Library after school and college. We were convinced that if we were to deliver the council’s vision of “Putting Residents First” the Libraries had to be central to our thinking, but we knew the same old tired revamping formula wouldn’t work. In a changing digital age our Libraries need to adapt, to modernise and develop to attract a new generation of customer but still remain true to their communities and to serve the residents that continued to use them. As Libraries for Life for Londoners spelt out, we had to let the Librarians run the libraries. They should be given the power to choose which books are bought for their libraries; after all they are the people who face the residents’ day in and day out. However we went one step further than that - we gave the profits from the coffee sold in the Library to the Librarians to spend on whatever they felt was most suited to their Library. We have managed to make £311,000 of efficiency savings through re-organising back office staff and arranging for books to be delivered straight to the branch rather than to a central store at the same time, Hillingdon’s Libraries announced record visitor numbers- more than 80,000 in some libraries- as well as record book loans at the end of last year, bucking the national trend and the Council remains committed to rebuilding or refurbishing all of our libraries by the end of 2014. As I mentioned earlier we believe we have an excellent story to tell, and points listed above are just a few of the transformation and innovations we have made. I would be delighted to be given to opportunity to share more of our story with you at a session in your inquiry should you feel it appropriate and my contact details can be found at the bottom of this letter. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by the Hereford Library Users’ Group (LIB 021) 1.Summary. This submission to the committee is made by the Hereford Library Users’ Group (HLUG). The background and experience of the Group is explained followed by our comments, views and recommendations on each of the four issues to be considered by the Committee. These can be summarised as:1.1 HLUG believes that the future needs of our children and grandchildren, who have no vote, must be safeguarded by those such as members of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee who can influence democratic decision making. 1.2 It is clear from our studies of library developments across the UK that many local councils have difficulty in recognising the vital contribution that libraries make to their locality and the benefits they can bring. 1.3 The Committee should visit a range of libraries, large and small, old and new, to see the wide range of essential services that can be provided by a modern library and the difficulties that many libraries are meeting, as inadequate facilities and closures prevent them from giving an adequate service that matches good modern practice. 1.4 Libraries appear to be regarded as an easy target for financial cuts and proposals are being put forward by local authorities without adequate consultation or appreciation of the likely results. 1.5 Regarding the alternative methods of managing libraries that many Councils are considering it is difficult to see what benefit there is in separating library, archive and similar services from direct Council control. Indeed, it must be questionable if Councils can meet their statutory requirements under the 1964 Act if they hive off these services. 1.6 With the present concentration by the government on raising the standards of education and training, it is our view that now is not the time for libraries to be closed or services reduced; on the contrary there needs to be more recognition of the vital contribution that libraries make in this area and every effort should be made to develop the role of the library rather than diminish it. 1,7 We would propose that some form of Library Audit should be established by DCMS that is charged with the regular and comprehensive review of library services being provided by local authorities. This should not just be the receipt of reports but supplemented by actual inspection with subsequent sanctions being imposed where it can be shown that they are not compliant with the Act.

2.0 Introduction . 2.1 HLUG has been in existence since 2001 and its aims are to represent library users in Hereford and:-


• • •

to assist library staff and managers to achieve and maintain top quality library and information services in the Hereford city library which is the main library centre for the county. to maintain a high profile for the library and information services among all county residents. to work towards the planning and building of a new headquarters for library, information and other public services in Hereford.

2.2 HLUG members have wide experience and a lively interest in the world about them. Their experience ranges from education, engineering, medicine, publishing and agriculture, to library and local authority staff. They have links with a wide variety of local and national organisations, with interests which include heritage and environment, arts and lifelong learning. Family contacts ensure that that the interests of young people are well appreciated, in particular their extensive use of electronic media for both education and leisure. 2.3 They feel that the future needs of our children and grandchildren, who have no vote, must be safeguarded by those such as members of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee who can influence democratic decision making. HLUG represents all library users in Hereford, whether their interests are reading for pleasure, browsing the internet, or family and local history. 3.0 Issues. 3.1 The Group notes the issues on which the Committee wishes to receive views and would submit the following statements that give the Group’s opinions on the issues before the committee. 3.2 What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century? 3.2.1 HLUG believes that an efficient and modern library needs to serve the public in the following areas:• Education for all ages from infants to pensioners by providing good access to both the written and electronic media. • Provide a good reference and research section with both book and electronic search facilities and staff expertise. • Keep and update a good library stock housed in modern and well lit shelving. • Servicing and improving the public’s leisure experience • Provision of advice and assistance by suitably qualified staff. • Linking with other information services from local and national government sources, links to police and health authorities, job centres, tourism and other public services to provide a common interface with the public. • Supplying data, resources and information to assist with economic development. • Provide access and expertise in relation to archives, local history, archaeology and family history. • Have adequate spaces for users to sit, browse and obtain refreshments and have access to toilet facilities.


3.2.2 In summary “Libraries help people improve their health and well-being, learn to read and acquire new skills, find a job, and improve and enrich their lives” Society of Chief Librarians. 3.2.3 Such services can only be provided by flexible, modern or updated buildings. The benefits of such buildings can be judged by the considerable effect modern libraries as at Cardiff, Bournemouth and Brighton have had on increased usage of library services in these areas. Here in Hereford HLUG has been campaigning continually but with no success for the construction of a new library and information facility (The Herefordshire Centre) to replace the present old and inadequate 1875 central library. It is felt that such a centre would produce very large benefits and improvements in the economic, cultural development and regeneration of the city. It is clear from our studies of library developments across the UK that many local councils have difficulty in recognising the vital contribution that libraries make to their locality and the benefits they can bring - as was the case at The Wirral, the subject of the Charteris Report. 3.2.4 While in the present economic situation funding of new buildings is difficult many of the more progressive Councils have recognised the benefits available and prioritised the building of new libraries – Birmingham is a prime example. There are also some excellent examples of older library buildings being extensively up-graded such as at Blackpool, Hillingdon and Southwark. 3.2.5 A further point is that cuts are not only expressed in terms of closures. Much more insidious is the steady downward movement of library stock purchases as revealed by data published by CIPFA. Herefordshire has suffered more than most in this respect as is shown by it being well down the bottom quartile. This has represented a real decline in library user choice, exacerbated by the significantly above RPI rise in the RRP price of books. Recent increases in the access price of electronic material, which is, apart what is freely available in the public domain, creating an expensive market in academic data, important for research 3.2.6 HLUG recommend to the Committee that they visit a range of library facilities, large and small, old and new, to see the wide range of essential services that can be provided by a modern library and the difficulties that many libraries are meeting as inadequate facilities prevent them from giving an adequate service that matches good modern practice. 3.3

The extent to which planned library closure are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries and Museum Act 1964 and the Charteris report. 3.3.1 Hereford and Herefordshire have not suffered from library closures other than the withdrawal of the full mobile library service. However HLUG has followed with interest the difficulties that have been evident in such places as Gloucestershire and Somerset where such closures have been


proposed. We support fully the considerable efforts of the objectors to these closures and welcome the judicial rulings that such proposed closures are unlawful and do not meet the requirements of the 1964 Act. 3.3.2 We believe that many of the present proposals by a number of local councils are the result of seeing libraries as an area where budget savings can be readily made and while the need for economies to be made in the present economic situation is acknowledged, libraries appear to be regarded as an easy target and proposals are being put forward without adequate consultation or appreciation of the likely results. The Charteris report resulted in a major rethink of the Wirral Council’s ill thought out proposals and it seems to us that if DCMS had applied the same principles to other Councils many would be found to be in breach of their statutory requirements and the long, difficult and stressful procedure of having to take objections though the Courts could have been avoided. 3.3.3 There are also other factors that need to be considered. Many Councils, including Herefordshire, are studying alternative scenarios for the future operation and management of their library and other cultural services. These include alternatives such as the formation of charitable trusts, the involvement of private companies, social enterprises, joint venture companies etc. 3.3.4 For libraries a major problem in such proposals is that as distinct from some services such as theatres, swimming pools and leisure facilities, libraries have few sources of income apart from fines, photocopying and reservation fees. The result is that any such trusts or other arrangements will still rely on contributions from Council funds to support the majority of their operations. 3.3.5 This being the case it is difficult to see what benefit there is in separating libraries, archive and similar services from direct Council control. Indeed, it must be questionable if Councils can meet their statutory requirements under the 1964 Act if they hive off these services. 3.4

The impact library closures have on local communities. 3.4.1 It will already be clear to the committee from the nationwide protests and objections raised to the closure of libraries how much local communities value the services that libraries provide even where that service does not meet modern standards. A largely unrecognised way in which libraries benefit whole communities is that of providing a safe, inclusive environment for all. Free and unrestricted access welcomes everyone, from young children and the elderly, to people of all social backgrounds and all racial and ethnic groups. Everyone benefits from the same unbiased and friendly service. 3.4.2 The main impacts of closure and service reductions are:• The loss of local educational and leisure resources and the use of the library as a learning centre for all ages.


• • •

• • •

The effect on children and young people particularly at the early reading stage where standards are already poor. A deterioration in the life of the many older people who depend on the library for the reading matter that maintains their quality of life. Reduced access to the web and all electronic media – an area where the government and other organisations are relying more and more on this method of providing information and engaging with the public. Likely delays in the introduction of access to ebooks, social networks and the vast amount of information now available on-line. Cuts in the number of qualified staff available for advice particularly where library staff are increasingly being seen as part of a general information service rather than an expert source of knowledge. Poor access to archive and local history material when there has been such a large increase in the level of usage coming from growing interest in genealogy and local studies. Closures also result in staff cuts and reductions in stock purchases both of which have a major and adverse effect on the service available.

3.4.3 With the present concentration by the government on raising the standards of education and training, it is our view that now is not the time for libraries to be closed or services reduced; on the contrary there needs to be more recognition of the vital contribution that libraries make in this area and every effort should be made to develop the role of the library rather than diminish it. 3.5. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. 3.5.1 Our view on this is that, in general, the powers available to the Secretary of State are adequate; the problem as we see it is that there is a reluctance on the part of DCMS to use these powers to ensure that the statutory requirements of the Act are being complied with. While we recognise there is an understandable reluctance to interfere with Local Authorities operations it is clear that some Authorities are not complying with the Act and are not providing “a comprehensive and efficient library service”. 3.5.2 We propose that some form of Library Audit should be established by DCMS that is charged with the regular and comprehensive review of library services being provided by local authorities. This should not just be the receipt of reports but should be supplemented by actual inspection with subsequent sanctions being imposed where it can be shown that some local authorities are not compliant with the Act.

January 2012


Written evidence submitted by The We Heart Libraries (LIB 022) This submission is made on behalf of the library user group We North Herts and Stevenage.

Libraries which covers

1. Summary Ó About us: An introduction to our group and the area we cover Ó Our local situation: A summary of the situation regarding library cuts and their impact. Ó A comprehensive and efficient service for the 21st Century: Our view of what such a service must consist of. Ó Library cuts and the requirements of the Public Libraries & Museums Act (1964): An analysis of how a 'hollowed-out' service may not be comprehensive or efficient. Ó The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention: A request for clarification over the point at which these powers should be invoked. 2. About us We Libraries (“We Heart Libraries”) is an independent, recently-formed user group set up to champion and celebrate the public library service in the districts of North Herts and Stevenage Borough. The area includes towns such as Hitchin, Stevenage, Letchworth Garden City, Baldock, Royston and Knebworth, and their surrounding villages. This is an area of strong contrasts – it includes both urban and rural settlements, modern planned towns and those with hundreds of years of history, affluent districts and those which register on national indices of deprivation. There are seven libraries in this area – one large central library that is among the biggest in the county, four mid-sized town branches and two small local libraries with more limited opening. They are run by Hertfordshire County Council. 3. Our local situation and the impact of library cuts on our communities Hertfordshire has a Conservative administration consisting of councillors who combine a welcome belief in the intrinsic and practical value of the public library service with a strong commitment to localism and to redefining the way their organisation will provide its services in the future. This has resulted in a situation where no library branches in the county have closed recently – something we very much welcome – but where we have still experienced very significant cuts which threaten to undermine the effectiveness of the service, a phenomenon that has become known among campaigners as 'hollowing out'. Branch opening hours have been cut by a third, resulting in significantly reduced access. One Hertfordshire town council has become so concerned about the effects on child literacy from this loss of access that it is funding three hours a week of branch opening itself for the next year. The Central Resource Library, which deals with reference services and special collections, has been downsized and mobile library services have been restricted. The Schools Library Service, which had offered professional support from librarians to primary and secondary schools


helping children read for pleasure, develop information literacy and learn research skills, and which is regarded as a national flagship, is due to close on March 31 2012, a move that has drawn criticism nationally from a literacy body, the professional organisation for librarians and a prominent children's author. This is happening because an insufficient number of schools can find the money to buy its services and it is therefore running at a deficit of less than £50,000, which the council does not choose to cover. Finally, the council is about to launch a pilot to find voluntary groups who may be prepared to co-operate in opening library branches during the times they are now closed thanks to opening hours reductions. It envisages basic access to stock, the ability to issue, return and renew items and the possibility of computer access if this proves feasible. It sees this as a positive plan to make the best of a poor financial situation; however we have grave concerns about its potential effects on the service. Hertfordshire libraries operate a kiosk system for the issue, return and renewal of books and for basic account enquires. While this system operates effectively for many users, there are inevitably many queries and difficulties that require time and attention from staff with experience of how the library works. Also, staff spend a significant amount of time shelving and tidying stock – if branches are open without people on hand to do this, and to ensure resources are in their correct places, it is hard to see how an effective service can operate. We are also concerned that involving voluntary groups in running library services risks compromising the neutrality of the service, since libraries are places which help users with whatever needs they have rather than having an agenda of their own. Voluntary groups, community groups and charities, by contrast, inevitably exist to promote a cause. And, once the principle of operating libraries unstaffed is established, we feel it will prove irresistible to extend this next time that savings must be found. If library buildings are opened unstaffed and operated by community groups we fear a twotier system where users will experience a significantly different level of service depending on when they call. We feel this risks severely damaging both the comprehensiveness and the efficiency of the service, as well as its deserved reputation for excellent customer service. In short, we fear it will short-change the library user who cannot necessarily be expected to differentiate between two different kinds of opening on offer when they call. 4. A comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century We believe that the public library service is a great achievement and should remain an essential component of British civic society. It is a powerful tool for social engagement and a method by which councils and other agencies can achieve their strategic objectives while securing enviable value for money. Just as university departments, schools and colleges, law practices and medical facilities are all underpinned and supported by their libraries, so public libraries play the same role in achieving and sustaining vibrant and healthy communities. They celebrate diversity while allowing the propagation of common cultural values; allow citizens with different outlooks, backgrounds and circumstances to meet and mix on common ground; promote civic engagement and economic activity; make a vital contribution to citizens' mental and physical health and wellbeing; support and promote the arts and community activities; and make a crucial contribution to child literacy and all kinds of education, to name just a few of their functions. In order to continue to do all these things, we believe absolutely that they must be operated


by staff who are trained in the discipline of information management and properly remunerated for the work they do. It is simply not true that you can find anything these days by Googling it – many people still do not have access to a fast, unmoderated internet connection, even though some now regard such a thing as a basic human right. Google is not an unbiased source – search results often vary depending on the location and previous activity of the user. And this method also relies on the user having the skills to sift and evaluate the information they find and judge its accuracy and usefulness. Rather than being obsolete, the skills of information professionals such as librarians are more relevant and valuable to society than ever before. We also believe that, while volunteers can make a powerful contribution to libraries when they augment the work of staff, a volunteer- or community-run library does not fall within the definition of a 'comprehensive and efficient' service and cannot be regarded as part of statutory provision under the Public Libraries Act. The service would not be comprehensive because it is offered at different levels depending on the location of the user – a 'postcode lottery' of libraries, in fact. And it would be neither efficient nor comprehensive if expertise in offering a full range of information services was absent. In effect, councils who are offering residents the choice of running a library themselves or losing it are blackmailing them into taking on a near-impossible task, and one which is more likely to delay closure than avert it. The job of running libraries is one for a local authority, and not something it should be attempting to delegate to citizens under the banner of 'localism' or 'austerity'. As well as operating from a bricks-and-mortar building which functions as an important community hub, and being run by a cohort of paid and trained staff, the 21st century library should have a well-developed online presence. In Hertfordshire we enjoy an excellent selection of online services including a monthly email newsletter, a reference enquiry service, catalogue access, account management and the ability to borrow ebooks. We welcome this and believe it is an important way for libraries to extend their reach and offer their services in ways that engage and suit more users. We also think it would be a welcome and necessary development if more library services were able to free themselves from the straitjacket of institutional council websites and the often unreasonable constraints imposed by IT departments. We would like to see more libraries able to commission their own online services directly, and to make better use of social media, as well as to see librarians collaborating with suppliers in developing bespoke library software to the specifications they require. At present virtually no library service in the UK does this, which we feel constitutes a very serious constraint on their operation. We note, however, that the rising popularity of the ebook does raise some very serious issues for the future of the lending library throughout Europe and the world, not just in the UK. More and more people are choosing to read books electronically. While public libraries can stock and lend ebooks perfectly well they have practically no negotiating power with publishers who will soon be in a position to dictate terms, if they are not already. The problem is that, legally speaking, a physical bound book and an ebook are entirely different entities. When we buy or borrow a physical volume we mostly have a pretty good idea what we own and what we can do with it. We can, for example, lend it to a friend or sell it on when we don’t need it. We can give it away or even donate it to a library to become part of its lending stock. When we buy or borrow an ebook none of that is true – we are operating in an arena that is more analogous to buying computer games or other software. Buy an ebook and you buy a licence to use an electronic artefact which isn’t transferable to others. The


concept of ‘lending’ does not operate in licensing law. Clearly this lack of clarity on lending electronic materials represents a significant threat to the future of the lending library and, as a result, to the dissemination of knowledge, ideas and culture around the whole of Europe. If ebooks become established as the dominant form of reading material, can libraries survive? EBLIDA, which is a European association for librarians and information professionals, believes that this problem can only be tackled on a supranational level and is best addressed by Europe-wide legislation. It would be good to see support for this position from the UK government. One of the greatest achievements of the public library service is its neutrality. No-one is trying to sell you anything, convince you of anything, solicit your support or steer you away from one thing or towards another. It is provided regardless of your personal views and circumstances and free to anyone who walks through the door (or, increasingly, anyone logging onto the service online). The minute that a library is situated in some corner of a commercial premises, or comes under the management of a private company, that will change. Users will be encouraged to borrow the material that suits the company, in a way that suits the company. It will cease to be about them and start to be about someone else's bottom line. This is wrong and it is the reason why we oppose the involvement of the private sector – quite apart from some emerging evidence that it could lead to staff cuts, branch closures and a very negative attitude towards library personnel. Similarly, voluntary organisations may well do wonderful work but they always, by their nature, bring their own agenda to the table – it’s their purpose for existing, after all. And that agenda may not serve all the citizens of a particular district or neighbourhood. That’s perfectly fine while the group is campaigning on an issue but not so quite good when it takes charge of a public service that’s supposed to be universally available. This is why we believe library services are always best operated by democratically-accountable local authorities and never by any kind of commercial or special-interest groups. Our vision for the 21st-century library is therefore a powerful, agenda-free and adequatelyresourced community hub that is under the democratic control of a local authority and able to respond to the needs of its users with flexibility by offering the services they require. We further think that the supply of printed media such as books, newspapers and magazines will remain a core function. The supply of electronic media, while essential to the future of libraries, risks having its development seriously impeded by compatibility and rights issues. The reason for this is the behaviour of proprietary device manufacturers like Amazon and Apple who are primarily interested in their own commercial advantage rather than the social implications of their behaviour. An important function of government is the regulation of businesses when their interests conflict with those of citizens and we hope this is a challenge the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will rise to. However, given its existing record of collaboration with companies and organisations who would like to censor the internet, circumscribe the behaviour of its users, destroy the level playing field it initially offered, or peddle digital rights management software that is extremely detrimental to the interests of consumers as well as often being unfit for purpose, we do not hold out much hope that it will. There is a final point that we would like to bring to the attention of the Committee and this is a development in a handful of American public libraries that we find very exciting. It is the introduction of the 'maker space' – resources for those interested using skills such as crafts, electronics and DIY and the space in which where these things intersect to create things,


whether it is the provision of expertise, teaching or mentoring, access to tools and equipment (as personified in the recent development of three-dimensional printing technology) or the ability to work alongside others with the same interests. We would love to see the concept of the 'maker space' workshop incorporated into the British public library in the same way that access to personal computing and Internet access has become a staple over the last decade. 5. Library cuts and the requirements of the Public Libraries & Museums Act (1964) We seek to draw the Committee's attention to the phenomenon of 'hollowing out' as indicated above. The brief for this inquiry asks for views on “the extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Public Libraries & Museums Act (1964)” - but we also wish to make the case that branch closures are not the only means by which a service could cease to meet the requirements of the Public Libraries Act. Recent figures from the public sector accountancy body CIPFA show that in crucial areas such as book stock, staffing levels, loans and visits, libraries all around Britain are suffering a decrease, and it is a real worry that this may be contributing to the service being less attractive to users, who will in time vote with their feet. If buildings remain open but the service they provide become increasingly limited and detached from what users need then library services will no longer be fit for purpose. We understand that local authorities are under terrible budgetary pressures, with central government restricting their access to almost every source of revenue that they collect, as well as what they can do with it once they’ve got it. But once the library service has been broken up that will be it – we won’t be able to rebuild it again or recreate what’s lost. We think it is a serious mistake to set service against service, for instance by saying that libraries must be cut to provide cash for social care. The people who use each service aren’t arranged in discrete groups, only ever taking advantage of one aspect of the council’s provision at a time. Cut the library service and you are likely undermining the quality of life of those very people whose care you are claiming to protect. In Hertfordshire that means keeping in mind the bigger picture – the fact we only have two-thirds as much access to our libraries as we had last year, that fewer people can access mobile libraries and that support for school libraries is on the way out, as well as the limitation of access to some reference collections. And, if the doors to branches are opened at times when they are unstaffed, we continue to believe that this risks seriously devaluing and damaging the service, as well as short-changing users. The CIFPA research also shows that Britain’s most-visited library is in Norwich – a modern, innovative library that’s issued more than a million items in the last 12 months and which is a great example of how spending money on libraries will attract more users. In Hertfordshire we are a very long way from having a library service that no longer meets the definition of 'comprehensive and efficient' – but, having seen the loss or restriction of so many services without a single branch being closed, we are acutely aware of the risk of calling something a library even though its stock is depleted, its professional staff are gone and its doors are hardly ever open. It is no surprise that users will not choose to use a library that is subject to this kind of erosion and 'death by a thousand cuts' – and their absence will eventually be used as a reason to close it down altogether, or even to justify the end of the public library service.


6. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964. It is our view that the Secretary of State's powers of intervention are not the substantive issue at the present time. The problem at the moment is arriving at a satisfactory definition of the point at which he should use such powers – something he and library supporters and campaigners around the country currently seem to differ on substantially. The last year or more has seen unprecedented developments in the public library world including authorities that don't see the need to employ more than a handful of professional staff; elected officials declaring that libraries are worthless; authorities wishing to close half their branches; authorities cutting services and budgets to the bone; authorities attempting to delegate their responsibilities to community groups and volunteers; attempts by international companies to insert themselves into the UK's public library provision and therefore change the basis on which it is run; four separate groups of campaigners preparing cases to go before the high court; and an open letter recently appealing to the Culture Minister to intervene which attracted hundreds of signatures from library friends' groups, literacy advocates and authors. While many people watching these developments have felt that they constitute a threat to the entire existence of the public library in the UK, and have felt that the Secretary should invoke his powers to take action where there is a strong case for a council failing to perform its duties, he has not seen fit to agree, despite substantial lobbying. Thus what should have been a strong safeguard for library services in dire straits has been redefined as a mere watching brief – a substantial dilution of its original intention, in our view. We are also alarmed at the refusal of the Secretary of State to acknowledge the big picture – instead, by insisting on taking each library authority's plans on a case-by-case basis we feel he is ignoring much that is relevant to the Act and also the 'domino effect' that sees a cut pioneered in one authority taking hold across the country once it has been successfully implemented. We suspect the motivation for his inaction is a commitment to localism – the idea that councils are fully entitled to run services as they please without central government intervention – but this is contrary to the spirit of the 1964 Act and we would therefore like to see a clarification of exactly what constitutes a failure by a council to perform its duties. Furthermore, we would like a clarification on what the government should be doing to promote the library service nationwide, so we are in a position to hold it, and the Secretary of State, to account in a meaningful way if we feel they are not acting on these duties, as is currently the case. Thank you very much for reading our submission, and for taking on this vitally important topic. We look forward to receiving your report. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (FoGL) (LIB 023) FoGL was set up in August 2010 to provide a voice for Gloucestershire library users. In November 2010 Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) announced severe cuts to the public library service which were opposed by FoGL. FoGL supported the 2011 Judicial Review against GCC, which ruled the library plans unlawful on 16th November 2011. At the time of writing we are awaiting the announcement of a revised library strategy by GCC. ƒ ƒ

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Public libraries play a vital role in promoting a literate, informed and equitable society. The 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act must remain on the statute, and be strengthened and clarified in order to protect public libraries from irresponsible and short-termist cuts by local authorities, and to provide guidance to local authorities in formulating library strategies. Library closures can have a devastating impact on local communities, particularly on more deprived communities or on the more vulnerable members of communities. The Secretary of State and Minister must not be allowed to abrogate their responsibilities to superintend under the 1964 Act.


Public libraries play a vital role in a literate and informed society. They offer free (at the point of use) and equitable access to knowledge and learning. At their best, public libraries represent equality of opportunity. At a time where poor literacy levels amongst children and adults are of national concern, as for more and more people books and computers are an unaffordable luxury, and as unemployment rises, public libraries’ importance grows.


A comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century must be accessible to all who wish to use it, including the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our communities, and those for whom mobility is a challenge. The service must embrace technology whilst responding to the needs of those who are uncomfortable with gadgets or can not afford them. The service must meet the specific needs of the communities it serves, including adults and children, and people with particular needs or access issues, and must be proactive in promoting and encouraging usage from all sections of the community. It should have sufficient trained and qualified staff to support all users in accessing resources, and be appropriately funded to provide and deliver these resources. The service must ensure equality of access, and not be subject to ideological, religious, political or commercial pressures. It must be accountable to published ethics and values, and clear service standards such as the revised national Public Library Standards defined by DCMS in April 2006, and the 2010 IFLA Public Library Service Guidelines. We suggest that the Select Committee does not limit itself to discussion of library closures, but also cuts to infrastructure (stock, staffing, outreach etc) which severely diminish the effectiveness of the service.


The 1964 Act is vague and ill-defined. It should remain on the statute and be strengthened. The current vagueness of the Act has resulted in local authorities viewing disproportionate and permanently damaging cuts to the public library


service as acceptable, and seems to have persuaded the Secretary of State and the Culture Minister that they can disregard their responsibilities to superintend. The Charteris Report provides a model of good practice and could form the basis of strengthening the 1964 Act in a 21st century context. The report was cited by the Minister in his own written guidance to local authorities in December 2010. 4.

In formulating its cuts package GCC failed to heed the lessons of the Charteris Report, and made many of the same mistakes as the council in the Wirral. GCC failed to make any assessment of local need, including the specific needs of older people, disabled people, children, the unemployed, and those living in deprived or isolated communities. It failed to provide an adequate plan for a comprehensive outreach service, or to show logic in its recommendations for individual libraries (busy libraries in deprived areas were to be closed, while less-used libraries were to have their opening hours increased). The entire mobile library fleet was to be scrapped without any adequate alternative, public library services were to be withdrawn from the county’s most deprived areas, and the stock fund was severely cut (continuing a trend of incremental cuts over several years). GCC disregarded overwhelmingly negative feedback received on the plans during public consultation, 1 and ignored a 16,000 signature petition calling for a review of the plans. Repeated warnings, from January 2011, by library users, library professionals and opposition councillors that the plans were probably illegal were ignored, with these concerns vindicated by the November 2011 High Court ruling.


In March 2011, the Minister reportedly said that volunteers should not take the place of professionals in the library service. Under GCC’s plans public libraries were to be closed in ten communities, including some of the most deprived in the county. The option was given to ‘replace’ these services with ‘community libraries’, to be run entirely by volunteers with no supervision from trained or qualified council staff. These facilities were not to be considered part of the public library network or fall under the council’s statutory obligations, with a subsequent lack of accountability to users, no minimum service standards, and no ‘plan-B’ if volunteers’ goodwill and enthusiasm waned and these facilities closed.


The impact of library closures on local communities can be devastating. Over the past fourteen months of campaigning against the severe cuts proposed to the library service, FoGL has received countless correspondence from residents deeply concerned at the impact of library closures on their local community.


Under GCC’s plans, local public library services were to be withdrawn from Hesters Way in Cheltenham and Matson in Gloucester, as well as eight other communities. Hesters Way and its neighbouring library catchment areas of St Marks and Springbank, and Matson and Robinswood are amongst the most disadvantaged wards in the county of Gloucestershire based on the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMDs). The catchments areas for Hesters Way and Matson Libraries contain multiple Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs) which rank amongst the 10% most deprived in England on the basis of income, employment, income deprivation affecting children, income deprivation affecting older people, and education, skills


 Full consultation feedback (obtained by FoGL through FOI) can be viewed at‐library‐consultation‐feedback‐obtained‐through‐foi/ 


and training. Another library scheduled for closure was Tuffley in Gloucester, whose catchment area also ranks within the top 10% of deprivation nationally in education, skills and training. 2 8.

In areas like these the public library is a vital resource. Recent research by the National Literacy Trust finds that 3 out of 10 children live in households without any books, and that this is most likely amongst poorer children. 3 In these communities, the local public library offers many children their only access to books and reading (particularly given the closure and decline in funding of many school libraries 4 ), as well as a safe and quiet space to do homework. The large number of children independently visiting Hesters Way and Matson Libraries after school is testament to this. We have received correspondence from children concerned at the impact the closure of their local library will have on their educational attainment, as well as from teachers and parents. We have met adults who left school without literacy skills, and who have been able to develop these skills through the resources available at their local public library. This opportunity would be removed with the loss of these libraries. Travelling into city or town centres to use a ‘Main Library’, as proposed for these residents by GCC, is impractical for children using the library independently, and difficult for those without cars or for whom bus fares are an unaffordable expense, or for people with mobility issues. This suggestion is also impractical in rural areas where public transport links are often poor. One elderly library user told us that when her local branch library closed she would have a six hour round trip to visit her next closest public library, due to the erratic timings and routes of rural bus services.


Research conducted in 2010 by the Citizens Advice Bureau found that 4 in 10 people in Gloucestershire do not have internet access. 5 In poorer communities, computer ownership and internet connection can be an unaffordable luxury. All Gloucestershire libraries contain computer terminals offering free access to Microsoft Office packages and the internet, and inexpensive printing. In Hesters Way, Matson and other libraries, these computers are often at capacity, and are particularly valuable to job seekers searching and applying for vacancies online. The internet access offered in libraries is increasingly important as more and more services move online – Hesters Way Library for instance, is opposite the offices of a local social housing provider, and staff send clients to the library to fill in online housing forms. Library staff also provide support to users who are inexperienced in using computers and the internet, contributing to government objectives to close the ‘digital divide’.

10. Under GCC’s plans the public libraries to be withdrawn from ten communities would be ‘replaced’ with ‘community libraries’. The expectation was that these facilities would be run and funded by volunteers. They would not be part of the public library network or statutory service provision and would have the legal status of private clubs (confirmed by DCMS). It was plain to us, and many other local 2

 A full report on the Indices of Multiple Deprivation and GCC’s planned library strategy can be viewed at‐of‐deprivation‐and‐gccs‐library‐strategy/  3‐16031370  4‐13468317  5 


residents, that to expect the most deprived areas of the county to run and fund their own library facility devoid of any statutory culpability on the part of the county council was unrealistic and unsustainable. GCC’s continued comparison of their plans for deprived areas like Hesters Way, Matson and Tuffley with existing volunteer-run libraries in affluent parts of Buckinghamshire betrayed a gross misunderstanding of the challenges and needs in these communities. In deprived areas in particular, the essential service provided by the public library must be placed on a much firmer footing than volunteers’ goodwill. 11. As well as this concern with the impact of library closures on our county’s more deprived areas, we were also deeply concerned at the impact on vulnerable people (in both deprived and more affluent areas). Many of FoGL’s supporters are older people. Speaking to elderly library users around the county it became clear that public libraries play a vital role in assuaging social isolation. Many elderly library users commented that their local public library was one of the only public spaces they could go to where they didn’t feel as though they were rushed, pressured into buying something, or treated as a nuisance. Many looked forward to speaking to the library staff and other users in what may well be their only social interaction of the day, and some low-income elderly people told us that they sat in the library in winter to avoid the crippling expense of heating their home. In the autumn of 2010, Gloucestershire Older Person’s Association (an independent advocacy body) conducted a survey of older people in Gloucestershire. Although public libraries were not specifically highlighted in the questionnaire, they emerged strongly in the ‘free comments’ section as important to older peoples’ quality of life. A typical comment reads; “The only time I get out and meet people is at the housebound library club. I dread it ending. If my daughter moves away and the library closes, I will have nothing.” 6 The housebound clubs offered by some Gloucestershire libraries provide a lifeline to people who would otherwise be stuck alone at home. 12. FoGL also heard from full-time carers for whom the library fulfilled a respite role. The public library is a safe and welcoming space, where cared-for loved ones can sit comfortably with a book or newspaper while their carer picks up shopping or attends an appointment. These are the kinds of services provided by public libraries which are not captured in footfall or issue statistics, but which are central to the well-being of many of the most vulnerable people in our communities. The public library service delivers these benefits very cheaply (in Gloucestershire the whole of the service – pre-cuts proposals – represented just 1.5% of the council’s overall annual budget), and cuts which remove these benefits would likely pass costs onto more expensive interventionary services. 13. Under GCC’s plans the entire mobile library service was to be scrapped. In a large rural county mobile libraries are a valuable resource, particularly given that rural public transport links are often poor. Thirty-one LSOAs within Gloucestershire register within the top 10% of deprivation nationally based on the domain ‘barriers to housing and services’, with the vast majority of these LSOAs in rural areas. A key indicator within this domain is ‘transport barriers’, so it is fair to assume that poor scores are partly due to limited public transport and the difficulties faced by those 6

 A more detailed account of the GOPA survey results can be viewed at‐improve‐quality‐of‐life‐for‐older‐people/  


without access to a car (most likely young people, the elderly and the low-income). This underscores the importance of the mobile service for access to library resources in these communities, particularly if small rural branch libraries face closure. 14. Libraries in Gloucestershire receive around 3 million user visits a year – a third of these by children. GCC report falling library usage over the past year, but this must be viewed in the context of minimal stock investment and uncertainty over libraries’ status and opening hours as a result of the proposed cuts package and its suspension during the Judicial Review proceedings. The strength of feeling against library closures was illustrated by the fierce opposition to the council’s plans. In the space of three weeks (including the Christmas and New Year holiday period and severe winter weather) 16,000 Gloucestershire residents signed a petition calling for an independent review of the library plans. We were informed by a county MP that this was the second largest petition the county has ever seen. This petition was submitted to GCC in January 2011, but did not influence decision makers. A number of petitions were also submitted to GCC by groups of residents concerned at the closure of their particular local library or mobile service, and protests were held around the county. 15. Over the past fourteen months, FoGL have kept the Secretary of State and Minister informed of events in Gloucestershire, and requested intervention as per their powers under the 1964 Act. The Minster and DCMS has been made well aware of the inadequacies in GCC’s library strategy. Correspondence between the MLA and DCMS (obtained by FoGL through FOI) shows MLA officers highlighting the disproportionate impact of the planned library cuts on the county’s poorest communities, and shortcomings in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. 7 Details of how these noted deficiencies in the plans were mitigated to the satisfaction of the MLA were never provided, despite repeated requests for this information. 16. A letter was sent to the Minister by the recently retired Assistant Head of the Gloucestershire Library Service, John Holland, and four other ex-senior librarians in November 2010, highlighting the disproportionate impact of the planned library cuts on deprived communities and vulnerable residents. Mr. Holland received a reply from a DCMS official, stating that “the Secretary of State takes his duty to superintend the delivery of library services by local authorities very seriously” and that events were being monitored. Two further letters were sent by Mr. Holland et al in January and April 2011, reiterating these points, and explicitly pointing out the deficiencies in GCC’s decision-making process against the standards set by the Charteris Report and the Minister’s own written guidance to local authorities. Again, Mr. Holland was told that the situation was being monitored. Bear in mind that in February 2011 the plans for the library service were approved by the GCC Cabinet and set for implementation. Many other Gloucestershire residents and FoGL wrote to the Minister in similar terms and received the same response.


 A full report on the MLA documentation relating to Gloucestershire obtained though FOI by FoGL can be  viewed at‐concerns‐over‐gcc‐library‐plans/ 


17. In April 2011 representatives of FoGL met with DCMS policy officials. The concerns addressed in multiple letters to the Minister were explained in detail, with specific reference to the Charteris Report and the Minister’s own written guidance to local authorities. We were told we would soon be informed of a decision regarding intervention from the Secretary of State. GCC was also invited to meet with officials, although we were not allowed to be party to any of these discussions. We have no idea what DCMS wished to achieve from the meeting with FoGL, as GCC continued with their plans and DCMS subsequently would not communicate with us. Requests for an update on the promised decision on intervention were met with the reply that the department was monitoring the situation, even as plans were implemented. 18. In August 2011, the Minister, speaking at "The Future of Library Services in the Big Society" conference, said he had not exercised his power to intervene because there was currently a "fluid situation". 8 He said this knowing that library cuts in Gloucestershire were due to have been implemented a month before. The situation was not “fluid” but final, and implementation was only halted by a High Court injunction following the granting of permission for Judicial Review. 19. Having exhausted democratic avenues at county level, and in the face of ongoing silence from the Secretary of State and Minster, library users in Gloucestershire reluctantly launched Judicial Review proceedings. Still DCMS did nothing, opting instead for deference to the courts. On 16th November 2011 the High Court ruled GCC’s library strategy unlawful on equalities grounds, and quashed the plans entirely. Judge McKenna made it clear that it was not the court’s responsibility to superintend the 1964 Act. He said in his judgement; “It is a matter for the Secretary of State under Section 10 of the 1964 Act. This is not in my judgement an abdication of responsibility by the Court but a recognition of the Court’s more limited role in the light of the Secretary of State’s default powers”.9 20. Since the High Court ruling, FoGL have written to the Minister, requesting an explanation for the decision not to intervene in Gloucestershire and reassurances that the Secretary of State and Minster will properly execute their duties in relation to the new library strategy now due for release by GCC. 10 The MP for Cheltenham, Rt Hon Martin Horwood, has also written to the Secretary of State on this issue. FoGL have additionally coordinated an open letter to the Minister, expressing dissatisfaction at his inaction on library closures nationwide. In the space of five days this letter attracted over 450 signatures from library user groups and individual library users across the country, authors and broadcasters, elected representatives and professional bodies, and drew national media attention. The letter, and more than 300 comments left on the blog post where the letter was hosted have been sent to the Minster. 11 At the time of writing a response is awaited to each of these letters. 8‐no‐case‐yet‐libraries‐intervention.html‐green‐v‐gloucestershire‐county‐council‐others‐ judgment‐16112011  10  A copy of the letter to the Minster is viewable at‐vaizey‐ you‐knew‐you‐did‐nothing‐now‐what‐friends‐of‐gloucestershire‐libraries/  11  The letter, list of signatories and comments can be viewed at‐open‐letter‐to‐ed‐vaizey‐from‐library‐user‐groups‐please‐ consider‐signing‐and‐circulating/   9


21. In December 2011, in response to news of the open letter, a DCMS spokesperson told the press; “Use of statutory powers, including intervention, will be exercised on a case by case basis only when other avenues of dialogue have been exhausted." 12 In Gloucestershire, local democratic procedures and “other avenues of dialogue” had long since been exhausted, hence the involvement of the High Court. Yet the approach of DCMS and the Minister does not appear to have changed. In Gloucestershire, residents looked to the Minster and Secretary of State to exercise their powers, or provide an explanation as to why they had elected not to do so. Despite being well aware of the concerns in Gloucestershire the Secretary of State and Minister did neither, forcing Gloucestershire library users to pursue a Judicial Review claim against GCC. This was a difficult, stressful and costly process (residents were required by the Legal Services Commission to raise over £11,000 towards the cost of the case), which was wholly avoidable had the Minister and Secretary of State fulfilled their duties to superintend. Since Gloucestershire and Somerset library users’ victory at the High Court in November 2011 several other legal proceedings have been launched or are being considered by library users around the country. 22. In short, our complaint is not with the effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention per se (although we believe these should be strengthened under a general strengthening of the 1964 Act), but with the current Secretary of State’s and Minster’s seeming unwillingness to exercise these powers. In opposition the Minister was a vocal opponent of library closures, and called in strong terms for his then opposite number, Rt Hon Andy Burnham, to intervene in the Wirral in 2009. Yet now, in office, and in the face of library closures of an unprecedented scale nationwide, the Minister is inactive and silent. FoGL and other library user groups across the country have been repeatedly told that the Minister and his department are ‘monitoring’, even as councils vote through and implement decisions, and as library staff are made redundant and libraries made ready to be closed or sold. It is unacceptable that the Secretary of State and Minister are allowed to abrogate their responsibilities in this way. January 2012

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Written evidence submitted by the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) (LIB 024) Summary This response to the Government enquiry is submitted by ASCEL - the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians. • • • •

It identifies three key elements of a 21st Century library service – information provision; reading, literacy and reader development and community support and engagement. It recognises that the library service is developing its electronic services, but that a physical presence is also important. It identifies that there are opportunities for rationalising services and responding to economic constraints. It argues that library closures do have an impact, particularly on the most vulnerable members of our society and to mitigate the impact of the closures it is vital that library services considering closing libraries actively involve and consult the community and seek to clearly understand their needs. It argues that services should also give careful thought to how to enable communities whose libraries are closing to maintain reasonable access to high quality library services.

A: What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st Century 1: ASCEL believes that a comprehensive and efficient library service must comprise three elements of service. It must: • • •

meet the information needs of the community meet the reading needs of the local community provide a physical and vibrant centre for the community.

2: It must provide a basic free service to meet these needs, but it must not simply be reactive. 3: The library service should be a crucial element of the cultural life of the community and of the nation. Through book and literary events and reader development activities for both adults and children it should stimulate the desire to read, extend people’s reading repertoire, help to reinforce the skills of emergent adult and child readers and celebrate the written word. 4: It must provide easy access to a comprehensive range of resources in a range of formats, through efficient partnerships and effective use of technology. 5: The library service should have a physical and electronic presence. Libraries can energise communities. People need a local, free and attractive place where they can meet, participate in activities and contribute to their community. Physical library spaces


can bring diverse communities together, thereby contributing to the building of social capital. A library service needs to ensure that all communities have access to a library or mobile within a reasonable distance of their homes in order that: • • • •

Parents and young children participating in baby and toddler times have a chance to get to know each other and build friendships; Older people who may be feeling isolated have a reason to leave the house without travelling too far and still feel part of the community. Job seekers have local and easy access to resources to support them finding work. Children struggling with homework can have support which relieves pressure on working parents.

6: The library service needs to respond positively to technological innovation. It needs to engage with the community through social media and exciting marketing. The service needs to provide easy access to e books and e audio and ensure that these collections are comprehensive and effectively promoted and managed. E books cost money just as paper versions do and if libraries can offer free e book loans they will continue to widen access to books for all. Library services should be working with the book trade to resolve issues around the loan of e books 7: It may no longer be sustainable to have 151 separate library authorities and ASCEL recognises that an efficient library service needs to be constantly exploring cost effective ways of service delivery. There needs to be more co-operation and sharing of services across authority boundaries. There also needs to be partnerships between libraries and other local services for example early years services. Libraries offer unique skills and support to enhance the services of other agencies and in turn benefit from the new customers those other agencies can bring into libraries. 8: Libraries need staff with a wide range of skills and expertise to develop and deliver services to their communities and engage effectively with communities. But libraries are also ideal places for community participation, offering opportunities for volunteering and work experience. Volunteering should add value to the core service providing more capacity for cultural and learning activity and service innovation. 9: The library service needs to be fully accountable to its local community, but this creates the danger of an uneven provision of service across the country. Some national guidance on service provision would ensure a basic level of service. However national standards can lead to an overall mediocre level of service. To counteract this, there should be an emphasis on strong leadership and innovation within services. Good practice and professional expertise must be identified and shared and services should be encouraged to look at ways to generate income. By selling services and expertise to the private as well as other areas of the public and third sector, libraries may protect free core service to their communities. B: The extent to which the planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries and Museums Act and the Charteris Report


1: It is true that as the centres of towns change, develop and move, libraries suddenly find themselves to be no longer in the centre of towns and may become less well used by the local community. When finances are tight it is proper to review library services and buildings and consider the most cost effective ways of delivering services. However when reviews are undertaken it is vital that the views of the whole community and all stakeholders are explored and seriously considered. 2: Access is a crucial issue especially for children; older people and people with disabilities, and those who are living in poverty who have little access to books and information. 3: When library closures are considered there needs to be a clear strategic plan in place to ensure that the needs of the specific community affected by the library closures will be met and the community will not be unfairly disadvantaged. In particular travel and distance issues to the nearest library need to be carefully considered to ensure that the service maintains “a comprehensive and efficient public library service for all desirous to make use thereof” (Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964) and alternative options for providing information and reading opportunities are explored.

C: The impact that library closures have on local communities 1: Whilst the electronic services libraries are beginning to offer are shifting some of the focus of service delivery, the physical library building is still a compelling and significant part of a community. In times of economic hardship, it could be argued that more people will need libraries to learn new skills, seek employment, apply for jobs, write CVs etc. 2: For those in economic hardship, free access to books and information and activities for parents and children can at least relieve home pressures and engage people in their communities and at best turn people’s lives around. 3: ASCEL is particularly concerned with the impact that library closures will have on the following specific groups of the community: Parents, babies and toddlers, children and teenagers. For parents Libraries provide parents with: • information about parenting issues; • books to help them explain difficult situations with their children; • a place where they can meet other parents; • a place where they can learn how to share books and rhymes with children; • a place of safety and comfort where they and their child(ren) feel welcomed and can enjoy spending time together outside the home. For babies and toddlers Libraries provide an extensive range of books for children in the early years; they also run baby and toddler rhyme times and music times, all of which contribute to the


development of language and later to literacy. Dame Clare Tickell 1 ; Frank Field 2 and Graham Allen 3 all express their conviction that that children’s life chances are determined in their early years, and children who are born in poverty may be a year behind their middle class peers when they start school, but one of the factors that can improve the life experiences of poor children in the early years is if their “home learning environment” is strong. The home learning environment includes the following 6 activities: • • • • • •

Reading to their child Taking their child to the library Helping their child to learn the alphabet Teaching their child numbers or counting Teaching their child songs or poems and nursery rhymes Painting or drawing at home

It is vital that local libraries can support the home learning environment of young children. Libraries surround children in a language-rich environment which allows them to hear and explore words in stimulating and fun ways through rhymes and stories preparing them to read their first words. For children and teenagers, Libraries encourage children to read for pleasure. Last summer (2011) 780,000 children participated in ‘Circus Stars’ the national summer reading challenge. Not all of these children were natural readers or had access to books extensively at home “Great encouragement to continue reading through the summer - I have one who loves to read and one that doesn't!! Both completed Circus Stars with enthusiasm” Parent Braintree Library Essex. Through their participation in this library activity children and their parents recognised that their reading skills were practised and improved. The government recognise the need for children to read widely if they are to become discerning and informed citizens and critical thinkers able to contribute to society and to the economy, but very few homes would have access to the range of books children need if the library was not available to them. In response to the disappointing reading performance of England’s 15-year-olds in the international PISA study, Schools Minister Nick Gibb recently stated: “Almost 40 per cent of pupils in England never read for enjoyment. The difference in reading ability between these pupils and those who read for just half an hour a day is equivalent to a year's schooling at age 15” (DfE, 2011) 4 . It is vital that public libraries support pupils with access to a wide range of reading for pleasure materials. Recent research from the National Literacy Trust has also demonstrated the importance of reading for pleasure. 1


The Early Years: Foundations for Life, health and learning, Dame Clare Tickell, 2011

The Foundation Years: Preventing poor children becoming poor adults, Frank Field, Cabinet Office, January 2011 3 Early Intervention: the next steps Graham Allen MP, Cabinet Office, January 2011 4, DFE. October 2011


For example, they found that children who use the library are twice as likely to be above average readers (NLT,2011) 5 and that there is a correlation between visiting libraries and children’s reading levels and the number of books children read per month and reading attainment 6 Libraries also provide children and teenagers with support for their learning and information needs and particularly for children in deprived areas libraries provide access to computers, places to study and indeed staff to support them. The Children’s Public Library User Survey 7 of 2010 found that children using libraries in deprived areas are more than twice as likely to go there to do their homework, compared to children in the least deprived areas. Staff working at libraries in the more deprived areas are twice as likely to be assisting with homework than those in least deprived area. Libraries in the most deprived areas received a higher satisfaction score for homework help D: The effectiveness of the secretary of state’s powers of intervention under the public libraries and museums act 1963 1: We believe that it is important that the Secretary of State uses the powers of intervention to ensure that where authorities are considering closing libraries, the full impact of the closure on the local community has been assessed and that the community has been consulted. The Secretary of State should also ensure that the spirit of the Act - that all those wishing to use the public library should be able to do so -is maintained and that before closure is undertaken all other options have been considered. Also that there is a strategy for enabling reasonable access to a public library for all those in the local community, regardless of age, ability, language, ethnicity or economic situation. January 2012

5 verage_readers National Literacy Trust, February 2011 6

The Gift of Reading in 2011: Children and young people’s access to books and attitudes to reading; Christine Clark, Jane Woodley, Fiona Lewis; National Literacy Trust, 2011 7

Children’s public library user survey national report 2010-11 “Children Talk, Libraries Listen” CIPFA, October 2011


Written evidence submitted by Nether Stowey Community Library Steering Committee (LIB 025)

SUBMISSION SUMMARY Nether Stowey in Somerset was one of the first communities In Somerset to respond to the threatened closure of its library with a detailed plan of action to manage the library service at a local level. Crucially we worked closely with the County Council to arrive at a solution to the proposed withdrawal of funding from our village library. Our business and service plans had the full backing of our Parish Council and the support of the County Council. The recent Crown Court judgement against Somerset County Council’s proposed library closures has changed our plans in the immediate term. It may be some time before we know exactly how County will respond to this judgement, but it does NOT mean we will simply shelve our plans. Already we have agreed to establish a new support group in January 2012, Friends of Nether Stowey Library, which will continue to work with the County Council to augment the existing proposal. We are pleased to submit our vision of a local community library service. 1. In our view a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st Century should constitute: • Involvement and engagement with the local community to ensure that the library is at the heart of the community and local needs are met • Provision of an extensive range of high quality up-to-date books and other resources • Inclusion of resources to suit a wide range of abilities and age groups • Provision of attractive colourful books to inspire and encourage a love of reading • An inter-library loan scheme enabling access to a wider range of specialist materials • Up-to-date computer hardware with fast internet broadband connection • E-books download service • Printing and photocopying facilities • A key collection of reference materials • Quiet area conducive to study • An inviting attractive library building to entice people in • Professional, friendly and approachable library staff and volunteers • Workshops at different levels to support effective information searching • Involvement of local schools, Children’s Centres and nurseries to introduce the library to the very young • Involvement of volunteers, working closely with the library service, to enhance and add value to library services • Involvement of local businesses for publicity and fundraising • Ready access to job market information e.g. job vacancies, job searching, help with CVs and job applications • Resources on local history; conservation and environmental issues • Social events ensuring the library building is an important social and intellectual hub for the local community • Work with the local community to fundraise for specific library resources • Co-location with other services where appropriate to reduce costs • Good marketing and publicity 2. The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report:


The 1964 Act placed a duty of responsibility on each local authority to enable all persons in its area to have ready access to books and information. • The Charteris Report outlined that vulnerable and marginalised groups e.g. disabled, older people, those living in deprived areas, unemployed should have equal ready access to resources • Further groups of the very young and young mothers should be included in the above categories of vulnerable people • Local authorities must carry out a detailed Equality Impact Assessment of library closures on residents in their areas before closing libraries • Not all people have access to expensive electronic resources. Somerset, for example, has areas with high unemployment and pockets of poverty • With the downturn in the economy and increased economic hardship, libraries have an important part to play in encouraging people to maximise their potential by providing free access to resources and electronic media which might otherwise not be available. 3. The impact library closures have on local communities Library closures can have profound physical, social and emotional effects on local communities: • The very young denied introduction to a wide range of well-written and illustrated picture books. Early intervention is crucial to individual aspiration. • Children and young people denied the opportunity to have their eyes opened to the wonder of books and encouraged to develop their literacy out of school • Financial constraints and lack of transport precludes access to libraries for many people e.g. in rurally isolated and deprived areas • Negative impact on people’s life chances and educational achievement through lack of access to information • Elderly and disabled people affected adversely by withdrawal of their static library and mobile library services resulting in social isolation. Access to large print and audio books denied to them • Lack of a safe, warm, comfortable, quiet study space to many young people, who may live in noisy cheerless crowded conditions, with consequent negative impact on their educational achievements and potential • Library buildings can be social hubs for local communities. Closures impact negatively on the morale of local communities 4. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 The Act gives clear direction 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 of local authorities of the functions in relation to libraries conferred on them as library authorities”. • The Secretary of State must not shrink from his legal responsibilities and must be seen to take a firm stand in this regard


SUBMISSION Point 1. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st Century? 1. Modern society is very different from that of 1964 when the Public Libraries Act of 1964 came into force, but basically the original purpose of the Act remains the same i.e. that all citizens should have ready access to books and information. The Act was a vision for the future to give all British residents the opportunity, free of charge, to access fiction and non-fiction books to enable and inspire them to advance their knowledge and understanding. 2.

a) “Comprehensive” (literally “broad in scope or content”) can mean two things in the context of libraries, that is: • An extensive range of resources offered • A library should not be so far distant geographically from any resident as to preclude its use through disadvantage, poverty, lack of transport opportunities, either public or personal. We consider for purposes of item 2 that a library should be available in every neighbourhood or borough and that no-one should live more than 10 miles from an operational library (either as a central library or a branch) b) “Efficient” – a library which works effectively by providing a professional service of high quality which has a positive effect on its users

3. In our opinion, a comprehensive and efficient library service should have a coherent vision for the future and should encompass: a) Involvement and engagement with the local community to ensure that the Library is at the heart of the community b) Library staffed by professional, friendly and approachable personnel c) An extensive range of high quality up-to-date books, fiction and non-fiction, and other resources organised professionally in order to make them easily accessible to the general public d) The inclusion of resources, such as large print and audio books, for the very young, the visually impaired or elderly. e) Attractive colourful books to inspire and encourage a love of reading by the very young or those who find difficulty in reading e.g. picture books, “teenage” and adult easy-to-read fiction and non-fiction f) An inter-library loan scheme (for a small charge) to enable access to a wider range of specialist books and other materials not otherwise available at local level g) Up-to-date computer hardware with fast internet broadband connection. Contrary to popular belief, not all families own personal computers – access to these is essential in the modern age to enable individuals to achieve their educational potential and improve life chances. Increasingly, online job applications are the accepted norm h) E-books download service i) A basic collection of reference materials, e.g. atlases, reference books, directories, to encourage adept usage of such materials and less absolute reliance on electronic media j) Quiet area conducive to research/study/homework purposes


k) An inviting library space of attractive design to encourage people into the library. Many people feel threatened by the concept of “libraries” and need help and encouragement to set foot over the threshold l) A non-threatening differentiated introduction to the library and how it works – to include young Mums with young children; the elderly m) Workshops, for example on the use of computers – at different levels - from beginners to more advanced information searching n) Involving local schools, Children’s Centres and nurseries to encourage the very young to use the Library (once introduced to a library, the latter are very keen to use the library regularly and can often enthuse their parents, grandparents and siblings) o) Close involvement of the community so that local needs can be met p) Involvement of local businesses, e.g. pubs and shops, for the purposes of publicity and possible fundraising q) Ready access to information of importance to local people e.g. job vacancies, job searching, help with CVs and job applications; local history; conservation and environmental issues r) Social events to ensure the library building is an important social and intellectual hub for the local community, for example, music events and talks; book and reading clubs; film club; after school provision; toddler and preschool storytimes s) Work with the local community to fundraise for specific library resources t) Good marketing and publicity The above are desirable features which will need strong and sustained voluntary, not to mention financial, support from the local community to achieve. A priority approach to these features will need to be taken at local level. The founding members of the Friends of Nether Stowey Library support group appreciate that both local resources and the strength of the community response will need to be taken into account in rolling out any proposed programme. Point 2. The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report: Covered in Summary Point 3. The impact library closures have on local communities 4. [See also Summary] Those people who do not have the privilege of economic and social advantages are the hardest hit by library closures. Library closures can have a profound physical and emotional effect on local communities. Many people rely on their local libraries to access information or to provide a quiet study space which is warm and comfortable. The unemployed or people living in cold cheerless accommodation (or bed and breakfast accommodation where they have to go out during the daytime) can take refuge in their local library where they can have the opportunity for raising their literacy and educational potential. Children have somewhere safe to go after school, while parents are working, to do their homework, read for pleasure or use the computers, rather than wandering the streets. The elderly and disabled rely on easy access to their local library for supportive resources and social contact. Withdrawing library facilities to save money is short-sighted and will have a long-term negative impact on individuals and communities. Many of people in Britain first had their eyes opened to the wonder


of books through venturing into their local libraries. To deny people today this same opportunity is an ill-considered measure. 4. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention Covered in Summary …………………………………………………………………………………………………..

ADDENDUM The Nether Stowey Community Library model 5. Nether Stowey is an historic village (population 1600 in 2009) bordering the Quantock Hills designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is a resilient, vibrant and lively community with a strong sense of identity. It benefits from a good range of retail, pubs, Post Office, Library and other services. The older part of the village is a conservation area, where Coleridge Cottage (National Trust) and Thomas Poole’s House are located. A new nuclear power station nearby at Hinkley Point is currently planned with resulting economic and demographic impact on the village. Nether Stowey has been identified by Sedgemoor District Council as a key rural settlement which could provide a significant role in the future as a local service centre. 6. Nether Stowey was one of the first communities In Somerset to respond actively to the threatened closure of its library with a detailed plan of action to manage the library service at a local level. We have been working closely in partnership with the Somerset County Council in this regard. Crucially our business and service plans had the full backing of our Parish Council and also had the support of the County Council. The recent Crown Court judgement against Somerset County council’s proposed library closures has changed our plans in the immediate term. It may be some time before we know exactly how County will respond to this judgement, but it does NOT mean we will simply shelve our plans. Already we have agreed to focus on working with the County Council to improve the existing ‘offering’. In the original questionnaire sent out to parishioners, there was a strong call for later library opening hours, more ‘cultural’ activities and other community services. A task force has been created to work out how we might achieve this. It is clear that we will continue to need volunteers and funding. 7. Clearly we cannot expect County Council to enhance the existing service and it would be naive to assume that they will now continue financial support for our library indefinitely. We have built a firm basis for future local management of the library and will be keeping our plans in a state of readiness. We are indebted to our local supporters, especially those who have volunteered their time and pledged donations. We remain committed to fulfilling the project. [See Nether Stowey Community Library Business Plan] 8. Nether Stowey Library has always been at the heart of the local community. Due to current financial constraints, Somerset County Council has been obliged to look for ways in which to cut costs and this included the withdrawal of funding to Nether Stowey Library. Somerset County Council has been pro-actively working in partnership with Nether Stowey local community for the past year to offer local people the opportunity to be participants and influencers over its library service provision and responding to local needs through co-location, asset transfer and income generation. 9. A Nether Stowey Library Steering Committee was set up in February 2011 and worked over several months to explore the feasibility of a community-supported library in Nether


Stowey. The result of the Committee’s work was incorporated into a Business Plan (separate document), which outlined the case for a Nether Stowey Community Organisation to manage Nether Stowey Library as a Community-supported library i.e. one retained within the public library network. In this respect it was a plan to continue the services of the present public library, currently fully supported by Somerset County Council, under separate Service Level and Data Processing Agreements. This plan provided information about the management, voluntary staffing and finance to be provided by the local community. It was planned to establish NSCO as an Industrial & Providential Society. 10. As a consequence of the outcome of the Judicial Review, Somerset County Council’s plans for library closures have been set aside at the present time. The County Council however is keen to continue to work in partnership with the community of Nether Stowey to proceed with the plans envisaged within the Business Plan to establish Nether Stowey as a vibrant social hub for the community. Therefore, the Steering Committee is proceeding with revised plans and is setting up a Friends of Nether Stowey Library organisation on 21st January 2012 to meet the aims and objectives of the original Business Plan. 11. Nether Stowey village is located in an area with pockets of rural poverty and disadvantage. A high percentage of village residents are aged over 65 (27%), 18% are aged under 15; 38% are economically inactive and 1% unemployed at Ward level. The county of Somerset is perceived as a rural idyll but there is a “hidden” element of rural isolation and pockets of disadvantage with low educational achievement, expectation and aspiration. 12. The Nether Stowey Community Library model can help to overcome social disadvantage and rural isolation by providing resources and opportunities for volunteering, confidence building, skills and lifelong learning. In this way it will invest in the future and provide good value for money, forming real partnerships harnessing the skills of local populations, with opportunities for people of all ages to actively participate in voluntary and community action. 13. Key to Nether Stowey Community Library’s success is the enthusiastic involvement of individuals volunteering in the delivery of added value services. It is envisaged that the Friends of Nether Stowey Library organisation will work in partnership with the library service to provide support and encourage community activities and functions in addition to a public library service. These services will be in accord with the agreements with Somerset County Council, and will develop Nether Stowey Community Library into a vibrant, valuable local resource and social hub for the community. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Staffordshire County Council (LIB 026)


Staffordshire County Council has focused strongly on outcomes which will make Staffordshire an even better place to live and is committed to modernising and enhancing the library service to ensure that it is comprehensive, efficient and attracts increased community use. We have positioned our libraries as a focal point for communities and in addition to loaning books, CDs, DVDs, talking books and e-books offer events and activities, free access to the internet, free WiFi and meeting room space. We also work closely with partners and volunteers who contribute to making our service more relevant to local communities.

There are no plans to close libraries in Staffordshire and this commitment comes from strong political support which is embedded in the County Council’s strategic plan that recognises the contribution that libraries make in delivering the County Council’s priority outcomes.

The library service supports the county council’s core values of focussing on the customer and citizen, listening and responding to local needs and providing efficiency and economy through innovation.

Our service priorities are to continue to provide quality services and good value for money, attract new customers, get more people reading, borrowing and learning and extend our role as a flexible community asset.

Libraries across Staffordshire provide a welcoming, non threatening environment where babies can take part in activities that support early language and speech development; children can develop a love of reading; individuals and families can learn; job-seekers can find support; people who are digitally excluded can access the internet; older people can maintain their independence and volunteers have the opportunity to make a positive contribution to their community. Partnership working

Working in partnership has enabled Staffordshire Library Service to draw down additional funding from other parts of the County Council – Adult and Community Learning, Community & Learning Partnerships, Early Years - by demonstrating how the library offer can deliver against their outcomes has meant that we have been able to extend aspects of our service with the additional funding. We have also worked in partnership with a range of voluntary and community based groups - and the re-build of Norton Canes Library and Talke Library have seen us develop a shared management model with community organisations.



Joint use of buildings

Where possible we have encouraged joint use / co-location of our services and buildings. We have marketed our buildings as community assets and encouraged a range of providers to make full use of the facilities. For example: • • • • • • • 3.

Children’s centres – Wombourne, Brewood, Perton, Audley, Clayton, Werrington, Stone Schools – Wilnecote, Brereton, Talke, Blythe Bridge, Gnosall District Council Services – Cheadle, Hednesford, Codsall, Leek Community Centre – Wombourne Touchdown centres/Joint bases – Burton, Uttoxeter, Glascote, Newcastle, Biddulph, Lichfield Job Centre – Uttoxeter with access to Job Centre phones in Rugeley, Stone and Cheadle Gallery – Shire Hall Widening accessibility of the service

A key priority for Staffordshire’s Library Service is to attract new customers so that we can get more people reading, borrowing and learning. The following are areas where we have been able to remove some of the perceived barriers to using a library: • • • • 4.

24 hour renewal hotline E-mail and text messaging for overdue reminders & requests available for collection On-line joining, requests and renewals Online resources – e.g. Ancestry – Library Edition, Establishing Libraries as Community Hubs

Key to our success has been the development of our network of 43 libraries as community hubs / assets. The following are examples of service enhancements which have made this possible: • • • • • •

Introduction of WiFi at 40 out of 43 service points, April 2011 Access point for Staffordshire Cares programme Registration point for concessionary bus passes Assisting other county council departments to meet their objectives – e.g. Social Care & Heath through reminiscence and social activity sessions Extending opening hours to meet community needs and using volunteers to give an enhanced service and provide added value Working with job centres and establishing job clubs to support job seekers


• • • •


Use of meeting room space and IT facilities, working jointly with Adult and Community Learning to widen learning opportunities at a community level in a non-school environment. Re-furbishing and promoting our meeting rooms to provide local community space which generates income and meet targets Extending Books on Prescription to support the Health & Well agenda Placing books in community and work place venues to widen access – e.g. Custody Centres, Doctors Surgeries, Clinics, Homeless Project, Women’s Refuge, Phones 4 U New initiatives to improve efficiency

The library service supports the county council’s core values of focussing on the customer and the citizen, listening and responding to local needs and providing efficiency and economy through innovation. We aim to provide an efficient, modern and value for money library service to the residents of Staffordshire and have implemented the following: •

Self-service to enable customers to check out/in loan items for themselves and to be able to manage their library account independently, quickly and easily. This has also enabled us to modernise and re-shape the front line staffing - freeing up our staff to actually support customers reading / learning and leisure needs rather than the clerical / admin functions which had occupied at least 75% of their time.

Direct Delivery of stock to libraries which will speed up supplier to shelf time and save £100,000

E-book service launched March 2011 to attract new audiences to borrowing books from Staffordshire Libraries and accessing the library web page. The service allows customers to borrow three e-books for three weeks and e-books on loan can be requested free of charge. E-book titles are available for adults, young people and children.

Shared Services – Staffordshire Libraries have been commissioned to deliver a mobile library service on behalf of Stoke on Trent libraries when their service was reduced due to budget cuts in April 2011

An upgraded library management system to reduce costs and increase access to databases and library stock will be implemented in 2012. Within Staffordshire County Council we see a comprehensive and efficient library service as providing: • • •

Free book loans and information available in accessible formats including ebooks CDs and DVDs to hire Faxing and photocopying


• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 6.

Free access to the internet and free wifi Events and activities for all ages and interests Meeting rooms and community space available for use by groups and individuals Exhibition space to support local cultural activity Services to people who are housebound Mobile library service for rural communities Library service to residential homes and sheltered housing Libraries in prisons and young offenders institutes Service to schools via the Schools Library Service to support education Access to local and family history resources to celebrate our heritage Support for reading groups so that people can share their love of reading Support for Health and Well being – e.g. through Books on Prescription Support for literacy and learning Support for job-seekers Access to nationwide resources via the interlibrary loan system Virtual access to the library service Enabling access to other County Council and government services Impact of library closures

The Library Service delivered by Staffordshire County Council contributes to defining the image and identity of communities. Libraries in Staffordshire: • • • • • • •

Engage with audiences and increase participation to deliver social, economic and educational benefits. Enable communities to manage and deliver aspects of cultural services through increased engagement Provide volunteer opportunities Are flexible community assets Offer accessible, enjoyable and inspirational learning activities Enable increased access, with support, to digital services for people who might be excluded Foster imagination, encourage creativity and raise aspirations

When library provision is withdrawn, individuals are denied access to more than just books and will lose opportunities to learn, socialise, participate, contribute and volunteer within a safe and strong community. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Bill Welland (LIB 027) Executive Summary •

This memorandum proposes the transfer of responsibility for funding library buildings and associated staff from the Library Authority to the local council.

The recommended change would enable each community to decide for itself whether it required a bricks-and-mortar library, and they alone would pay for its existence. If they were prepared to travel to another community to visit a library building they would no longer need to contribute as much for the service as would those living beside the building.

1.0 Brief Introduction to the Submitter 1.1 My name is Bill Welland. I am a retired scientist and engineer, and have no direct involvement with library provision, but my wife was a librarian when I married her and she subsequently became an author, and therefore benefits from Public Lending Right. 1.2 My interest in the present issue arose when my County Council proposed to close the library in my town. I noted that the most strident of the protesters lived within walking distance of the library. Unlike them, our County Councillor and our MP live in villages without a library building, so would suffer little extra inconvenience if our library closed, yet their Council Tax is no lower - even though they cannot walk to a library. 2.0 Factual Information 2.1 On 7 February 2011 the Daily Telegraph published a letter from me under the heading “Open and shut library law” which quoted the opening words from 1(1) of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. My letter concluded “A lot of the time and effort being expended by library closure protesters and by library authorities might be saved if we were told how the Secretary of State interprets this duty”. 2.2 On 8 February 2011 Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) submitted written question 39944 for answer on 11 February “To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, what steps he is taking to comply with section 1(1) of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 to promote the improvement of the public library service”. 2.3 lists a “[holding answer 11 February 2011]” response from Mr Vaizey. It begins “We continue to drive the improvement and development of public library services


through the Future Libraries Programme (FLP)”. I have been unable to locate any subsequent answer, and so conclude that this ‘holding answer’ is his only response. 3.0 Recommendations for Action 3.1 Separate the duty to provide a library service from the duty to provide a library building. 3.2 Leave the duty to provide a library service with the current Library Authorities, so that purchase of hard copies of books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, internet connections and online subscriptions, along with provision of an Authority-wide Mobile Library facility, continues to be undertaken centrally. Include in this the duty to provide one main library building within each Authority’s area. 3.2.1 Although provision of Mobile Library facilities would be a Library Authority responsibility under this recommendation, any requirement for the mobile library to move from its base would be funded by those demanding its services. 3.3 Transfer the responsibility for providing funding for satellite library buildings and staff to the town or parish in which the buildings stand, to be funded through the Parish Precept part of an individual’s Council Tax rather than the County Council’s portion. 3.3.1 If the responsibility for funding the physical presence of a library lay with the local council it would empower each community to decide for themselves whether they wanted a library building, or merely online access to library services. 3.3.2 If funding came from the local council, any decision on closure would be taken by people who were themselves users of an existing library, or were known personally to such users and exposed to community feelings on the matter. 3.3.3 If funding came from the local council, any community would be free to build and staff a suitable building, and could demand a proportionate share of the Library Authority’s books and other bulk purchases and provisions. 3.3.4 If funding came from the local council, those without libraries would be free to petition their planning authority for Section 106 funding for a library as part of any agreement to significant increases in the size of their community.


3.3.5 If the community chose a visiting Mobile Library in preference to a physical library building, their precept should instead fund the cost of visits by that Mobile Library. 3.3.6 There should be no requirement for the main library building in each Authority to be in an expensive central location in a town or city, so particular community would automatically benefit from having a ‘free’ library, and Authorities could use brown-field sites to meet this provision requirement. 3.3.7 Many people now reserve books online for collection at a library. Our Library Authority levies a charge for this, which I take to be a delivery charge. Libraries in community-funded buildings under my proposal will need the freedom to add charges for collection, and the option to levy them only on collectors who do not live within the community which has paid for that library. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Councillor Timothy Godfrey, Labour & Cooperative Party Councillor for Selhurst Ward, London Borough of Croydon (LIB 028)

This paper shows Ó The high costs that councils load onto their library service Ó The actual running costs of large individual libraries Ó That by decentralisation of libraries, savings of up to 40% of budget can be made, thereby protecting front line services. Ó Utilising Community Co-operatives and Community trusts to engage users and communities and reduce costs. Ó In 2011/12 financial year, Croydon Council spent 44.78% of the Library budget on the back office Ó Figures relate to 2011/12 Financial Year Ó Problem in proper financial comparisons as councils only publish headline budgets. Figures in this paper are drawn from internal accounting charts. 1) Introduction 1.1) On working through the full budgets for Croydon Libraries, it becomes clear that the Current Council consultation was only looking at the very front line costs and how to reduce them. The savings achieved or achievable from the proposals are small in comparison with the overall budget. The question therefore is why? The answer is that 44.78% of this budget has been allocated to the back office. Much of it has been allocated to the large corporate contracts for IT and Facilities Management. 1.2) I have not been able to look at the whole Council, as I do not have the internal budget sheets that are necessary to see the full breakdown of how the Council spends its ‘top line’ budgets. However IF that back office figure of 44.78% was repeated in other council departments, it becomes quite frightening. 1.3) The inefficiency is staggering. The Merton Council Briefing paper that is attached to this document sets out just how bad Croydon Council is in a simple comparator based on population, user numbers, costs per visit etc. Since Croydon is to be working with Wandsworth, another high cost borough, it might have been better to look at the lower cost model operated by neighbouring Merton Council. 2) Privatisation / Market Testing 2.1) The Conservative Council has announced an exercise to market test the delivery of the Library Service by other providers. The Council has allocated £250,000 to do this exercise in 2011/12 financial year. These providers could


be charities, companies or other councils. 2.2) This completely misses the point. It misses the fact that it is our Councils duty to be efficient and spend our Council Tax in an efficient manner. Logically the Council should be doing this first before any market testing of the service, otherwise it is an open invitation for false comparisons to be drawn between an inefficient council model and an alternative provider who instantly strips out all the obvious wasteful contracts. 2.3) It is not good enough to say that the Libraries will be available to any willing provider including residents associations or other community groups because the level of capacity to produce meaningful, long term solutions is not there. The Council needs to lead on this, to provide the capacity which in term will strengthen the local community as well as the reputation of the Council. 2.4) If the Council can not manage to bring forward a scheme that builds positively on the public anger at the plans and the clear public commitment to our libraries, then it is not worthy of running any public service in Croydon. It has in effect already declared that it has failed and is on the path of privatising all Council services. 2.5) The for profit sector creams off a minimum of 5% of contract value and a usual 10-15% of contract value to cover operational profit as well as bid costs and ongoing contractual negotiations. That is profit that should be used to improve public services and maximise front line delivery. 3) The Alternative 3.1) This is a perfect time to harness the commitment, energy and the community spirit brought about by these closure plans by devolving the running of the Libraries to the professional staff and their community. 3.2) I set out below how to do this. I set out the efficient model of operation that is Upper Norwood Joint Library and why an amended version of this model could work so well across Croydon. I set out how to involve local people, staff and library members and use Libraries as a way to strengthen local communities. A model that is empowering, inspiring and has the opportunity to develop further in working with the local community that it serves.

4) The dead weight of Contracts and other back office expenditure on the Library Budget 4.1) Below is the table for back office charges. Read them carefully because they are illuminating. These are the sums of money that the Council thinks necessary to spend in order to run 12 branch libraries, a home library service and a central library. Under normal accounting rules, you account for the actual costs of the services provided. This is necessary because if you decide to outsource this service (or another) to a private company, or stop running a service altogether, you need to know what that service is actually costing you. Not just the front line staffing figures. 4.2) Total for all of these back office functions £3,327,822. 4.3) The Total budget for Libraries is £8,563,022 including a depreciation


charge of £1,132,616 4.4) In other words the library service has actual funds available of £7,430,406 4.5) Of available funds, the council spends 44.78% of its budget on back office functions and contracts. 4.6)

Let us look in detail at some of those areas of spending

Support Services BVACOP charges: Corporate Finance Financial Governance Financial Services Customer Focus Human resources Payroll Accommodation AFM Legal Strategy and Communication Customer Services Intra Community Services

33,282 51,574 9,163 1,385,526 111,577 21,401 239,300 821,570 1,467 21,437 224,537 406,988

Customer Focus This is the provision of integrated computer systems, including the call centre at Taberner Houser, the web site and all the individual computers and printers in the Libraries. That charge is £1.385million. Customer Services That is the call centre – presumably for answering highly complex questions like where my local library is, or renewing a library book over the phone. £224,537 Payroll This is the day to day arrangements needed to service the 115.2 Full Time Equivalent posts in the service – so that is a charge of £185.77 per person. A little high compared to what a small business would pay, but not too extravagant. Human Resources Includes recruitment, training etc. £111,577 is £968.55 for each employee. Accommodation This charge relates to provision of office accommodation for non library based staff. £239,300


AFM Asset & Facility Management – this is mostly bundled into a huge contract with Interserve PLC. The cost to look after 12 branch libraries and one main library is £821,570 that is a separate charge to the £23,500 for repairs and maintenance of buildings. Strategy and Communication £21,437 – presumably this is the cost of putting together the consultation to close our libraries down. Intra Community Services £406,988 – the charge for running the department. However this is also supplemented in the Council accounts by a charge for ‘Cultural Central’ £377,000 which includes the senior management of the department (3.4 FTE posts) Finance Charges Corporate Finance Financial Governance Financial Services

£33,282 £51,574 £9,163

Total recharge for Finance £94,019 Supplies and Services Including the book fund of £277,376 Croydon spends £541,515 on everything from security to postage. Transport Croydon Libraries spend £12,169 on transport services for the library service each year.

5) How reasonable are all of these charges onto the Library Service? 5.1) The sums involved are significant. The amount paid over to large multi national contractors is huge. 44.78% of this budget. 5.2) These figures are from internal charts of account. It is increasingly difficult to make full comparisons, other than using CIPFA headline data, when comparing a service provided by one council to another. Yet, full transparency is the only way to actually see what is being spent on individual libraries and individual library services. 5.3) The real question is, could this service be delivered in a different way that removed the need for the expensive senior management, large contracts for IT and so on and managed to put the majority of the budget onto providing the front line service?


5.4) This is not an abstract comparison, because in Croydon we have an alternative model that operates within a fully contained budget and with all the necessary charges applied to it in order that it can operate. It even publishes its own audited accounts. 5.5) Upper Norwood Joint Library – a joint library authority between the London Borough of Croydon and the London Borough of Lambeth. 5.6) That library receives a budget allocation from Lambeth and a budget allocation from Croydon. Croydon Council acts as the ‘agent’ for this joint authority and makes a recharge to the budget for corporate services including clerking the formal committee and running its finances. The Joint Library is also fully responsible for building maintenance, computer technology, book purchasing etc. 5.7) The Upper Norwood Joint Library does this for a total sum of £397,483 (according to its accounts on web site). Croydon Council will contribute £189,297 in 2011/12 Financial Year. Less than half the running costs because Croydon Council claims the difference in funding between Croydon and Lambeth is because Croydon provides support functions (such as accountancy and clerking the committee) with a value of £20,000 £30,000 according to the Upper Norwood Library Campaign. 5.8) So, let us break the costs of Upper Norwood Library Down. £30,000 for accountancy and clerking claimed to be spent by Croydon Council. £315,616 for employees – 75.15% of budget to the front line of staff £26,701 for buying books – 6.35% of budget to book buying £77,655 for general running expenses 5.8) The Library manages to bring in approx £40,000 in earned income each year. A note of interest is that this is at least double any Croydon branch library. Selsdon brings in £18,778 and Norbury brings in £14,182. The Central Croydon Library brings in £212,252. 6) What are the unique characteristics of Upper Norwood Library? z All staff are front facing z No highly paid senior management. z More staff than a Croydon branch library, but many more users and no senior management. z High use of the Library, including Children’s Library, Archive, Reference etc. z Costs transparently contained within an annual budget z A bigger annual spend on book buying than any other Library in Croydon z Book buying to building maintenance responsibility of the staff in the library z Community committed to their library including a dedicated campaign group ‘Upper Norwood Library Campaign’


6) Why the negative pressure on Upper Norwood Library? 6.1) If you set out to deliberately mislead, you first of all strip out all of the expensive back office costs that Croydon spends from the Library budget, then you make the cost comparison with Upper Norwood Library. In those terms, Upper Norwood Library costs about twice what a Croydon Branch Library costs each year. Yet if you include all the back office costs, this shows clearly that Upper Norwood Library spends less than 20% of its budget on back office, building, IT and other costs. 6.2) It therefore makes an easy, perhaps cheap, political point that Croydon Council is pumping far more money into an ‘inefficient’ library that it does not directly run. Having this easy comparator on its doorstep is an inconvenient fact that in the long term, officers and Cabinet members would rather do without. 6.3) The Council officers and cabinet members have vested interests in keeping their internal empires and protecting headline budgets. 6.4) Senior Council staff and Council Cabinet members don’t like the idea of not having the day to day control of a Library (despite the rhetoric of ‘community involvement’ or ‘the big society’). 6.5) The Costs of contracts for IT / Building management etc has all been outsourced and is out of the control of the staff within the library department. 6.6) Corporately the Council has lost control of its own expenditure from outsourcing too much of its everyday operation into long term contracts. 6.7) The Library is not a branch library; it offers many different services and is very heavily used, but Croydon continue to make that (inaccurate) comparison. 6.8) Croydon Council are in the process of privatising its libraries. It is spending £250,000 this year on the process to do so. It is understood that the documentation did not include the provision of a Library in Upper Norwood. 7) The Way Forward: Co-operative Community Library Trusts 7.1) The need to exploit Libraries as the centre of local communities and ensure that they reach out and develop is very important. We don’t want to go through this painful closure process in 10 years time. We need to enable libraries to be different in each locality. In some areas, ‘just’ being libraries, in other areas running the local community hall as well. In other areas being part of a school or running a community café. One size does not fit every community and it is important we enable communities to be distinctive, with high quality libraries as an essential and popular ingredient. 7.2) In the longer term, the ideal solution would be to transfer land and buildings to new local ‘Community Library Trusts’ that would be multi stakeholder co-operatives: z Local Councillors representing the interests of the borough, the tax payer and their own locality, z staff representing the professionalism of Librarianship,


z User members being the active voice of the ordinary Library user. Trust members to be elected from open user meetings, for instance held twice a year in the Library. 7.3) This approach is not new. 20 years ago, every school was run out of the local council. Today each school runs its own affairs. Buys its own books. Has its own governing body. Most employ their own staff. This has, in the main, been good for those schools and has had the knock on effect of being good for the local economy. Schools employ small firms to undertake building works, they employ local people to clean their schools, they order stationary from local companies. They arrange their own IT (often through partnerships or network organisations to ensure they have the necessary skills and professional advice). 7.4) Risks and Rewards: there is obviously a risk that by devolving and empowering front line staff that you risk a range of different standards to exist. You risk a library being closed because staff are sick. You risk users not being familiar with the IT provision in different libraries. These are all risks that are worthwhile, if you can manage to cut costs and boost the front line of service delivery within existing budgets or within smaller budgets. 7.5) You can further mitigate those risks by ensuring staff remain employed by the Council, but directed by and a key part of each Community Library Trust. Employing Chief Librarians at each Trust. At Upper Norwood Library, the Chief Librarian is not on a ‘big’ salary, but manages the whole service they are responsible for. The reward is that they are the public face of that Library and a point of contact for the local community. They act as ambassador as well as manager. They command respect and loyalty from the local community. 7.6) You could also insist that each Library Trust had a duty to Co-operate with other Library Trusts. An example could be when staff were sick at one, lending staff to cover. 7.7) The biggest reward would be a better, lower cost service with more users and more community involvement. 8) Indicative budgets? 8.1) Upper Norwood library costs the taxpayer approximately £400,000 per year to run within a fully contained budget. It is a large library. Many Croydon libraries are far smaller. Economies of scale might be needed by running a community trust for the whole of a geographic area. For example, Coulsdon, covering both Bradmore Green Library and Coulsdon Library. Similarly pairing other libraries together might make management sense. 8.2) The Central Library would make sense to be run in association with the remaining budgets from the cut Arts & Heritage programme. It makes sense to run one building, including the closed David Lean Cinema, the closed Clocktower Arts, the closed Museum, the cut local studies library. One Community Trust for the whole of the Clocktower Complex makes sense. Similar back office costs are spent on this area by the council in addition to the costs set out in this paper.


z If you allocated an average of £300,000 per library across Croydon you would end up with a spend of £3.6million on the 12 libraries. z £150,000 for the home library service z £1.5 million for the Croydon Central Library (actual spend this year, excluding central overheads £897,297) z £200,000 for Upper Norwood Library Grand Total: £5,450,000 Current spend: £7,430,406 Minimum Saving: £1,980,406 8.3) These figures are just an outline of what could be achieved. Cutting at least £2million from the annual Library budget should leave plenty of scope for increased front line staffing, a bigger book buying budget and greater community ownership of their local library. 8.4) Alternatively greater savings could be achieved by not increasing staffing in libraries and by having a leaner senior management team(s) serving groups of libraries. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by The Booksellers Association (LIB 029) 1. Executive Summary •

The Booksellers Association believes that libraries play an essential part in society by playing a key role in the promotion of books and reading. All the fantastic work that goes on in libraries significantly helps to develop a more literate and economically productive society.

Libraries exist to ensure that everyone has free access to the knowledge, scholarship and information contained in books that they need to help them enjoy and make a success of their lives.

Children’s borrowing from libraries continues to rise and this demand alone demonstrates the value inherent in having an easily accessible library service.

Literacy is the key driver for social mobility. Libraries can help people to reengage with learning and improve their literacy skills. Libraries are vital in helping people become fluent and engaged readers.

More can be done to promote efficiency within the diverse number of library authorities. Indeed attempts have been made to produce a ‘manifesto’ for improvement in the library supply chain.

Governance is key and effective central leadership is essential; there needs to be an effective national body in charge.

Libraries and bookshops are naturally mutually supportive; therefore bookshops should not be undermined by the indiscriminate lending of e-books or the sale of books.

The closure of local libraries can damage the community and in particular the lives of children, the elderly and the disadvantaged.

The Secretary of State has the power to intervene in certain situations and should use this power to ensure that the UK continues to have an efficient, comprehensive library service.

2. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century 2.1 The core purpose of a library should be to lend books, as well as to provide a service that people want and will use. The Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 makes clear in Section 7 that one of the duties of library authorities is “to make facilities for the borrowing of books and other materials”. 2.2 We understand that over £1,000m of public money goes to fund the library service annually, yet only just over £90m goes towards the book fund. The BA has stressed to


successive Ministers of Culture that this is pitiful and that the percentage spent on books by libraries (as a percentage of the total funding) has to be increased. 2.3 The key is to ensure the right opening hours for libraries and that libraries are situated in places that people find convenient – ie not an over reliance on ‘super’ libraries. Once communities have easy access to books and to professional staff, it is critical that borrowers have the right book stock to browse in an attractive building that encourages them to enter. The undisputed reduction in libraries’ book stocks over the years is particularly worrying, because not to have the books in libraries that the public want is to reduce further access – particularly to young adults who can discover for themselves the value and pleasure of books and reading. 2.4 There is an economic dimension. Books are central to the acquisition of literacy, education and knowledge of all kinds: special and general, informal and formal, whether for adults or children, providing the basis of reading skills, inquiry, comprehension and individual enterprise. In order to enable UK PLC to compete in an ever increasingly competitive global marketplace, we need in particular a literate work force and a literate society. Books, libraries (and indeed bookshops) are fundamental in underpinning this objective. 2.5 Library campaigners have suggested that the service is not as efficient as it should be and that the potential exists to increase efficiencies in order to produce the lower costs to save some libraries from closing. We hope that the Minister’s powers could be used to see what could be done to look at these matters - suggestions include merging library services across some of the 151 authorities, implementing fully national standards, simplifying processes, eradicating layers of management and seeing how back office functions could be usefully shared. 2.6 The BA partly owns Book Industry Communication [BIC], together with the PA, CILIP and The British Library. BIC produced a ‘manifesto’ covering ten areas for potential improvement of the library supply chain, which were submitted to the MLA as the basis for a joint initiative to standardise library stock supply arrangements. The imminent abolition of the MLA seems to have effectively brought to an end this initiative and we very much hope it could be revived. BIC also has an e4libraries accreditation scheme which we would like to see more libraries achieve. 2.7 The BA has always taken the view that what needs addressing in particular is Governance. The extent to which the DCMS and local authorities pass the parcel on this doesn’t make it easy for an effective national service to be run and for there to be leadership. In a commercial business, it would be considered irresponsible not to have one body in charge of Strategy, Finance and Operations. The Minister himself and the All Party Parliamentary Library Group have talked about the need for some form of Library Development body. Those with strong retail and service skills can provide valuable help to such a body. Without effective leadership, the public library will continue to decline and several millions of people will be disadvantaged. 2.8 The BA very much believes in the importance of public libraries, but we do have some concerns about e-book lending, as without controls, it would pose an extremely potent threat to the retail market, to publishers and authors. If bookshops are substantially undermined by e-book lending without fair controls, then they may well


go out of business, which will not be in the interests of the libraries and communities they serve. 2.9 In our view, e-books should be treated simply as a different book format and be subject to restrictions in the same way as printed books. Libraries should only be able to lend e-books for a pre-determined period to a borrower, who is a registered member of the library, on a one book/one user basis, as happens now with physical books - the technology already exists. 2.10 Also, selling books in libraries would be – in our view – anti-competitive. Libraries are supported by taxpayers’ money. Libraries, in the public sector, already have an advantage over the private sector. They obtain financial support from the public purse, and fiscal benefits in areas such as property and occupancy costs, tax, VAT concessions etc. So if libraries start to sell new books in a substantial manner (as opposed to occasionally selling off old/tired stock) they would have a competitive advantage over booksellers (who pay taxes to support, inter alia, libraries). 3. The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report 3.1 The closure of many libraries to date has caused great concern among their communities. The threat of further library closures remains and some campaigners have had to take action in the courts to protect their local libraries. Some Councils have offered to transfer responsibility for community libraries away from professional staff to volunteers. There are no comprehensive guidelines for voluntary run libraries and we cannot believe they will be sustainable in the long term. 3.2 Are the decisions to close libraries or transfer responsibility in many authorities really compatible with the requirements of the 1964 Act? Having to use public transport is bound to reduce the number of users and the closure of mobile services, cuts in opening hours and much reduced resources is surely not compatible with the duty to ensure that the library service is comprehensive. 4. The impact library closures have on local communities 4.1 The local library, along with the local bookshop, should be at the centre of communities. With the advent of the internet and e-books we have seen a gradual reduction in the number of bookshops on the High Street. It is vital that the local library remains open. 4.2 The closure of the local library can seriously damage the local community and have the greatest impact on the young, the elderly and the disadvantaged. The very fact that volunteer groups have sprung up demonstrates the value put on the library service for many in the community.


5. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 5.1 Libraries are being forced to close throughout the UK. The Minister has overall responsibility for the library service and has the power to intervene under the Act in certain situations. 5.2 It seems to us that the Minister has two choices – to intervene or not to intervene. We find it quite surprising that the Minister has decided on the latter, when in opposition, we believe he described the planned 2009 closure in The Wirral as “offensive and outrageous” and called for the then Minister, Andy Burnham, to intervene………. and by not intervening currently, the implication is there that the Minister is quite happy to see the library closures. If we agree that we need to have a literate workforce to compete globally, discouraging reading by closing libraries is not going to help this objective.

About The BA The Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom & Ireland [BA] is a trade association, based at 6 Bell Yard, London WC2A 2JR. The BA currently has over 3,500 bookselling outlets in membership, covering over 1,000 businesses. Our members cover a diverse range of different bookselling businesses - large high street chains with mixed businesses (eg WH Smith); large specialist bookselling chains (eg Waterstone’s); independents (eg Daunt Books); library suppliers (eg Askews); school suppliers (eg Heath Educational Books) and supermarkets (eg Tesco). The two national wholesalers (Bertrams and Gardners) are also members. The BA Group includes the Booksellers Association, National Book Tokens and The BA also co-owns World Book Day, Book Industry Communication and green4books and is proud sponsor of the London Book Fair. The Independent Booksellers Forum is the BA’s independent booksellers group. It exists to bring independent booksellers together across the UK, to facilitate the exchange of best practice and the sharing of ideas and experience. In March 2011the BA put together a campaigning toolkit to help booksellers and their customers, librarians and their borrowers, and others campaign against library closures in their local communities. Working with the Save Our Libraries campaign, the BA toolkit included a poster to download for shop/library window or giveaway, advice on who to lobby locally to keep libraries open and advice on how to lobby local MPs effectively. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by The Reading Agency (LIB 030) This submission comes from The Reading Agency, an independent charity with a mission to inspire more people to read more. We specialise in working with the public library network because we believe it is vital that everyone has an equal chance to become a reader. We work extensively with all 152 English library authorities, helping them improve the social impact of their reading work and save money through: • • • •

Major programmes shared across the network, like the children’s Summer Reading Challenge and adult literacy Six Book Challenge. Brokering library partnerships with broadcasters, publishers and others to improve the public’s reading and learning experiences in local communities Training, research and advocacy Innovation and new thinking in key areas such as reading and public health

Knowing that the Committee will receive a large number of responses, we have focused our submission on the specialist areas where we can provide most evidence and experience. Our Director, Miranda McKearney OBE, gave oral evidence the last time the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee tackled libraries, and would be delighted to do so again. Our main points are • Closures are a major concern, but other less visible cuts, especially to staff, opening hours and the materials fund, will also erode the effectiveness and appeal of the service. • It is important to distinguish between different types of closures. Not all change is bad. • The issue of cuts should be addressed in the context of a strategic plan for the whole library service with the right mixture of local, regional and national planning. • There is a pressing need for a national vision for improvement working alongside and informing local authorities’ responsibilities. Libraries need the same kind of attention as museums had through the Renaissance programme, and interventions such as The People’s Network. • Evidence shows the profound social problems posed by low literacy levels. Local communities will suffer if libraries’ ability to support reading and literacy is damaged. • Damage to libraries’ reading service will withdraw vital support for communities in other important areas, including health and well being. • The 1964 Act unfortunately does not define comprehensive and efficient, so libraries’ support for reading and literacy has never been properly defined. We set out a definition of a 21c reading service. Digital provision will be vital to the future relevance and appeal of libraries.


1. Library closures in the context of cuts In the current circumstances we believe it is unrealistic to argue against any cuts to library budgets or changes to the way library services are provided. Without cuts libraries would still need to change to meet changing social needs and lifestyles, including digital demands. The issue of cuts should be addressed in the context of a strategic plan for the whole library service which focuses on the needs of local communities. There needs to be the right mixture of local, regional and national planning. There is a pressing need for a national vision for improvement working alongside and informing local authorities’ responsibilities. Wales has an interesting model. Libraries need the same kind of attention as museums had through the Renaissance programme. The People’s Network was a national intervention which profoundly improved the local service. 1.1 Less visible cuts Library closures are the focus of most public campaigning. But the library service consists of more than buildings. We urge the committee to look at the impact on local communities of cuts overall. Many local authorities will avoid closing any libraries because of the resulting public outcry. But cuts to staffing, opening hours and material funds can result in library services becoming a shell which cannot begin to provide a comprehensive or efficient service. Staffing cuts can also erode the library service’s ability to tackle disadvantage, when outreach and community liaison posts are lost. In the short term the service may look viable, but in the medium to longer term its effectiveness and appeal will be eroded. It is often difficult for library supporters to know how best to engage with local politicians. We suggest a list of questions such as whether library cuts are proportionate to other cuts; whether the authority has a strategic plan for the service and what it consists of; whether local people have been fully consulted and a needs analysis done; if buildings are being shut, whether a service is being provided somehow for the affected community; how communities running libraries might still benefit from the central, professional support of the council’s library service. We hope more councils will explore radically different ways to run the service in order to preserve as much of the front line service as possible, e.g. by removing the costs of running separate library authorities as in London where Kensington, Westminster and Hammersmith are merging services. 1.2 Staffing cuts Working with every library service, we are constantly made aware of many staff cuts, and are particularly concerned about the loss of children’s experts. In the area of reading support, many services are saving money by creating new posts merging adult and children’s reading support. Libraries’ support for children’s reading is critical, and a major recent success story. Working individually and as a network, in the last ten years library authorities have


together transformed their work to create a lively, socially engaging offer to the public with a proven impact. There has been a focused explosion of baby rhyme times, reading groups, author events, summer reading holiday activity, children’s book awards and festivals. 77.9% of 5-10 year olds now use libraries 1 and children’s borrowing has risen for 7 years running. 2 Careful strategic planning is needed to keep up the momentum of this work. 1.3 Not all change is bad To create a library service for the 21c, change will be necessary and it is important to distinguish between different types of closures. Whilst some local authorities are cutting library services disproportionately and taking deeply damaging decisions, others may be closing under-used libraries in the context of a coherent plan for the future which involves reshaping provision in line with changing population patterns and public need. 1.4 Case study in what must not be lost: libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge “Before the Summer Reading Challenge my son was a very reluctant reader, but now he seems to have found a new enthusiasm for reading which has carried on into the school term. His teacher has noticed how much his reading has improved.” Parent, Cornwall The Reading Agency started The Summer Reading Challenge eleven years ago by combining all public libraries’ summer holiday reading activity into one big shared scheme with massive economies of scale. The Challenge costs £1 a child. By using a shared scheme, local authorities achieve key outcomes for children at a sixth of the price of running their own holiday activities The Challenge now runs in 97% of UK local authorities and last year involved 780,000 children. 55,000 children joined the library to take part. 3 Children are challenged to read six books of their choice over the holidays and are rewarded with incentives along the way. They are supported by expert staff and motivational teenage volunteers. Research shows the educational importance of the Summer Reading Challenge. The combination of fun, freedom, and creativity impacts significantly on children’s reading levels, range, motivation and confidence. Taking part helps prevent the ‘summer reading dip’ in achievement when children who do not have book/ reading opportunities at home over the long summer break from school traditionally lose ground in their reading. Children return to school better motivated and ready to learn. 4

2. Impact of closures and other cuts 1

DCMS, This Cultural and Sporting Life: The Taking Part 2010/11 Adult and Child Report CIPFA October 2011 3 Summer Reading Challenge Report 2011 4 Summer Reading Challenge 2009 UKLA research 2


2.1 Literacy issues Libraries’ support for literacy and reading in local communities has never been more necessary. The withdrawal of this support – whether through closures or staff and materials cuts - will damage people’s life chances and contribute to social problems caused by lack of engagement with reading. Those who argue that libraries’ support for reading is no longer needed in an era of mass paperbacks and new digital platforms seem to be unaware of statistics such as: • • •

70% of pupils permanently excluded from school have difficulties in basic literacy skills. 60% of the prison population has difficulties in basic literacy skills. 5 One in four children leaves primary school unable to read properly. 6

2.1.1 Importance of libraries’ reading for pleasure role There is overwhelming evidence that literacy has a significant relationship to a person’s life chances. There are clear links between low literacy and economic and personal deprivation. 7 A person with poor literacy is more likely to live in a non-working household, live in overcrowded housing and is less likely to vote. Literacy skills and a love of reading can break this vicious cycle of deprivation and disadvantage. Yet: • • •

More of England’s working age population are at the lowest level of literacy than in 2003 (1.7m compared to 1.1m) and there are still 15% (5.1m) at or below the level expected of an 11 year old.8 England’s reading achievement score for children has dropped from 3rd to 19th place and England is now outperformed by Russia, Italy and Latvia Only 40% of England’s ten year olds have a positive attitude to reading. The figure for Italy is 64% and 58% for Germany. 9

2.1.2 Libraries’ role Libraries have an extraordinarily wide demographic reach, and play a vital, socially equalising role by giving everyone in a local community access to reading materials, and specialist support to encourage reading for pleasure. Their work with readers builds people’s literacy levels, educational attainment and employability. It builds confidence, self esteem and well being, and provides vital lifelong learning opportunities for an ageing population. In the last ten years a body research has confirmed how vital it is for children, young people and adults to enjoy reading. Enjoyment and motivation are essential to the acquisition of literacy skills. Reading for pleasure is more important than either wealth or social class as an indicator of success at school 10 and reading books is the only out-


Literacy Changes Lives, The role of literacy in offending behavior National Literacy Trust Evening Standard 31 May 2011 7 Literacy Changes Lives National Literacy Trust 2010 8 2011 Skills for Life Survey: Headline findings Department for Business Innovation and Skills 2011 9 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, National Centre for Education Statistics, 2007 10 Reading for Change, Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, 2002 6


of-school activity for 16-year-olds that is demonstrably linked to securing managerial or professional jobs in later life. 11 2.2 Impact on other social issues in communities

• •

The impact for local communities of the loss of libraries’ support for reading goes far beyond literacy. It has implications for other social issues including community cohesion, employability, and health. In the interests of brevity, we take just one of these. 2.2.1 Health One in six people suffer from mental health problems 12 and there are huge associated costs 13 . Libraries’ early intervention work with reading is important for local people’s health and well being. • Research suggests that regular reading is associated with a 35% reduction in the risk of dementia 14 . It can reduce stress levels by 68%. 15 Taking part in social reading activity like reading groups can combat isolation, and develop mental concentration and mental agility 16 Libraries help people develop the skills and confidence to manage their own health through health information, reading groups, mood boosting reading, and support for people who are housebound. 17 3. 21c library services

It is a matter of great regret that “comprehensive and efficient” has never been properly defined. The evidence from research into libraries’ reading programmes shows that a comprehensive and efficient 21c service in the area of reading and literacy must go far beyond the provision of reading materials. Libraries are in the process of creating a really exciting 21c reading service which needs proper strategic development, especially since some of the necessary digital work can only been done nationally (e.g. the provision of a national catalogue). The 21c library reading service should encompass: • Reading materials of all kinds and in all formats, and in relevant community languages • Advice and support from expert staff including signposting to other relevant provision • Social reading opportunities using the library as a shared community space including reading groups and author events • Imaginative promotions and activities to support wider reading • The opportunity for the local community to get involved in shaping the reading activities on offer, and to play a volunteering support role 11

Reading at 16 linked to better job prospects, Mark Taylor, University of Oxford 2011 Psychiatric Morbidity Among Adults Living in Private Households in Great Britain, Office of National Statistics, 2000 Paying the Price The cost of Mental Health Care in England, The Kings Fund, 2008 14 Leisure activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly, New England Journal of Medicine 2003, 348:2508-2516 15 Research by University of Sussex,, March 2009 16  Reading the Situation, Book Reading and Public Library Use, The Reading Agency/BML, 2000, Reading Groups and Public Library Research, The Reading Agency/BML, 2002, A National Library Development Programme for Reading Groups, The Reading Agency, 2004 17 Public Library Activity in the Areas of Health and Well Being, Hicks, D., Creaser, C. et al, MLA, 2010 12 13


• • •

Digital provision including e-books and digital reading experiences (author chats, online reading groups, book recommendations etc.) Special activities for specific audiences – e.g. baby rhyme times to support early language skills; special services for visually impaired readers Community outreach supporting reading and literacy

We are currently working with the Society of Chief Librarians on a shared definition of the 21c library reading service, as part of a bigger piece of work to safeguard and develop the reading service. The strategy is also designed to create economies of scale and maintain the value of partners’ investment. In conclusion Few other organisations from outside the public sector have the overview of libraries that The Reading Agency has. We have the capacity to give challenging but positive input to the work of the Select Committee and would be delighted to do all we can to help. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by the Save Preston Library Campaign (LIB 031) Summary: • Preston Library, located in the London Borough of Brent, is a vital resource for the local community, and its closure is an acute loss; • The effects of the closure provide a typical case study of the effects experience in an urban community, particularly a multi-ethnic one such as Preston, in Brent. • The library loss has serious detrimental effects upon children, from nursery age, through primary to secondary school and sixth form; • Many residents of all ages used the library to assist them with learning English and developing their education; • Members of the community who have health problems and disabilities which are substantial, but not severe enough to qualify for the housebound library service, are severely affected and will not travel to other libraries; This includes local people who use wheelchairs; • The theoretical ability to travel to another library in the borough is much more difficult in practice than would be assumed without detailed examination; • Whatever enhancements are made to other libraries in the borough, people will not wish to make the expedition, whereas previously they could drop into their local library on the way home from work, school or shopping, so that library usage will fall. • Brent Council made the decision to close six libraries without proper consideration of the effects upon the community, and without any effective plan to mitigate those effects; • We would like the Secretary of State to intervene, to hold an urgent public enquiry to examine whether the 1964 Libraries Act is being complied with in Brent, before irrevocable action is taken. Evidence: 1. Thank you for the opportunity to submit evidence concerning libraries. We are a group of people who are concerned about the library service in our area [The London Borough of Brent], and the effect of the permanent closure of half of the libraries, leaving our area very poorly served. 2. Our Preston Library is in Carlton Avenue East, HA9. We will concentrate here on the effect of this closure upon our local community. Although the Select committee is looking at libraries nationally, we feel our library serves as a good case study of the issues surrounding library closures in urban areas. Preston Library 3. Preston library was purpose built in 1964 following demand from the local community. It is level access throughout, well lit and well located for the community it serves. Within 150 yards are two supermarkets, banks, doctors, a post office and a wide variety of retail outlets. It is five minutes walk from a primary school and a secondary school is in the same street. It was internally refurbished around two years ago and the building is in good condition. It is served by three bus routes and two tube stations.


4. Preston library is efficient, as it has the highest issues per visit of any Brent library, has the highest ratio of books issued to stock and it is the second most costeffective by cost per issue. Library users: 5. As well as the normal range of users, librarians reported that Preston library was used regularly by five local primary schools. Parents also brought their children there directly after school or nursery, on the way home. The library is also used by secondary school-children, particularly on Saturdays and at exam times, as a quiet place to read, study and revise. 6. Local residents also use the library to search online for jobs, to read books and newspapers and to find community information, there being no local CAB or other information service. Elderly people congregate there to read and meet each other. This includes a range of people with mild to major disabilities, who do not feel able to travel far. 7. Preston is a multi-ethnic community, the second most ethnically diverse in the country, and many report that they use the library to assist with learning English. Children in the nearest primary school speak around 46 languages, and 88% do not have English as their first language. 8. There is little else in the way of community facilities and no other library in the vicinity. Car ownership is the sixth lowest in London, and way below the national average. 9. Deprivation has increased since the 2001 census, with more properties in private rental or being used as temporary accommodation. Brent’s borough profile states: “New pockets of deprivation have appeared in the north of the Borough in historically affluent areas of Preston, Kenton and Queensbury have all become more deprived.” Brent is the 35th most deprived borough in England. 10. Loss of Preston Library: When closure was threatened, many local schoolchildren wrote to the council to ask that it be kept open. Their words speak for themselves: “The most important thing for me is to borrow as many books as possible to improve my English because my mum does not speak English to me...Also, I really enjoy visiting the library with my whole class because we learn together in a different way.” ‘I go to the library every Monday to research on the Tudors. It has all the books I need such as Henry VIII and his wives. I need to research for our rap-and-play script. Please do not close Preston Library.’ “When I need help for my history homework I used the library and if my internet’s not working I use the computer.” “I love reading the football books such as Football academy and soccer squad... I like helping to carry the books and watching DVDs. Me and my brother like reading the


encyclopaedia and Guinness world records. My mum gets books for my baby brother and he learns new words.” “I like the library because we can print something out and you can help me with my homework” “This library is important to me because it has all types of books that are interesting and the school will have to take the coach to get to other libraries but for the Preston library it’s only a five minute walk. Please don’t close it down.” “Many people don’t have enough money to buy another book after they finish one. If this facility is gone then people will no longer have access to free books. The library is also a quiet place, students can take advantage of this; “Closing our library would be closing our community. The library is the centre of our community. ”. “When I was young, I didn’t read books. Nothing helped except the library.” “I am writing to you to not close down the library. It is important to me because of the summer reading challenge which encourages children to read. It is the only library my parents can take me to easily. I can go there after school. Save Preston Library!” “The library is my favourite place. Last summer I did the space hop. I got a medal and I read 6 books.” “I am 7 years old. Recently I found out that Preston library is going to be closing down. This makes me feel depressed because I like going there to read all the delighted books.” “My whole family needs to go to this library: my little brother needs to learn English, my sister needs an Atlas to find countries, I need to go there to read science books, my mum needs to get a cook book and my dad needs sometimes to read dictionaries.” “I enjoy going to the library because it is a peaceful place.” 11. Over 6,000 people signed a petition for the library to be kept open, and since its closure large numbers have also written to the DCMS concerning the effects it has had. Over 80% of respondents to the Council’s consultation did not want the libraries to close. 12. People who tried to visit the library after it closed [including children] have described what they came there to do [in their own words]: • To get books for my father & information on audio reading/tap books. Also take my mum because they train on how to use the computer. Mum looks forward to it. • to read daily newspapers and get and renew books • I am a student. I regularly come to borrow books and study as it was a great atmosphere for this.


• • • • • • • • • • •

To look at reference section for my job, & to use computer & borrow books and DVDs. Take children to choose books, rhyme time, holiday activities & crafts. I am at school. I go to Preston library to read interesting books & do some research. Went at story time at 2.15 to encourage reading for my children Introducing my 14month old to our local library & all the wonderful facilities that libraries offer Doing my school work and assessment with my friends Photocopying & internet To read newspapers in my lunch hour Finding books on Peru and thrillers & reading papers on a Saturday A level course work Reading, use of computer with my niece & grandparents

13. The library is a vital resource for many families and groups within the community; uses include : • Mothers & toddlers groups / knitting group/ Under-5s story-time • Schoolchildren – homework research/ Chatterbooks, Extreme reading group for 1114 year olds/Reading Challenge and other summer schemes/ tutoring space/ Reading Support with volunteers. The community location encourages young people to develop a library use habit that will continue into adulthood. • Adult education support • English language study – large number of local families where English is not the first language have a strong need for easy access to books; • Computer-access, DVD loan, photocopying services are in strong demand among low-income groups; • Residents with mobility or sight problems have a particular need for a local library with easy access and a good selection of large-print books. Preston library is fully accessible, with the entrance and all parts completely level. 14. Residents who came to the library after it closed gave the following reasons for not going to other libraries: • • • • • • • • •

They are further to get to and will require me to take my car, whereby parking becomes an issue, due to cost and availability. I am a care person and this is my local library. I am unable to go too far as I have to do other work in the house. My father is very disappointed. He is 82. I work long hours. Preston library is walking distance and I can go there straight from work then walk home. I can’t get buses to all the other libraries, they may be closed by the time I get there. I used to get wonderful books. I cannot go out without an adult. My parents don’t have time to take me, and my mum is mostly sick I am 70 years old and this is difficult It is too far, no parking. I had a friendly personal service here. I could get my study books for university very quickly. I am currently unemployed and cannot afford the transport costs I am a carer to my disabled nan. I don’t have time to travel this far away.


• • • • • •

I have no time for that because I have four children to take care of and I need my local library. It is so important for all my family. What is going to happen to my classes on the computer & to my embroidery classes? I am disabled and it is not easy to go by bus, I cannot walk a long distance My school library is noisy. I can’t study elsewhere because they are too far away. I have to plan ahead the day. I will go there with my 3 children, 6 years & under. It will be very expensive to pay the bus. It will be very hard work especially when it is cold. I am on DLA due to bad health. I walk with a stick Too far. My daughter is in a wheelchair. It is impossible.

15. Local geography illustrates why it is difficult for young families to travel to other libraries after school. Locally there are six secondary schools, with around 9,300 pupils on the way home at the end of the school day, 16. The former DCMS guidance on library standards suggests one mile is the maximum distance that it should be necessary to travel to a library in urban areas. Many Preston area residents now have to travel much further than this, often well over two miles. 17. At school closing time, pavements and bus stops throng with excited 11-18year-olds; buses are mostly standing-room-only, (if you are able to get on one); local public transport at that time is ‘a scrum’! Getting on with a pushchair and young children is a daunting prospect, yet will be the only way for many of getting to a library with Preston closed. In this situation, even the permissible 1.5 miles to a library can be too much. 18. The Council proposes to put a new £3m library into its new Civic Centre, two bus-rides away. This will undoubtedly benefit Council staff, but for the public, access will be inhibited by its extreme proximity to Wembley Stadium and Arena. These have some 150 events each year, with attendance of up to 90,000. Buses are diverted and up to 37,500 passengers per hour can pour out of the nearby station. It would be a great challenge for a parent with children in tow to get there at these times, or for a pensioner to negotiate the crowds. There is no apparent evidence that people will want to travel to this new library in these conditions, however smart the building is. 19. The Council operates a book delivery service for housebound users. However many of Preston’s users, who have difficulty travelling due to disabilities, are unlikely to be disabled enough to qualify for this service. Those who just managed to walk to the local library have lost the service altogether, and will be increasingly isolated, due to loss of the social contact which library used involved. The ability to browse the shelves is also lost. 20. Schools: Preston Park Primary School lost its own library years ago, to accommodate extra children. It has 800+ pupils aged 3-11. Normal practice was to walk a class of children to Preston library each week. The children loved the extra books, and many of them joined the library.


21. It simply would not be practical to take them to another library by bus, and the school says the cost of a weekly coach would be prohibitive. Visiting an alternative library would take a huge amount of curriculum time compared with a quick walk up the road, and would require risk assessments etc. 22. The school asked the Council if alternative provision was available for its children, but was told that there is no school outreach service, despite the Council website, which says there is. 23. Due to a rising child population, local schools are expanding providing a potentially greater demand on library services. Preston Manor High School, in the same road as Preston Library, is currently building a new primary school which will have 60 extra pupils each year. 24 Teenagers commonly use Preston library for revision at exam time. At the town hall library, they are so numerous that they spill out into the rest of the building. The vast reduction in library local library space means there is nowhere to revise at weekends or after school. Even where school libraries open for a while after school, this is often impractical. Many travel a distance to school, and do not want to come home in the dark. It is much easier, out of school hours, to just walk to their local library, where they can sit quietly with their friends away from the bustle at home. 25. The Council reports that it is looking for extra study space for teenagers who currently use Willesden Library when that too closes, but no corresponding effort is being made for Preston residents. The whole process seems arbitrary. 26. Library hours and usage: The Council has increased the hours in some libraries. The reality of the Brent Library Transformation Project is: • 50% of Brent libraries have closed. • Only 3 of the remaining 6 libraries have actually increased their hours. • There are 23 hours of additional library opening times compared to the terrible loss of 218 hours from closed libraries. 27. Little in the way of alternatives to closure has properly been considered by the council. Brent should have properly assessed the consequences of closure, including the effect of closing Willesden, its biggest library, for two years, plus the lease expiry of Kingsbury library in 2013. 28. The Council assumed that following closure, users would just go to the other libraries, but this is clearly not the case. Since the closures, library usage in the borough has fallen considerably, with year on year reductions borough wide showing an 18% fall in visits and a massive 35% in book issues. 29. All this highlights the need for the reinstatement of a set of standards by which a library service should be judged. The previous standards are not adhered to in Brent, so there needs to be some system of monitoring or enforcement. 30. Local shops, businesses and services have supported the campaign to keep the library, because it helps support the Preston Road commercial centre. Many combine a


trip to the library with a visit to our small but vital shopping centre, or the doctor, post office etc. 31. In justifying library closures the Council has made much of extra services to be offered from the ones that remain open. This includes the ‘ability to book a computer online’. That anyone able to book online must already have access to a computer, but that those without access will be unable to book, seems to have escaped them. However, booking is pointless if you cannot manage the journey to the library. The point also applies to the ebooks service, which is not enough for those who have no home computer, these residents need to go to a local library to borrow a real book. 32. The DCMS has been asked to intervene by a large number of residents who have sent letters over a period of months, but it has not done so. The DCMS has all the letters, plus copies of the children’s letters, and presumably will make them available to the Select Committee. 33. In conclusion, above is example of how libraries are used in an urban area. People are less likely to have cars and, so any public transport difficulties are particularly important. However for those that do have cars, Preston library was valued because, unlike some of the other libraries, it has parking spaces. 34. If library usage has to become an expedition, rather than an activity done on the way home, many will give up altogether. The loss of one of the last community facilities in the Preston area will irreparably damage the existing community cohesion which we need to sustain in the hard economic times ahead. The removal of our local library is an acute loss to this community. It is urgent that the DCMS intervene before the Council disposes of the buildings and makes reopening impossible for ever. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by The Network (LIB 032) Summary • •

• • • • •

We welcome the Inquiry as being timely. This submission concentrates particularly on the role that public libraries play in building social justice (which we take to mean being "… about every one of us having the chances and opportunities to make the most of our lives and use our talents to the full" 1 ). We emphasise the positive role that libraries play, although this may not always result in huge issues or large numbers of visitors. The submission includes examples of such work, drawn particularly from the CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award winners and finalists. We consider that it is often a time-consuming and lengthy process to engage socially-excluded people fully, and the resultant ‘relationships’ with library staff are often quite fragile. We argue that, for many people, public services are seen as a source of failure, of constant let-down, yet libraries have managed to get people engaged. Finally, we argue that closures of public libraries (or the severe reduction in their services) are about much more than just the lending of library materials, and that such reductions in service will have an enormous impact on local communities.

Submission – background comments 1. This Inquiry is very timely – and welcome – given the number of closures of public libraries which have taken place or which are threatened. 2. The Network 2 was formed in May 1999 as a legacy of the then Library and Information Commission-funded research project, "Public Library Policy and Social Exclusion", the report of which was published under the title, Open to all? 3 The Network’s mission is “to assist the cultural sector, including libraries, museums, archives and galleries, heritage and other organisations, to work towards social justice.” 3. Our starting point is that there may well be occasions when the closure of a public library is necessary, for example when the centre of a community has moved, and the library is simply in the wrong place and usage is falling; or when there are libraries in neighbouring local authorities, which are very close to each other (as in parts of London), and where rationalisation of the service would be beneficial. However, since the publication of the Charteris Report, the methods for undertaking such closures – including full and thorough public consultation – have been clarified, and there should now not be


Taken from: See: 3 Open to all? The public library and social exclusion. Volume 1: overview and conclusions. Resource, 2000. 2


occasions when local authorities decide to close libraries arbitrarily and without such consultation. 4. The Inquiry should also be fully aware that decisions not to close library buildings, but to hand them over to local people to run in some way, may well fit in neatly with the Big Society philosophy, but may, in the end, lead to the slow closure of services through lack of funding and staffing resources. Submission – public libraries and social justice 5. Others will develop the themes outlined in paras 1-4; here, we want to look at the key role that public libraries play in working towards social justice.4 In broad terms, "Social Justice is about every one of us having the chances and opportunities to make the most of our lives and use our talents to the full." 5 For libraries, it must involve: • • • • •

Embracing equality and diversity Focusing on a needs-based service and targeting resources towards those who need them most Knowing and understanding the components of the local community Having an active, collaborative role in empathising and working in partnership with the local community Fully engaging the community, moving as far as possible towards co-production of service provision.

6. Work in at least the first three of these areas has gone on for as long as public libraries have existed, but is often either overlooked or downplayed in favour of “numbercrunching” (the number of visits or issues, the number of people attending events, etc). This is not to downplay the importance of value-for-money and cost-effectiveness, but it is often the intangible, more complex benefits that are what people remember about a service. The real danger of the numbers approach is that provision with and for particularly needy and vulnerable people – which may involve small numbers of individuals and relatively few loans – gets pushed to one side as library services try to draw crowds. For example, one of libraries’ most successful areas of work is in supporting reading by and the development of literacy of looked-after children (children in local authority care), yet the numbers in any one local authority area may be quite tiny, and, because of the previous experiences of the young people, it may be a struggle at first to get them to read/borrow; however, we know that the eventual benefits may be life-changing and lifelong.

4 5

John Vincent is co-author of Public libraries and social justice. Ashgate Publishing, 2010. Taken from:


Libraries (and mobile libraries), often situated at the heart of communities, as well as being a physical presence, play an important role in developing a literate community – supporting reading, financial literacy, IT literacy – all of which are vital for the economic development of the UK. The role of libraries in providing information to allow citizens to make informed choices should not be underestimated, along with the role that reading and learning play in the wellbeing of the nation. 7. One of our concerns is that the more libraries become seen as material-delivery points (with even talk of Ocado-type services), the less opportunity there will be for this work to continue and flourish; as contact between library staff and their community dwindles, so these opportunities fade too. 8. Yet, despite all this, there are numerous examples of extraordinary work being carried out in public libraries, not just as one-off projects, but as continuing pieces of work – many of which may also be under threat as local authorities consider scaling back library services. 9. Examples of outstanding work can be seen on the CILIP website6 , as winners of the CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award, including:


Adults with learning difficulties: Making the Difference, Kent Libraries and Archives – winner 2011; It's My Life, Enfield Libraries and Enfield Disability Action – finalist 2005; Bradford/Care Trust Libraries Partnership Project – winner 2008

Black and minority ethnic communities: The Northamptonshire Black History Project, Northamptonshire Racial Equality Council (lead agency) and Northamptonshire Library and Information Service (community partner) – winner 2005; Multicultural Development Service, Lincolnshire County Council Library Service – finalist 2006

Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Across the Board: Autism support for families, Leeds Library and Information Service – winner 2009

Community engagement via IT: Nunny TV, North East Lincolnshire Library Service – finalist 2008

Health/bibliotherapy: Read Yourself Well, East Ayrshire Library, Registration and Information Services – finalist 2007

Looked-after children & young people: Caring about Reading, Leicestershire County Library Services – finalist 2003; The Edinburgh Reading Champion Project, City of Edinburgh Council – finalist 2009

See:;; and


Refugees and asylum-seekers: Welcome To Your Library , Camden Libraries, Leicester Libraries, working with London Libraries Development Agency – winner 2007

Travellers: The Mobile Library Travellers Project, Essex County Council Libraries – winner 2004

Visually impaired people: eye2eye: the visually impaired IT project, Portsmouth City Libraries – winner 2003; Large (Leeds Always Reading Group for Everyone), Leeds School Library Service – finalist 2007; NEALIS (North East Accessible Library and Information Services) – finalist 2011

Young people – excluded and vulnerable children and teenagers: Sighthill Library Youth Work, Edinburgh City Libraries and Information Service – winner 2006; and Books on the Edge, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council – finalist 2006.

10. In addition, there are library services have worked tremendously hard to build partnerships with local communities, with the voluntary sector, and across the local authority in order to get closer to what people need from libraries and to find innovative ways of providing (and, in some cases, co-providing) services to meet these needs. Just a few examples include the work by Southend Library Service with Polish and other new communities; work by East Sussex Library Service around adult learning, and health and wellbeing; work by Norfolk Library Service around IT literacy for older people, and supporting people with memory loss; Suffolk Library Service’s “Top Time” clubs run by and for older people; libraries’ positive work with volunteers and work-experience placements. 11. It is this work that is at risk as libraries start to be closed (or have their opening hours or staffing levels drastically reduced). As Inquiry members will be aware, it is often a timeconsuming and lengthy process to engage socially-excluded people fully, and the resultant ‘relationships’ with library staff are often quite fragile. For many people, public services are seen as a source of failure, of constant let-down, yet libraries have managed to get people engaged, and it would be tragic if the budget decisions that are being taken broke this trust.

January 2012


Written evidence submitted by John Holland on behalf of former librarians of Gloucestershire Library (LIB 033) This evidence is submitted on behalf of senior librarians who formerly worked for Gloucestershire County Council’s Library Service, namely John Holland, Liz Dubber, Christiane Nicholson, Catherine Escott-Allen, Patrick Baker, Colin Campbell, Pat Bidston, John Hughes, Debs Duggan, Jane Watkis, Alison Lingham, Cathryn Webb, and also Geoff Dubber. At the time of writing (January 2012), following the declaration of the council’s November 2010 library plans as unlawful. We are awaiting the announcement of a revised library strategy by Gloucestershire County Council. Main Points • • • •

• • •

Public libraries play a vital role in promoting a literate, informed and equitable society. The 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act must remain on the statute. The 1964 Act must be strengthened and clarified in order to protect public library services, and to provide guidance to local authorities reviewing services. The Select Committee must not restrict itself only to the subject of library closures, as significant areas of library infrastructure and service such as book funds, outreach services and specialist services to disadvantaged users are also being cut irresponsibly. Library closures can have a devastating impact on local communities, particularly on more deprived communities or on the more vulnerable members of communities. The High Court Judge, who declared Gloucestershire and Somerset Council’s library, plans as being in breach of equalities legislation, explicitly defaulted to the Secretary of State’s responsibility to superintend the 1964 Act. The Secretary of State and Culture Minister must not be allowed to abrogate their responsibilities to superintend the 1964 Act.

1. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century? 1.1. A library service: • That provides equality of access, and serves everyone in the community, without being subject to any ideological, political, religious or commercial pressures and based on published ethical standards and values confirming its commitment to services accessible for all, and not directed to one or more groups to the exclusion of others • Which supports the educational, information and personal development needs of its local population (as measured through levels of satisfaction and other local measures of impact) • That actively supports literacy through resources and programmes to support children’s reading development and the acquisition of literacy and communication skills (including IT) by children and adults • That provides a focus for cultural and artistic development in the community • That takes proactive steps to encourage use by all groups in the community


• • • • • • • •

That works in partnership with other organisations with similar objectives to meet community needs That analyses local needs and prioritises services according to community needs In which suitably qualified and trained staff are able to ensure that users have appropriate help to find and use resources relevant to their needs That provides an integrated network of provision to meet local needs and provide good access. That contributes to regional and national library provision by such means as the comprehensiveness of book stocks, inter-lending between authorities, interavailability of library membership and the sharing of best practice. Which is available online for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 365 days of the year, offering reservations, inter-library loans, book renewals services and an online enquiry service. Which plans strategically, reviewing its network, services, performance, impact and resource needs on a regular and continuing basis Which is innovatory and plans for the future, responding positively to changes in society and technology

1.2. In a democratic society, libraries exist to underpin our right to knowledge, learning and information, based on a fundamental and democratic agreement of the need to support literacy and freedom of information. This fundamental role needs to be enshrined in revised legislation making access to a free, comprehensive and publicly-accountable library services a democratic right. 2. The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Library & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report 2.1. Although ill-defined, the contents and status of the 1964 Public Libraries & Museums Act are of the utmost importance in a free society and should remain on the statute books. It is, however, this very vagueness that has allowed some local authorities to believe that they can make disproportionate and irresponsible cuts to library services, and has also apparently persuaded both the Culture Minister and the Secretary of State to believe that they can ignore their responsibilities under the Act. 2.2. The Act clearly needs to be strengthened. I will return to this in section 3. 2.3. The Charteris Report on the Wirral Inquiry remains a model of good practice putting meat on the bones of the Act. It should be used as a mandatory template for authorities reviewing library services. The Culture Minister, Mr Vaizey, apparently agrees with this. He was a vociferous supporter of the inquiry into the Wirral when in opposition in 2009, and in his communication of the 3 December 2010 to local authorities widely quoted the Charteris Report in his advice to local authorities undertaking library reviews. For instance he recommended that authorities should“Provide a thorough analysis of local need, including the general and specific needs of adults and children, who live, work and study in the area.”


“Provide a detailed description of how the service will be delivered and how the plans will take fully into account both the demography and the different needs of adults and children in different areas (both in general and specific terms).” 2.4. In its November 2010 plans for its library service (now declared unlawful by the High Court), Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) failed completely to follow these guidelines. Remarkably, the Library Service review almost completely mirrored the unlawful methodology followed by the council in the Wirral as outlined in the Charteris Report. For example, like the Wirral, GCC failed to: o Make any assessment of local needs o Address specific needs and requirements for older people, disabled people, unemployed people and those living in deprived areas o Demonstrate that it had due regard to the general requirements of children which is considered to be a breach of its statutory duty o Consider the needs of isolated and deprived communities o Provide an adequate plan for commitment to a comprehensive outreach service o Show any reasonable logic in its recommendations for individual libraries, e.g. some less well used libraries with small communities (eg Stow on the Wold) were to have their opening hours doubled, whereas busy libraries in deprived areas (eg Hester’s Way in Cheltenham) were to close or be made to fund and run their own libraries. 2.5. Additionally, and in breach of the Act and the Charteris Report, GCC also: o Stated erroneously that “no library needs to close”, when in fact all its five Mobile Libraries were to be withdrawn with no alternative. There is no other shire county the size of Gloucestershire without a Mobile Library Service. o Targeted its poorest, most deprived areas for library closures or community funded libraries o Failed entirely to consult with children o Failed to take into consideration public transport factors o Failed to take into consideration any projected increases in the population of individual communities due to proposed residential development o Used misleading and partial data from a public consultation process to justify its plans o Completely ignored the almost 100% negative feedback received at all the consultation drop in sessions, and a 16,000 signature petition submitted by the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries 2.6. Proposed cuts to Library Services in Gloucestershire are not restricted to the closure of libraries, and this Select Committee should consider more than just library closures. The 1964 Act clearly states that “in fulfilling its duty... the authority shall in particular have regard to the desirability of securing, by the keeping of adequate stocks. Sufficient in number, range and quality to meet the general requirements and any special requirements both of adults and children...” Gloucestershire’s annual stock (book) spend was for many years one of the lowest for any shire county on a head of population basis at around £1 million per year. However, from 2009-10 it has been cut to the bone, so in


2009-10 the spend was £409,130 and in 2010-11 £351,935 (GCC’s own figures). No rationale or justification has been provided for these cuts. Such inadequate annual spend on book stock for a population of nearly 600,000 people should certainly be seen as a breach of the 1964 Act. 2.7. On 1 March 2011 the Culture Minister, Mr Vaizey, was reported to have said that volunteers should not take the place of professionals and must work with them. He also said that libraries should be “staffed by a mix of professionals”. Once again, GCC ignored this reasonable advice, proposing that ten libraries would be run completely and exclusively by volunteers. The handing over of libraries to be run on a voluntary basis by local communities removes the democratic accountability for the service. It places the management in the hands of unaccountable local volunteers and removes any guarantee of the service being equally accessible to all without bias, or political, economic, social, religious, cultural, commercial or sectional pressure. Staffing by volunteers thereby undermines fundamental principles of a comprehensive and efficient service – the principles of equity, free access and a neutral unbiased service provided without fear of favour according to need. Additionally, not a single post in the entire library service now has a job description which requires exclusively a professionally trained and chartered librarian. Unlike the other proposals for its service, the council has been allowed to implement this change. 2.8. The extent of the cuts to Gloucestershire Library Service has further been hidden from scrutiny by being undertaken across a number of years. It was the proposed 43% cut in the Library Services budget, announced in November 2010 that hit the headlines. In fact the budget had already been cut by 25-30% in the previous year (2009-10), the largest percentage cut of any council service for that year. The disproportionate nature of the total cuts was therefore camouflaged by being made over more than one year. 2.9. In March 2011, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said “the statutory duty remains a very important safety net for the provision of libraries”. Both the Culture Minister and the Secretary of State were made aware of all the above potentially unlawful issues in Gloucestershire. I and many others wrote to DCMS on a number of occasions highlighting these issues. The response was always that the situation “is being monitored”. This “monitoring” apparently continues even now, some 9 months after the council made its final decision to implement its plans, and 2 months after a High Court Judge declared the plans unlawful but explicitly defaulted to the Secretary of State on the 1964 Act. We find it extraordinary that GCC, in ignoring the contents and spirit of the 1964 Act, the contents of the Charteris Report and the direct written advice from Mr Vaizey, has not been the subject of an official Inquiry.


3. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 3.1. Under the 1964 Act it is the Secretary of State’s responsibility to superintend public libraries. In September 2009, using those powers, the then Secretary of State in the last government launched an official Inquiry into proposed cuts in the Wirral. As a result of the subsequent Charteris report the Wirral council rescinded its proposed cuts. 3.2. In so doing, what the Secretary of State in the last government found positive and useful, the current Secretary of State has found impossible to use. This seems to us to be more about the current political context than the clarity or effectiveness of the 1964 Act. There is no doubt that the Act is vague, and without the excellent Charteris report it would have been more difficult for the Secretary of State in the last government to form a view. 3.3. We believe, therefore, that the Act needs to be strengthened. The former national Public Library Standards should be revisited and reinstated so that there will be objective measures of both the spend and effectiveness of the local management of public libraries e.g a minimum spend per head of population on the service overall and the annual book fund. The Secretary of State should then be able to take measures against any recalcitrant authorities to ensure that libraries are appropriately managed and funded. 3.4. Of particular importance would be a standard on the distance (measured in time) for library users to travel to their nearest library. In their library plans GCC only considered this in relation to car travel time. But not everyone has a car. When one compares Sport England’s standard of 10-15 minutes walk time to a formal sport/leisure facility (as used in Area Action Plans), it is obvious that such a standard for public libraries should be considered. 3.5. The other option for strengthening the Act is for part of the government’s grant to local authorities to be ring-fenced for the provision of library services. 3.6. During 2011, library users in Gloucestershire and Somerset wrote to both the Culture Minister and Secretary of State informing them of the plans by their local authorities to cut services in ways which seemed to be in breach of the 1964 Act, the Charteris report and Ed Vaizey’s own advice to local authorities. Despite DCMS officers clearly stating, in a meeting with the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries in April 2011, that a decision on whether to hold an Inquiry would be made AND announced, no such decision has been made despite the length of time which has elapsed. DCMS continued instead, in its own words, “to monitor” the situation. 3.7. Because of GCC’s lack of response to the 16,000 signature petition, and thousands of emails and letters of complaint, together with the Secretary of State’s complete failure to engage with the issues relating to the Council’s


breach of the Act, library users felt they had no option but to pursue a legal challenge. 3.8. On 16 November 2011 Judge McKenna found Gloucestershire and Somerset Councils’ plans to be in breach of Equalities legislation. He chose not to find them in breach of the 1964 Act, but instead explicitly defaulted to the Secretary of State, and stated in his Judgment that, “parliament has then seen fit to leave detailed oversight of the content of those target duties to the Secretary of State, not to the Court” and that “it is a matter for the Secretary of State under Section 10 of the 1964 Act. This is not in my judgment an abdication of the responsibility by the Court but recognition of the Court’s more limited role in the light of the Secretary of State’s default powers”. The judge could not have been clearer in stating that it is the Secretary of State’s responsibility, and not the High Court’s, to superintend the 1964 Act. 3.9. Moreover, had the Secretary of State exercised this responsibility it would have saved GCC a figure they estimate to be £100,000 for the court case, as well as the necessity for the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries to raise £11,000 for the case. 4. The impact library closures have on local communities 4.1. Libraries are not a luxury, and are central to all aspects of community and personal well-being. They play a vital role in providing information, learning and leisure, completely free of charge at point of use to local residents. The local library is the only safe, welcoming and neutral space, with no retail pressure, for people of every age and background to use both as a resource centre and social centre. In times of economic recession public libraries are even more vital. 4.2. The cuts which have already taken place (i.e. the slashing of the book fund and reduced staffing levels), which preceded the proposed cuts found by the judge to be unlawful, have seen levels of use in Gloucestershire fall by over 324,000 loans/issues (nearly 10%) from 2009-10 to 2010-11. 4.3. The loss or downgrading of local libraries has a particular impact on people who are less mobile i.e. children, elderly people, people with disabilities and unwaged people. If there is an alternative to a local library or mobile library stop for others, there is usually no alternative for these groups. 4.4. When libraries close, people have to travel long distances to reach those libraries remaining open. This can be impossible, depending on sparse public transport services especially in rural areas. In not considering either walk time or public transport availability, but only car travel time, GCC exemplified its misunderstanding of the way libraries are used, particularly by vulnerable people in local communities. 4.5. There is ample evidence of the impact of the early use of libraries by children on levels of literacy. 38% of the 3,000,000 books loaned from Gloucestershire Libraries in 2010-11 were children’s books. Those communities which lose their local library or mobile library stop will lose the activities and events which promote books and libraries, particularly to children. Main amongst these is the annual Summer Reading Challenge, a national promotional programme, which is loved by children, and which national evidence demonstrates is important for the maintenance and improvement of reading and


literacy levels during the school summer break. Cuts affecting libraries in Gloucestershire, such as the redundancy of 66 staff mostly professional librarians, the slashed book fund, reduced opening hours and ad hoc library closures, badly affected children’s use of the Summer Reading challenge in 2011. Take up was 14% down on 2010, whilst there was a 24% reduction in children completing the challenge, and a 27% cut in children joining the library compared with 2010. Closure of libraries will affect use even more severely. 4.6. Recent research by the National Literacy Trust finds that 3 out of 10 children live in households without any books, and that this is most likely amongst poorer children. In these communities, the local public library offers many children their only access to books and reading (particularly given the closure and decline in funding of many school libraries), as well as a safe and quiet space to do homework. Libraries contribute to a multiplicity of society’s aims including raised standards of reading and learning, stronger and more cohesive and tolerant communities, improved skills and employability, and better health and wellbeing 1 . OFSTED has acknowledged this in its report on reading from 2004: “Pupils with positive attitudes almost always spoke with enthusiasm about reading at home, buying books regularly and visiting the local library.”2 4.7. Public libraries play a vital role in helping parents support their children’s reading. Research shows that children who read together with their parents have a head start in school (Wade & Moore, 2000), parents supporting children’s reading is more important than wealth or social class (OECD 2002; Flouri & Buchanan, 2004) and the earlier parents read with children, the greater and stronger the benefits (Mullis, Mullis, Cornille et al., 2004). 4.8. Libraries offer computers and internet access and inexpensive printing. When withdrawn or closed, the loss of these services particularly disadvantages those people who have no computer access at home (4 out of 10 people in Gloucestershire, according to research carried out by the Citizens Advice Bureau in 2010) cutting them off from important resources which are particularly valuable to job seekers and those seeking learning development.

                                                             1  Studies with evidence to support these impacts include:  Reading a difference, (2006), Devon CC;  A whole Book World, (2007) Bristol City Council ;   Baumann, J.F. & Duffy, A.M. (1997). Engaged reading for pleasure and learning: A report  from the National Reading Research Center. Athens, GA: NRRC.;   Confidence All Round, (2005) The Reading Agency;   The Effective Provision of Pre‐School Education (EPPE) Project (2003) The Institute of Education,  University of London;  The right to read (2008) Paul Hamlyn Foundation      2  OFSTED, Reading for purpose and pleasure, (2004) 


4.9. The council’s plans also included the complete scrapping of its services to residential homes for the elderly and to children in disadvantaged areas, as well as all rural mobile library services which combat social isolation. 4.10. Thousands of people wrote to GCC about the essential nature of their local libraries and the personal impact of the loss of services. Similarly, such testimonies were received by the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries. GCC took no heed of this information. Those testimonies are all on record. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Professor Robert Usherwood (LIB 034) A: SUMMARY 1 Using research undertaken at the University of Sheffield and nearly 50 years of professional experience this submission deals with each of the four issues on which the Committee has requested views. In summary, I am of the opinion that: •

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• •

A comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century must include all those materials and services indicated in the 1964 Act plus additional material and services that reflect changes in education, technology and society. It should be free at the point of use and staffed by professional librarians. Many of the planned and implemented library closures are not compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964. The available research suggests that library closures and other reductions in service have the greatest and most adverse impact on poorer communities, the elderly, children and other vulnerable people. Closures also have negative social and economic impacts. The Secretary of State has sufficient powers of intervention under the 1964 Act and these can be effective. However, he or she must be willing to use them. Brief summaries of the major research and articles referred to are provided at the end of this submission in Appendices 1-7 1 .

B: WHAT CONSTITUTES A COMPREHENSIVE AND EFFICIENT LIBRARY SERVICE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY? 2 The original Act indicated that a comprehensive and efficient library service must contain “Books and other printed matter, and pictures, gramophone records, films and other materials, sufficient in number, range and quality to meet the general requirements and any special requirements both of adults and children.” In addition, this organization was designed to serve, “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.” 3 Given the social and technological changes that have taken place since 1964 the 21st century “comprehensive and efficient library” must increase its range of material to include digital and electronic forms of works of imagination and sources of information. It is no longer, indeed it never was, sensible to charge for one format and not another. (Why should there be a charge for the DVD of a Royal Shakespeare Company performance of Hamlet when the book of the play may be borrowed free?) All material should be provided free at the point of use if a comprehensive service is also to be universal. A comprehensive service is not one where users suffer from postcode lottery. Putting some books in supermarkets or pubs, with a few volunteers, is not providing a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st or any other century. Volunteers may be of help in limited circumstances but, in order to maintain standards, should never be used as an alternative to professional staff. There need to be


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minimum standards for materials, professional staff, access et al. The Secretary of State must be willing to intervene when local authorities fail to comply with such standards.

C: THE EXTENT TO WHICH PLANNED LIBRARY CLOSURES ARE COMPATIBLE WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE LIBRARIES & MUSEUMS ACT 1964 AND THE CHARTERIS REPORT; 4 In most cases they are not. Francis Bennion (2011a) who was responsible for drafting the parliamentary Bill that became the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 is of the opinion that “any library authority which in 2012 and subsequently spends substantially less on its library service than it did in 2009 would be acting unlawfully”. D: THE IMPACT LIBRARY CLOSURES HAVE ON LOCAL COMMUNITIES. 5 Research projects that evaluated the value and impact of public library services (see Linley & Usherwood, 1998, Toyne & Usherwood 2001, Usherwood et al 2005 ) indicate that public libraries fulfil a number of roles. These are: • Educational • Social • Economic • The promotion of reading and literacy • Developing a community identity and sense of ownership • Helping to ensure equity in access to, and the distribution of, information and imagination services. 6 In addition, the data indicate that buildings, facilities, location, access, and aesthetics can have a significant effect on social impact. 7 The evidence on the impact of library closures (see Proctor et al 1996, 1998) supports these findings and shows that: • The library may be particularly missed as a community resource in communities where unemployment is high and access to other resources, including financial resources is limited. • Although libraries compete with other forms of leisure pursuit for the attention of non-library users, for regular library users there is no significant competition strong enough to persuade them to stop using the service. • None of the alternatives to library use are satisfactory or acceptable on a longterm basis. • The educational functions of the public library service are most missed in communities with limited access to higher and further education and where people have less access to other sources of educational materials. • Very high value is placed on the use of the library as a social resource, particularly in communities with a higher than average incidence of social and economic deprivation. • Children and young people, the elderly, and the unwaged are particularly vulnerable groups of users when a library closes and often have more difficulty gaining access to alternatives.


• •

• • • • • •

Reading is an essential and critical factor in the lives of library users. For the majority of respondents, it was not replaceable by another activity. For many people library use is a key factor in determining the frequency of their visits to all local centres, urban and suburban. Nearly a quarter of respondents visited their local centre less often because of the library closure. The closure of a library can have a significant impact on local retailers and other businesses. For the vast majority of users the public library is a service of inestimable value, enhancing quality of life, and, for many it fulfils an essential need that no other pursuit or activity satisfies. Where libraries had been closed, they were highly valued and missed by the majority of users. It was reported that: A mobile library was not an acceptable alternative to a local library. Scheduling, space, lack of information provision and shortcomings as a social environment were all key issues. Distance, expense, and a feeling of not belonging were deterrents to the use of other libraries. A local library is regarded as a community focal point and has important information and social roles. Users missed the library staff and familiar physical and static environment. Problems with using alternative sources were often related to transport and / or financial difficulties.

8 The specific impacts of public library closures on young children and their families were reported as follows: 9 Just under a half of the children were not using a library since their local library closed and about a third were using the public library less and reading fewer books. Teachers and parents believed that the children had lost the opportunity to gain a wider range of skills and experiences than a school offers of its own accord. The library was seen as a place of social interaction. 10 Teachers, parents/carers, and library staff expressed concerns with regard to: loss of general educational support, loss of support for literacy, impeded access to a wider variety of materials, loss of the opportunity for children to gain independence and self-confidence by choosing their own books. They also expressed worries about the loss of the opportunity to improve social skills, the lack of local amenities for children, the loss of community focal points and pre-school support. In addition, respondents raised the possibility of future generations of adult non-users. It was felt that children who have no access to a local library are severely disadvantaged. Respondents were apprehensive about the future well-being of these children and the long-term effects of this deprivation. 11 Across the various studies, over three quarters of users still used a public library service point, but less than a fifth used a mobile service introduced since a library closure. E: THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE’S POWERS OF INTERVENTION UNDER THE PUBLIC LIBRARIES & MUSEUMS ACT 1964. 12

It is the duty of the Secretary of State to:


Superintend, and promote the improvement of, the public library service provided by local authorities in England and Wales. (2) To secure the proper discharge by local authorities of the functions in relation to libraries conferred on them as library authorities. (My emphasis). 13 It is difficult to see how extreme cuts in expenditure and the subsequent huge reduction in library services and the number of professional staff employed can be defined as an improvement. Bennion (2011) is of the opinion that: ‘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’. 14 At the very least, there is a case to be answered in those authorities that have reduced the quantity and quality of their library service. The present, like previous Secretary of States, has the power to investigate and to intervene in such cases but has chosen not to do so. The former Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, did ask DCMS to carry out a local inquiry into the library service provided by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council. As a result, Wirral Council revoked their decision to close 11 library branches. 15 The Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the 1964 Act can be effective but they require him or her to be willing to use them. Just what a government can do is illustrated by South Korea where , at the same time as the UK is closing 600+ libraries that government has seen “W552 billion allocated for 180 new public libraries.” (Yoon-mi 2011). January 2012

F: REFERENCES Bennion, F (2011) Public libraries are protected by law. The Times 16 August 2011 Bennion, F (2011a) Drafting the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 Bryson, J, Usherwood, B, Streatfield, D (2002): Social impact audit. South West Museums, Archives & Libraries Council. Linley, Rebecca; Usherwood, B.(1998): New measures for the new library: a social audit of public libraries. London: British Library Board, (British Library Research and Innovation Centre Report ; 89). Proctor, R , Usherwood, B. & Sobczyk,G (1996) What do people do when their public library service closes down? an investigation into the impact of the Sheffield Libraries strike. British Library research and Development department. 1996. (British Library R&D Report 6224).


Proctor, R , Lee H. Reilly, R. (1998) Access To Public Libraries The Impact Of Opening Hours Reductions And Closures 1986-1997 Centre for the Public Library In the Information Society. Department of Information Studies The University of Sheffield: Toyne, J & Usherwood, B (2001) Checking the books. The value and impact of public library book & reading. Report of research funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board. Centre for the public library and information In Society. Department of Information Studies. The University of Sheffield. 2001 (published as CD and in hard copy). Usherwood, B. Wilson, K. & Bryson, J (2004) relevant repositories of public knowledge? Perceptions of archives libraries and museums in modern Britain .The Centre For the Public Library and Information in Society, Department Of Information Studies, University Of Sheffield: Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board. Usherwood, B. Wilson, K, Bryson, J (2005) Relevant repositories of public knowledge. Libraries, museums and archives in “the information age”. In: Journal of Librarianship and Information Science 37 (2) pp.89-98. Yoon-mi, K (2011) W552 billion allocated for 180 new public libraries The Korea Herald.


Written evidence submitted by Graham Meadows (LIB 035) I write in a personal capacity. However, my professional role is as an Adult Literacy consultant, where my area has been Literacy in HM prisons. I am a registered consultant with NIACE, and publish in Literacy Today, Basic Skills Bulletin and research / practitioner quarterlies at both Lancaster and London (IOE) universities. Brent’s Library plans propose a large central library, which replaces six smaller libraries already in existence and functioning well. It is now known that the new library will take two years to finish (the six smaller ones in the meantime remaining shut). As a literacy consultant, I would affirm that this fails local learners in every respect. Also, that when the (for many) remote new library does open, the least advantaged will, in all probability, be those least able to reach it. In addition, proposals of this kind undermine government action in other domains, particularly, for example, in the justice system. Brent shares much responsibility in the fight against urban crime as any other London borough, yet unlike others, has chosen to disregard the option to reduce crime in the community by supporting literacy. One only has to look at who is currently in custody to realise that the link between crime and low literacy is a real one. Indeed, 70 % of prisoners currently in British gaols are functionally illiterate. One solution is to pre-empt offending by enabling (potential) law-breakers to survive without resort to crime. Providing resources to overcome illiteracy can help to achieve this. By encouraging informal reading and writing in local communities – a task which local libraries are best fitted to do – crime levels can be brought down. To achieve maximum results, however, library centres need to be ‘seeded’ well in communities, thus reaching disadvantaged learners – i.e. those (see above) most likely to offend. Viewed in the wider context of crime control as well as the good of its citizens educationally, Brent’s proposals re. its libraries seem not only misguided but selfdefeating. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Sarah McClennan (LIB 036) I am writing to you after reading an article in the bookseller asking for submissions on what constitutes a comprehensible and efficient library service for the 21st century, the extent to which planned closures are compatible with the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964, the impact closures have on communities and the effectiveness of the secretary of state’s powers of intervention under the 1964 Act. As I work as a Senior Library Assistant you will be unsurprised when I assert that libraries are the lifeblood of the community providing services for every age group and cater for all regardless of ethnicity, faith, wealth or lifestyle choice. It is rare that any one place can assist such a wide range of people, but also bring them together with common interest. We are an essential service as we help people find what they need for learning, financial support and employment – we help them to help themselves. We also provide a safe place to do these things without fear of fees or slanted advice. Regardless of this basic provision there is need of change, not just to save money but more importantly to move with the times and adapt to what the community needs. Instead of cutting back services, which would surely start with the places most in need of them, we should be adapting the service to serve the area more effectively. My own library service has been quite innovative, they have moved other council departments into library buildings, not only saving huge amounts on running costs but also providing a better service for the public. This concept could be developed on a national scale – instead of a libraries and school libraries being two spate entities they could work together. Nurseries could move into libraries, or libraries go into community centers. Both professions would gain from the specialist knowledge the other has, which would ultimately benefit the community. In conclusion a comprehensible and efficient library service should be one that has adapted to suit the needs of the community. It should work with other professionals so they help each other to give the most to the public. Closing any library hurts a community, but enhancing it benefits all and saves money. The secretary of state should have the power to intervene and facilitate in finding an alternative to closures. There should be an enquiry each time a branch closure is proposed to ensure that every other possible alternative has been seriously considered. It should be part of any law or amendment that a set procedure is followed in looking at these alternatives and that if it is proved in law that no alternative could be found only then should a library close. Thank you for taking the time to read my comments. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Libraries and Information East Midlands (LIB 037) Summary This submission highlights the value of the public library in: • Enabling access to resources • Promoting literacy and a love of reading • Supporting readers • Supporting the informal learner • Bridging the digital divide • Providing online access to resources • Improving access to resources across the library network • Ensuring professional support • Working in partnership • Working efficiently • It argues that the loss of the local public library is felt most keenly in isolated communities and impacts most severely on children and young people, those at risk of exclusion, including digital exclusion, and those for whom travel to an alternative venue is difficult or impossible. • It concludes by considering briefly the role of the public library in helping to deliver wider social objectives, and concludes that the most appropriate location for the public library service is at the heart of the local authority. 1.

Libraries and Information East Midlands (LIEM) is the strategic voice for libraries in the East Midlands region. An organisation entirely funded by membership subscriptions it works to encourage and enable libraries of all kinds to work in partnership for the benefit of the people they serve.


LIEM welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s call for submissions relating to the public library service and in this short response we would like to focus on addressing two of the questions posed: “What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient service” and “what impact closures have on local communities?” What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient service?


LIEM believes that every public library should offer a service which is open to all, that is free to join and free to use. We believe that the key components of this service should be:


Enabling access to a wide range of resources A comprehensive and efficient service should enable access to a wide range of resources including works of creative fiction, non-fiction, audio visual resources, e-books, IT and other media; all of which help people to understand and connect with world around them, offering both a current and historical perspective.



Promoting literacy and a love of reading The public library has a crucial role to play in the development of an informed and literate society. A comprehensive and efficient public library service should offer resources and activities for children and young people to encourage and support the development of literacy skills and to foster a lifelong enjoyment of books and reading. From story times and rhythm and rhyme sessions for the very youngest to children’s book clubs and homework support for older children the potential for libraries to enhance the literacy skills and help improve the life chances of young people should not be underestimated.


Supporting readers Public libraries can help adult readers to expand their horizons too. Attractive and stimulating displays, often linked into national reading promotions, author events, talks and workshops, support for readers’ groups, literature festivals and readers’ days are just some of the imaginative ways in which public library services reach out to existing readers and help to draw in and develop new audiences for books and reading. A comprehensive and efficient public library service should offer a strategic approach to promoting reading. The emerging national reading offer is an exciting opportunity to enable all authorities to take part in celebrating the creativity, enjoyment and inspiration of reading and its links to learning, economic and health benefits.


In the East Midlands, the region’s public libraries have a long tradition of working in partnership to support readers. Much of this partnership working has focused on literature promotion and reader development but it also recognises the valuable role that libraries play in a wider range of art forms and how support for local artists can have an impact on the broader corporate policies of regeneration and creative industries. The benefits of public libraries working together across the region have been enormous, with high quality promotional material produced to support imaginative and stimulating promotions, staff training and networking to share expertise and most importantly with tangible outcomes for users of public libraries.


Supporting the informal learner Libraries have a key role in supporting the informal learner too. For some, libraries enable their first steps on the learning ladder, giving the stimulus and support to take a hobby or interest further. For others, the public library offers the flexibility to study at their own pace and at times which suit busy lifestyles, or provide access to the ICT infrastructure which may otherwise be out of reach for the individual. There are still many people who do not have access to the internet from home and libraries help to enable and support the digital inclusion of many who would otherwise be excluded.


Bridging the digital divide Libraries offer a gateway to learning and information through the provision of ICT resources. ICT, funded through the one-off People’s Network programme, has been an important feature of library provision, but the absence of guaranteed funding for maintenance and refresh of equipment has led to an increasingly fragmented service across the country.



Well trained staff, confident in the use of their library’s ICT resources, are able to provide support to those wishing to use these services. There are many excellent examples of library staff providing training for members of the public in the use of email and internet searching by working with individuals and small groups through taster sessions, or lengthier programmes leading to an accredited qualification. These training initiatives, which are often targeted at older people or those more traditionally hard to reach such as teenage parents, adult basic skills students and refugees and asylum seekers, help to engender a sense of belonging, whilst providing skills and competencies which may lead to further learning opportunities.


Providing on line access to resources Every library authority should offer on-line access to a range of information resources either from the library or from home. The development of the national reference online service has enabled public library authorities to provide remote access to a wide range of first class reference material, making services and facilities available to those unable to visit a library building. For example, people working unsocial hours, disabled people and those living in small rural communities can now access major reference sources through their library membership. These include the Encyclopaedia Britannica and World Book on line, Oxford English Dictionary and Dictionary of National Biography, the Grove Art and Music online services and Ancestry, which is heavily used by family historians at all levels from beginner to professional researcher. Massive newspaper and periodical databases including the Times Archive are also available. These resources are tremendously valuable for learners at all levels and to small and medium sized enterprises. Library services working in partnership to procure these resources have been able to take advantage of generous discounts offered by the publishers.


Improving access to resources across the libraries network Public libraries have a particularly valuable role in acting as a gateway to wider resources and improving access to materials is a cornerstone of libraries’ work. Libraries should offer a request and interlending service so that material sought by a user and not stocked by their local library can be obtained from elsewhere. Material may be obtained from the home library authority, elsewhere in the region or from a national or international source.


The importance of the interlending facility for supporting the independent learner should not be underestimated – through their local public library and its links with the British Library and the wider library community, older and out of print books, journals and other materials, items held in reserve and special collections, and less popular items such as works in other languages or items of particular regional or local significance can all be located and supplied for the public library user.


There were over 31,000 interlending transactions including books, playsets, music scores and orchestral parts, non-print material and serials recorded by Libraries and Information East Midlands public library member organisations in 2010-11. Some of this material reaches a much wider audience than that of an individual library user, for example the interlending of playsets and music scores


enables the public performances of creative works and encourages opportunities for increased access to and participation in the arts. This is yet another way in which the public library service provides support for the cultural agenda and impacts on local communities. 10.3

The development of a national catalogue for public library materials, due to be launched in spring 2012, will be a great step forward in raising awareness of and enabling access to the resources of the public library network.


Ensuring professional support Customer focused, friendly, welcoming and supportive staff, with a good knowledge of and interest in their collections and communities, help to guide and encourage library users. Helping people find all sorts of information is one of the great skills of library staff; many librarians across the country are participating in Enquire, the national on-line enquiry service, which offers a live question and answer service 24 hours a day, every day.


A comprehensive and efficient public library service should continue to recruit, train and retain professionally qualified library staff to lead, manage and deliver services to the public and to contribute to the strategic objectives of the local authority.


We recognise that volunteers can often help to extend the range of services offered by libraries but shouldn’t replace skilled and professionally trained library staff. There is strong evidence that where volunteers are used to work alongside library staff to support particular areas of service delivery such as the Summer Reading Challenge for children or work with local history collections indexing there are significant mutual benefits.


Working in partnership Public libraries have consistently demonstrated their commitment to working in partnership for the benefit of local communities.


As an organisation working with libraries of all types, we recognise the contribution which public libraries make to delivering major government objectives on learning, on social inclusion and on economic and social regeneration and to the concept of the Big Society. We see at first hand the leadership role which public libraries willingly accept, the support which they offer to partners, and their commitment to providing high quality services for readers, learners, information seekers and those a risk of losing out in the information age.


Library services work with a multiplicity of partners – from the statutory and voluntary sectors, to organisations such as the BBC, The Reading Agency, the National Literacy Trust on national initiatives to promote reading, literacy, learning and access to the arts. Library services have a strong track record in working with partner agencies to provide innovative opportunities for local people.



Partnership working across libraries is strong too. Inspire, the national initiative to create a managed referral and access pathway for learners continues to gain momentum. In the East Midlands, where there has long been effective partnership working across libraries of all kinds, we offer a region-wide access scheme that all public and higher education libraries are now participating in. The Inspire in the East Midlands scheme also includes many colleges of further education, health sector and specialist libraries as diverse as the library of Lincoln Cathedral, the library of the British Geological Survey, and the Islamic Foundation Library.


No other agency embodies the concept of family learning and intergenerational engagement as successfully as the public library. For example, across the East Midlands there are countless examples of photographic projects, local and family history publications programmes and oral history initiatives which bring families together to learn.


An excellent example of co-operation and partnership working between East Midlands local authorities is the Picture the Past Website Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Libraries are working together to digitise many thousands of images from the public library and museum collections. The collections include photographs, slides, negatives, glass plates, postcards and engravings recalling the history of local communities for over 100 years. Over 90,000 images have now been indexed, scanned and digitised to create one of the largest collections of historic images on the Internet.


Working efficiently Libraries have been quick to grasp the potential of sharing services and premises with other organisations to make the best use of space available and there are numerous examples of partnerships with statutory and voluntary sector service providers across the region and the country. The Hub at South Normanton in Derbyshire, New Parks Library in Leicester and Leicestershire’s multi-access centres all demonstrate how the library can be at the heart of their local communities.


Library services are working closely together to maximise the spending power of their budgets and a number of local and regional partnerships have been brokered around the joint procurement of resources and service delivery. Impact of closures on local communities


Public Libraries are at the heart of many local communities and part of the community landscape, fostering a sense of ownership in the people they serve. Libraries offer an accessible, neutral space, which is inclusive and nonjudgemental. For example, Derbyshire County Council’s Safe Places scheme ensures that any adult with learning disabilities can get help and support from their local library should they feel threatened or unwell when out and about


In many communities the local library is their point of engagement with the local authority and an effective route to other Council services.


Local libraries can provide information on the current local scene and its past history, welcoming newcomers and helping to create a sense of place, community identity and heritage. 16.

The closure of local libraries can be a severe blow: for many people in rural or isolated communities, young families, unemployed, disabled or disadvantaged people, the loss of their library service may be insurmountable. The availability and cost of public transport or the time needed to travel to another locality to access library services may be a very real deterrent to regular library use.


At a time when book ownership amongst children is declining the need for freely available, good quality reading material is paramount and this is reflected in a continuing growth in children’s library use; the importance of digital access for all is growing; and the sustainability of community life is a key factor in the Big Society, we believe that there has never been a greater need for the retention of libraries in their local communities.


In this response we have attempted to highlight the excellent record of innovation and partnership in public libraries. The initiatives which we have described have been delivered by local authority library services working together, pooling resources and expertise and using their combined influence with suppliers and other agencies to improve services for users. We are concerned that some alternative forms of governance, particularly those which rely on local voluntary sector groups, will result in fragmentation and a loss of capacity and strategic capability. We believe that public libraries operate most effectively at the heart of the local authority.

January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Gillian Johnson (LIB 038) I am a retired chartered librarian who spent 42 years working in the public library service in a number of library authorities ending my career as Head of Library and Information services in Doncaster in 2004. Summary. • Before addressing the four main issues in detail I want to emphasise my belief that the three essentials of a good public library system of well-sited buildings open for suitable hours, managed by trained and enthusiastic staff and providing a good range of print and electronic resources are still what constitute a comprehensive and efficient service , relevant and important in the 21st century and having at its core these basic priorities: ™ Helping everyone to read ™ Supporting children, young people and families ™ Supporting learning and skills, including digital inclusion ™ Supporting communities and vulnerable people • I do not believe that planned library closures of, in some areas, up to 50% of service points are compatible with the 1964 Act and the Charteris Report. Following the recent national debate about the future of the service it seems to be the very people who do not use libraries whose voices are loudest about their irrelevance. Many of these commentators suggest that books are now so cheap that anyone can afford to buy what they want. As a dedicated, purposeful reader on a fixed income I can assure the committee that this is not true – nor should I have to. The Public Libraries Act of 1964 should ensure that wherever I live in the country I should be able to access a “comprehensive and efficient service”. • There are those who say that the two dominant types of experience today are actual, i.e. reality and virtual, i.e. the web. However reading books offers something else - a way into an imaginative world. Reading for pleasure is not wasted downtime; rather it is more subtle, working from the inside out; calming and clearing the head and allowing the mind to expand and become more aware. There is already some suggestion that young children who spend a lot of time looking at and interacting with electronic media could well be ‘wiring’ their developing brains in a different way. Longitudinal studies will be needed to show whether this will prove to be better. In the meantime a great deal of importance is still attached to a high level of literacy in our society and libraries have an important part to play in this. Research published by the National Literacy Trust in February 2011 showed that young people aged 8 – 16 who used a public library were nearly twice as likely to be above average readers than peers who do not visit their library (18% compared with 9.5%). • Those who point to declining use of public libraries should also look at how many councils have, to use current jargon, presided over a lengthy period of ‘managed decline’ with disproportionate cuts being made to staffing, opening hours and resource budgets. There are still a few library services standing out as beacons of good practice with increasing use. It is there that we should be looking for the way forward. If we are serious about investing in the next generation we need to invest in


our public and school library services. Despite the present economic situation, it is almost beyond belief that so many libraries are under threat with the consequent impact this will have on many communities. • Although the Secretary of State should intervene under the 1964 Act recent experience of this and previous administrations only show that once in government , successive Secretaries of State have lacked the political will to do so. This part of the 1964 Act should be enforced. 1. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for 21st century? 1.1 To meet the above a local authority library service should provide the following: • A service for both adults and children • Be freely available to everyone who wishes to use it and meet any special needs required bymembers of the local community • Recognise the role of the public library as a social, non-threatening public space accessible for lonely, needy or difficult individuals and for hosting community groups. • Encourage participation and full use of the service by those not already users by means of outreach activities especially working in partnership with other agencies • Provide materials in sufficient number, range and quality to meet general and specific requirements of those in the community • Provide value for money especially working with other Authorities, e.g. joint purchasing; shared backroom services such as library management systems, and with other agencies e.g. education providers at every level; health information etc. • Use IT to assist with information dissemination but not rely on this as the main means of communicating with users 1.2 1.2.1 • • • • •

In particular a good library service needs to be sufficiently resourced with regard to buildings, materials and staff. Buildings, location and accessibility Libraries should be conveniently located near local communities and transport links in order to be accessible. Mobile library services will continue to have relevance in isolated communities and remote, rural areas. More specialised services such as reference enquiries, local studies and archive services can be based more centrally but will need particular marketing to users and communities not close to this specialised provision. Opportunities for sharing space/facilities with other services should be explored. Opening hours should suit local needs and lifestyles. Library services should be available beyond the walls of the library, both online and via home delivery to vulnerable individuals.

1.2.2 Materials and resources • Library buildings, equipment and ICT facilities should be well designed and kept up-to-date.


Library resources in all media (print, audio-visual, online) should be contemporary, provide a wide range of information, ideas and works of creative imagination, and be sufficient in quantity to meet the needs of library users. This includes those who borrow materials, use them in the library or receive them electronically.

1.2.3 Staffing and activities • Staff should be helpful, knowledgeable, welcoming and well-trained. They should be involved in a workforce development programme. Staff in front line customer service roles should be supported by specialists in service planning and promotion, leadership and management, and those areas of service delivery requiring specialist skills and expertise. • The use of volunteers has become an increasingly important issue as more and more local authorities propose turning over local libraries to them (sometimes euphemistically referred to as community-led/managed). Volunteers can and do have a place in enhancing a library service but should not totally replace paid, trained staff. 2.

The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the 1964 Act and the Charteris Report. 2.1 The Charteris Report emphasised the main requirements of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 as follows: •

securing and keeping a wide range of free resources, including books and other printed matter, pictures, sound recordings, films and other materials, to browse and borrow in sufficient number, range and quality;

to meet the general requirements (and any special requirements) of both adults and children living, working or studying in the local area;

free independent information and advice from staff; and

encouraging use and participation of the service, for example, through clear and easy ways to join, access, shape and influence the service.

2.2 The most important aspect of the Library Service for most of those who have opposed the level of closures being proposed is its ‘localness’. These include particular requirements for those living in deprived or isolated areas where scattered populations depend heavily on smaller libraries; unemployed people; older people, disabled people or those with mobility problems; children and young people; and young families. Although most councils have stated they have undertaken consultation/Equality Impact Assessments, it appears that the results have not always been fully understood when making the decisions. In particular there have been complaints that closure plans have been approved despite objectors providing specific information for their individual community about such matters as : •

the time (and costs) involved in travelling to reach centres;


the difficulties of accessing public transport for older people, disabled people and those with mobility problems;

safety concerns for children and young people in travelling further from their local neighbourhood/area; and

removing local links with schools, where pupils currently walk to a library for regular visits.

2.3 However many councils seem to have assumed that a local service is not an efficient one, rather than exploring how this model can be made more efficient (for example, through co-location/joint provision with other services/agencies e.g. One-Stop-Shops, or customising opening hours to meet local needs). Many of the libraries faced with closure are already providing information on a whole range of services and other issues, as well as staff providing very proactive support to individual library users, not just in choosing books or providing support to internet based searches, but with queries of all kinds. This service is clearly very highly regarded by the public. 2.4 The 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act requires councils to provide a service for all those desiring to make use thereof (i.e. an implicit requirement to assess local needs/desire) and, in respect of its resources, an explicit requirement to have regard to the desirability of meeting the general and special requirements of both adults and children. However, it seems that many councils have reached their final decision without truly considering how the potential risks of their proposals unintentionally curtail or inhibit users and residents from accessing the Library Service and potentially to those most in need. Whilst recognising that it is not possible for every resident to have a library ‘round the corner’ this still leaves a number of places where such points particularly around disability access, have been insufficiently addressed. The impact that library closures have on communities. 2.5 The current scale of proposed library closures is unprecedented. Various alternative delivery methods are being proposed especially around asking community volunteers to assume responsibility for staffing, managing and in some cases building/running costs .The latter charge would be over and above the element of the Council Tax already being contributed by all residents for maintaining the statutory Public Library Service – in effect a form of double taxation on that specific community. 2.6 Even the MLA in its report ‘Community Managed Libraries’ in June 2011 recognised that the evidence base for this model is very small and warned that : •

transferring services to communities will not necessarily produce the economic benefits local authorities need;


• • •

may also bring about wide varieties in the quality of provision; sustainability is not assured; may not be able to offer consistent access to the same level of advice and support as the trained and paid staff of the public library service .

2.7 Libraries need a huge support base. One successful community library reports that its committee of half a dozen works almost 24/7. It has sixty volunteers. Fewer and it would not continue to exist. Any library without a proper strategic plan and a huge team of volunteer workers would fail. Where are these volunteers to be found? Who has the time, no other significant responsibilities of any sort, and are sufficiently wealthy that they can commit hours of their time every week to working for nothing? So many other services are now looking for a much greater volunteer input. How many will choose to make the library their priority? According to statistics from the Third Sector Research Centre they are more likely to be found from a ‘civic core’ of largely educated, middle-aged and more prosperous volunteers who are unlikely to live in the deprived communities where the loss of a local library might have the most impact. Public libraries are already criticised as being mainly for the middle-class. Such emphasis on volunteer-run libraries seems to be a recipe for making this a self-fulfilling prophesy. 2.8 Increasingly local politicians in a number of authorities have been reported stating that if insufficient volunteers come forward to keep their local library open this indicates a lack of interest/enthusiasm for the concept of the public library service. This would seem to be making volunteering a political football, a weapon pointed at communities throughout the country. Not only will they lose their library – they will be expected to take the blame for its closure. 2.9 One very apparent result of the current situation is the way it sets one community against another. In some areas the move towards community-led libraries has been promoted with the opportunity for communities to bid into a finite pot for funding. Inevitably this will result in victory for one side and defeat for the other because it is set up to do that. With the commercial pressure to win or to lose, it has imported market fundamentalism into an arena that used to be safe from them and is putting yet another responsibility on to volunteers.

3. Effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the 1964 Act. 3.1 Through numerous administrations, reflecting a variety of political ideologies, one consistent factor has been the reluctance of successive Secretaries of State to use their powers of intervention when people have complained about what they perceived to be a failure of their local authority to fully implement the 1964 Act.


3.2 The usual excuse has been that local authorities make the decision on how much to allocate to the public library service in their area based on what they perceive to be local priorities. Meanwhile if people complain to their local authority they are told that this is a decision that would not have been taken had it not been for the requirement to make the level of cuts imposed by central government. 3.3 The Charteris Report into the Public Library Service provided by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council in September 2009 is the most recent example of this. With the report’s criticism of a local authority apparently reflecting local government settlements made by a Labour administration the then shadow minister with responsibility for libraries, Ed Vaizey, criticised the Secretary of State, Andy Burnham, for “ignoring his responsibilities as secretary of state”. He added that “while it is local authorities’ responsibility to provide libraries, the act clearly lays responsibility for ensuring a good service at the culture secretary’s door.” 3.4 As recently as February 2011 in an adjournment debate on libraries Mr. Vaizey, now the serving minister, stated that “the statutory duty remains a very important safety net for the provision of libraries”. The Public Libraries & Museums Act refers specifically to the rights of the Secretary of State to gather information and inspect services. 3.5 Yet the experience of a number of groups in different parts of the country faced with the current level of proposed closures has been very different. The Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries have provided detailed documentation setting out the failure of the DCMS to take any action on their concerns thus forcing the Group to go to judicial review. This is perhaps the most obvious, recent and well documented example of the failure of a Secretary of State to intervene as the 1964 Act says he should. This demonstrates the Act has not been effective although the result of the successful judicial review in the Gloucestershire/ Somerset case shows that the judge believes that Section 10 of the Act clearly gives The Secretary of State the powers to intervene where necessary. What successive administrations, once in government, appear to lack is the political will to do so.

January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Jules Channer (LIB 039) I wish to share my views with the Select Committee as an individual member of the public with a severe disability (blindness) who uses libraries for pleasure, academic study and professional research purposes. Also, I draw on my experiences as a mother of three children and daughter of a house-bound mother. In short, there is no one category that a library user fits in because of the multiple reasons for visiting a library over time (past, present and future). 1. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century? There is much talk about the power of the web to enhance information-gathering, and the transformation of people’s reading habits brought about by electronic formats and the Kindle. Of these digital innovations, I am fully in favour and use them regularly. But the 21st century library needs to embrace these technological tools and integrate them with traditional formats. A modern service is not a question of either/or, old or new reading formats, but one that taps into the best of both worlds. As a regular library user (once or twice a month) with a visual impairment, the introduction of electronic books (CD and MP3 formats) transformed my access to the written word and particularly fiction. Libraries now offer an impressive catalogue of such books that are otherwise prohibitively costly for me to buy. Yes, downloads are available from publishers but the joy of libraries stretches far beyond the remote purchase of an occasional MP3. For me, the modern library should be a place that: • • • • • •

provides access to a broad and sometimes unknown choice of authors and literary material; offers a safe environment for children and young people, older citizens, disabled people to have physical access to books and keep informed (e.g. internet work stations); is a central source of community information and advice, council news, governmental brochures etc; integrates a public space for local exhibitions, talks, small events; attracts visitors and students (local tourist information, study spaces, internet connections, print services); where appropriate, co-located with commercial businesses (cafe, supermarkets, pharmacy, cinema, local products).

Many libraries are modernising their services, such as those involved in the Future Libraries programme, and many charge a small fee for certain services. These actions are admirable and avoid the sledge-hammer solution of ‘closure’. But more can be done to make libraries a ‘must visit’ place for different people, and to find sustainable business models that suit individual locations. Let me give you an example of a regular trip to my local library in Bath. Accompanied by my husband, we head for the electronic book section and he either randomly selects books or finds the one I want. Note, electronic books in my library are stored on the shelves alphabetically by author, so I try and get recommendations from BBC Radio 4 or friends to reduce search time and irritation. Also note, online lists of electronic books are available but (a) they are not necessarily on the Bath Library shelves but (b) can be pre-ordered. Back to the


search - If you’ve ever looked at the front and back covers of an audio book, you will know that the graphic design and text size are the same as the print version – that is, unreadable to a sight-impaired person! Reading spine, front cover and back synopsis with a magnifier was abandoned long ago as too frustrating for both of us. While husband quietly reads the story synopsis, helpful fellow visitors or library staff often recommend books. Having found a few books, we then walk over to a computer and husband punches in the required information to return read books and check out new ones. Again, the screens are configured for sighted users although staff are usually on hand to help. On the way out, husband scans the notice boards for local events, news etcetera and reads out ones of potential interest. Often we take a detour through the side room in case there is an arts exhibition, talk or theatre performance. And finally, a coffee in the downstairs café and a Waitrose shop on the way out. A pleasant and sociable experience that in the past included a trip to the children’s section, and other times a quiet space to set up a lap top and work. It is not difficult to conclude that there is scope for improvement and I await the re-furbishment of the Podium site with interest! Clearly, financial constraints on local council budgets make costly modernisation of libraries an impossible objective ata present. But adopting a strategy that looks to the long term would allow local councils time to develop public-private partnerships and to explore more innovative solutions to modern multi-purpose facilities. The UK is extraordinarily risk-averse to large-scale, ambitious and imaginative urban cultural infrastructure projects that would otherwise transform our cities and towns. Government is committed to de-regulation and the growth of creative industries and tourism – goals that could all be associated with the development of 21st century urban multi-purpose library centres. And finally, a 21st century library is a public resource that needs to look beyond a general reading public and to co-exist with other public-funded libraries – schools, colleges, universities, specialist collections and archives. Again, a more imaginative and collaborative approach should be taken by those with responsibility for public-funded libraries and archives. 2. Extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report No comment 3. The impact library closures have on local communities For me, a central library is a valued resource that forms the heart of a civilised and educated community. It is ironic that the UK is well-known for its charitable work in providing books for Africa and under-developed countries, and yet its own libraries are facing closure! For people living in remote and isolated parts of the UK, and for those with mobility difficulties, a mobile library service is the only means of access to books and sometimes people to talk to about books. Closure of central and mobile library services is a brutal and knee-jerk reaction to what is a solvable and possibily temporary problem. To transfer public assets to the voluntary sector is equally irresponsible because of the inherent loss of power over their future management and public access. 4. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State's powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 No comment January 2012


Written evidence submitted by the Wyre Forest Agenda (LIB 040) Overview: The Library Service in Wyre Forest is currently housed in 3 locations: 1. Kidderminster Central Library (dedicated building) 2. Stourport on Severn Library (shared County Building) 3. Bewdley Library (dedicated building) These buildings are all managed and staffed by Worcestershire County Council and over the last few years the range of services offered have expanded to include Adult Learning, free internet access and help and training for beginners, wi-fi facility, increased community outreach work. The Impact Of The ‘Cuts’ Agenda: The impact of the more recent Government cuts on local authority budgets has resulted in a review of the Library Service across the County, with some sweeping changes proposed for Wyre Forest. This will mean reduced opening hours, staff job losses and the potential closure of Libraries if savings are not met in phase 1 of the review. For example, across Worcestershire, the Service is facing a cut of 28% in its budget with approximately 28 – 30 FTE posts at risk, saving £620,000 in the financial year 2012-13. All of the job losses will be front line staff with no proposals for management grades to be cut, which can only result in reduced opening hours and reduced service delivery. The actual job losses and financial cuts for Wyre Forest is unknown because it is still subject to consultation, and the proposals around re-housing services in shared buildings through Community Asset Transfers (CAT managed by the voluntary sector) are still under discussion. In Wyre Forest, the plans propose that services such as Connexions (ex-career service) is housed within Kidderminster Library, with the County Council keen to offload its Stourport site to a ‘Community Asset Trust’ in order to save money, and Bewdley to re-locate within the local museum. While this is preferential to outright closure, it does bring with it risks to the Service:1. A potential for conflict and dissatisfaction from the local community. 2. The potential transfer of ‘responsibility’ for the service from statutory to voluntary bodies with associated accountability risks. 3. Diminished service and quality levels with reduced paid staffing and reliance on volunteers. 4. The potential, in an arms-length service managed by the council, in buildings not owned by the council, for financial failure and longer-term service instability and insecurity impacting upon Library provision. 5. Governance quality and equality issues by local CAT’s. There is potential for local conflict between individuals and groups (community and political), additional tiers of bureaucracy, buildings and maintenance ownership questions, with issues of muddled health and safety responsibility. 6. With more services sharing both council and CAT buildings, Libraries could be seen to be fighting for their unique and individual identity as a distinct public knowledge and


empowerment service within shared centres. The potential for conflict, competition, community disenfranchisement, community apathy, public misunderstanding of their role, or even a risk of antipathy against the Library Service in shared buildings that may house conflicting services is a source for concern. All of this results in matters that require much greater thought and understanding of the issues at play, and this, along with concern about the impact of the cuts locally, falls within the scope of the inquiry and its terms of reference, namely: • •

• •

What constitutes a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service for the 21st century. The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report [into the 2009 Wirral closures]. The impact library closures have on local communities. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State's powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964.

‘Wyre Forest Agenda’, has sought the opinions of local people and staff representatives, using its unique public forum for local debate, on both the local Library Service Review and The Culture Media and Sport Select Committee Inquiry. The Agenda forum consultation platform represents a ‘free thought’ site, free of censorship, political control or direction. The Wyre Forest Agenda reflects a wide variety of opinion and demonstrates the high regard in which Libraries are held within our community. Question 1: What constitutes a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service for the 21st century? Libraries form a unique part in our culture and heritage, and as centres of learning, personal development and community focus, it was felt this role must remain as a distinct identity. There is no absolute objection to Libraries’ sharing services as a community resource. Indeed, the County Council and District Council services provided by the Hub, Job-Centre Plus, Registration Service, Police, CAB, NHS e.g. Healthy Lifestyles initiatives already co-exist. But it must not be to the detriment or in conflict with the fundamental core objectives of the primary service; which is and should remain, the ‘library’, with its accessibility to knowledge and local community engagement. The cuts agenda should not be seen as a ready argument to undermine this role simply based on cost. The value of a library to the local community is based on much more than cost alone - and cost should not be the prime driver of whether to retain or close a Library. Response: In this sense, the Library buildings should remain in public hands, publicly accountable and funded, along with the staff within and the key services provided. The Library and its library service should be the key focus of activity, with other services a supplement and not a replacement of that core activity. Question 2: The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report [into the 2009 Wirral closures]. Closing Libraries simply to save money is in conflict with the aims and objectives of the above Act. However, closure, at least not yet, is not proposed by Worcestershire County Council in the Wyre Forest district. The further sharing of services, loss of County buildings, reduced


front-line staffing, reduced opening hours, increased role for volunteers and the transfer of council assets is. While this may save a service, at least wholly, partially or even temporarily; the fear is it could so fundamentally degrade the primary service and future viability and accountability of it, as to render it unrecognisable to the service catered for in the Act. That, in itself, is incompatible with the Act, and as such, should be sufficient to raise levels of concern about any proposals for sharing services or asset transfer. If a council cannot control what goes on in the buildings because it does not own them, and may not be able to intervene, how can it be accountable for provision, an in turn, does that not diffuse any powers the Secretary of State has? The question therefore is surely, any CAT of Library buildings should be subject to the approval of the Secretary of State with associated conditions to safeguard the future of and delivery of the service? This is in line with the already existing provision on ‘Interventions’ covering community needs analysis, consultation, strategic planning and equality impact assessments. Indeed, concerns have been raised locally about the transfer of responsibility for buildings, how that may impact upon services, and especially the use of volunteers to replace paid professional and qualified staff who are skilled in the work they perform. Where a council seeks to transfer responsibility for Library Service delivery, in part or whole, from a statutory to a voluntary body, then it should be subject to a duty of rigorous safeguards and future funding guarantees. The current plans for Wyre Forest ARE about saving money but pay too little attention to the long term safeguards of the service in order to satisfy short term savings required due to central Government funding cuts and local council ambitions. Response: Any proposals that could impact upon the long-term viability of Library provision, or any transfer of assets; should be subject to Secretary Of State approval. This could be accommodated in a simpler statutory referral system (under the control of the Secretary Of State or designate national body) for example that negates the need for local communities to take the local authority through the courts if local people are unhappy with council decisions/action on Library provision. In any case, safeguarding duties should be in place to ensure all councils work within a prescribed framework. Question 3: The impact library closures have on local communities. The question in Wyre Forest is not the topic of closure but rather the impact of the changes in service that ostensibly look like they prevent closure of the service. Some of this is being done due to other agendas the local council have at district level – for example, with a new build council house coming on line, and it seems a convenient ‘fit’ to ditch other local authority building(s). Part of the equation is about the duality that some local councillors, in control of both district and county have, and a potential for conflict of interest in the decision making process. In effect, they are serving two masters by cutting at county level and looking like they are saving services, in some shape, at local level. While this is outside of the scope of the inquiry, it is nevertheless a valid concern, and further evidence that any changes to local Library provision should be signed off by the Secretary Of State. Not least for accountability and democratic reasons and in recognition that closure alone is not the only subject up for discussion with local councils and that in itself can be misleading to the public at large.


Many residents of Wyre Forest have been exasperated with the consultation processes engaged upon by the local council when it came to other services. Namely, new council buildings, car parking etc where the majority view of local people was ignored by elected councillors in charge of the council. There has been a similar skewing of the consultation processes at County level on cuts to services (i.e. adult care, schools) where petitions and other views opposing the council agenda were ignored or the questions posed to the electorate were deliberately guided to achieve an outcome of the councils intent. Sadly therefore, there is little faith in a local context, as is evidenced by several threads on the local Wyre Forest Agenda forum, that the needs and wishes of the community on Libraries may prevail in any consultation if the principle involved has a financial cost not to the councils’ liking, or does not fit with their overall material vision. There is a current consultation process ongoing over the present Library Review so it is with some difficulty at this stage that any concrete views can be presented on any wider consensus, outside of those manifested here. Response: In the event of a conflict between the community and council view as a result of any consultation process, the points made in summary of question 2 on a simpler, more costeffective statutory referral system remains a key one, with the addition of an effective and robust consultation model – something which is sadly lacking in Wyre Forest, and we suspect, elsewhere in the country, which has lead to such legal challenges the Committee is only too well aware of. Question 4: The effectiveness of the Secretary of State's powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964. The best response to the scope of the inquiry in this respect is detailed in the summaries of question 2 and 3 above. Conclusion: The committee seeks answers to the questions raised about what is wanted from a modern library service and the role of the Secretary Of State and existing legislation? ‘Wyre Forest Agenda’ believes that the fundamental purpose of the Library remains unchanged. Its methods of delivery may have changed over the years and technology plays a part in this, but its purpose remains as it ever was. It is a place of individual and community learning, engagement and empowerment that is answerable to the community, and in turn, those with statutory responsibility for providing the service are accountable to that same community to ensure its viable survival in times of change. Its value to us is as a distinct community asset in its own right whose role should be instantly recognisable and not watered down so as to be subjugated to the needs of other services, financial expediency or conflicting inappropriate demands. It should be protected as a public treasure and as an essential platform to the roots of our democratic structure as a civilised society.


To safeguard such essentials should remain the domain of Government through the Secretary Of State, or a designated body, so that the people can be assured of compliance to the original Act, in a fair, robust and accountable manner – something which is most definitely not assured at the present time. As if by means of a future warning, the experience and potential pit-falls of the proposals of Worcestershire County Council (and Wyre Forest DC) are a timely reminder. While there may be merit in the County Council proposals for the continued provision of a Library Service in Wyre Forest, the changes proposed have more the look of political and fiscal opportunity about them than any long term strategic planning to protect our Library Service. There is no doubt that had the council not been forced into making a 28% cut in its Library budget, the proposals would either not exist or at a minimum, be very different to those currently on the table. To base the future provision of a service purely on cost is fundamentally wrong and flies in the face of the objectives prescribed by local people (detailed above) to the provision of a Library Service. While shared services look attractive to financial managers, it does pose the risk of undermining the service with conflicting and competing demands. Additionally, many may be jumping on the CAT bandwagon as an immediate safeguard to the provision of a Library Service here in Wyre Forest, but the risks are being downplayed, or the fiscal responsibilities of governance, in pursuit of local control, thanks to the impetus of a cuts agenda, are being too readily overlooked. There are very real risks to be had from passing over control of public buildings that house valuable public and essential services to voluntary/charity organisations like CAT’s in the longterm. Especially so, when the financial picture of the country and Government spending is under pressure and cuts are being made. Local people need to be assured that a robust process, free from political interference and financial manipulation exist at local level to ensure impartiality in any Library review. Plus, any appeal to council is not subject to the very same political interference that currently exists under local authority structures. And, if and when that fails, there is a higher statutory and fair process that can be referred to which does not mean expensive court action. Further, maybe Libraries need to be re-designated in terms of central Govt spend to ensure local authorities protect their funding in better ways and give them higher priority. These measures will ensure they remain a service free from political manipulation or fiscal expediency, and maintain their role and be safeguarded as a core community service. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Libraries for Life for Londoners (LIB 041) LLL was founded in 1999 to counteract a previous round of library closures in the capital. It is a London wide membership organisation hoping to represent, advise and connect all London library user and friends’ groups. Officers of the group presented evidence to the enquiry initiated by Gerald Kauffman MP, a previous chair of the CMS Committee. After 12 years of presenting evidence to different public library service bodies, seminars, conferences, consultations, local authorities and maintaining contact with elected representatives, we are back where we started. •

2010/11 has seen widespread protest across the capital to prevent closures and diminution of the service. Resulting court actions illustrate the complete lack of guidance and leadership by those empowered to use both as well as the gravity of the situation and how residents value the library service. This encompasses valid concerns over access to education and knowledge, literacy (note the Evening Standard campaign on literacy which revealed appalling levels of attainment in schools) and the decline, or virtual eradication, of the library professional. London covers areas of wealth but also areas of considerable deprivation. The latter cannot afford to lose a comprehensive and efficient service with accessibility to strong public library services. This is “local need” – Charteris Report. Research shows that the loss of a local branch library easily leads to the loss of the library habit. Local branch libraries are the gateway to the service. They also provide community hubs accessible to the young, elderly, infirm, disadvantaged. Expecting mothers to fork out her fare to take 2 small children to a library is unreasonable. The current state of the economy and less disposable income damages the chance of those affected to be able to buy books or have a computer to seek reference material. The first hope was the introduction of The People’s Network, funded centrally. Such limited funding left future costs of IT, equipment and maintenance to the library service, therefore less money for books, staff, activities etc. The Public Library Service Standards were a real innovation and improvements in the service were noticed. They meant that the Secretary of State could keep his finger on the pulse of statutory requirements. Cutting them, then removing them was a damaging, foolish move. Library authorities need to be held to account in accordance with the 1964 Act. They need to know what is expected of them and how they will be judged by the ultimate judge. At present library authorities in some areas are clearly out of control. This is the responsibility of the Secretary of State who is allowing the law to be brought into disrepute.


The removal of total book stock and shut down of buildings in Brent as soon as the authority was sure of its ground was vicious. In fact Lewisham’s “closure, but not” resulting in so-called “community” libraries also saw the mass removal of book stock. Figures are available. Are we really living in 1984 and nobody has told us? 1. What can be done? 1.a The 1964 Act requiring a “comprehensive and efficient “ service for all residents must be adhered to. Where it has been abandoned in favour of a two tier service the Secretary of State must enquire and investigate more diligently and require that library authorities fulfil their statutory duties. Users and Friends should be consulted, listened to and their advice and local knowledge is a source of serious contributions to the debate. 1.b No radical restructuring of any library service should take place unless the authority has run a considered, careful pilot programme with results that show the restructuring is appropriate. Input from local users and the position of the whole library service in that authority should be included. This simple strategy (why did the DCMS not think of it?) would take account on the Secretary of State’s duties, the responsibilities of the library authority and the necessary views of local users and tax payers. 1.c It is truly astounding that that the incalculable value of local libraries continually has to be spelt out to those (elected local representatives, local officers, MPs, Whitehall officials) who should know better. 1.d There were many alternatives offered by local residents to what has happened in Lewisham. These were disregarded completely by the officers in the council who never veered from their aim throughout the consultation. Such actions cause irreparable damage to local communities. 1.e During consultation processes certain authorities (e.g. Lewisham, Brent) have behaved with an inflexibility and rigidity that defy belief and reality. 1.f How much consultation took place where libraries are located near borough boundaries and therefore affect the residents of another London borough? 1.g It is noticeable that other library authorities in London have chosen not to go the damaging routes taken, for example by Lewisham, Brent, Croydon, Lambeth, Camden . Boroughs such as Greenwich, Richmond, Bromley, Southwark, Islington, Westminster, Hillingdon are dealing with their services in a far more positive way. 1.h Look at the Welsh experience where CyMAL has warned it will use its powers of intervention over weak performance measured against the Welsh


PLSS. Yes, they still have them! Wales has a population of 3,006,400 and they take their library service seriously. The 33 Greater London boroughs have a population of 7,754,000 whose residents cannot expect the Secretary of State to oversee a service which residents of Wales can expect. Why? 2. CONCLUSION 2.1 The library service has been under threat regularly since the implementation of the 1964 Act. We have witnessed this during the eighties, the nineties and here we go again. 2.2 Such threats are not good for the future of the service, or to provide for a trained, professional and experienced staff. Naturally, changes are required in view of technology, progress (hopefully not meaning deterioration) and altering requirements but not these ill-thought out, ill-conceived untested manoeuvres being experimented on in certain boroughs. 2.3 If the Secretary of State does not establish his authority as empowered to do by the 1964 Act there is no telling where all this will end and how many times library authorities will do as they please, flouting the responsibilities required of them by statute. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by South Gloucestershire Council (LIB 042) 1.

What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century?

South Gloucestershire Council took over running library services from Avon County Council in 1996; it inherited a poorly funded service based in Bristol. In the subsequent 15 years despite South Gloucestershire Council being one of the lowest funded Councils in England it has made major improvements to both the efficiency and effectiveness of its service. Indicator Issues per 1000 Enquiries Visits per 1000* Staff per 1000 pop Issues per staff Book acquisitions per 1,000 pop Membership of 0 – 3 year olds Net expenditure per 1,000 •

2011 5346 504 3947 0.24 20334 106 55% £11824

2010 5575 379 4441 0.28 19726 108 11376

English unitaries 2011 4932 805 4781 0.4 14127 157 25% £15383

Three libraries closed for refurbishment in this period As part of its contribution to the Council’s budget requirements South Gloucestershire Libraries is looking to reduce its budget by £500,000 by 2015/16. We believe that an efficient, comprehensive service can be achieved by keeping libraries open as they ensure a local connection between the Council and community. However we need to ensure that the delivery of back office costs are as efficient as possible and the possibilities that shared delivery of services both locally and regionally can provide is maximised. This response outlines our principles on how we are already delivering a comprehensive and efficient service and shares our experience. 1.1.

Key elements for an efficient service

1.1.1. Staffing South Gloucestershire has one of the lowest staffing levels in England yet the outputs are in the top quartile. We have found that by having a staff team that are trained and motivated will help in delivering services relevant to their local communities. South Gloucestershire libraries provide a positive experience for local people, and demonstrates the value the Council places on its communities. Staff within branches have built up strong local links with their local communities in order that the service can respond to local needs and priorities. This has helped in the promotion of local identity and community pride and in maintaining sustainable communities. The library delivery plan contributes towards the Council’s Sustainable Community Strategy and at local level can


ensure that both the authority’s priorities and those identified by the local community and met. Front line staff are supported by specialist in areas of services that require specialist skills and expertise (e.g. children’s work). We are using RFID to reduce the costs of operating the service whilst maintaining the quality and releasing staff to support customers gain the most from use of the service. 1.1.2. Back office services South Gloucestershire was one of the original members of the LibrariesWest Consortium which includes the library authorities of South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Bath and N E Somerset, Bristol and Somerset. (see LibrariesWest is an essential part of the South Gloucestershire Library Delivery Plan; through working in partnership the service is able to provide the best value for money to our residents and strive for the highest quality library service. There are many authorities of a similar size to South Gloucestershire (pop 262,000) who could develop a model similar that of LibrariesWest and achieve similar results and efficiencies The key elements LibrariesWest are • •

shared procurement processes and costs – ICT (Library Management System (LMS) and People's Network ) and stock purchase (books and other materials) shared services – management and support of IT systems (LMS and public website), bibliographic services for the purchase of stock, information provision through the Enquiry Centre, marketing, and the development of new services (e-audio and e-books) shared training and development

Working with other agencies In South Gloucestershire we work closely with other agencies to share aspects of service delivery that will benefit all parties. The service has developed an Active Card in conjunction with the Circadia Leisure Trust, the card not only simplifies membership but enables the services to maximise the marketing opportunities of the data they hold on individuals. 1.1.3. External impact on funding South Gloucestershire like many authorise has relied heavily on income to support the costs of delivering the service. The use of email and online service enables customers to renew items more easily which has impacted on fines income and the development of downloading of films and music has impacted heavily on income from hire of CDs and DVDs. This loss of income will increase the pressure on library budgets.



Comprehensive service

South Gloucestershire Library Service ensures it delivers and supports key policy objectives 1.2.1. A positive future for children and young people Due to close working between library staff and local schools in the 2011 Summer Reading Challenge 27% of children aged 5 – 11 took part, one of the highest in England. The Summer Reading Challenge is an example of how libraries contribute the literacy standards in schools; it helps prevent the summer holiday dip in reading, boosts children’s inclination to read at home and widens the range of books children read. 1.2.2. A fulfilling life for older people We believe that a key element in helping people to live independent lives is to maintain their mental agility. Reading and use of IT in libraries provide a significance role in helping people sustain their mental faculties. Libraries also provide a unique community venue where old and young come together for a shared purpose, no other neutral community venue offers this facility which helps with community cohesion and understanding. 1.2.3. Strong, safe and sustainable communities As detailed above libraries provide the Council with a ‘shop front’ into the community. In South Gloucestershire 52% of the population use a library, this provides the council with an opportunity to cross promote other services and reach individuals that other sections cannot reach. South Gloucestershire has tried to ensure that the use of the buildings is maximised and having PCs and WiFi provides an ideal venue for local groups. South Gloucestershire service operates a very simple hiring service for its building which in the 15 years has never had any problems but has resulted in significant use of the buildings on closed days and nights. 1.2.4. Learning, skills, and workforce development Libraries are key in providing local access to learning both formal (in partnership with local learning providers) and informal learning. The unique offer libraries provide is the opportunity for people to sustain their learning after a course. For example using the PCs in the library when it is convenient for them for them to practice and develop their skills. Having a local venue to promote learning in a non threatening way enables the council to engage with people who might not have considered learning.


1.2.5. Health improvements and wellbeing As with learning and skills, libraries provide a range of services that support the health agenda, especially in mental health. Books on Prescription schemes operate in most library authorities and the libraries in England are working on a project to standardise this offer. Though the MOU with the Department of Health libraries are providing definitive health information, signposting to other services and helping people book appointments As the health service continues to evolve the public need to be supported in accessing health information and services, libraries are uniquely placed to offer this support. 2.

Closures and impact of closures

It is important that libraries are well located, in South Gloucestershire one of our busiest libraries is within a leisure centre that enables us to cross market the opportunities both services provide. We have also tried to provide opening hours should suit local needs and lifestyles. For example opening some libraries mid morning (10.30) and closing late (8.00 p.m.) which meets the needs of those people who work during the day. A closure of a well situated library will impact on the local community, people will not necessarily use a neighbouring library even if the hours are increased or the range of services improved. Library closures of any kind should be regarded as a last resort to meeting reductions in the budget. There does need to be a continued investment into libraries to ensure that the service remains relevant and attractive to users. It is also important that library services are available beyond the walls of the library. The online presence is an additional branch library offering almost a full range of library services – information, ebooks, e audio, reservations and renewals. In addition it can be used to promote services and engage with users through embracing web 2.0 . 3.

The effectiveness of the Secretary of State's powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964

Local authorities should decide their own levels of service provision. When decisions have been made which balance a number of local considerations, including the wishes of local residents and the authority’s overall budget, it would then be inappropriate for the Secretary of State to reverse this decision in all but the most extreme circumstances. That said, the demise of the Public Library Standards means that the DCMS does not have a clear set of measurements to assess the level of service an authority is delivering. Publication of government guidelines outlining what it would expect to see as a minimum standard of service within an authority could well be helpful to some local councils. This would be especially helpful in negotiations on S106 agreements and in the emerging Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Share the Vision (LIB 043) 1. Summary 1.1 STV wishes to submit evidence from the perspective of the three million print disabled people whose interests we represent. 1.2 STV believes that the fundamental aims and values underpinning public library services, as set out in the 1964 Act, remain valid for the 21st century digitally networked world to which public libraries have already adapted. 1.3 The basic requirements in order to provide a comprehensive and efficient service apply equally to print disabled people. However, library services need to make appropriate adjustments to remove the barriers which prevent print disabled people making use of the service. 1.4 The issue is not just library closures but all budget reductions in library services and their specific impact on print disabled people. 1.5 We are also concerned that the proposed attempts to hand over governance to local communities will undermine the equality requirements which have been a feature of library services and upon which disabled people depend for equal access. 1.6 The closure of a library is the loss of a major community asset which has a disproportionate effect on the most disadvantaged members of society. 1.7 In 2011/12 councils have made disproportionate cuts to cultural budgets and this will have damaging effect on overall community well being. 1.8 The Secretary of State’s powers of intervention are appropriate and adequate but underused. 2. Background 2.1 Share the Vision [STV] welcomes the initiative of the Culture, Media and Sports Committee in holding this timely inquiry and wishes to submit its views. 2.2 Founded in 1989, STV is a UK-wide partnership of the main voluntary sector organisations that produce and lend reading materials in accessible formats for print disabled people and the main bodies for publicly funded libraries. There are three million print disabled people in the UK including people with sight loss, dyslexia and other reading impairments. 2.3 STV’s objective is to improve access to library and information services for print disabled people through co-operative working within and between the two sectors. As a


member of the Right to Read Alliance, STV campaigns and contributes to debates at local, regional, national, European and international levels to ensure that the needs and interests of print disabled people are taken into account. 2.4 It is from this perspective that STV wishes to contribute to the Committee’s consideration of the important issue of library closures and the four questions raised by the Committee. 2.5 This response is endorsed by the Right to Read Alliance. 3. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century? 3.1 We believe that the fundamental aims and values underpinning public library services, as set out in the 1964 Act, remain valid for the 21st century digitally networked world to which public libraries have already adapted. To be comprehensive and efficient they need to offer the following features to the citizens they serve. 3.1.1 Accessible services, whether building or otherwise based, which permit all members of society to access them conveniently. 3.1.2 An appropriate range of reading and information materials which people can borrow or study in the library for leisure, cultural, educational, occupational or other personal purposes. 3.1.3 In the modern age, this range clearly has to incorporate digital content which the user can access on site via devices provided within the library or at a distance via their own ICT. 3.1.4 A range of additional facilities and activities which contribute to local community life such as meeting rooms, exhibition facilities, story hours for local children, reading groups, ICT familiarisation classes for older people, etc. 3.1.5 A core of professionally qualified staff who can ensure that the needs of local communities are identified and then organise appropriate resources to assist local people to avail themselves of services and activities which are relevant to their personal needs and interests. 3.2 These basic requirements are the same for print disabled people as for sighted people. Additionally, libraries need to make some fundamental adjustments to ensure that print disabled people have equal opportunity to access services. Buildings have to designed to be fully accessible with appropriate lighting, colour contrast, signage etc; alternative service delivery methods have to be provided for those people who cannot travel to library buildings; reading materials have to be provided in accessible formats for those who cannot read standard print materials; assistive technology has to be provided for those who


cannot use basic ICT equipment; the new digital formats have to be designed with inbuilt accessibility features which are not disabled by suppliers; and, most importantly, library staff need to be aware of the needs of print disabled people and how they can best be met. These are the basic requirements for a comprehensive and efficient library service for print disabled people. 4. The extent to which the planned closures are compatible with the requirements of the 1964 Act and the Charteris Report 4.1 Whilst we share the Committee’s concern about the potential effects of library closures, we believe that the real issue is not just closures but the extent of the budget reductions being made by public library authorities this year and in subsequent years; the effects that these reductions will have on the fundamentals outlined above; and how public library authorities in England propose to organise and manage their remaining library services, taking into account the different models outlined in the Future Libraries Programme, sponsored by DCMS and carried out by the former Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and the Local Government Association. 4.2 We believe that these issues have considerable implications for the rights of the three million print disabled people in the UK to have access to a comprehensive and efficient library service on an equal basis to sighted people. The following factors need to be taken into account. 4.2.1 In order to be able to read, print disabled people need access to reading material in accessible formats such as braille, large print, giant print, audio and e-books. Recent research from the Library and Information Statistics Unit at Loughborough University found that only 7% of the print output of UK publishers between 2006 and 2010 eventually became available in any accessible format. While this represents a welcome increase from the 5% found available in an earlier LISU survey, 2004, it remains the case that 93% of printed books published in the UK are not accessible to three million people. 4.2.2 Because of the extra production costs, large print and audio books are more expensive than print versions of the same title. Audio books also incur VAT unlike print books. Print disabled people, who are for the most part poorer than sighted people, are therefore more dependent on libraries to provide for their needs. However, because these formats are much more expensive than hardbacks, and especially paperbacks, libraries are naturally increasingly tempted to reduce the amount of large print and audio books they purchase in order to maintain the greatest stock for the greatest number of (sighted) people, to the detriment of some of the neediest members of society. 4.2.3 This can be further demonstrated by the extent to which local authorities are cutting funding for subscriptions to the RNIB’s Talking Book Service which is designed for people who have the most specialist accessibility needs. Local authority funded subscriptions to the service declined by 8% between November 2010 and November 2011.


4.2.4 In order to be included in the digital society, print disabled people need access to assistive technology which is much more expensive than standard ICT equipment. RaceOnline set a target in 2010 to greatly reduce the 10 million non-digital users in the UK by 2012. According to the latest Office for National Statistics Internet Access Quarterly Update, published on 16 November 2011, the total number of non-digital users has reduced to 8.3 million but over half of them, 4.25 million, are disabled people. Research by the Government’s e-Accessibility Forum’s Consumer Expert Group in 2009 identified that the main barrier to their uptake of ICT is the affordability of assistive technology. Accessible communal provision is an obvious solution and the local public library, as part of the People’s Network, is a key contributor to meeting the Government’s aim. A closed library, or even an open library lacking the necessary equipment on the grounds of cost, will not provide a solution for digitally excluded people. 4.2.5 A further concern is that library authorities are also reducing or withdrawing their mobile and housebound library services. This is a particular issue for print disabled people, especially in rural areas where transport services are also being reduced. For such people who are not digitally enabled, access to large print and audio books will be removed. 4.2.6 Another method of reducing costs which is becoming more popular with local authorities is to introduce self issuing systems and reduce staffing. This has two immediate effects on print disabled people. Firstly, even if they are aware of where the equipment is located, touch screen technology is not usually accessible to people with sight loss. In any event their use of many library services is dependent on the assistance and advice of trained library staff, including staff with specialist roles serving disabled people. 4.2.7 This has recently been reinforced by research conducted by the RNIB National Library Service in June 2011. They interviewed 55 members of their Focus Group about their experience of using e-book services provided by their local public libraries. Downloading of e-books was very difficult but, once achieved, worked well with their assistive technology. However, even blind people who are computer literate found it difficult to get started without the help of library staff. They identified personal assistance as a key requirement to get started. 4.3 All of these might be designated as equal opportunity issues and it is notable that the Charteris Inquiry found that Wirral Borough Council would fail its duties primarily because it had not addressed the needs of disadvantaged groups, including older and disabled people, in its restructuring proposals to reduce total library costs. The importance of equality considerations has recently been reinforced by the High Court judgement in the case brought against Gloucestershire and Somerset County Councils which planned to close numerous local libraries and/or hand them over to local communities to run. The judge found against the councils for breaching their statutory equality duties. 4.4 We would contend that, for the most part, public libraries have been at the vanguard of providing equal opportunities and that the 1964 Act predated the equality legislation that followed. However, we are concerned that the move to hand over control of library services to local community groups could undermine the role of libraries in addressing


equal opportunities. We appreciate that it is possible for a local authority to specify equality requirements in a contract awarded to a private sector company, trust or other library authority to operate its library services. The report “Future libraries: change, options and how to get there” published by the MLA and LGA in August 2011 was about learning the lessons of phase one of the programme. It cast serious doubt about the community governance model, asking how does it “reflect the fact that the statutory requirement to provide a library service rests with the council? What is a core library service? How will the council guard against, and respond to, service failure, or if local people no longer want to run the library?” We would be extremely concerned if responsibility for addressing equality matters and the needs of print disabled people were to be passed from experienced and trained library staff to volunteers who might have no knowledge or interest in such matters and would not be subject to the same redress as a local authority run service. That would be an extremely retrograde step and, in our opinion, would not be compatible with the 1964 Act, the Charteris report’s findings or statutory duties under the Equality Act 2010. 5. The impact library closures have on local communities. 5.1 Whatever the logic for proposing to close a local library, there will always be community resistance for the simple reason that people do not want to lose an important community asset that serves so many different purposes and meets so many needs. The simple reality is that most people, including non-users, appreciate the availability of a public space which is freely available to all-comers when more and more of the public realm has become privatised or chargeable. In many communities, both urban and rural, the public library is the only community building freely available to all and it is natural that, whatever the economic reality, people are resistant to its closure. Therefore it is for local communities and local politicians to determine the balance between competing needs for local services, the financial resources available and the general community wellbeing provided by the local library. However, a library closure is ultimately a community loss which cannot be entirely and adequately replaced by an alternative or substitute service. 5.2 The loss of the community asset is most keenly felt by those members of the local community who are least able to fend for themselves and find substitute access to the services they need, namely: the young, the old, the unemployed, the disabled and the poorer members of society. They are least able to travel to a library service further away or to purchase what they would previously have borrowed from the library. This is particularly the case for print disabled people as many find it difficult to travel outside their local area and most certainly do not have the resources to purchase large print and audio books. 5.3 It is increasingly suggested that library closures can be avoided by handing over responsibility to the local community. Whatever the merits and demerits of this approach, it is almost certainly the case that this is more likely to happen in wealthier communities than in poorer communities. In which case the poorer communities will be further disadvantaged in terms of their access to basic services which they are least able to provide for themselves.


5.4 Given the small proportion of the total local authority budget devoted to library services, typically 1% to 1.5%, it is pertinent to note the findings of the “Tough times” report published by the Audit Commission on 17 November 2011. This looked at how councils were coping with their budget reductions and found that the overall reduction in service spending in public library authorities in 2011/12 was 6.5% but cultural services spending had been cut by 13%. Not surprisingly, the Audit Commission does not believe that such an approach to protecting other services such as social services is sustainable in the years up to 2014/15. It seems reasonable to ask whether the disproportionate amount of reductions taken from cultural budgets by public library authorities in 2010/11 will have a drastically disproportionate effect on overall community wellbeing. 5.5 It is likely that the effects of these cuts will be masked in the short term but will have a serious detrimental impact on the range of services in the longer term. This will be exacerbated if an increasing number of libraries cease to be managed as part of a network but become individual stand-alone libraries without trained staff and shared specialist resources. 6. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the 1964 Act 6.1 In our opinion there is nothing untoward with these powers, the problem has been the reluctance of successive Secretaries of State to utilise them in the public interest when justified. The abolition of the former Public Library Standards and the requirement for English public library authorities to submit an annual library plan to the Secretary of State mean that there are no longer any criteria against which the Secretary of State can form a judgement. On the rare occasions the powers have been used, in Derbyshire and Wirral, they have had the required effect of achieving change and improvement. 7. Notes 7.1 STV would welcome the opportunity to provide oral evidence to the Committee’s inquiry and is content for this written submission to be made publicly available.

January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Derbyshire County Council (LIB 044) Derbyshire County Council welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s call for submissions relating to the public library service. 1



It is important to retain key teams of professional librarians operating in core areas. Libraries have a vital role to play in literacy, learning, overcoming digital exclusion, promoting information literacy and encouraging democratic engagement. A strength of the service is that every branch and mobile library is the gateway to a network offering access to a world of resources. The best library services are located at the heart of their local authorities – no other system of governance offers the same advantages. Libraries must diversify if they are to remain relevant to a population which enjoys a choice of ways in which to access services. Working in partnership, and smart use of other funding opportunities has enabled service development at an affordable cost. Libraries in the UK are working together, with partners in other sectors and with their parent organisations to create a compelling offer – one that combines a focus on local needs with all the benefits of wider collaboration. These initiatives will be threatened if the emphasis is solely on the management of the public library as a local community resource, without taking into account its broader potential.


1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7





In common with all other local authorities, Derbyshire is meeting challenging savings targets. The impact on the library service over four years is a reduction of £2.3million on a controllable budget of around £9million. Despite these difficult circumstances the council has no plans to close any of its forty-five branch libraries or to make them over to alternative forms of governance. We have tackled back-office and overhead costs rigorously, reduced spending on resources (although our investment in books per head of population is still among highest in the UK) and made some modest reductions in opening hours. Our priority is to preserve the network of libraries which are such an important focal point for their local communities and which provide a foundation on which to build for the future.


Inevitably, budget reductions have entailed the loss of some posts. However, Derbyshire has retained key teams of professional librarians operating in core areas. These include services to children and young people, information and learning provision, access and inclusion for users with additional needs, and reader development. The emphasis across all these teams is on working with communities, developing partnerships, creating new audiences and ensuring the best possible experience for library users.



Locally and nationally, it is vital that a career structure be retained for professionally-qualified librarians. If libraries are to rise to the challenge of the future they need to be able to recruit and retain creative and talented people. Without realistic career opportunities for their graduates, higher education courses will no longer be viable and library services will be denied the supply of new blood and innovative thinking on which they rely.


While it would not be appropriate to comment on the impact of budget decisions made by other authorities, we do wish to respond to the Select Committee’s question of what constitutes a comprehensive and efficient service, and illustrate that from our experience in Derbyshire.


Why libraries are needed


More people are reading than ever before, but stubbornly low levels of literacy remain at the root of many social problems; New technology is ubiquitous, but many people lack the resources or the skills to benefit; Information is all around us but reliable, accurate and unbiased sources are hard to find; People need new skills to make the most of work and leisure opportunities, but resources for non-vocational learning are reducing; In today’s society many people are disengaged from community activity or democratic processes. While public libraries on their own cannot resolve these contradictions, they are an important part of the solution.


Libraries help satisfy a growing demand for reading and book-related activities which cannot be met by the private sector alone. Their work with children and families, often in partnership with other agencies, promotes literacy in the early years and throughout life.


Broadband Internet access is by no means universal. Libraries provide what may be the only access to online resources for those on low incomes or whose personal circumstances might otherwise exclude them. Many lack the confidence to get to grips with new technology; public libraries are making a major contribution to the achievement of the government’s Race Online target.


Libraries make available a wide variety of reliable printed and online resources which would be unaffordable for individuals and families; they also offer mediation and interpretation to help people make sense of a plethora of competing information sources.


Libraries have a traditional role to support the independent learner; increasingly they are complementing this role with a range of formal learning opportunities which enable people to gain new skills in a familiar, non-threatening environment, and often at a pace and time which suits their needs.



Through their experience of working in partnership with other agencies libraries serve as a convenient access point on the high street for many other public and community services. Their informality, their reputation for impartiality and their many millions of visitors make them an attractive partner for agencies and organisations of all kinds. They prompt and encourage people to engage in and be better informed about the community they live in and the wider society.


Positioning the service


The place of the library service is within the local authority. None of the alternative forms of governance that have been mooted offer the same degree of democratic accountability, responsiveness to local communities, or consistency and reliability of service delivery. In a large, and largely rural, authority such as Derbyshire, private sector operators are interested in cherry-picking the largest and busiest libraries, not in serving the needs of smaller and isolated communities. Many communities lack the social capital and capacity to take over the running over the service, and the community ownership model in any case risks destroying one of the traditional strengths of UK libraries – that every branch and mobile library is the gateway to a network offering access to a world of resources.


This means that library service leaders have to be able to operate effectively in what is a political environment. The best of them have positioned their services at the heart of the local authority’s business. The Library Service in Derbyshire is the largest component of a Cultural and Community Services Department, and the Cabinet member with responsibility for culture is also the Leader of the Council. Libraries are seen as places where the council can reach out to and engage with local communities. They deliver on their core functions of reading, literacy, information and learning, but they are also community spaces and access points to a range of other services, and they deliver on wider agendas such as health and wellbeing, economic regeneration and community safety.


Investing in the right areas


Despite the current financial difficulties, Derbyshire has maintained and even increased business by concentrating on sound principles. Books and reading are at the core of what we do. Our materials fund per head of population is among the largest in the UK, and it is spent on materials, not other initiatives. The county is a leader in reader development with people of all ages, our programmes help make children confident readers and keep them reading into adulthood.


While not losing sight of the core purpose, libraries must diversify if they are to remain relevant to a population which enjoys a choice of ways in which to access services.


The growth of the market in ebooks has created new opportunities and Derbyshire has invested a modest amount from its Materials Fund in a new online service which in the first five months has attracted well over 2,000 users. It is particularly significant that over 25% of these users are new to libraries, or


had allowed their membership to lapse. This service is reaching out to those who are unable to visit libraries, or who prefer to access content electronically. It is not a threat to the traditional operation of branch libraries, but it is bringing an added dimension to the service. Derbyshire libraries also have the broadest range of online resources in the region and a central enquiry team, contactable by phone or email, ensures an expert and consistent level of response to users of even the smallest library. Use of our online information resources is almost doubling year on year. These results indicate the potential of new technology to inject new impetus and relevance into library services. 5.4

Working in partnership, and smart use of other funding opportunities has enabled service development at an affordable cost. So for example our partnership with Health has created a number of Health Zones in libraries; work with the adult education service has enabled 1,200 people to gain qualifications through courses offered in libraries; and a new library is at the centre of The Hub, an exciting new joint service centre which brings together county and district council services, health services, retail and leisure in one of the county’s most deprived communities.


In recent years there has been an emphasis nationally on creating iconic ‘flagship’ library buildings, sometimes at the expense of libraries in local communities. We would not take issue with the value of centres of excellence: in Chesterfield, a market town of only 100,000 inhabitants, Derbyshire boasts the fifth-busiest library in the UK. A new Derbyshire Record Office and Local Studies Centre will open in early 2013, at a cost of £4 million. However, we believe that capital investment in local communities is vital. As well as The Hub, mentioned above, new libraries are being created in Glossop, Belper and Ashbourne, all communities of around 20,000 people. As a matter of course, these buildings are designed to accommodate other services, in the interests of efficiency and of convenience for the user. The evidence is that communities respond to the confidence shown by the council; use of the library in The Hub has increased by 92% in the first year. This does not suggest a service which has lost its appeal or its relevance to local people.




Derbyshire has been rigorous and imaginative in its pursuit of efficiency. We have pruned back office costs, largely through the use of ICT, until we have a very small team, and we have made the optimum use of electronic ordering and procurement.


In terms of procurement, we have brokered multi-authority partnerships with neighbouring authorities which have delivered higher discounts for books, lower licence fees for the library management system and a massively successful online database of historic images,


We have worked with the county council to provide: • Public access wifi at no cost to the user or the library service;


• • • •

Shared HR, e-recruitment, Property Services, Health and Safety and attendance management; Shared transport services; Use of the council’s contact centre for membership, service enquiries, renewals (libraries are the heaviest volume user); Use of libraries as touchdown centres for other council employees.


In libraries, ICT has helped facilitate a shift from routine transactions to more meaningful interaction with the public. We have introduced self-service in twelve large libraries, with more to follow, and a new remote online booking system for PCs. Derbyshire is developing the use of volunteers, within a clearly managed framework, to assist with children’s activities, reading groups, ICT training and local studies. Properly managed volunteers can bring new skills, increased levels of personal support to readers and learners, older people and children; with the increasing adoption of self-service technology they can be used to keep branch libraries open for longer. They can deliver added value while the local authority focuses on maintaining a high quality core service.


More than merely local


In emphasising the importance of the library as a community facility, it is important not to lose sight of the value of the wider library network. Over many years library users have benefited from access to a nationwide and international network. Libraries have shared resources, intelligence and services in the interests of the user. They have not been motivated by parochial concerns or inhibited by commercial considerations. The whole has been greater than the sum of its parts.


Libraries in the UK are working together, with partners in other sectors and with their parent organisations to create a compelling offer – one that combines a focus on local needs with all the benefits of wider collaboration.


That collaboration includes joint procurement to achieve greater efficiency. It will also lead to the development of national offers that bring economies of scale, are reasonably cheap to buy into, but which give a consistently high standard of provision – and an enhanced national profile. It has already been spectacularly successful in children’s services, with Bookstart and the Summer Reading Challenge, in ICT provision and in work with the BBC. A national catalogue and a national reading offer are under development, both of which will be launched in the Spring, and a national information offer is being piloted.


These initiatives will be threatened if the emphasis is solely on the management of the public library as a local community resource, without taking into account its broader potential. As local authorities plan their response to budget pressures, it is to be hoped that the decisions they make will not destroy the sector’s ability to act strategically in the interests of their users and of the nation as a whole.

January 2012


Written evidence submitted by the School Library Association (LIB 045) 1. Summary ¾ Who we are ¾ Research background ¾ Impact on school children Children’s access Internet Spaces Desks 2. Response Who we are 2.1 The School Library Association (SLA) is an independent charity established in 1937, which trades as an incorporated company. The School Library Association (SLA) is committed to supporting everyone involved with school libraries, promoting high quality reading and learning opportunities for all. The School Library Association offers: • • • • • • •

Advisory and information services Lively, practical publications The School Librarian, our quarterly journal Relevant and focused INSET A network of branches for local support Advocacy for school libraries and School Library Services A significant voice at regional and national level

2.2 The SLA vision believes that every pupil is entitled to effective school library provision. The SLA is committed to supporting everyone involved with school libraries, promoting high quality reading and learning opportunities for all. 3. Research Background 3.1 There is much relevant research on the benefits of wider reading, the impact of reading and resultant discussion of reading on the motivation and mental health of individuals and this is shown in improved achievement and future for the people involved in the reading activity. Selected Research examples: Clark, C (2011) Setting the baseline: The National Literacy Trusts first annual survey into reading – 2010. London: National Literacy trust Clark & De Zoysa (2011) Mapping the inter-relationships of reading enjoyment, attitudes, behaviour and attainment: An exploratory investigation. London: National Literacy Trust. Clark & Hawkins (2011) Public Libraries and Literacy; Young People’s reading habits and attitudes to public libraries, and an exploration of the relationship between public library use and school attainment. London: National Literacy Trust


Kennedy, R & Bearne, E. (2009) Summer Reading Challenge 2009: Impact Research Report. Leicester: United Kingdom Literacy Association. Reading for Change (2002). OECD. 4. Library closures 4.1 The problem as viewed by the SLA, when authorities are looking at library closures, is the impact those closures can have on children and young people. Children and young people tend to be dependent on others, either parents or public transport, for getting them to libraries, thus the closure of smaller, very local branches makes this dependency even more crucial. Thus the closure of smaller branches impacts more highly on this demographic. 4.2 Similarly the movement of authorities towards smaller libraries being run by volunteers also impacts on the support the children and young people can access. Without access to specialist librarians who have been trained in work with children and school students the support that should be available through local libraries, in terms of homework support and study support generally, are reduced, or non-existent. This can be particularly damaging where children are not in a home that esteems academic learning and achievement, and where there are multiple conflicting demands on space available for concentrated learning. These are also the homes that are less likely to have good Internet connection, or a dedicated PC for academic work. Public libraries are frequent providers of good quality Internet access, often free of charge at the point of use. Public libraries have a proven track record in providing homework and study support over a number of years. 4.3 Public libraries of all sizes are able to provide safe spaces, for work or reading, and suitable seating and desks, as well as a multitude of resources. Closing libraries will increase the demand for the resulting space in the libraries left open, making it less easy for those without the supportive home environment to achieve. 4.4 School libraries can mitigate some of these effects, though schools do not have a statutory duty to provide a school library currently. Also, transport issues can mean that a student is not enabled to stay late in a school library (if it has opening hours which run beyond the school day – by no means a given). Also, some small percentage of students will be reluctant to access a library within school; the non-judgemental space available in a public library can be the place for these students. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Lechlade Town Council Library Working Group (LIB 046) 1. We are responding to the Culture Media and Sport Committee investigation, because we are a good example of a cause where the threat of the library closure has motivated the community to respond with a well argued case to maintain the existing service. It has been supported by public meetings, petitions and the highest community response in Gloucestershire (17%) to the consultation on the published proposals. Lechlade, together with many other towns in Gloucestershire, supported the Public Interest Lawyers in their successful challenge in the High Court to the Gloucestershire County Council’s (GCC) proposals to cease a county managed library service in a number of locations. We are continuing to put our case to GCC for maintaining a county managed library service in Lechlade, with some level of community support if required; however, the outcome is far from certain. Background 2. Lechlade is a market town on the eastern rural border of Gloucestershire and adjacent to Oxfordshire and Wiltshire. The town has had a county managed library service for over 20 years. Lechlade is poorly served by public transport connections with buses running at 2 hourly intervals at best. It is 25 minutes away by car from the nearest main library in Cirencester. A well-supported Library providing essential community services 3. The existing library is well supported. Utilisation, as measured by the proportion of library visits to catchment population, is above the average for Gloucestershire County libraries, excluding main libraries. The library is also well used to support children’s educational activities, reading groups for the elderly, and information to all residents and visitors; it serves as a valuable focus of the Town’s activities. Internet access, and support in using this facility, is also provided; this is a vital facility as services such as bus passes and registering for sheltered housing are now only available on line. Internet access is also the only local opportunity for acquiring information for job seekers, health information and consumer advice as we have no job centre, hospital nor Citizens Advice Bureau locally. The Lechlade library is located in the centre of the town with easy access and adjacent free parking. It is at the heart of the community. The library is the only amenity provided by GCC and, if that goes, the county will have no representation in this important market town. Proposals and rationale from Gloucestershire County Council 4. Faced with the need to reduce its budget by £108M over four years, in November 2010 the GCC carried out a consultation; though it involved less than 2% of the County's population. They then published their intention to cut the libraries’ budget by £4 million and to achieve this by closing up to 10 libraries and withdrawing the mobile library service completely.


5. The GCC assumed that it could meet the provisions of the Libraries and Museum’s Act 1964 (the 1964 Act) by offering communities the chance to take on and run the libraries themselves. 6. The crucial criterion 1 for the location of the main libraries was that no community should be more than 20 minutes from a main library. For Lechlade the nearest library is Cirencester which is a 25 minute drive 2 away; there is also the time and cost of parking to be considered. Buses run at intervals of at least two hours and do not stop near the library. Conversely, Lechlade library is located in the Market Place with free parking and a local bus stop. 7. A second criterion was the usage of the library. However, use per head of catchment population was not factored into the analysis. The utilisation of the Lechlade library is higher than the average use for libraries throughout Gloucestershire, excepting the Main Libraries. 8. A third criterion was stated to be the presence of children’s centres. We comment above on the utilisation of the library by regular children’s groups and ask whether this has been taken into account in the evaluation. Investments in new buildings was a factor in the evaluation but we questioned whether sunk costs should be included in any evaluation. 9. The GCC proposed that the community in Lechlade should operate the library. While the town was keen to maintain a library, a community-run facility was not regarded as meeting the GCC obligations under the 1964 Act. This was in part, because the County would not offer any new books or other services to the community, but also, most importantly, because we believed that an effective library needed qualified, professional library support.

The Judicial Review 10. The GCC proposals for library closures were challenged at a Judicial Review held in September 2011. The main outcome was that GCC was judged to have failed to undertake a proper Equalities Impact Assessment. The seriousness was highlighted by the judge awarding total costs against GCC. 11. GCC is currently developing new plans for the library service which will be published later in January 2012. To what extent the plans for Lechlade will change and whether a library service consistent with the 1964 Act will be provided in the future is uncertain.


Letter 5 January 2011 (sic) from GCC Library Services Manager to Lechlade Town Clerk in response to her letter on 14 December 2010 defines the overriding factor being that the geographical spread of libraries provides reasonable travel time for county residents. The definition of override is to take precedence over all other factors. 2 RAC Route finder.


Response to the specific issues identified by the Committee What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st Century? 12. ‘Comprehensive’ implies a full range of services. While new technologies have brought a revolution in the way we communicate and obtain information, they have not yet replaced the need for a wide range of good quality books. In addition libraries provide many other services including large print books, audio books, books on prescription (advice on issues such as alcoholism and obesity), local information, support and advice. Access to new technology, and the support to use it, is often only available via the library; this is especially true for vulnerable groups such as older people, the disabled and those on low incomes. With the increasing focus on saving costs by making services, such as bus passes and sheltered accommodation, available only on-line, local government is increasing the dependency of these groups on their local library. 13. Older people are especially dependent on the library and Lechlade is in the top third of the county for older people, with 20% of the local population over the age of 65. GCC will discriminate against this group by taking away the current library service on which they depend for books, especially large print and audio books, and services including bus passes and sheltered accommodation. 14. Children are also dependent on the library and Lechlade is also in the top quartile for the County, with 18% of the population under the age of 14. Access to books is essential in developing and maintaining the literacy levels of this group. The Summer Reading Programme is hugely popular with local school children and was cited in the OFSTED report for the local St Lawrence Primary school as a key means of ensuring that the children continue to read through the Summer Holidays, and thus keep up their reading standard and their enthusiasm for reading. Access to the internet is also increasingly an expected part of learning and the library offers this facility. By withdrawing support from vulnerable groups they will be disadvantaged, when compared to their peers in other parts of the County. 15. For other disadvantaged groups such as the disabled, those on low incomes and the unemployed the library provides access to learning, newspapers and work opportunities. Information is also available on health issues, finance and other aspects of everyday living. 16. ‘Comprehensive’ also implies that the service should be readily accessible to the community. The reality is that for many of the more vulnerable groups in our rural community journeys to libraries outside the town will simply not be an option. Buses run infrequently, don't stop near the library nor are they suitable for wheelchair users. Journey times to the nearest main library would involve at least a 50 minute round trip by car and significantly more on the bus. 17. An ‘efficient’ library service should make best use of limited resources. In assessing efficiencies, both the ‘internal’ costs of GCC and the ‘external’ direct, social and environmental costs need to be considered. For example the additional direct and carbon costs of increased journeys to a remote library


should be considered. Our view is that a full disclosure of all costs should be made so that the costs and benefits of the library service can be seen and tested. 18. We are aware that a number of models for operating libraries have been identified across the country. In the London borough of Merton we understand that they have achieved greater levels of efficiency without closing a single library and at the same time actually increased their hours of operation. Closer to home Oxfordshire have used volunteer resources to reduce staff costs and Wiltshire have opted to reduce hours across a number of libraries rather than closing any. We would like to see these ideas being shared more widely, so that all local councils can make the savings they need without withdrawing what we believe to be essential local services. We ourselves have offered to support GCC with some community provision through the supply of resources – volunteer labour and local funding – provided that the management of the facility remains with GCC and the services it provides continue to meet the requirements of the Act. The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report? 19. Although we are not qualified to comment on the legal requirements of the 1964 Act, we would suggest that this may have been made at a time when there was less awareness of the needs of the young, the elderly and vulnerable people. In addition, as outlined above, we feel that libraries continue to provide an essential service and the planned closures would prevent the core requirements of a “comprehensive and efficient library service” to be met. Libraries will need to evolve and changes will need to be made, but these changes should be undertaken in a constructive way ensuring that the core service continues to be available to those who need it most. The impact library closures have on local communities 20. The closure of the library in Lechlade would be devastating to the community. The Town has a significant elderly population, higher than two thirds of the County wards. Lechlade also has a significant population of children, the top quartile of the County. Taken together these groups put us in the top quartile of vulnerable age groups in the county. It cannot be acceptable that such a large population be penalised by having an essential service withdrawn without an equitable alternative. The nearest main library in Cirencester will be more than 25 minutes away by car and the minimum parking fee is £1.30 per hour – an indirect cost of using the library there. Buses run at 2 hourly intervals and the bus stop is a good 10 minute walk from the library – a long way for a parent with small children or an elderly person to carry heavy books. Fairford, which will have a library express, is nearer, but it is on the same infrequent bus route, the bus stop is ½ mile from the library and car parking, although free, is very limited. 21. Libraries are crucial to the vitality of rural areas such as Lechlade. The library provides essential resources such as books, large print books, audio books, DVDs, electricity monitors, access to the internet, photocopying, local maps and all sorts of useful information. The library also supplies “books on prescription”


self-help books on sensitive issues such as alcoholism and obesity which are recommended to patients by the local Medical Practice. 22. Lechlade library is much more than just a library. Situated in the heart of the town it acts as a local meeting place and an information point for both local people and visitors to the town. The local paper is provided to keep people up to date on events in the community and includes important information such as Planning Notices and Licence Applications. The Town's Diary contains all of the key events in the community enabling good planning of events as well as good attendance. Posters are regularly displayed in the windows promoting events and information of relevance to the community. The photocopier is relied on by the many local businesses that cannot afford to own their own. 23. The library also puts on events for numerous groups. Events for children run on a weekly basis and the social networking this provides for the parents and grandparents, as well as the educational stimulation for the children, is greatly valued; attendance at these sessions is proof of their worth. Workshops including practical demonstrations of local crafts such as weaving and talks on local history such as the Roman involvement in the town are arranged on a monthly basis. The Church Youth Group uses the library for their meetings. Local groups use the window to advertise their group activities and gain additional members. 24. The library building in Lechlade is a key feature in the town's Market Place, which is at the heart of a conservation area and is one of the last two public buildings in what was traditionally a retail area. Without the library, the numbers of residents and visitors drawn to the town centre will be reduced. The loss of the library would mean that there was no longer any visible representation of GCC services in the town. 25. The community reaction to the original GCC proposals, expressed at two wellattended public meetings and two petitions – one representing one third of the population – was the strong belief that the County library should be maintained in Lechlade. Only if this primary objective couldn't be achieved, would the town consider a community library; even then it would request was that this continue to be managed GCC. The Town Council recognised this strong view and has sought to negotiate possible options with GCC to maintain a library service. 26. The reluctance to take on a community library reflects the fact that Lechlade has already embraced the “Big Society” in many ways, and there is, therefore, a limit to the level of voluntary resources that may be available to run a community library. In the absence of support from the County, the people of Lechlade already run their own Day Centre and Community transport. Jolly Tots and Little Learners provide pre-school support. The Friends of Fairford hospital provides patient transport services. Funds are raised to enable Prospect Hospice to provide in and out patient care for the terminally ill in our community and additional nurses for our local medical practice. Volunteers to act as First Responders are provided. The town also has an active Emergency Response and Flood action team, which supplements the work of the Environment Agency and Highways. As a community, Lechlade already undertakes many of the roles traditionally


provided by the County. 27. A community-run library, while providing some level of service, is not considered a suitable replacement for a professionally managed service. This view is supported by the Judicial Review which found that the community library did not satisfy the County's statutory obligation. In addition it would discriminate against local residents as they would in effect be paying twice for a library service: they would still make the same contribution to the county's library service through their council tax, whilst also having to fund their own library. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries and Museum’s Act 1964 28. We have little experience to judge how effective the Secretary of State’s powers are under the Act. We had written to the Secretary of State on 7 March 2011 to ask him to intervene on the GCC proposals. While our letter was acknowledged, we have not received any ruling. We of course welcome this inquiry, but without the judicial review, associated injunctions and final judgement it may have been a case of “too little, too late” for libraries such as ours. 29. Although we supported the legal action that resulted in the judicial review, we were disappointed to have to resort to legal action to highlight the inadequacies of the plans being put forward by the County. It is legitimate to wonder, therefore, whether, had the Secretary of State had the powers to act, or to act more swiftly, this action and the associated costs could have been avoided. 30. We hope that the Secretary of State has the powers to ensure that best practice in delivering both comprehensive and efficient library services be shared nationally, so that all communities could benefit from improved and enhanced services rather than the cuts that were being proposed. 31. We also hope that the Secretary of State could intervene to ensure that future cuts in government funding at national level are made in such a way that essential services, such as libraries, are not put at risk. Summary 32. We believe that GCC has a statutory responsibility to support vulnerable groups such as the old and the young. The combined statistics for these older and younger populations in Lechlade put the town in the top quartile for the County. However, the proposed closure of the town's library will hit these two groups the hardest. This proposed closure, combined with the withdrawal of county funding for the Youth Service and School Transport, will be a body blow to one of the county's most outlying townships. 33. Our experience in Lechlade is that there is a strong demand from the community to maintain a service under the 1964 Act and in particular to meet the specific demands of the young and elderly people and those with special needs. From our discussions with other communities, we have ascertained that this is a common view.


34. We welcome your review of the 1964 Act which is nearly 50 years old, to see whether it reflects the present, inclusive needs of all the communities which rely on library services and that the meanings of ‘comprehensive’ and ‘efficient’ are clearly defined. 35. We would hope that your intervention could secure a realistic future for libraries as a key service for local communities particularly those in rural areas where the library plays such a significant role in the community.

January 2012


Written evidence submitted by RNIB (LIB 047) 1. Summary 1.1 RNIB represents the interests of almost two million blind and partially sighted people in the UK. 1.2 The essential elements for a comprehensive and efficient library service are described in CILIP's guidelines "What makes a good library service?" 1.3 The qualities of being comprehensive and efficient must be considered in conjunction with the purpose and values of the library service. 1.4 There should be clearly designated national and local roles and responsibilities making up the library service. 1.5 In addition to the public and private sectors, the third sector could play a greater part in the business model. 1.6 Public libraries have an obligation to provide services to blind and partially sighted people as members of the community. 1.7 Libraries need to make appropriate adjustments to remove the barriers which prevent blind and partially sighted people making use of services. 1.8 Management of libraries by community groups and volunteers could have an unfair impact on minority groups whose needs are not understood or addressed. 1.9 Library closures have a disproportionate impact on blind and partially sighted people. 1.10 Apart from library closures, other library budget cuts are having an adverse impact on blind and partially sighted people. 1.11 The Secretary of State’s powers of intervention are appropriate but underused. 2. Background 2.1 RNIB is the leading organization in the field of sight loss in the UK and represents the interests of almost two million blind and partially sighted people. Two of our priorities are to create an inclusive society and support independent living for blind and partially sighted people. 2.2 Like sighted people, blind and partially sighted people need to be able to read and write in order to work, learn, enjoy leisure activities, shop, travel and play a part in society. However, only 7% of written materials are made available in accessible formats that can be


read by blind and partially sighted people (LISU, 2011) and many barriers are put in the way of accessible reading and library services. 2.3 Therefore a major part of our work, as a leading member of the Right to Read Alliance, is to influence libraries, publishers, bookshops, reading agencies and other stakeholders to deliver more accessible services. We also provide library services, where there is market failure, to blind and partially sighted people with the most specialized needs. 2.4 We have a successful track record of working with public libraries, CILIP, the Society of Chief Librarians and other library organizations on strategic and practical initiatives such as Share the Vision, Reading Sight website, Six Steps, Make a Noise in Libraries, Summer Reading Challenge, World Book Day, North East Accessible Library & Information Services, provision of Talking Books, Giant Print and Braille etc. We are a leading member of IFLA’s Section for Persons with Print Disabilities. 3. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century? 3.1 Our views on this question are influenced by CILIP’s useful guidelines “What makes a good library service?”, revised 2010. 3.2 In order to decide what makes a library comprehensive and efficient, some consideration must first be given to its purpose. We believe that a library service should provide opportunities for everyone to develop their potential through access to information, reading and cultural activity and help to deliver key policy objectives that strengthen the community, such as economic regeneration, community cohesion, success for children and young people, a fulfilling life for older people, health and well being, and equality and social justice. With a presence throughout the local authority, the public library service is in a strong position to have a positive influence on community development. 3.3 An effective library service does not stand still, but anticipates and adapts to change. Notable developments since 1964 are the emergence of new digital media and methods of communication and the changing demographics and needs of society. 3.4 The values of public libraries have been much discussed and in our view include the important elements of democratic engagement, equal opportunities and social justice. 3.5 In order to deliver an efficient library service that fulfils the purpose and deliver the values described above, we would expect to see clear roles and responsibilities at national and local level. 3.6 We would like to see strong library leadership at a national level delivering an inspiring vision for libraries, backed by strategic plans and national offers. It's a source of envy that our international work often brings us into contact with other countries where specialist


library services for print disabled people are fully integrated into national and/or public library services, unlike in the UK. 3.7 At local level we would expect to see organisational leadership, strategic planning and innovation. Each library service should identify and meet local needs by engaging with the local community and by participating in a national library network and national offers. 3.8 It is valuable for libraries to explore new delivery models, such as shared services and outsourcing, that could realise efficiencies. There are many examples, not only those that are currently being developed via the Future Libraries Programme/Libraries Development Initiative. 3.9 We would also like to see innovative partnerships put in place, not only between the public and private sectors but also with the third sector. 3.10 A comprehensive service must address the needs of all members of the community and be available to everyone. The Equality Act clearly states that reasonable adjustments must be made to ensure that people do not experience any barriers to accessing information or services. 3.11 It has long been our concern that the library needs of blind and partially sighted people are not adequately or consistently met by all library authorities. In lieu of any legislation or standards, Share the Vision developed the Six Steps benchmark, setting out the basic requirements of an accessible library service. During 2011, Six Steps was adopted in principle by 180 library authorities throughout the UK. 3.12 To provide a comprehensive and efficient service, all the features described in the 1964 Act, recently amplified and updated in CILIP’s guidelines, need to take into consideration accessibility for people with print disabilities, for example 3.12.1 Employment of skilled and trained staff who understand the needs of blind and partially sighted people. 3.12.2 Convenient physical access to the service via accessible buildings, ICT equipment, websites and access technology. There should also be alternative means of access for people who cannot travel to the library building, such as delivery via mobile, housebound and online services. 3.12.3 Provision of sufficient quantity and range of accessible reading materials, such as large print and audio books, accessible ebooks, and referral to specialist sources of content and support that complement public library services, an example being RNIB’s Talking Books Service. 3.12.4 Accessible activities, such as inclusive reading groups.


3.12.5 Encouragement to blind and partially sighted adults and children to make full use of the service through local contacts with schools, societies and patient groups and participation in the annual Make a Noise in Libraries awareness campaign. 3.12.6 Provision of advice and tools, such as Reading Sight, Your Reading Choices and the appointment of a champion to facilitate such work. 3.12.7 Access to other services and organisations, through collaboration with local authority departments, the health sector, national agencies and local societies for visually impaired people. 3.13 In the interest of protecting the attributes of being comprehensive and fair, we do not wish to see responsibility for library services pass from the local authority to community groups or volunteers, because of the risk that the needs of minority groups with specialist requirements will not be understood or addressed. 4. The extent to which the planned closures are compatible with the requirements of the 1964 Act and the Charteris Report 4.1 We accept that, if a library service is to meet its purpose and remain efficient, the location of library buildings must be kept under review. There have been good examples of libraries being relocated to more convenient places, often co-located with other services, to meet the needs of communities that have changed shape or patterns of behaviour. 4.2 Nevertheless, the closure of local libraries is a great concern to blind and partially sighted people, amongst many others, because many of them are elderly, have additional health problems and find it difficult to use public transport. The same can be said for closure of mobile library and housebound services, specialist support units and redundancy of specialist posts. Blind and partially sighted people are less likely than sighted people to be able to travel further afield and have few, if any, alternative sources of supply and support. 4.3 It is encouraging that Charteris found that Wirral was in breach of its statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient service under the 1964 Act because it did not take account of the views and needs of local people. The report refers to the needs of disabled people and a major criticism of the Council was that it did not carry out an Equality Impact Assessment. The closure of libraries in Somerset and Gloucestershire was also overturned by the High Court on the grounds of equality impact. 4.4 The quality of library service for blind and partially sighted people is affected not only by library closures but also by other budget cuts, which may be less obvious to members of the public at present but are likely to have a significant effect on quality of service in the medium term. While we appreciate the current resource constraints, we believe that it is necessary, and indeed good value when times are tough, to invest in libraries to support the continuing wellbeing of the community.


4.5 Given that standards of service are already patchy, there is a risk that budget cuts are having a disproportionate impact on blind and partially sighted people. For example 4.5.1 With materials budgets reduced between 10% and 40%, there is a risk that libraries cut disproportionately on purchases of large print and audio books, because they are more expensive than print books. 4.5.2 Most libraries have not yet invested in ebooks which could, for the first time, offer an equitable accessible reading experience to blind and partially sighted people. 4.5.3 There is increasing use of self issue systems that are inaccessible to blind and partially sighted people. 4.5.4 Despite the fact that over half of the people in the UK who do not yet use digital technologies are disabled people, there is still inadequate provision of access technology in libraries and insufficient personal learning support. 4.5.5 There are fewer trained and experienced staff available to help blind and partially sighted people, and suggestions that some libraries may be entirely unstaffed. 4.5.6 Libraries and social care teams do not necessarily work closely together and increasingly fail to refer blind and partially sighted people with specialised reading requirements to appropriate services, such as RNIB Talking Books. Our service is often described as a lifeline by people whose needs cannot be met by public libraries, so it is a serious concern that local authority funded subscriptions to the service fell by 8% in the year to November 2011. 4.5.7 There is little resource for libraries to collaborate with other organisations to develop and promote specialised services and this leads to high dependency on agencies such as RNIB. We support libraries throughout the UK free of charge by providing tools such as Make a Noise in Libraries and the Reading Sight website. 5. The impact library closures have on local communities 5.1 We accept that it is the responsibility of local politicians in consultation with local communities to determine the balance between competing needs for local services, community wellbeing and financial husbandry. However, the closure of a library space that is known and trusted by the community is a loss that may not be entirely and adequately replaced by an alternative or substitute service. 5.2 The loss of the community asset is most keenly felt by vulnerable members of the local community, namely, the young, the old, the unemployed, the disabled and the poorer members of society. They are least able to travel to a library service further away or to purchase what they would previously have borrowed from the library. This is particularly


the case for blind and partially sighted people as many find it difficult to travel outside their local area and do not have the financial resources to purchase large print and audio books. 6. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the 1964 Act 6.1 It is disappointing that successive Secretaries of State have failed to use their powers in the public interest where appropriate. On the rare occasions they have been used, in Derbyshire and Wirral, they have had the required effect of achieving change and improvement. 7. Notes 7.1 RNIB would welcome the opportunity to provide oral evidence to the Committee’s inquiry. We are willing for this written submission to be made publicly available. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Watchet Library Friends Group (LIB 048) Executive Summary Watchet Library Friends (WLF) supported the successful legal challenge mounted by Friends of Somerset Libraries (FOSL) to the decisions by Somerset County Council (SCC) to withdraw funding from eleven libraries in Somerset. WLF support the co-location of services in consultation with the community. WLF believe the planned library closures and the substitution by community libraries mean that SCC will fail to provide a Comprehensive and Efficient library service, especially to elderly, disabled, vulnerable and young people within our community. WLF believe the impact on communities where a library closes is catastrophic for all people, whether in a disadvantaged category or not and people of all ages. WLF believe the Secretary of State (SOS) has completely failed to exercise his powers under the 1964 act effectively. 1 Introduction 1.1 Watchet is a community of around 4,000 people on the north coast of Somerset. It has a Town Council (WTC) and is provided with services by West Somerset District Council (WSC) and Somerset County Council (SCC) who is the library authority. The community was a trading port for many hundreds of years and following its closure in the late twentieth century, has struggled to survive economically. 1.2 WLF is a community group set up following an initiative by Watchet Town Council who were distressed to learn in January 2011 that SCC were proposing to cease funding Watchet library with effect from 1st October 2011. WLF adopted a constitution using the Charities Commission model for small societies, opened a bank account and acted as banker for the raising of the Community Contribution demanded by the Legal Services Commission to allow the legal challenge to the decisions made by SCC to proceed as detailed in the Friends of Somerset Libraries (FOSL) submission. 1.3 WLF have supported the legal action against SCC led by FOSL and wish to be associated with submissions made to the Select Committee on their behalf. This submission has been drawn up by Peter Murphy as chair of WLF in consultation with the WLF committee. I am a retired teacher, an elected member of WTC and WSC. 2 A comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century 2.1 WLF recognise that library buildings devoted exclusively to library services are less sustainable in the digital age. Nevertheless, we believe that the library in a community is an important symbol of a civilised society being a point of service delivery of education and enlightenment to all in the community who wish to make use of such services. 2.2 The network of buildings has developed in a different information age but they broadly exist in settlements of over 4,000 people and fulfill a community function in such settlements. A comprehensive provision has a geographical component with which this assists. Comprehensive provision also relates to the range of services


provided by libraries in addition to books such DVDs, periodicals, internet access, reference materials etc 2.3 Library services in a settlement can be delivered alongside other functions in order to maximise the use of community facilities. An evaluation of the feasibility of this is needed in a cross local authority approach - in Somerset, some services are delivered at County level, others at District Council level and others by parishes and volunteers. As long as professional librarian input in a community is maintained, then volunteers and other service delivery can be combined under the same roof. This contributes to the efficient provision of services. 2.4 The Stoate family who owned a mill in the town, paid for the purchase of the old lifeboat house and for it to be converted into a library which was leased to SCC to run as a library in 1953. The family gave the building to Watchet Urban District Council (WUDC) to look after on behalf of the citizens of Watchet. In 1974, the ownership of the building passed to WSC as WUDC ceased to exist. In 2011, Watchet Town Council (WTC) commenced negotiations with WSC to transfer the building back to the town. The intention is to secure the future of the building as a library and a community building in line with the Stoate family’s original intention. The son of the benefactor accompanied FOSL campaigners to the judicial review hearing to show his support for the cause. 3 The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report 3.1 The announcement by SCC of the cessation of funding of Watchet library gave the community eight months to respond before the axe fell. SCC proposed to “hand the library to the community to run”. SCC did not hold a meeting to discuss this in Watchet but chose to hold a meeting in a community over two miles away whose library was not due to close. Watchet Town Council called a meeting to allow residents to put their views to SCC councilors and officers. The meeting was totally against the closure and there was little interest to run the library but some were prepared to volunteer to help SCC in running the library if they continued to fund it. 3.2 Watchet is a community with a strong community spirit. Many organisations exist which are supported and run by volunteers. There is a successful Carnival and Music Festival in August run by a Community Interest Company in the town. They hold a programme of fund raising events during the year towards the costs. A Kids festival, a Summertime festival, a Community Bookshop, two museums, the Phoenix Centre (providing a range of services to young and old), two brass bands, Sea Scouts (RN Recognised), Guides, Coastguard service are amongst the activities run by volunteers in the town. This is in addition to a whole range of clubs and societies run by volunteers which provide entertainment and enrichment for residents such as a Museum Society, Conservation Society, Mothers’ club, boxing club etc 3.3 There was a recognition by Watchet people that library services were provided from Council Tax paid to SCC and that WTC should not be seeking to raise tax from residents to run the library as this was already considered paid for by tax to SCC. At the time of the SCC consultation, the WTC precept for the following year was already set and SCC were told that WTC could not take on the £20,000 cost even if they had


wanted to. There was a recognition that voluntary effort should not replace library services provided by professional staff but could supplement it. 3.4 Following the town meeting, there was a week before the SCC meeting to approve the cut to the library services budget. Over 500 signatures were collected to a petition in Watchet calling on SCC to think again over the planned cuts which would cause the closure of Watchet library. At the SCC meeting, there was considerable public participation through speeches and petitions amounting to over 35,000 signatures against the library budget cuts but SCC still agreed them. 3.5 WLF believe that the SCC cuts would mean the service was not compatible with the 1964 Act to provide a Comprehensive and Efficient service and chose to support the legal challenge. The result was that SCC were found to have breeched their statutory duties under Equalities legislation and the cuts were quashed. The judge was not asked to rule if the service did meet the requirements of the 1964 Act, noting that the SOS had a reserve power to make that judgment. 4 The impact library closures have on local communities 4.1 The library in Watchet is a valued community resource. SCC figures show that over the last five years, the use of Watchet library has increased by 49% when the average figure in Somerset is a reduction in visitors of over 20%. The nearest other library is in the community of Williton which is over two miles away. Although linked by a reasonable bus service, those without passes will incur bus fares for themselves and any accompanying children if they wish to visit the library. Those with mobility issues will find greater difficulty in visiting the library. The local primary school will find it much more difficult to visit the library as they cannot just walk the children down into the town. All who wish to visit the library will have to devote more time to achieve that wish. Many more car journeys will take place resulting in increased traffic congestion with increased cost and carbon footprint. Many individual witness statements from disadvantaged members of our community were submitted as evidence in the legal action. 4.2 Watchet is a deprived community. In Watchet / Williton, from West Somerset Joint Needs Assessment, NHS Somerset & Somerset County Council - October 2010 the following are of interest, comparing in brackets with Somerset as a whole: 35% Problem with people not treating each other with respect & consideration (26%) 3.2% JSA claimants (2.4%), 0.4% claiming LSA for more than a year (0.1%) 28.1 Index of multiple deprivation (16) 28.0 Deprivation scores in education & training (18.3) 34% Under 16s in poverty (16%) Watchet falls within the top 40% of most deprived areas in the country. Watchet features in the top 20% quintile in the employment domain in 2010. etype=Inline When LSOA data is combined to ward level, Watchet is amongst the top ten of most deprived wards in Somerset.

214 etype=Attachment In addition to having a higher level of overall deprivation compared to some parts of Somerset, compared to other seaside towns of a similar size in England, Watchet’s overall rank (in 2007) was also poor: only Sutton on Sea, Withernsea, Chapel St Leonards and Mablethorpe had a lower ranking than Watchet. See “England’s Smaller Seaside Towns: a benchmark study”, CLG, 2011. The local first school has 25% pupils eligible for free school meals, 32% of pupils are on the SEN register. 4.3 “The Library is about a 5 minute walk from my house. I use the Library for books; especially audio books. I am on Income Support, and am dyslexic, and I really enjoy listening to audio books. I find it easier to remember books if I hear books, rather than read them. It’s a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, and it doesn’t cost anything. I also use the Library for internet access. Although I have internet access at home, because I live in a rural area, the line is often down and my internet is cut off. I use the internet for online banking, sending emails, and sometimes selling on Ebay. I know a lot of the elderly people use the Library. They read, listen to DVDs and CDs, and use it for the internet. They are also able to order larger print books. In addition to visiting the Library myself, I often take friends’ children to the Library. The children range from 5 to 13 years of age, and they primarily go for the books and internet access. Some of the children have learning difficulties, so they find the Library particularly useful. Others find the variety of books on offer a welcome break from school reading. The children’s area is in an upstairs balcony, and the children are able to run around and have social contact in a safe environment. If Watchet Library were to close, the closest library would be Williton. Williton can’t be walked to by the elderly, or by those with children. It is unlikely that anyone would make this walk in the winter time. The only other way for people like me to get to Williton is by bus, but since we have some of the highest bus fares in the country, people on benefits such as myself, or the elderly and disabled, would be unable to make this journey. My library access would be effectively cut off.” Rebecca Hird, extract from witness statement , successful plaintiff in judicial review case V. SCC 4.4 “All the members of the Phoenix are shocked to learn that the Library is to close in October if no solution to the cut-backs is found. We are all volunteers. We have more than 100 members and the elderly and the younger people love to meet and the library is just the place for them to do so – then into the Phoenix for coffee! There is no other similar facility in Watchet. We run three Day Clubs – Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday each week. Many members bring themselves along to the Phoenix and library in their wheelchairs, motorised buggies, or strollers, and for those who can’t we can arrange voluntary transport of people from their homes to enjoy the day at the Phoenix Centre. At the Phoenix Centre we are able to change library books for these people or if they are able, maybe to go into the library and choose their own. If the Library closes, they


would not be able to access a library facility in Watchet, and the majority could not travel to a library in a different town.” Jean Howe, MBE, extract from witness statement , in successful judicial review case V. SCC 4.5 “I am 15 years of age. I have lived in Watchet, Somerset, for 10 years. I moved here when I was 5 years old, and have been a regular user of the library for the last 9 years. When I was younger my parents would take me to Watchet library and I’d sit in the kids section reading for hours. It was an important part of my childhood because it helped develop my reading and make new friends. As I‘ve grown older, coming to Watchet library has developed my interest in literature and my confidence. The library itself is not just a place for learning new things but the only proper communal place in our town. We’ve never had a community hall in Watchet and I think it’s important to have a place where people of all ages can meet each other.” Meredith Gray, extract from witness statement , in successful judicial review case V. SCC 4.6 “I am an 85 year old great grandmother, and have been a library member ever since I could first read. I first lived in Watchet in 1954 when my children were growing up. We used the library as a family, with the Brownies when I was Brown Owl, and when I founded the Red Cross section in the town, along with others. I returned to live in Watchet in 2009 and immediately rejoined the library. As a disabled person with both mobility and sight impairment (I cannot drive), I find our local library, its location, and facilities invaluable. Without assistance, I will be unable to travel to Williton to use the facilities there. There are many others like me. Watchet Library easy for me to access independently, which is important for the elderly and disabled, providing large print, talking books, cds and computer facilities such as the internet. I do not have a computer myself. It also enables me to meet many different social groups: the elderly, young people, mothers, and families. The library is adjacent to our Phoenix club for the elderly on the Esplanade, and in the absence of a community hall in Watchet the library acts as a common meeting ground for all the diverse groups.” Pat Wilks, extract from witness statement , in successful judicial review case V. SCC 5 The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964. 5.1 Members of WLF have written to SOS to ask him to exercise his powers under the Act but he has failed to do so. He took a very long time to reply and when he did so, he assured us he was monitoring the situation. He met SCC officers in March in London but despite an FOI request made by one of our members, nothing has been released into the public domain to enable us to judge whether he has exercised his powers effectively. Perhaps you can encourage greater transparency in government and assess the extent to which SOS has exercised his powers under the 1964 Act. 5.2 The Charteris Report into planned closures of libraries in the Wirral was the last time the SOS visibly exercised this power. The result of this was that the council pulled back from making the library cuts it had intended. There have been many councils in 2011 which have been considering library service cuts. The SOS has failed to give a lead by promoting a clear view of what a Comprehensive and Efficient library service might look like in the 21st century and whether planned cuts fall short of doing so.


6 Recommendations to the Select Committee I would respectfully request that the committee recommendations:




6.1 Call for a Public Enquiry into the library service to examine what constitutes a Comprehensive and Efficient service in the 21st century. This, I suggest is necessary because of the perceived inaction by SOS. 6.2 Such an enquiry to examine planned cuts in areas where there has been organised opposition such as Somerset to assess if the provision is a Comprehensive and Efficient service in the 21st century. This, I suggest is necessary because of the perceived inaction by SOS. 6.3 Such an enquiry to be announced by the SOS to include a direction (if possible) to councils considering substantial branch closures to freeze any action pending the result of the Public Enquiry. This I believe is necessary to prevent further expensive legal action which would follow such decisions being progressed. 6.4 To recommend that councils reviewing their library service engage with local and countywide groups who represent library users at an early stage. In Somerset, SCC have communicated with local communities and have been reluctant to engage with FOSL (continuing). 6.5 To consider whether the actions of the Legal Services Commission in the Somerset legal challenge were proper as they made the access to justice much more difficult, and to recommend a solution. Submission by John Irven informs. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Users and Friends of Manor House Library (LIB 049) 1.


• Until August 2010 the London borough of Lewisham operated a passable library service, from 12 locations giving “comprehensive” and accessible coverage for all its residents. This had been reinforced well since the implementation of the Public Library Service Standards. It was a great mistake to first dilute then remove them altogether. The Peoples’ Network further improved the information/education side of the service, but after 3 years the funding moved on elsewhere so costs for maintenance of equipment, updating technology etc. fell on local authorities to find out of library budgets. • The Executive Director of Community Services repeatedly told each of the 10 main consultation meetings that there was no alternative to closure of 5 libraries, the outcome was predetermined. The service had to be reduced by cutting staff to save £830,000. In fact, Lewisham presented a master class in how not to do it and how to create a failing two tier library service. Are not all the people of Lewisham entitled to the same service for their tax payers’ money? • At the same time the DCMS minister and the Secretary of State were kept informed of the situation from the user point of view. They have overseen the virtual collapse of the service in Lewisham. • Reports, consultations, seminars, papers, investigations all concerning the Public Library Service have been legion in the last 15 years. We have attended many of them and contributed on behalf of the user. But there has been no improvement in general and a marked deterioration in many authorities, including Lewisham. The voice of the user, usually requiring good, plentiful stock, trained, experienced, helpful staff, pleasant surroundings in accessible buildings with information and other activities available, is virtually ignored. The Roberts Report 1959: Worth reading, this report was presented to Parliament by the Ministry of Education by Command of HM in February 1959. It has valuable points. • The library service in library authorities should be “comprehensive.” “Adequate stock accompanied by expert guidance, particularly for children and young adults.” “Other uses of the library.” “Adequately staffed, adequately housed with efficient and enthusiastic librarians, supported by qualified staff working in suitable premises.” • The 1919 Public Libraries Act was not seen to be achieving this consistently so it was decided statutory bodies were required to take account of “local interest, local tradition and a personal association of readers with the librarian and staff. Democracy would be served by public opinion expressing itself through local councils … the right and proper measure.” At the time the Ministry of Education was to exercise general


responsibility along with two advisory bodies with ministerial power being the ultimate sanction. This was to supervise the statutory authority on local authorities to provide an efficient library service. The report often refers to the reader and the public, an attitude sadly lacking in 2010/2011. Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964: This is still in place but has already been ignored by certain ministers, officials and local authorities. How is it defensible that the reader, the library user and the public actually have to take legal action to force the implementation of parliamentary legislation still on the statute books? What kind of example is this to public opinion? Don’t do as I do, do as I say! And there are many who cannot afford legal action!! Where in Lewisham is our “comprehensive and efficient service for all its residents?” Charteris Report: the results of what happened in Lewisham no longer meet “local need.” 2. Lewisham council’s library and information service: 2.1 In early 2008 The Mayor of Lewisham began the Mayor’s Commission on Libraries and Learning. It reported in June 2009. The Commission comprised mostly professional representatives, council officials, one councillor from each party on the council body, the Mayor and 3 users. We were completely outnumbered. The one library user had no knowledge of the Lewisham library service in general, library legislation, current reports on the service etc. etc. and did not attend all the meetings. I (Patricia Richardson) was on board as an Adult Education user. After 2 meetings we requested an additional AE user as the task was impossible for one user. It was agreed. I asked for The Commission’s existence to be made public, to encourage user feedback. This did not happen. In fact the focus groups organised for the libraries’ policy attracted minimal interest, a low of 2 attendees, a high of 6, from a borough of 250,000 residents! I attended every single meeting and at the end my co-user and I went through the draft report and spent over 2 hours with the manager trying to make clear what was said about both libraries and Adult Education. At no time was it clear from the report that the library policy announced in July 2010 was what was being recommended. 2.2 Elections May 2010: The forthcoming libraries’ policy announcement was made in July 2010. A democratic challenge now waits until May 2014. Lewisham officers had been discussing policy with alternative providers long before the public knew.


Two consultation meetings were held for each of the 5 libraries under threat. (Refer maps) Each library was treated individually and not as part of the borough library service. 2.3 Our Lewisham Our Say: July 2010. This was on the back of saving public money. The general public recommendation was that cuts should not occur. Services should be kept ticking over, even if reduced. Then they could be revived if prosperity increased. The survey was available digitally and put before local assemblies. The latter serve each of 18 wards, attracting between 70/80 attendees. 2.4 Eventually we presented an alternative budget strategy, as did another member of the public. Based on the Council’s own Library Budget Book in spread-sheet form, both these independently produced alternative strategies showed savings of approximately double those ostensibly required by the Council achievable without the loss of any branch library. Neither was accepted by the Council. 2.5 There was huge public anger and resentment: From 1/4/2009 to 31/3/2010 the 5 libraries under threat racked up 327,000 visits and issued 264,000 items. (Refer attached figures.) Petition (25,443 signatures) meetings, marches, MPs, councillors, ministers, PM, Deputy PM, CMS Committee all were heavily lobbied. Opposition councillors from the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and the Greens proposed alternatives and/or tabled motions against the policy. 2.6 The council went ahead with its plans regardless. Providers were asked to register and bid to run 4 of the libraries. There were 13 original registrants. On presentation day there were 4 present, two offering to run 4 libraries, two offering to run one or two and Age Exchange Charity to run Blackheath – the latter were not present, as that was a done deal. The council had virtually NO choice hence the advice from officers to Mayor and Cabinet on 11th May 2011. Commenting on the Eco Computer Systems bid to run 4 “community” libraries, the Evaluation Panel was concerned about the viability of the bid, scale of growth required, the strain on the company this would create, the possible financial failure of the company, the deterioration in the condition of 3 structurally risky buildings. Final advice stated, “Should either the financial or buildings related risks arise, this could lead to a reputational risk to the Council … Officers acknowledge that these risks are real and that possible mitigation measures are limited.” Yet Mayor and Cabinet agreed to pursue a risky venture in spite of pleading poverty. This must also have been acceptable to the DCMS. 2.7 The five libraries as they had been, New Cross, Crofton Park, Grove Park, Sydenham, Blackheath Village, closed on 28th May 2011.


3. The result: 3.1 New Cross library was taken out of the equation, 3 libraries were handed over on a 25 year lease to ECS. Blackheath Library became the responsibility of Age Exchange Charity. Amazingly Lewisham Council, again pleading poverty, found £200,000 of public money to give to the charity as it was providing the building for the new library facility. The issue never came up for public consultation and would have paid the rent on the larger old library building for 3 years. How many professional staff would it have employed over a year? 3.2 New Cross has been left to be managed by a group of community minded citizens who are determined the library should remain. Even this is not guaranteed as the community tries to raise funds to keep going and provide volunteers, under extreme pressure from the council. This is the most deprived area of Lewisham in one of the most deprived boroughs in the country with its crime and social problems, poor educational attainment, youth unemployment and poor level of facilities. The National Literacy Trust report earlier this year unequivocally supported the importance of reading for pleasure and its beneficial effects on learning. The new facility at Deptford, at least a mile away, was not due to open until 1st January 2012. The old facility closed at the end of September 2011. Therefore that area had no library presence. Yet the council found £200,000 for a better off area in Lewisham?!!!!! 3.3 Book Stock: was removed from each of the 5 libraries e.g. Blackheath Village Library had 21,000 books, averaging visits of 6000 per month in 2010/11, with monthly issues averaging 5000. The new temporary facility claims to have 6000 items of stock, but a generous count could only manage 4000, and no, they are not being borrowed because the borrowing figures have collapsed. Are these facilities any longer libraries at all? It is virtually impossible for anyone who is interested in the welfare of the Lewisham Library Service to discover how, when, where new stock will be supplied, if at all. 3.4 Refer tables of figures. The collapse in visits and issues at the “community” libraries is alarming. There has also been a downturn in figures for the other libraries. Is this a reflection of the uncertainty over the future for libraries in Lewisham? In addition the sudden upturn at Crofton Park and Sydenham Community Libraries in October 2011, is astounding, barely believable, but then Lewisham has form. At the Downham Health and Leisure Centre, which contains a Lewisham library, the counter for library visits is at the entrance to the café. All are counted in, whether they visit the library or not. 3.5 Schools and Libraries summary, Impact of Library Closures on Children, Young People and Local Schools 15/4/2011, this Lewisham council report quite clearly states that adopting its library policy will have a deleterious effect on all local


schools near such a “community” library. It had little impact on Mayor and Cabinet. Did the DCMS officials see it? 3.6 Community Managed Libraries Report by MLA June 2011: Lewisham Council Library Service Policy was presented to MLA as “a sophisticated model” and named as such in its report. When challenged by local users the MLA said “Lewisham said it!” MLA made no attempt to investigate, visit, talk to users or deal with users’ highly critical report. MLA seriously needs to examine such poor methodology and putting out such contentious, un-investigated information as being well founded! 3.7 Staffing; Each “community” library, mostly dependent on volunteers, is still constantly asking for volunteers. Why is it assumed that a professionally trained, experienced member of staff can be replaced by a volunteer? From where is a large pool of volunteers to come? 3.8 Staff restructuring: This was a result of redundancies, the object of the exercise, and has led to damage to the Lewisham reference library as well as the Local History department. These effects need to be seriously examined by the DCMS. Thus far both have been ignored. 4. Failures 4.1 No pilot programme was required by the Mayor and Cabinet or the DCMS. 4.2 No cost benefit analysis was asked for. 4.3 No account taken of the deprivation of Lewisham borough in certain areas, education, literacy, communication, youth unemployment, in connection with the benefits of a library presence. 4.4 No consultation with other boroughs. Lewisham’s Grove Park library, Sydenham library and New Cross are close to borough boundaries. The new facility for Blackheath, which will not now be ready until December 2012 (promised for summer 2012 and currently in a temporary home) is and will actually be in Greenwich. 4.5 No attempt whatsoever by the Minister or SoS to ensure implementation of the 1964 Act. It is their statutory duty. DCMS made little attempt to continue to work through channels opened up with users. 4.6 CIPFA figures for library returns, including so-called “community” libraries, will no doubt damage the reputation of the library service in Lewisham. 4.7 No results answering repeated requests for information determining how decisions were made, what information the DCMS had or asked for from Lewisham Council. Prevarication was the name of the game by both the Council and the DCMS. The public has no evidence of DCMS monitoring.


5. Conclusions 5.1 Mr. Ed Vaizey M.P. prior to taking office, while a shadow minister, rightly berated Andy Burnham MP, Secretary of State at the DCMS, for his inaction over library closures proposed in The Wirral. Mr. Burnham eventually set up an enquiry, which solved the problem. 5.2 However, Mr. Vaizey has sat back and ignored the melt down of the library service in England. He is answerable to the Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP, who seems to require no answers. 5.3 There is something seriously wrong with a government which cannot see the value of an institution which achieves so much, so cheaply and is capable of achieving much more for the benefit of all its residents. 5.4 We have misgovernment, mismanagement on a grand scale and no democratic answer in sight. What do people in Lewisham do now, to retrieve what they had? The 1964 Act was meant to provide the whole country with an equal service, for the benefit of all residents. That is no longer the case. January 2012 Attached documents: 1 1. Comparative maps showing the effect on residents of closed libraries. 2. Question no.2 to Lewisham Council, 29/11/2011, from Cllr David Britton, Cons 3. Tables of Lewisham Library Service Issues/Visits figures, 2010/11, 2011/12


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Written evidence submitted by Mrs J E Orman (LIB 050) Summary • The Select Committee is to investigate changes to the Public Library system, following decisions made by a number of Public Library Authorities. • I write in connection with the actions proposed and taken by the Isle of Wight Council, the Library Authority for where I live and pay Council Tax. • I have placed my views below and shown evidence in each of the four areas that are to be considered. • I write to highlight where I feel that the Isle of Wight Council is shown to be in default of its statutory obligations under the PLMA 1964 and, indeed flouted the written advices given by the Charteris Report. • The Isle of Wight Council would also appear to be ignoring its ‘duty of care’ responsibility to the people under its jurisdiction, especially those with special needs and vulnerability. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century. Under current legislation, a comprehensive library service for the 21st century is the statutory duty of every library authority. This requirement is as relevant today as it was set out quite clearly in the Public Libraries and Museums Act (PLMA) 1964 and subsequent minor adjustments contained in the Local Government Act 1972 and the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, together with accompanying Statutory Instruments. The materials and services supplied by a library authority have changed, modernised, and been upgraded over the years to comply with the needs and aspirations of those qualified to use the service, whilst remaining within the statutory requirements of the PLMA 1964. Special care must be taken in all areas of deprivation not to lose the duty of care responsibility for those people. The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report. The Isle of Wight Council is the Library Authority for the Island and the planned closures of branches to its direct responsibility that have taken place together with other actions taken by the Authority, have clearly shown the Authority to be in default of the legislation.


At the same time, it is apparent by its actions that the Isle of Wight Library Authority has chosen to ignore much of the advice given in the Charteris Report 2009. On the Isle of Wight, the Library Service Headquarters, Newport and Ryde branches libraries have seen very little change. Cowes, Freshwater, Sandown and Ventnor branches have been retained but with reduced opening days/hours and staffing levels. The remaining five branch libraries – those at Bembridge, Brighstone, East Cowes, Niton and Shanklin have been closed as Library Authority libraries. *The six branch libraries that are to stay open and fully operated by the Library authority are all housed in dedicated library buildings, as set out in Section 8 of the PMLA 1964. However, only the branches in Newport and Ryde continue to have all the facilities and services provided before April 2011. *Four of the branches that have been closed as Library Authority libraries were not housed in dedicated library buildings. These buildings are in the course of being leased directly or indirectly through an outside body not a library authority, to the respective Town/Parish Council for the area, so that a ‘community’ library may be set up in those areas. *It is intended that the former library branch at Shanklin, which was housed in a dedicated library building, will be handed over to be run as a ‘community’ library run by volunteers. This is contrary to the regulations contained in the PLMA 1964, Section 8 and subsequent legislation. *Staffing at all these ‘community’ libraries is to be carried out by volunteers. *This is contrary to the regulations laid down in the PLMA 1964, as it means that each respective Town/Parish Council has had to raise its precept to carry out the function of a public library service, although not a designated public library authority. The council taxpayers in these areas are now paying twice for their library service. Although the provision of books and some other materials will continue to be carried out by the Isle of Wight Council, it will no longer take responsibility for these community libraries building maintenance and running costs. *References 1 – Isle of Wight Council Delegated Decision Report “The Library Review: Concluding Stage (Decision Reference 3811 Dated 30.9.2011. - Isle of Wight Council “One Island” Magazine – Issue 34 Dated Dec. 2011- page 18. The Impact library closures have on local communities. Apart from the major towns of Newport, Ryde and Cowes, the Island is largely rural.


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Public transport availability and its cost is a major factor on the Island. This means that families especially cannot travel readily to the major towns – either there is no bus service available or the cost is prohibitive. Unemployment, especially among the 16-24 age-group is above the national average. Parts of the Isle of Wight fall within the three lowest gradings on the National Index of Multiple Deprivation Scale. The Isle of Wight Council has undertaken Equality Impact Assessments for Brighstone, Bembridge, East Cowes, Niton and Shanklin but only recently at the time of the decision taken on 30th September 2011, when it has taken into account the fact that there would be four community libraries taking over its responsibilities in those areas, except Shanklin. Although the area and stops for the one Mobile Library Service have been increased slightly, a second Mobile Service vehicle will only become available when the Housebound Service is taken over by the Voluntary Service sector. There is a limited on-line service but this presumes that everyone who would like to use it is computer literate and has a computer available to them. This is far from the ‘norm’ on the Isle of Wight, with a lower ‘take-up’ of ICT facilities than the national average. Even with those six branches remaining open, staffing levels have been reduced and consequently opening days/hours have been lessened. Staffing levels have been reduced by 45% - 45 full time equivalent posts down to 25 full time equivalent posts. There were around 15 compulsory redundancies, with the remainder taking early retirement or voluntary redundancy. With this large reduction in staffing levels there is no way the library service can now be considered to be efficient, in order to meet the statutory requirements under the PMLA 1964. The general erosions in the level of service now provided, particularly away from the two main population centres and, combined with the reduction in opening days/hours, have seriously undermined the library service on the Isle of Wight, which can no longer be defined as comprehensive under the terms of the PLMA 1964. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 The Secretary of State has wide powers available to him under the Public Libraries and Museum Act 1964. The Minister with special responsibilities for the Public Library Service has written on occasion to the Isle of Wight Council reminding the Council of its statutory obligations under the PLMA 1964.


However, if there has been any follow-up from the Secretary of State’s Office, then it would appear not to have had any effect on the Isle of Wight Council’s decisions. At the time of the Isle of Wight Council’s public consultation beginning in December 2010, I wrote to the Secretary of State in January 2011 (DCMS Response Ref: 163625 dated 31/1/11) and followed this up with a formal submission in February 2011 (DCMS Response Ref: 167128 dated 25/2/11). Subsequent legislation in force does not contradict nor dilute the powers available to the Secretary of State under the PLMA 1964. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Professor John Irven, Treasurer of Watchet Library Friends and Friends of Somerset Libraries (LIB 051) Executive summary •

• •


Submission made as coordinator of the successful legal challenge against Somerset County Council (SCC) decisions on library closures in the judicial review 2011 Details the problems and challenges of dealing with the DCMS, Secretary of State (SoS) and SCC to get any changes in library closure plans Due to inaction of DCMS/SoS, details need for, and challenges imposed by, the need for legal action in which the judgement ruled the decisions illegal, categorising the behaviour of SCC as an example of ‘bad government’ Identifies a requirement for the DCMS and with select committee input to rule on what is expected of a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service under the 1964 act going forward Offers specific recommendations detailed in section 7


I am Treasurer of Watchet Library Friends (WLF) and Friends of Somerset Libraries (FOSL).The former is dedicated to supporting my local library in Watchet, a small coastal town on the Somerset Coast, the latter an umbrella organisation that supports and helps co-ordinate library friends groups across the whole of Somerset. I acted to coordinate and lead the successful High Court Judicial review mounted against SCC decisions on library closures. This involved raising a community contribution to legal costs that were imposed by the Legal Services Commission (LSC) and consolidating the evidential submissions through our representatives, Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) in Birmingham, as well as acting as expert witness.

2.0 Consultation over initial proposed library closures by SCC, Autumn 2010 – Feb 2011 Informal consultations with limited interested groups were conducted in autumn 2010, leading to formal proposals & consultation 14/12/10 - 14/1/11 where open meetings were held in only some affected areas. During this period several libraries due to close formed ‘Friends Groups’ to support and campaign for libraries to stay open, including FOSL campaigning county wide. As no open meeting was called by SCC in Watchet, I was only aware of plans to close our library by attending an open meeting in nearby Williton on 10/01/11, reporting back to our local Watchet Town Council, who immediately set up working party of councillors, which I joined as lay member. We called an open meeting for Watchet on


10/01/11 (after closure of the SCC consultation), inviting SCC officials. We had 1 week to raise a 500 signature petition against closure, presented to a full SCC council meeting 16/02/11, alongside many other local groups and a 35,000 county wide petition. Despite SCC saying the meeting was not aiming to choose which libraries to close, only setting the budget, at 5.00 pm that day we were emailed notifying us that based on the decisions taken at the 16th Feb council meeting, Watchet Library and others would close. 3.0

Request for intervention to DCMS SoS Jeremy Hunt

As all entreaties to SCC fell on deaf ears, I personally wrote to Jeremy Hunt, SoS on 28/2/2011 asking him to use his powers under the 1964 library act to intervene and stop the closures, describing the actions by SCC to date. No answer was forthcoming, nor to a reminder sent on 14/04/11l. On 5/5/11 I sent another communication indicating the launching of a legal action against SCC, asking him again to intervene before more public money was wasted on legal challenges, to which I then received a standard ‘form’ letter in reply. This was identical to that sent to other communicators, and did not answer any specific questions I had raised. 4.0

WLF Launch, Spring 2011

Helped launch WLF as treasurer, a group supporting a campaign against closure, affiliated to FOSL. Other members of both groups continued to send letters to SCC and the SoS and DCMS to no effect. Held meetings with SCC about potential for friends groups to support libraries as ‘community run’ or ‘community supported’ libraries, but needing to find all funding & manage the facility. FOSL arranged for Tim Coates, ex MD of Waterstones Books to present ideas to SCC on how to make the savings they needed but whilst keeping all libraries open. SCC ignored advice, saying that we had no experience of running library services (despite saying we would have to learn to run community libraries). Savings of £30k per annum identified as part of the FOSL proposals were not used to keep more libraries open under SCC management, but to offer a £5k ‘one off’ inducement to the 11 libraries scheduled for closure for local communities to take them on. Despite protesting to SCC that the community run and supported models were unproven and might not work for all areas, especially those of high deprivation like Watchet, inputs were ignored. Decided that legal action as warned to both SCC and the SoS would have to be pursued as a last resort if SoS and SCC remained unprepared to act. 5.0

Legal campaign against SCC decisions – May 2011


Launch of legal campaign

Took up leadership of legal campaign through FOSL, also being elected to local Watchet Town Council who had opposed the cuts by written letter to SCC. With PIL, took on task of co-ordinating evidence for a judicial review in the high court. Found candidate qualified for legal aid (R Hird) in Watchet who could act as a test case for all Somerset, not just Watchet. Asked for permission to take case to the high court, plus funding through legal aid from LSC. They refused, saying there was no merit or


public interest in our case. Our barrister opinion said there was more likelihood of winning than losing, and it was in the public interest. Therefore we took this to the LSC appeal panel who ruled in our favour, saying that the case had merit, should proceed to the high court, with LSC funding the legal aided case. 5.1

Community contributions and LSC position - May 2011

LSC turned to the ‘Access to Justice Act 1999’. This had never been used previously. They stated that under this legislation, although they could not force the candidate to pay any contribution because she qualified for legal aid, the act allowed LSC to levy a community contribution where the result would have impact and benefit to the community. Initially asked for the full cost of a 2 day judicial Review hearing ie £30k from the ‘community’. No elected councils were prepared to run the challenge, and although Library Friends Groups had no revenue raising power, we campaigners within such groups were faced with accepting the challenge to run the case and raise funds from the community or not having the case heard. When we objected to the amount, LSC halved this to approx £15k. Our lawyers advised that LSC could not legally levy such a high charge under the guidance rules for community contributions, which required a ‘means test’ of the community’s ability to pay, based on population, those using/benefitting from the libraries, deprivation indices, numbers of retired, unemployed etc. We had to research all the data which PIL used with the LSC guidelines to calculate the correct contribution level. Their estimate was for £3-4k, so as treasurer together with Chair of FOSL we went public with an appeal for £5k, not knowing whether we would be able to raise the funds, especially with no major celebrity or individuals backing the campaign. We were advised by PIL to go back to the same appeals panel who had overruled the LSC refusal to allow the case to go forward, expecting a ruling in our favour at the lower estimated contribution level. We successfully raised £5k from hundreds of individual and group supporters across Somerset, together with holding numerous fund raising events by Friends groups. The appeals panel did rule again in our favour and insisted LSC fund our case through legal aid, with a maximum community contribution of £3,500 – exactly as predicted by PIL from the guideline and calculations. LSC, however, refused to accept the ruling of their own appeals panel. This was unprecedented and we believed unfair, and probably illegal. Our only recourse would have been a higher appeal or even a judicial review of the LSC funding decision. The LSC knew that if we refused to accept their demand on funding level or appealed further we would ‘run out of time’ to get the case to court – six months maximum from date of decision. All they had to do was prevaricate further (note the IOW campaigners refused to accept an LSC ruling on cost contribution, and eventually ran out of time and were unable to get a case to court) We negotiated and reluctantly accepted a figure of £9,000 community contribution in order to get the case heard. We had to go back to the community asking for nearly double our original request of £5k.



First hearing in High court - July 2011

Based on the agreement with LSC we went to court and obtained an injunction preventing closures due in October 2011 pending the full hearing. PIL rolled together Somerset and Gloucestershire cases into a 3 day hearing 27-29 Sept to reduce costs. 5.3

DCMS position related to providing relevant information during July

I received no answer to my formal FOI request to DCMS for information relating to all discussions, meetings, and resulting decisions between DCMS the SoS and SCC officials over the library decisions. After a reminder to DCMS on 6/7/11 I received an answer that although information falling legitimately under FOI exists, they refused to release citing: “I can confirm that the Department holds this information. We are able to confirm that there was a meeting between Somerset County Council and DCMS officials on the 30 March, and that Paul Kirkman, (DCMS Head of Arts), Sheila Wheeler (Somerset County Council Chief Executive), and four other junior officials attended. The rest of the information within the scope of your request is exempt from disclosure under section 36(2)(b) (would be likely to inhibit) (i) (the free and frank provision of advice, or (ii) (the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) of the FOI Act.” 5.4

Judicial review Sept

We reach £9k just in time before the hearing. Last twist from LSC - they indicate despite verbal agreement with PIL that we have proceeded on, they will issue a funding certificate only funding the case hearing with a £9k community contribution, BUT they refuse to pay the PIL costs associated with appealing and ‘winning’ the argument at the LSC appeals panel hearings. (This leaves PIL and therefore the campaign nominally £5,000 short ie we need a total of £14,000 which will have to be found after the hearing to avoid leaving PIL internal costs uncovered). The judgement was reserved, to be handed down in November. 5.5

Handing down of judgement 16/11/11

The full result is documented in the public record as transcripts of the judgement, and can be made available to the committee. SCC found to have taken unlawful decisions and failed to meet their public sector equalities duties. Actions of campaigners ruled as ‘considered, appropriate and in proportion’, whereas those of SCC dubbed an example of ‘bad government’. Judge finds for campaigners with full costs awarded (so the PIL shortfall disappeared). All decisions quashed, with the defendants SCC needing to reinstate all services. Warned he was sending a very strong message to all councils and pubic sector bodies of their need to undertake and meet their public sector equalities


duty. The judge indicating that it was up to the SoS to interpret and rule on the 1964 Library act. 5.6

DCMS appeal Nov 11

Following the handing down of the judgment based on ‘final decisions’ I have been appealing the DCMS decision to refuse to release my requested FOI information. In Nov I was advised by DCMS the appeal is ‘minded still to refuse permission to release the FOI data’. I contended that the decisions by SoS and DCMS were no longer ‘provisional’ nor still in ‘a formative stage’ - they were, and are final. Following the definitive judgement these ‘final’ DCMS and SoS decisions should also be subject to evaluation through access to information legitimately requested under FOI. The DCMS internal appeal still ruled to refuse release, so I am currently appealing the DCMS refusal through the Information Commissioner. 6.0

Impact of judgement


Nov/Dec 2011 SCC state they will reinstate library services to comply with the judgement, but that they meet statutory requirements of 1964 act as given in the judgement

SCC officers and councillors indicate their intention to reinstate services, but conduct a new planning exercise from April 2012 which may still lead to service change. In their public statements they claim that because the judgement did not find for us on the grounds of failure to supply a comprehensive and efficient library service under the 1964 Libraries Act, only being unlawful under equalities legislation, the judgement in effect gives them a green light that their proposals were legal and met the requirements of the 1964 act 6.2 My letter to SCC about judgement and proposals 21/12/11 This informed SCC that FOSL, acting on behalf of hundreds of members of the community contributing to the legal costs and main supporters of the legal action, would expect to be consulted about how the services are being reinstated and on any future plans that may come forward. We noted that following the judgement requiring SCC to pay our full legal costs, the monies have been returned to us. Save for persons who wished to have their contribution returned to them immediately, with the agreement of the remainder (99%) we are holding all the monies raised pending reformulation of the Council’s plans and in case of any further action we need to take. Whilst appreciating the commitment about reinstatement of services, we contested the SCC interpretation that “In summary, the judgment concluded that the service proposed would meet the statutory duty, and there was no evidence to suggest that the consultation was flawed.


However, the judgment found that the decision taken by Full Council was nevertheless unlawful because of a failure to comply with the public sector equalities duties. The Council was therefore directed to restore services to their pre-decision state and to pay the claimants’ legal costs” Offering the following comments: The Court’s Written Judgment – What it said (ref to paras in the record of the judgement) On 16/11/11 His Honour Judge McKenna ruled that SCC’s decisions to cut library provision were unlawful due to the Council’s breach of its statutory equalities duties, and quashed those decisions. The breach of the statutory equalities duties that the Court identified was a serious one, which it condemned as “bad government”. These duties it identified as imposing “important and onerous burdens” (paragraph 118); which must be complied with “in substance” (paragraph 118) i.e. not as a merely technical box-ticking exercise. The Court’s Judgment – What it didn’t say SCC have claimed that the Court has ruled that the previously proposed shape of library provision complied with the duty to provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service” under s7 Public Libraries and Museums Act. This refers to paragraph 117 of its judgment. On a straightforward reading it may superficially appear as if the Judge is ruling as to the service’s adequacy, but the passage must be read in context. The Judge did not receive submissions on whether the proposed library service was or was not ‘comprehensive and efficient’, nor do his findings elsewhere relate to this. In fact his findings are only that (i) resource limitations are a relevant consideration for the Council; (ii) that the Council had sufficient regard to the duty when it was making its decision; and (iii) that it adequately assessed users needs for the purposes of compliance with the duty. He did not address whether the library provision actually is ‘comprehensive and efficient’. Because of judicial deference to primary decision makers as to the merits of their decisions, actual compliance with the substance of the ‘comprehensive and efficient’ duty is a matter for the Secretary of State’s supervision under s10 of the Act. It is for this reason that we did not mount a ‘head on’ challenge to the proposals as intrinsically breaching the Libraries Act and leave this to the DCMS and any influence the select committee enquiry can bring. It is unclear whether SCC, having reinstated services before April 2012, will try to reintroduce the same cuts dressed up differently after April. 7.0




I have submitted evidence of the challenges faced by our community in Somerset in overturning the illegal SCC decisions on library closures, contending that DCMS and the SoS have failed in their duties to provide adequate oversight to SCC and intervene as required under the 1964 Act.



Recommendations to the Select Committee I would respectfully request that the committee consider the following recommendations: • • • •

• • •

Review action/inaction by DCMS & SoS with SCC, identifying whether DCMS and SoS discharged their duties properly under the 1964 act. Review whether DCMS used refusal to release information under legitimate FOI requests to obscure scrutiny of their actions/inactions Identify whether they contributed to the ‘bad government’ verdict of the SCC judgement Committee to call for a public inquiry into library closures to identify what is required to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ service under the 1964 act for the 21st century, particularly meeting equalities needs. This is especially relevant for areas like Somerset and where SoS/DCMS have not properly intervened. DCMS to direct councils considering closures to freeze any action pending the result of the Select Committee and Public Enquiries. Direct authorities to engage with interested groups county wide, not just at individual library level , to prevent a ‘divide and rule’ approach. To consider whether the actions of the LSC in the Somerset case were proper as they made access to justice much more difficult, and to recommend solutions.

January 2012


Written evidence submitted by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) ((LIB 052) 1.



Comprehensive and efficient library services should: • Be designed to meet the needs of local communities • Be a professionally delivered service • Be a key delivery mechanism for local solutions to the problems faced by disadvantaged communities in partnership with other local providers • Do all this efficiently by ensuring that the best possible services are available at a cost that is acceptable and valued by local taxpayers • Be led nationally and locally


The Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report: • CILIP believes that the front loading of expenditure reductions creates greater risk of breaches of the Act • CILIP is very concerned that library services should only be subject to proportionate cuts and that this is not the case • CILIP believes that there should be clear evidence of a needs analysis before any proposals for library closures are made


The impact library closures have on local communities: • CILIP believes that the impact of closures and reductions in levels of service and staffing will be significant and damaging • In 2011-12 those local authorities that responded to our survey have made or plan to make 909 staff reductions and reduce weekly opening hours by 2,438 hours • The heaviest impact is on the young, the elderly and the unwaged • Where buildings are not closed, cuts to services, resource funds (including book funds), opening hours, building maintenance and staffing are equally significant • Many local communities rely on libraries as they do other community services such as schools or hospitals and see the cuts to libraries as equally serious


The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 • The intervention powers of the Secretary of State under Section 10 of the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 are adequate for the leadership and planning required at national level • The outcomes of the court cases and the judges’ view that their powers of judicial review are more limited given the Secretary of State’s duty of superintending the service, only highlight the ultimate responsibility of the Secretary of State to act


• •

It is now vital that the Secretary of State has a new framework within which the performance of public library authorities in meeting their obligations under the 1964 Act can be assessed The Government has a key role in ensuring public sector services are accessible and effective

We would welcome the opportunity to give further evidence to the Committee to support the recommendations that we make in this submission. 2.

What constitutes a comprehensive & efficient library service for the 21st century CILIP believes that a comprehensive and efficient library service in the 21st century will:


Be designed to meet the needs of local communities: by providing opportunities for learning and literacy development, access to information, knowledge and support for families and disadvantaged communities. Libraries must be at the forefront of digital innovation in the creation and delivery of services, mobile communications and e-content, becoming an integral part of a networked society, promoting the information literacy 1 and digital skills necessary for participation. Libraries help to create literate and articulate individuals and communities that can better support themselves.


Be a professionally delivered service: by using the skills, experience and networks of professional library staff to shape services to the needs of local communities, engage them effectively in service development, and ensure safe and impartial access to services. Librarians are trained in these skills and work to a unique professional code of practice and ethical values. They bring expertise in reading and learning, acting as guides to the mass of data and online information that is increasingly used for decision making in daily life. Volunteers should not be a replacement for this knowledge and skill but can supplement and enrich a professionally led service.


Be a key delivery mechanism for local solutions to the real difficulties faced by disadvantaged communities in partnership with other local providers: by helping to bridge the ‘digital divide’ libraries can support people to access and understand the wealth of resources available in the Information Age. In partnership with other agencies and services libraries can combat poverty and disadvantage, support social mobility and fairness, enable employability and economic selfsufficiency. Most library services have diverse established partnerships with providers of education and adult learning, health care, neighbourhood and policing services, youth intervention, community groups and business 2 .


Do all this efficiently by ensuring that the best possible services are available at a cost that is acceptable and valued by local taxpayers: by achieving economies of scale through consortium, collaboration and shared


services. This is already happening as local authorities work in partnership to deliver further economies by sharing expertise and resources across library services 3 . Much more of this should happen and could achieve real savings. 2.5.

Be led nationally and locally: The library service is a national service delivered locally. It needs to have a national focus on the negotiation, development and delivery of electronic resources, membership promotion and the marketing of nationally-led services 4 and country-wide lending of materials. Locally tailored services should be designed to support the community through work with children and families, reading and literacy initiatives and partnership development. Recommendation


That the Secretary of State sets out a fresh vision for the 21st century public library service defining what comprehensive, efficient and accessible mean and forming a basis for local planning and delivery.


The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report


The high level of public interest and outcry from local communities clearly reflects a strong view that the closures of libraries and reduction of services are not compatible with user views of comprehensive and efficient services.


CILIP believes that the front loading of expenditure reductions creates greater risk of breaches of the Act: by not allowing sufficient time to reconfigure services effectively there are increased risks of the loss of comprehensive library provision. Decisions taken with limited information and options can have long term impacts. Reductions in staffing threaten many of the partnership programmes that allow libraries to make a significantly wider contribution, addressing social problems in disadvantaged communities. Closures, reductions in opening hours and redundancies can only be justified within the context of a properly developed and endorsed local library strategy. Identifying efficiencies that do not impact on services is not a short term task.


CILIP is very concerned that library services should only be subject to proportionate cuts and that this is not the case: we acknowledge that in the current financial climate savings have to be made but we believe that there has been a disproportionate focus on library services. There are cases of political naivety about statutory duty and a lack of understanding of the role of the Secretary of State. There is a need for greater information and preparation among local authority councillors planning cuts to library services. Library services consume less than 2% of local authority budgets and draw more users than any other service of choice but are facing high levels of cuts. Our current research suggests that levels of cuts are significant across library services (see 4.1. below) and a 2011 survey of expected expenditure reductions by the Local Government Association suggests the same 5 .



CILIP believes that there should be clear evidence of a needs analysis before any proposals for library closures or service reductions are made. Recent Judicial Reviews 6 support the findings of the Charteris Report 7 that there should be a proper needs analysis informing the nature of the local library service. Any proposed changes to libraries should be articulated in a strategy. The Secretary of State has the power to act but the consistent application of the Act in terms of outcomes for communities requires articulation and a framework upon which the justification for intervention is based. England is now the only part of the United Kingdom without a national benchmark or assessment framework for its public library service 8 and we recommend that this is introduced. Recommendation


That the Secretary of State introduces a strategic framework for library services in England that can be used to assess the work that local authorities do in re-shaping services. This would enable the Secretary of State to ensure that any savings made in library services can demonstrate an assessment of need and impact and are part of a clear strategic plan in compliance with the 1964 Act.


The impact library closures have on local communities CILIP believes that the impact of closures and reductions in levels of service and staffing will be significant and damaging.


In 2011-12 those local authorities that responded to our survey have made or plan to make 909 staff reductions and reduce weekly opening hours by 2,438 hours. CILIP is currently surveying all local authorities in confidence 9 . The interim results show that nearly 80% of authorities have reduced staff, 30% have reduced opening hours and 65% of authorities are looking at alternative methods of service delivery and governance for their library services. Fourteen per cent have or expect to close libraries and 13% per cent have set up community managed libraries. The current response rate is 55% (that is, 83 out of 151 English authorities).


The heaviest impact is on the young, the elderly and the unwaged: Sheffield University's Centre for Public Library Research undertook a series of research projects into the social impact of local libraries, including branch closures, in the late 1990s and early 2000s 10 . This research is not recent because it is some time since there has been anything like the scale of library closures currently happening.


The research showed that 18% of those affected by library closures did not transfer their custom to another library facility; 44% of respondents said their children did not use alternative facilities; 35% said their children were using library facilities less; 36% of respondents felt their children were reading less. Teachers, parents and library staff expressed concern about the impact on literacy and general educational


support and the social skills developed by children in using the local library to choose books and interact with other children in a non-school environment. 4.4.

Where buildings are not closed, cuts to services, resource funds (including book funds), opening hours, building maintenance and staffing are equally significant. As the cuts to funds impact on staffing, services and partnerships, these are potentially every bit as damaging as the closure of a building. Local authorities need to be able to demonstrate that services can still be comprehensive and efficient with less staff, hours and support, not just from fewer buildings. Local authorities that retain library buildings whilst cutting staff and opening hours still need to demonstrate that they are able to provide a comprehensive and efficient service and how they are meeting user needs.


Many local communities rely on libraries as they do other community services such as schools or hospitals and see the cuts to libraries as equally serious. Many local communities have already demonstrated their strength of feeling but not all have the resources available to do this. The intense commitment and activity of library pressure groups illustrate this passion for the local presence of the library but those in disadvantaged communities may be even more affected by the proposed closures but less able to articulate the impact of this or to organise campaigns. The Secretary of State needs to act for them. Recommendation


That the Secretary of State asks the Arts Council as a matter of urgency to review research on the social impact and value of public libraries, commissioning new research as appropriate, and urges caution in further cuts until the impact of these upon communities is clearer.


The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964


CILIP believes that intervention powers of the Secretary of State under Section 10 of the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 are adequate for the leadership and planning required at national level: we are surprised that these powers have not been used so far in the current situation and concerned that the lack of intervention may have made the position worse. Section 1 allows for the collection of information or inspection of a public library authority and Section 10 for an Inquiry where an authority may be in default of its obligations and an order specifying improvements required following an Inquiry 11 . Ultimately the Secretary of State has powers to take over the running of a service.


The outcomes of the court cases and the judges’ view that their powers of judicial review are more limited given the Secretary of State’s duty of superintending the service, only highlight the ultimate responsibility of the Secretary of State to act: Judge McKenna noted “...I also accept that the thrust of the Defendants’ submission that it is only if the Claimants can show that something has gone seriously wrong in that information gathering process that this


court shall intervene. This is not in my judgment an abdication of the responsibility of the Court but a recognition of the Court’s more limited role in the light of the Secretary of State’s default powers” (paragraph 29) 12 . 5.3.

CILIP believes that it is now vital that the Secretary of State has a new framework within which the performance of public library authorities in meeting their obligations under the 1964 Act can be assessed: It should be accompanied by a renewed vision for the public library service in England and leadership in helping the public library network address the many challenges ahead. At the moment the Charteris Report is guiding the requirement for a needs assessment and information gathering process but without a clear framework developed and articulated in government, as recommended in Section 3. This would give substance to the Secretary of State’s responsibility to “superintend” and “promote the improvement of” public library services provided by English local authorities. The Arts Council with its new public library responsibilities should be charged with developing this.


The Government has a key role in ensuring public sector services are accessible and effective: In CILIP’s response to the Open Public Services White Paper 13 we noted the Government’s proposed role in the procurement of national public sector services. These include establishing and enforcing core entitlements, setting floor standards enforced by independent regulators or published data and ensuring fair access to services. Although provided by local government the public library is a national service provided locally and the Secretary of State already has the necessary powers – we strongly recommend that they are used. Recommendation


That the Secretary of State uses the available powers of intervention where there has been clear evidence of a potential breach of the 1964 Act.


Summary of recommendations CILIP urges the Select Committee to recommend the following:


That the Secretary of State sets out a fresh vision for the 21st century public library service defining what comprehensive, efficient and accessible means and forming a basis for local planning and delivery.


That the Secretary of State introduces a strategic framework for library services in England that can be used to assess the work that local authorities do in re-shaping services. This would enable the Secretary of State to ensure that any savings made in library services can demonstrate an assessment of need and impact and are part of a clear strategic plan in compliance with the 1964 Act.


That the Secretary of State asks the Arts Council as a matter of urgency to review research on the social impact and value of public libraries, commissioning new


research as appropriate, and urges caution in further cuts until the impact of these upon communities is clearer. 6.4.

That the Secretary of State uses the available powers of intervention where there has been clear evidence of a potential breach of the 1964 Act. We would welcome an opportunity to give further evidence to the Select Committee. January 2012

                                                             References  1

CILIP defines information literacy as “knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner”. Public librarians should have an increasing role in facilitating these skills. Research suggests that even the young, who are technically proficient, lack the necessary evaluative skills to discern good information from bad. See, for instance the UCL “Google Generation” research at: [accessed on 11.1.12] 2

CILIP’s annual Libraries Change Lives Award provides numerous examples of effective partnership working, meeting the needs of disadvantaged groups eg: Making the Difference: Opportunities for Adults With Learning Disabilities, Kent Libraries and Archives, [accessed 10.1.12]; Macmillan Information & Support Service, Manchester Information and Library Service, information and support to people affected by cancer [accessed on 10.1.12]; Across the Board: Autism support for families, Leeds Library and Information Service [accessed on 10.1.12] 3

See London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster City Council’s triborough libraries agreement [accessed on 10.1.12] 4

See, for example, Enquire [accessed on 10.1.12] and Summer Reading Challenge [accessed on 10.1. 12]


Local Government Association Budget Survey 2011, news release: [accessed on 10.1.12] 6

R (on the application of Bailey and others) v London Borough of Brent Council [2011] EWCA Civ 1586 [accessed on 10.1.12]; R (on the application of Bailey and others) v London Borough of Brent Council [2011] EWHC 2572 (Admin) [accessed on 10.1.12]; R (on the application of Green and others) v Gloucestershire County Council and others [2011] EWHC 2687 (Admin) [accessed on 10.1.12] 7

Charteris, S., 2009. A Local Inquiry into the Public Library Service Provided by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, DCMS [accessed on 10.1.12] 8

See Welsh Public Library Standards 2011-2014 [accessed 10.1.12], Public library Quality Improvement Matrix (Scotland) 2006 [accessed 10.1.12] and Delivering Tomorrow's Libraries (Northern Ireland) 2006 [accessed 10.1.12] 9

CILIP Survey of Public Library Authorities November 2011, full results to be published in February 2012



Proctor, R, Usherwood, B, & Sobczyk, G (1996) What do people do when their public library closes down? An investigation into the impact of the Sheffield Libraries strike. British Library Research and Development Department. (British Library R&D Report 6224) [accessed on 10.1.12]; Proctor, R, Lee, H, Reilly, R. (1998) Access to public libraries: the impact of opening hours reductions and closures 1986-1997!/file/CPLIS---Access-to-Public-Libraries.pdf [accessed on 10.1.12]


Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 [accessed on 10.1.12]


R (on the application of Green and others) v Gloucestershire County Council and others [2011] EWHC 2687 (Admin) [accessed on 10.1.12] 13

CILIP response to Cabinet Office’s Open Public Services White Paper, October 2011 [accessed on 10.1.12]



Written evidence submitted by Mrs R G Lawler (LIB 053) Summary • • • •

Impact on community All-age use of library Secretary of State Brent Council


The impact on my life is that I have no Library books or audio material in my house. I have no access to the information and contact normally available in Preston Road Library, which is less than a mile walk from my house. Brent Council’s suggestion of the Town Hall as an alternative is clearly made by someone who has never tried to use it. Even with a car it is still almost impossible. The impact on others can be calculated by realizing that for many users Preston Library is not only a source of information.It is also a tool to help in settling in an unfamiliar land.Tthe loss must be giving the message that Brent doesn’t want them and doesn’t care. Later there may be a heavy price to pay. Books on “Britishness” and those in Asian languages, alongside books for children to use in school work in English, together with various electronic media were what Preston library was about. It was, and must be again, a model to be admired.


The encouragement of adults and children to make full use of the Library service I understand is a duty of the Authority under the 1964 Libraries and Museums Act. Brent Council is clearly, by its actions, unwilling to undertake this and is thus “unfit fro purpose” Every possible obstacle has been put in the way of library users in the past months. Closure of Libraries is a powerful tool in the hands of unfit people. Older people, often no longer drivers, of whom there are an increasing number in the Preston Road area, cannot make any of the journeys suggested by the Council. I would certainly not send a school child to walk the double route along a dangerous un-policed road, to reach the Town Hall and because of the distance have to return after dark for much of the year. It is simply not reasonable.


The Secretary of State is the one on whom one should be able to rely to enable Government policy to be carried out. It appears that the Council can act against this with impunity.

4) Brent Council’s behavior is reminiscent of tactics used in East Germany in order to gain control of people. For instance, provision of consultation documents relating to their closure plans were suppressed. Staff were instructed not to supply any unless specifically asked. The building was boarded up un-necessarily. The “Wall of Shame” was taken down at Christmas, with police protection and it is said that the books have been removed. This is before the legal process is complete. These are actions of a Council prepared to do anything to impose its will, spending money for this purpose rather than in providing a Library service. It is time that detailed analysis was made of how council-tax-payers’ money is spent in Brent, and also of what the Council proposes to do with the Preston Library site if or when it is snatched away from those who fought to have a library there in the first place. Who, exactly would benefit? January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Friends of Waterloo Library (LIB 054) Summary: •

The Friends of Waterloo Library formed in 2004, and revived active input in 2011

Friend’s events include activity sessions at the library, drop in sessions, a petition, and meetings with Councillor Peter Truesdale, and Kate Hoey MP.

Local support for Waterloo Library is significant, as demonstrated by over 300 signatures on the Save our Library petition in just one week.

Save our Library posters were willingly displayed by most of the shops along Lower Marsh.

Waterloo Library is used by residents, visitors, and workers, with over 40 000 visits per year.

Waterloo Library provides a range of books, newspapers, music, DVDs, and free internet and computer access

Reading groups and toddler groups are among the activities taking place at Waterloo Library.

Waterloo is a diverse community, with high levels of deprivation, people from ethnic minority groups, and persons who are non-English speaking

The closure of this community service would seriously deprive local families and children of access to the wide range of facilities currently available

The Library is a warm and friendly meeting place for members of the community who would otherwise by socially isolated

Links with the local primary school are well established and the Library offers support to children and teaching staff.

The Library is good for local businesses along Lower Marsh, the market street that is currently being regenerated.

Waterloo Library is vital to prevent further erosion of this small inner city community.


The Friends of Waterloo Library originally formed in 2004 to help raise awareness of the Lambeth Library Feasibility Study and in preparation for the anticipated imminent redevelopment of Waterloo Library. Unfortunately changes in Lambeth personnel and the direction of Lambeth Cultural Services saw a halt to the re-development of the library. The recent threat of library closure by Lambeth Council led, in late January 2011, to the reviving of the group. In response the Friends have held drop in events at the Library to raise awareness of Lambeth’s approach to library services and to share information with the community. The Friends drew up a petition and in one week over 300 signatures were collected showing support to ‘Save Waterloo Library’. Representatives from the Friends attended Open Space events held by Library Commissioners and met with both local councillor, Peter Truesdale and MP Kate Hoey. Waterloo Library sits in the northernmost tip of the London Borough of Lambeth. The 2001 census poverty index for the local ward show 10% of all households severely deprived with 58% of people on benefits, resulting in social exclusion. There are a number of very wealthy households in the ward which mask higher levels of deprivation and social exclusion elsewhere in the area. There is a high percentage of traditionally hard to reach groups such as black and ethnic minorities, single parent families, young parents and others new to the UK with limited English. In an area which does not have numerous community facilities, Waterloo Library offers people a safe and clean environment where they have the opportunity to meet other people in the area. It provides the community with local information and allows those with English as a Second Language to access the tools with which to improve their language skills. The library is a vital local resource for residents, visitors and workers in Waterloo. There is available a wide range of books, music, DVDs, newspapers and local information. Computer and internet access is free and essential for those who do not have a pc at home. The adult book readers and toddler storytime are active groups. The library is a welcoming haven for all to visit. An estimated 40,000 visits per year are made to this very small, inadequately resourced library. Waterloo Library offers a wealth of facilities, as well as being a focal point in this busy but socially deprived community. It has significant local support and closure of the Library would result in further erosion of community services and deprive residents, workers, visitors and local businesses, and schools of the many services, and activities that are on offer. January 2012


Writtne evidence submitted by The Combined Regions Ltd (LIB 055)

The Combined Regions Ltd (TCR) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s call for submissions relating to the public library service. 1 1.1.


TCR wishes to submit evidence to the Select Committee from the perspective of an organization which facilitates resource sharing between libraries across the UK. 1.2. Our view is that the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 is relevant today, as drafted, with the following caveats: 1.2.1. Clarification regarding e-books and other digital services could be made as, for example, in the The Library Charges (England and Wales) Regulations 1991 which provides clarification as to what charges Public Libraries may, or may place upon their services. 1.2.2. In seeking to define a “comprehensive and efficient” service , the Secretary of State should bear in mind the performance of the upper quartile libraries in coming to a conclusion as to whether a particular library service is deficient. Such a review should consider performance and investment over time as there is a lag in impact in respect of diminishing investment. 1.3 Closures of libraries need to be seen in the overall context of the service offered and the demographics of the communities served. Account should be taken of Equalities legislation, car ownership and public transport availability, especially in rural areas, as well as other social indicators e.g. the Deprivation Index. 1.4 Closures are seldom unrelated to other reductions in service. The public library service in the UK has diminished significantly in recent years with major reductions in the number of professional staff employed, reductions in materials budgets as well as closures and reductions in opening hours. Reductions in the bookfund are frequently frequently regressive in their impact and compounded by further reductions in subsequent years. This makes the provision of a comprehensive selection of materials unsustainable: library collections need to be renewed not simply complemented by the addition of an ever diminishing number of new publications. 1.5 It is important to retain the free public library service and that the service should be managed by senior professional library and information workers, complemented by a team of skilled librarians focused on raising standards of learning and literacy, through outreach work and in libraries. 1.6 The public should be involved in the planning and development of library buildings and services. 1.7 Public libraries should be accountable to local government,but collaboration can add value to benefit service users. 1.8 There is still a need for national leadership at government level, as highlighted by the previous report from the Select Committee. The Secretary of State's powers under the 1964 Act have proved to be 1.9


effective (Derbyshire, ca 1990) and should be preserved. We regret that these powers have not been invoked in recent years, but note that in the absence of the Advisory Council on Libraries and of Specialist Advisers in the DCMS, the Secretary of State is deprived of sound professional advice in respect of his duties under the Act. 2 2.1

Background TCR 1 is an organisation set up to enable co-operation between libraries across the British Isles, at both a strategic and an operational level. For more than fifteen years, TCR has been working with its partners to develop a national network for resource-sharing between libraries across Britain and Ireland. Apart from the British Library, each member organisation represents a region of England or one of the other nations of the British Isles. Current members are The British Library Libraries and Information East Midlands The National Library of Scotland North East England libraries North West Libraries Interlending Partnership Royal National Institute of Blind People London Libraries(ALCL) Society of Chief Librarians, West Midlands South Western Regional Library Service Yorkshire Libraries and Information 2.2 TCR develops co-operation between libraries to enable, promote and develop access to resources in all formats, for both library staff and customers. TCR works with OCLC on UnityUK™, a national union catalogue and interlending system with holdings from all regions of the British Isles. During 2012 a version of this catalogue will be launched to the public, making access to the holdings of virtually all public libraries available to the public through a single search. When a book is borrowed from another library elsewhere in England, and in much of the UK, it is almost certain that UnityUK will have been used to locate that item and to facilitate its loan.




The 1964 Public Libraries & Museums Act 3.1.1 Our view is that the Act is still relevant today having been updated through the Library Charges (England and Wales) Regulations. 1991. 2 The principles of the Act can and should apply to all public library services

1 2


including digital. It may be appropriate to issue guidance or new regulations in respect of some issues, but this does not suggest a need to revisit the fundamental legislative framework for the service. 3.1.2 We believe that the service should be a key strategic service within local government control and accountability. However, the application of common standards and strict guidelines regarding levels of charging would ensure that service users would not be subject to a postcode lottery regarding the quality of their service, and the amount they have to pay for elements of it. 3.1.3 We recognise that the reintroduction of standards to define “a comprehensive and efficient service” will not happen. However, we feel that the principles associated with the performance of the upper quartile of libraries provide a benchmark against which the Secretary of State may judge under-performing libraries. In 2009/2010, for example, Derbyshire,Devon and Dorset spent £2.75; £2.38; and £2.43 per capita respectively on library materials. The fact that Gloucestershire and Somerset spent only £0.81 and £0.90 respectively might have been considered an early warning of the subsequent court cases in those authorities. Furthermore, a retrospective examination of materials expenditure in those authorities might have indicated that their collections were unlikely to be “comprehensive”. 3.1.4 We do not believe that it is never appropriate to close a library, but due regard should be given to the demographics of the catchment area served, the standard of service, and revenue and capital spending per capita over time. Research is required on the impact of underfunding on library use and literacy, but anecdotally it is reported that a significant drop in bookfund will take up to three years before recording a serious impact on performance. At this point decisions may then be made about closure or reduction in opening hours, thereby perpetuating the spiral of decline in literacy, and community sustainability. 3.1.5 The simultaneous demise of School Library Services (e.g. Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Kent etc) which will put further strain onto public libraries at a time when budget cuts will limit their response. Closure of libraries will effectively remove the options for many children to visit or benefit from a library in their locality and travel to alternative venues is not always practical,especially in rural areas. 3.1.6 We do not believe that libraries run by communities on a voluntary basis are sustainable, or that they can offer the standard of service available through the statutory framework. TCR's specific interest in this concept relates to the ability of a purposive reader/researcher being able to access material from elsewhere through the inter library loans network. It is unlikely that a proliferation of Community Libraries would be “trusted partners” in the network leading to a diminution of access to service for communities. Community management is unlikely to provide the level of assurance, either in terms of service quality or even basic reliable opening hours, that should be expected of a statutory service. Furthermore, it is unlikely that voluntary supported libraries would be sustainable in the most deprived wards where one might argue that, they are needed most, as are the qualified staff who commit to raising standards of literacy and promote learning.


3.1.7 The key elements of funding for the public library service are: staff; premises and materials. The first two are seldom easy targets for budget savings, especially when Members decline to either close libraries or to reduce opening hours. The consequence has been a massive reduction in the sums available to purchase new materials , at a time when literacy levels are falling, and demand for media in new (digital) formats is increasing. At an operational level this means. Purchase of fewer titles: thereby affecting the range of materials available. This is compounded by the need to replace existing titles (standard works etc) within a limited budget. Purchase of fewer copies: thereby affecting the timely availability of copies held in stock, and impacting on the future availability of specific titles which would normally be retained for posterity e.g. when they are out of print, but still deemed to be of interest. Again, this is affected by the need to renew the book stock. Purchase of fewer titles and copies of material in appropriate formats: citizens should be able to access the full range of public library materials despite their disability. Because of the relatively high price of audio books and of large print materials it is probable that these areas will be affected disproportionately. The UnityUK database incorporates material in alternative formats and TCR works closely with the Royal National Institute of the Blind National Library Service to ensure that access to the database and to appropriate materials in public libraries is extended to blind and partially sighted people. Such considerations, we believe, help to define “comprehensive”. 3.1.8 We believe that it is important to preserve the principle of universal access and that this should apply both to format and to free access. The cost per household of the library service in all local authorities is very low in relation to the benefits which are well documented and indeed noted in the Select Committee's previous deliberations. 3.1.9 We consider it to be essential that the service is supported by a cadre of professionally trained staff. Successive Local Government reorganizations and internal structural reviews, have both combined to relegate the Public Library Service and its management to operational level in many authorities. In others, e.g. Derbyshire, a strategic approach recognizes the important role that Libraries can play in supporting and sustaining services and communities respectively. It is important that sufficient senior professional expertise is retained in the service to ensure its strategic development at a time when changes in technology, in particular, are creating new models for the service.This is particularly relevant for partnership working which sees library facilities used effectively for the promotion of other public and community services, and which ensures that public libraries make a significant contribution to wider agendas. This could not be delivered through a loose network of community-run libraries which lacked any capacity for strategic leadership. 3.1.10 In many countries the place of the public library in supporting communities is recognized to a greater extent than seems to be the case


in the U.K. In Aarhus, Denmark, for example, a new MediaSpace 3 will open in 2014 which will embrace all forms of media. It was recognized by the leadership of Aarhus libraries that the library should change with the community's aspirations and so the people of Aarhus were deeply involved in the specification of the requirement for a new building. Technology is bringing change, but it does not mean that the role of the library is redundant: on the contrary it should be in the vanguard of community access to information. 4 3.1.11 In many ways the trend for library services to collaborate to share services represents a return to the creation of strategic library authorities which were created in the 1974 Local Government reorganization. There are examples of collaboration which predate current initiatives, most notably the LibrariesWest Consortium 5 , where five library services have collaborated for fourteen years to share a single library management system, borrow and lend freely across boundaries, and to collaborate in procurement of materials and services. This has driven costs down and at the same time enhanced access to materials for all the communities in those authorities. This example demonstrates that co-operation across libraries in all sectors is an important ingredient for success in achieving better library services. It further demonstrates the dynamic nature of locally provided services. 3.1.12 Our view is that such progress that has been made in the development of public libraries in the UK has occurred in the absence of national leadership from government. Whilst organizations such as TCR, the Society of Chief Librarians, The Reading Agency and the National Acquisitions Group have made a significant impact, the DCMS and the MLA have not. Funding for co-ordinated national programmes has been either been misdirected ( e.g. Buying Stock Better Libraries) or absent, by comparison for example with the Museums sector. 3.1.13 The demise of the Advisory Council for Libraries and the absence of senior professional advisers in the DCMS has contributed to a perception that the Secretary of State simply does not understand the needs of the sector. The leadership role has now passed to the Arts Council, and it is too early to judge its performance. However, we are concerned that few senior advisers are represented in the organization, and that the interests of libraries -which span many dimensions (Arts, business, information, culture, education and learning) -are likely to be subsumed by the Arts. January 2012

3 4 5


Written evidence submitted by Mr Tony Hoare and Mr Mike Bedford (LIB 056)


About us

1.1 We are trustees (Tony Hoare Chairman and Mike Bedford Treasurer) of and volunteers at Chalfont St Giles Community Library a small public library in Buckinghamshire. We are writing in our personal capacities. 1.2 We first became involved with the issue of public libraries in 2005 as library campaigners opposing the Council’s proposal to close the library in Chalfont St Giles. As individuals we are both retired professionals who have had business careers in the private sector. 1.3 Our submission provides some input from the grass roots in a smaller community i.e. residents concerned about their local library and in our case with some experience of delivering the public library service locally as volunteers. 2.

About Chalfont St Giles Community Library

2.1 Chalfont St Giles library is a small community managed public library run and staffed entirely by local volunteers. It is a registered charity working in association with Buckinghamshire County Council to deliver the public library service in our village. The Community Library opened in January 2007 following the closure of the county run public library. Further details are available from the following web links: eers.pdf - 3.

Summary of submission • •

• • •

The public library service remains relevant and it should remain a statutory service paid for by the taxpayer. Libraries need to be local - a comprehensive library service must provide demographic spread. We are concerned that the legal interpretation of the 1964 Libraries Act may allow a standard of library provision below the level that is in the public interest. Community managed libraries should wherever possible be part of the statutory library service and be funded and supported by the library authority. Within council organisations we wonder whether public libraries fit better within the ring fenced education portfolio. Public Library Standards should be restored.


• • • • •


Reporting of public library service performance should have a higher profile and be more widely available. This applies at local, library authority and national levels. The methodology used in library service reviews tends to overvalue larger libraries. The need for local service delivery and the community value of smaller local libraries are not valued sufficiently. The information provided in library consultations needs to be sufficiently comprehensive for there to be meaningful dialogue between the Council and residents. Council scrutiny committees should play a more active role when controversial changes to library services are proposed. We think the DCMS, as part of its libraries superintendence role, should be prepared to give advice publicly to councils where library proposals are in danger of falling short of an acceptable standard.

Introductory remarks

4.1 In our view: • the public library service remains a fine thing. The concept is not outdated, it must adapt and change but it deserves public support in the 21st Century. • the principles of the public library service should remain as they are i.e. the service should be a public statutory service paid for out of taxation. • the requirements of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act (PLMA) should not be weakened in any way. If anything the law needs strengthening to ensure that demographic coverage is maintained. The public library service needs to be a locally available. 5.

What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century

5.1 A key sentence of the PLMA 1964 is “It shall be the duty of every library authority to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof…..” 5.2 We would like to comment on “comprehensive” and “provide”. We think “comprehensive” must cover two concepts. Firstly, a comprehensive library service and stock offer including e-resources i.e. with sufficient range, depth, quantity and quality. Secondly, a comprehensive demographic offer so that the library service reaches all those who want to use the service. This does require geographic spread since library provision needs to be local. 5.3 The lack of clarity about what constitutes reasonable access to the service is often an area of conflict between councils and residents when library closures are being considered. National library standards would provide some ground rules for councils, residents and for the superintendence by the DCMS.


5.4 The word “provide” is also important. In our view provide means either direct provision of the service by the council or the council funds another organisation to deliver the service on its behalf. As a statutory public service the council is responsible for fully funding the service. This funding principle is built into the way government works as set out in guidance1 from HM Treasury. It is central to the relationship between the taxpayer and the State. 5.5 This principle is important when it comes to community managed libraries. If they are part of the statutory library service then they should be funded by the council. A local community can raise additional money to enhance their local library but the council must be responsible for funding the cost of the statutory service. Statutory public services should not be funded by voluntary donations. 1 Improving financial relationships with the third sector: Guidance to funders and purchasers: HM Treasury - May 2006 The DCMS should make clear to councils the funding principles for community managed libraries. 5.6 Further, in relation to the current round of proposed closures, some councils are providing financial and other assistance to communities to set up community libraries outside of the statutory library service. There must surely be doubt about these councils long term commitment to fund these libraries if they are non-statutory. We think the DCMS should encourage councils to keep these community libraries inside the statutory service. Council organisation - where does the public library service best fit? 5.7 We wonder whether public library services would fit better from an organisational viewpoint with schools and education rather than as a small service fighting for resource against social care, roads, waste services etc. Since public library services typically account for only 2% of council spending it is easy for the libraries budget to be excessively squeezed through the desire to fund another important council service. This would also overcome the false choice sometimes suggested that councillors must choose between ‘social care’ and ‘libraries’. In our view the public are right to demand the delivery of all statutory services to a high standard. Councillors are responsible for raising the necessary funds to deliver statutory public services to a proper standard. 6.

The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report.

6.1 Formally this is determined by library authorities (=councils), superintended by the Secretary of State. The courts decide whether a council has complied


with the law and on points of law. However we would make the following points: Limitations of library service reviews 6.2 Council library service reviews tend to rank branch libraries by scoring their performance against a number of criteria. These criteria often value size as a positive and can distil down to ‘big libraries’ = ‘high value’ and ‘small libraries’ = ‘low value’ in determining the worth of library branches to the total Library Service. Library Services facing budget pressures then propose closing smaller libraries because the effect on total council performance is relatively small. This approach is seen as managerially efficient by councils but in our view leads to too much library resource being allocated to towns and too little to smaller communities. Little attention is paid to how the affected smaller communities will access the library service after the proposed changes. 6.3 Library service reviews often do not consider the wider benefits of a local library to a community. These benefits are very important locally, but are often not seen as the direct concern of the Library Service. 6.4 Local libraries are particularly important to those less able to travel i.e. children, older people and those with disabilities. The Equalities Act 2010, which applies to these groups, may potentially influence library closure decisions but this has yet to be established. 6.5 Library reviews, at least until recently, have too rarely encouraged innovation in service delivery. The traditional approach tends to be ‘with the budget we have and doing things the way we do we will need to close ‘x’ small libraries and whilst the service will be worse we think the service will still be legal so this is our proposal.’ Whilst council library services must be able to respond to changing levels of library usage they should be willing to innovate in order to at least maintain a sensible demographic spread of library provision. This requires genuine engagement with local residents to determine the best option for each community. In our case a community managed library with council support is meeting the local need and is cost effective for the taxpayer. The need for library standards 6.6 The Courts interpretation of ‘comprehensive and efficient’ appears to be that councils have substantial flexibility on the level of library services that they can deliver and flexibility is allowed to respond to changes in the level of funding available. The responsibility for determining the substance of what constitutes a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ service is with the Secretary of State. Neither the current or previous Secretaries of State have chosen to define in any detail the meaning of ‘comprehensive and efficient’.


6.7 The Charteris Report is surely important. It confirms the principle that councils must make an assessment of local needs for the library service, meet the needs of adults, the general requirements of children and the particular need of deprived communities. 6.8 The lack of meaningful legally enforceable minimum standard of library provision leads us to the view that the DCMS should re-establish library standards to provide guidance on the levels of service that the general public should expect councils to provide. The standards need to support equitable delivery of library services across large and small communities. 6.9 Library standards were abolished in England in 2008 as part of a general purge of ‘red tape’ periodically undertaken by Government. In addition the national indicator on library usage was abolished in 2010. We feel that the absence of clear minimum measurable standards of library provision has been detrimental and now makes it too easy for councils to push through library service reductions against the wishes of residents. The idea put about by Ministers that engaging with local councillors is sufficient to prevent this is over-optimistic in practice. 6.10 New library standards would need to take account of the impact of the internet and e-resources. Mechanisms to stop councils cherry picking the easier to achieve standards whilst ignoring others would also be useful. 7.

The impact library closures have on local communities

7.1 Our experience is unusual in that our library was closed by the Council in 2006, reopened by village residents as a non-statutory community run public library and then in 2010 returned to being part of the statutory library service. 7.2 Fortunately our village library was only closed for just over a month at the end of 2006. There are few sights as sad as seeing a closed down public library. 7.3 Market research in our village consistently shows that maintaining the library in the village is considered important by residents. The strong local support that the library has received since opening as a community library confirms this point. 8.

The effectiveness of the Secretary of State's powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964.

8.1 We can understand the Secretarial of State’s reluctance to use his power of intervention by ordering a local inquiry - it is no doubt an expensive and cumbersome option and inevitably implies questioning the proposals of an elected body which is not something to be done lightly. The Minister has described it as being the ‘nuclear option’. If this is the case then it seems to us that better ‘conventional weapons’ are required to ensure that the


public views are taken into account when library service changes are proposed. We make the following suggestions for improving the process: Better reporting and disclosure of library performance to the public 8.2 As background to the local discussion on changes to library provision we think residents need to know about the performance of their local library service. 8.3 At the local community level parish councils, library friends groups and resident associations should be encouraged to take an interest in the performance of their local library. We like the approach adopted in Camden where the Camden Public Library Users Group publishes individual library branch performance information. 8.4 We think the profile of the annual Public Library Statistics (CIPFA data) should be raised. We suggest the following: • at the council level - CIPFA data should be made available to residents via a council’s website and the hardcopy UK annual statistics should be available in every central library with copies for reference and for loan. Council library service performance should be published annually on the web. Scrutiny committees should monitor the performance. • at the national level the DCMS should explain and comment publicly on the trends arising from the annual CIPFA data. • if possible the full statistics should be made freely available electronically and published on the internet. The statistics should be available to the public 3-4 months after the end of the financial year i.e. on a timetable more in line with private sector reporting. Currently reporting takes 7-12 months by which time the data is stale. 8.5 The current Public Library Statistics are prepared under an arrangement between local authorities and the trading arm of CIPFA - a charity. Whilst there is a view that this is a private arrangement and the government can’t interfere we think the current process isn’t working sufficiently in the public interest and the DCMS should take action to raise the profile of this data. There can be a more informed local debate if library standards were available 8.6 If there were national library standards then the public could better judge the overall library performance of their council and engage with their council accordingly. A better approach to consultation. 8.7 Every consultation is different but too often the information initially provided is inadequate. In the internet age information can easily be made publicly available. Councils are often weak in providing the necessary


context surrounding their library proposals. Areas that seem to be poorly disclosed include: • the council’s overall budget position and the rationale for changes in library service funding. • how the proposed library changes fit within the overall library service and its budget. • details of how the statutory library service will be provided to communities where library closures or non-statutory community managed libraries are proposed. • discussion of the alternatives to the council’s proposals. Council scrutiny committees can play a useful role 8.8 We think council scrutiny committees should be more proactive when there are controversial library proposals. They can provide a useful councillor cross check when library service changes are proposed. In particular they can ensure that: • the consultation information provided is sufficient to enable the public to intelligently engage on the issues being consulted on. • the council’s response to points raised in consultation is adequate. • the public can raise their concerns at a scrutiny meeting if a decision is challenged via the call-in procedure. • the council cabinet’s response is adequate where a decision is referred back to cabinet by the scrutiny committee. We think scrutiny committees should have the power to refer a decision to full council. Public disclosure of the DCMS’s view of a council’s library proposals 8.9 At the moment the DCMS’s public library superintendence role is virtually all behind the scenes. The superintendence role only comes into public view when a local inquiry is ordered which is a very rare event. Would it not be better if the DCMS were to occasionally go public on its view of a council’s proposals? Where necessary this could put useful pressure on a council to think again. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by the Councillor David Pugh, Leader of the Isle of Wight Council (LIB 057) Summary • The Isle of Wight Council (“the Council”) made a decision to reduce its number of libraries from 11 to six, and has supported and enabled the establishment of community-run libraries in place of the other five. • The Council considers that its provision of six libraries (supported by a mobile service) fully meets its statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. A Judicial Review challenge to this decision was unsuccessful. Over and above this statutory provision, an enhanced service is now available through the availability of five community libraries. • As the matter of what constitutes a comprehensive and efficient service is not explicitly defined, the Council believes that, in the spirit of localism, it should be a matter for individual local authorities to reach a considered view as to how this duty is met. In our own case, this involved a thorough assessment of local needs matched against availability of services. Ultimately of course, the public can be the judge of whether they believe the provision is sufficient, through their participation in the democratic process. • Furthermore, the Council believes that its approach is fully compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the learnings from the Charteris Report. • I believe that the impact of the closures on local communities has been minimised, giving the communities in those towns and villages the opportunity to have a greater say in how their libraries are run and enabling the residents to contribute to the day-to-day running of the library, as volunteers. I have seen first hand the local enthusiasm for this approach, as a volunteer at my own community library in Shanklin. • With regard to the effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers, I believe that the current level of intervention is appropriate. We were pleased to discuss our plans with civil servants, following correspondence to Ministers from residents concerned about the authority’s proposals. We believe that it would only be necessary for the Secretary of State to intervene if a local authority took a draconian approach which appeared to run completely contrary to the statutory duty. 1.

The Isle of Wight Council is the statutory Library Authority for the Island, and is committed to providing a comprehensive and efficient service, for the benefit of all Islanders and visitors who choose to make use of it.


The Isle of Wight covers an area of 146 square miles, 60% of which is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Island’s rural nature is important to bear in mind, because it makes public services, which are focused largely in the Island’s towns and larger villages, difficult and expensive to access by public transport. The Island’s economic status is improving, but from a base which was the lowest in the South East. Wage levels are comparable with industrial areas of the North East, with a history of low educational attainment, low skills levels and a high dependency on seasonal employment in the Island’s renowned tourism industry. The Island also features a significant number of


second homes, occupied only for part of the year. This makes home ownership and social progression difficult, exacerbating the employment issues described here. The Island community also comprises higher than average numbers of people at or nearing retirement age, with lower-than-average numbers of young professionals and entrepreneurs staying on the Island to contribute to the economy. It is this complex and varied demographic that the Island’s library service seeks to serve. 3.

The libraries review began in 2010, when the Council began a review of its library provision. There were 11 static libraries, plus mobile and housebound delivery services, serving a population of 140,500. This service cost over £2million, out of a total net controllable budget of £135million. The review was set against a backdrop of financial challenges facing the Council which required savings of over £33million to be found over four years (2011 – 2015). The review had initial target savings of £400,000 in the first year, with £500,000 full year savings thereafter.


A full consideration of the Charteris Report ensured that the service review would be determined on the basis of sound knowledge and evidence and was linked to need. We therefore embarked on a data gathering exercise and customer survey throughout the summer of 2010.


We collected extensive data including library usage, take-up by local population, satisfaction figures across the service as well as a wealth of information regarding costs, suitability of buildings and location linked to population density. The Joint Strategic Needs Assessment was the cornerstone for this evidencebased research.


Through face to face interviews and other data gathering techniques we obtained the opinions of 1,879 customers in relation to the reasons they visited the library, what mattered to them about the library service and the impact the service had on their lives.


These views, which were summarised in the data analysis, provided compelling evidence that smaller libraries were highly valued even when used by a relatively small percentage of the local population.


Still mindful of the Wirral (Charteris) report and the Council’s equalities duties, the Council also embarked on an Island-wide consultation, which ran throughout January 2011. The consultation was focused on a set of draft proposals, which were provided to stimulate debate and act as a catalyst for creative solutions. These proposals described a service which featured a large and enhanced library in both of the Island’s largest two towns and a gradual withdrawal of funding from all nine of the remaining libraries until either the community came forward to run a local library service in the area, or the site would close. The consultation sought to identify the potential impact of the proposals. A significant response resulted, with public meetings called across the Island, 1,506 formal responses submitted and five petitions handed in. The overwhelming public view was that withdrawal of funding, leading to the closure of all these nine libraries, would be unacceptable.



Throughout the consultation process, and continuing to today, the Council has worked closely with the Isle of Wight Rural Community Council (“the RCC”), which is the focal organisation for the voluntary and community sector across the Island – supported with Isle of Wight Council funding. The contribution of the RCC to the successful progress on the libraries journey was crucial and appreciated by the Council and local residents.


When the libraries review came for formal decision at the Council’s Cabinet on 1 March 2011, the Cabinet Members listened to the clear public response and amended their decision accordingly. The Council decided to continue to operate libraries in six towns across the Island (reflecting the sites with the highest levels of usage and the highest levels of identified need). In addition, it would offer an innovative package of support to communities to develop community-run libraries in the other five areas, where Council funding would cease for a library. Despite these sites receiving only 18% of the service’s usage between them, each one was keenly supported by its local community, with expressions of interest in operating a community library submitted by each area. The support package was part-funded from the Council’s New Homes Bonus grant, demonstrating how this reward funding could be used to develop community capacity. This led to a revision of the service’s saving targets to £350,000 for the financial year 2011/12, and £450,000 for the full year effect thereafter.


From April 2011, the Council entered into detailed discussions with a variety of community groups and local (parish and town) councils, to identify solutions which met the needs of the local communities where funding would cease. These discussions related to the support package on offer to the developing community libraries, which included: • leasing the library buildings on preferential “peppercorn” terms; • free access to the Council’s full library stock with guaranteed stock refreshes; • free training, including on a bespoke library management system interface which the Council commissioned to protect customer data; • initial Criminal Records Bureau checks for volunteers; • business-ready broadband to support the continued provision of People’s Network computers; and • free reference support and training for the foreseeable future.


It was clear that the original funding withdrawal deadline of 30 June 2011 was not going to be feasible for the community library groups, and a series of councillor-level decisions authorised month-by-month extension periods, during which tenancies-at-will and ICT connections could be put in place to enable the community libraries to launch and operate successfully. Full 30 year leases are in negotiation; the RCC’s support for this process is evidenced by their own assumption of leases on behalf of two communities unable to form their own incorporated body to accept a tenancy.


In October 2011, having supported the communities to develop their own local library, the Council made a final decision to withdraw funding from the five sites


indicated in the March decision, whilst committing to the providing ongoing infrastructure and resource (books) support to these community libraries. 14.

It is our assessment that the Council’s offer of six static library sites, supplemented by a mobile service and a housebound delivery service fully meets our requirement to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. The five community-run libraries further enhance our coverage to the Island, over and above this statutory provision.


The fact that we have achieved this outcome of five community libraries, operated and run by volunteers, is a testament to the passion of the Island’s communities for reading and access to information.


It is also worth mentioning that the Council has, at the same time, invested in self-service facilities in the two largest libraries, to test the benefits before a full service-wide roll-out. After only a month, self-service is running at 85%, freeing up staff time to provide a broader and more personal service to customers.


An unexpected benefit of the public response from the consultation period, was that “Friends” groups have been formed to support some of the Council-run libraries. Although not yet engaging in full budgetary devolution to communities, these Friends groups raise funds and represent community views in operational decisions about the libraries that they support. In addition, volunteers are welcomed into the Council’s six libraries, to provide support to the library staff in their daily tasks, or to provide additional skills such as jobseeking support, or genealogical advice. It is anticipated that the availability of volunteers in the Council’s libraries will complement library staff to the extent that longer opening hours will be enabled, responding to community demand where required.


Throughout this journey, the Council, town and parish councils, the RCC and communities have been sharing a learning process which has been challenging but is proving successful. The Council continues to learn, and offers some of that learning to the Select Committee, in the hope it can inform the national debate.


There are a number of specific questions which the Select Committee’s enquiry raises. Firstly, it is noted that the matter of what constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service is not explicitly defined. It is clear that the 1964 Act is non-specific in its language. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In the spirit of localism, we believe that it should be a matter for each individual local authority to reach their own considered view as to how this duty is met. Whilst some campaigners may be anxious that such an approach would give local authorities carte blanche to radically reduce the level of provision, we are confident that individual councils would have particular regard for the needs of their communities when considering any changes. As we have acknowledged, it is clear that residents are passionate about their library service, and any local authority which ignored or dismissed such passion when making a decision to reduce provision would do so at their peril. The ultimate accountability for providing a comprehensive and efficient library service will take place through


participation in the democratic process, and there is no doubt that residents will respond accordingly if they feel the level of service provided is not sufficient. 20.

We therefore believe that the Secretary of State should operate a light touch approach, only intervening in circumstances where a local authority’s plans would appear to run completely contrary to the statutory duty. Furthermore we believe that the Select Committee should not seek to define what level of intervention from the Secretary of State is appropriate. Ministers will undoubtedly exercise their discretion when choosing to intervene, and the level and frequency of any such intervention will depend on how critical they feel the issues are. Any such intervention will also take place within the context of democratic and parliamentary accountability of Ministers, and the importance which the government of the day places on taking a pro-active role on such matters.


The Isle of Wight Council has had first-hand experience of the Secretary of State’s interest in library reviews. The Council received correspondence from the Minister of State on behalf of the Secretary of State and, at the Minister’s request, was invited to discuss its proposals with civil servants at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It was clear throughout the process that Government interest in the Island’s library review was focused on whether the statutory library authority would retain an accessible service which was adequate to meet the needs of anyone wishing to use it on the Isle of Wight. The Secretary of State appeared prepared to use his powers, should that have been necessary, which of course, it was not.


The Council is aware that a small group of residents have chosen to challenge this partnership approach. However, the dissatisfaction of a small minority does not mean automatically that the Secretary of State has acted incorrectly. The Isle of Wight Library Authority continues to provide a service which it considers comprehensive, efficient and reflecting the needs of its residents and visitors so that anyone may make use of it, whether in a Council run library, from the mobile library, from a community library or online.


The Isle of Wight Council chose to define the comprehensiveness of its service by taking into account the needs of the population it serves. It did this by rooting every proposal and decision in evidence from the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment for the Island. This provided us with demographic and socioeconomic data including car ownership, public transport accessibility, travel times, health indicators (including morbidity; to establish long-term take-up), educational attainment levels, and so on. The levels of need were identified as particularly high in several areas across the Island (based on the Index of Multiple Deprivation), with five areas with deprivation levels in the lowest quartile in the UK. It is no coincidence that the Council decided to retain a library presence in these areas, and those which feature similar levels of disadvantage, as evidenced by the data sets gathered during the review. The Council has also committed to these communities, by keeping free access to literacy support, leisure reading, ICT-based work searches, social networks such as reading and job clubs, and by retaining a respected local service in a well-known public building in these towns.



Another key element to be borne in mind, when considering whether a service is comprehensive, is whether it considers the impact of any service changes on its customer base, in terms of the nine protected characteristics under equalities legislation. Action plans to mitigate against adverse impacts on specific groups must be real, with genuine attempts to improve access for as many potential customers (residents and visitors) as possible. The key outcome should be that a library service is accessible to be enjoyed by all, rather than placing importance on who delivers the service. This was a key consideration in our approach, and was reflected in the decision making process.


The consideration of efficiency is one that will change over time with technological developments and changes in customer behaviour and expectations. On the Isle of Wight we examined the efficiency of our library provision, by assessing our operating costs, including premises maintenance, and exploring local partnership opportunities to offer additional local services such as tax and benefits advice. The service has offered a 365-day a year online service for some time, which enables customers to renew, reserve and order books using the internet. The service is currently commissioning a new community-led enterprise, building on the current housebound deliveries, but tying this into local voluntary groups’ good neighbour schemes to enable more housebound people of all ages to have access to a library service. The Council also reached a view that community needs would still be met by the six library sites and an enhanced mobile service to access the many rural areas across the Island. It is a positive reflection on the hard work of communities, the RCC and the Council that the Island now benefits from a good quality library service featuring community input and leadership.


The invitation to submit evidence to the Select Committee also suggests comment on the potential impact of closures. I would respectfully suggest that the provision of library services through a building is not really the issue and the question is more appropriately framed in terms of the community’s access to a core set of library services whether these are provided by a building based service or a mobile one or indeed a virtual one. The consideration is to define the core service, the frequency and timing of its availability and the accessibility of alternatives. As has been stated above, we were always confident that even if the five libraries that became community libraries had closed we would have still provided a comprehensive service to those communities albeit by compensating the loss of the static sites with an enhanced mobile service. Our ambition, which was successfully realised, was not to close them but transfer them to community groups.


Given the above, the Committee may be interested to note the main concerns voiced by residents as part of the consultation process should libraries close, were:• inaccessibility from rural areas to alternative sites due to expensive and infrequent public transport; • removal of access to ICT for job seekers;


• • • •

removal of literacy and learning support in a community with a history of low academic attainment; concerns for the welfare of library staff; concerns at the perceived lack of suitably trained and / or qualified staff (concerns about the reliability of volunteers); and concern at the removal of important local meeting places which are safe, neutral and welcoming.


The retention of libraries, and the extensive training and support package offered to community libraries, has addressed these concerns in large measure. I would also like to offer my own local experience and perspective on how library provision can be effective when being delivered by the community. The Council made the decision to close the authority-run library in my own town of Shanklin, which I represent as a local councillor. This understandably generated significant concern locally, as the library – despite being small – is well used by many of our residents.


We have been able to transform this concern into enthusiasm, and now have a team of 40 local residents recruited and trained as volunteers. Over recent months, I have personally led and organised this initiative, including being trained as a volunteer myself. At the time of writing this submission I am in the process of handing over the day-to-day management of these volunteers to a part-time co-ordinator which Shanklin Town Council has recruited to support this community initiative. It is worth noting that the level of enthusiasm we have engendered has led to a waiting list of when we are able to accommodate our volunteers in the library, and we fully expect the opening hours to be extended to meet local demand and for a wider range of services to be provided over the coming months. This experience is being reflected in community libraries across the Island and is an indication that, if anything, the changes to our libraries will lead to an enhanced and more diverse level of service being in place as a result. These community libraries continue to be fully supported by the Isle of Wight Council and at a local level we certainly feel like an integral and full part of our wider provision on the Island.


In summary, we believe that the development of community libraries will not only complement the Council’s core offer of a comprehensive and efficient library service, but demonstrates that the emphasis should not be on who delivers the service – but what is provided. The concerns of local residents have been more than addressed through the community provision we have put in place, and other than a more local focus to the service in towns such as Shanklin, there is little noticeable difference to what is on offer. The Isle of Wight Council is delighted how our communities have risen to the challenge of supporting our library service. We have offered stability for the future of the service by reaffirming our long-term commitment to continuing the current partnership arrangements and working with the community libraries to further enhance the quality of service being provided. The future is very bright for Isle of Wight libraries.

January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Councillor Paul Lorber, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Brent Council (LIB 058) SUMMARY •

Brent Council has carried out one of the most drastic programmes of library closures in the country, closing half of its libraries in the teeth of local opposition and willingness to get involved in supporting the running of libraries under threat. In doing so the council has reversed a strategy of improving and expanding access to the library service, including by co-locating relevant local services to make the most efficient use of land and buildings. The closures have negatively affected thousands of local library users and Brent Council is now at risk of failing to deliver a comprehensive and efficient library service. Provision of one or two super-libraries in an area is unlikely to be enough to deliver a comprehensive service. A local library at the heart of the community is an important element in a truly comprehensive and efficient library service. The Secretary of State’s powers of intervention are important, would benefit from greater clarity as to when they would be used, and should be used when councils fail to deliver an adequate service. The Culture Media and Sport Committee should include in its conclusions: o a recommendation that the drastic and severe library cuts in Brent are of sufficient concern that the Secretary of State should establish an inquiry to investigate the matter; o that the Secretary of State should be prepared to use his powers to establish inquiries in other areas where drastic and severe cuts have been proposed and place the delivery of a comprehensive and efficient service at risk; o That the Secretary of State should publish minimum standards or benchmarks (similar to the former Public Library Service Standards and in line with the approach taken by the Welsh Government) which would give local authorities and residents greater clarity and certainty about the circumstances which would trigger the Secretary of State’s intervention; o That the standard of ensuring that 100% of residents in inner London and 99% of residents in outer London live within one mile of a local library remains an appropriate measure.

Introduction 1. This submission is made in a personal capacity as a former Leader of Brent Council involved in discussions about library services in Brent and also on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Group of councillors on Brent Council. 2. I was Leader of Brent Council between June 2006 and May 2010 during which time the administration that I led rejected the option of library closures and retained


all twelve existing libraries. Under my leadership the council invested revenue and capital in order to provide additional library services and books and to extend opening hours. 3. I have been a councillor in Brent since May 1982. I represent Sudbury ward which includes Barham Park Library which operated in my ward between May 1952 and October 2011 when it was closed by Brent Council. I have been actively involved in the Friends of Barham Park Library and the Brent SOS [Save Our Six] Libraries campaign. Background: Brent Library Service 4. Brent Council has carried out the most drastic library closure programme of any local authority. It is one of only three London Boroughs that have closed libraries. It has now shut a greater proportion (half) of its libraries than any other local authority. Moreover it has set its face against community involvement in any of the now closed local libraries. Unsurprisingly the savage nature of the closure programme stimulated a high-profile, passionate and well-supported campaign in favour of local libraries under the umbrella of the Brent SOS Libraries campaign. 1 5. The closure programme reverses the council’s previous approach of improving accessibility, usage and satisfaction levels. 6. When I was Leader of Brent Council between 2006 and 2010 it was clear that continuing to deliver the library service in the same way that it had been delivered historically would not meet the needs of residents. Usage and loans were both in decline. Brent’s library service met only four out of the ten Public Library Service Standards. 2 As a result the council looked into options, carried out research and undertook extensive public consultation in 2007. 7. On 14 January 2008 the Executive (made up of six Liberal Democrat and four Conservative Councillors) approved a 2008 – 2012 Library Strategy 3 . This recognised that community needs and customer expectations were changing and that councils’ library services needed to respond accordingly. 8. We agreed to: a) Retain all 12 existing Libraries – ensuring that 99.3% of Brent residents were within 1 mile of their local library and thus meeting the former Public Library Service Standard (proportion of households living within specified distance of a static library) for outer London authorities. b) Provide an additional £300,000 a year to expand opening hours and increasing the book stock.

See See 3 See Brent Council Library Strategy 2008-2012 at$Library%20Str ategy%202008-2012.htm. 1



c) Modernise existing library facilities, relocate them where appropriate and provide match funding for external funding bids. Our objective was to bring additional complementary services into our libraries including children centres, adult education and advice services. d) Improve the marketing of the many services available at local libraries. 9. The prime objective of the Strategy was to provide the best possible library service to local people and to meet our statutory duty to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service. 10. Strategy achievements included: a) All 12 static libraries remained open b) At Kingsbury a new joint library/customer service centre was created by relocating the existing library to a location already occupied by the council’s One Stop Shop in the main shopping street. This resulted in an increase in library visits of over 50%. 4 c) Neasden Library modernised and shared with Adult Education Service. d) At Barham Park Library the premises were refurbished to enable a Children’s’ Centre to be located at the library. (This investment will now not fulfil its full potential as a result of closure of the library by the current administration.) e) At Harlesden Library lottery funding assisted the development of a joint library/learning centre with Brent Adult and Community Education Service. f) Plans for new Civic Centre Library (replacing an outdated Town Hall library) are underway. g) Opening hours were standardised to make more sense for library users and extended. h) Restructure and efficiencies saved £250,000 a year. 11. In February 2011 Brent Council, under a new Labour administration, agreed a budget which reversed many of these achievements. A formal consultation attracted over 1,500 responses (82 per cent of which opposed the council’s plans). This is a much bigger number of responses than is usual for a council consultation and indicates the level of public interest and concern generated by the proposals. 12. Following the consultation Brent Council’s Executive voted to implement the closure of six libraries without amending the original proposals. The actual closure of the six libraries was postponed until October 2011 because of legal action taken by library campaigners. On the afternoon of the court judgement the council shut the six libraries without warning and boarded all but one up. The library buildings remain closed and largely empty. 13. Redundancy payments paid as a consequence of the closures total £258,411.89. The council has also spent over £154,837.04 on legal costs defending its decision.

Libraries Transformation Project: Report from the Director of Environment and Neighbourhood Services to the Executive (Brent Council, 11 April 2011)



Inquiry issue 1: What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century? 14. Despite technological, cultural, demographic and economic changes since 1964 the essence of a comprehensive and efficient library service has not changed. 15. A comprehensive library service is one which serves all sections of the community, whether defined geographically (libraries must serve communities in all parts of the authority’s area), by age (because children, young people, those of working age and older people have overlapping but different needs) or by characteristics such as race and disability. 16. The definition of comprehensive must take account of accessibility. Unless a library is easily accessible especially for young accompanied children, older youngsters coming on their own or older people there is effectively NO library service for most people: these groups make up a very high proportion of regular library users. These groups require ‘regular’ access to their local library and not the occasional visit to a more distant one. 17. For this reason in Brent we adopted the one mile from a library standard given the substantial number of parents who walk with their young children to use their local library and in line with the then current Public Library Service Standard. It also enables older youngsters to visit on their own with the knowledge that they are a short distance from home. The subsequent administration downgraded this to 1.5 miles from a library (and failed to meet even this objective). 18. The map above 5 shows the effect of the six library closures. The diamonds represt the six remaining libraries. Prior to the closures the only areas more than one mile away from one of the council’s libraries were those areas shaded in light grey. These are mainly industrial and more sparsely populated areas. The light grey areas cover just 0.7% of the borough’s residents. The dark grey area are the areas currently more than one mile away from a library, including significant areas of Sudbury, North Wembley, Kenton, Northwick Park, Neasden and Dollis Hill. 19. Responses to the Brent libraries consultation revealed that 90% of respondents walked to the library as one of their methods of travel. This figure highlights the importance of local provision. 20. Other characteristics of a comprehensive service include: a) opening hours that respond to the requirements of the local community; b) flexible uses which meet local community needs and act as a centre for community activities; c) local libraries that are well stocked with up to date books, have access to a wider book stock, with adequate PC access and modern facilities providing other shared services; 5

Not printed.


d) active involvement of properly qualified librarians and knowledgeable staff; e) libraries that provides adequate local study and reading space. 21. This approach reinforces the fact that a provision of one or two mega-libraries in an area is unlikely to be enough to deliver a comprehensive service. A local library at the heart of the community is an important element in a truly comprehensive and efficient library service. Inquiry issue 2: The extent to which planned (actual in the case of Brent) closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report? 22. The closure of half of Brent’s libraries has deprived tens of thousands of Brent residents of a local library service. Emerging evidence suggests that many users of closed libraries have ceased being library users, or use libraries more infrequently. 23. One former Preston Library user shared her experience: … I cannot get to the Town Hall or Kingsbury Libraries so easily. The Town Hall library is a 48 minute return walk. This figure does not include time in the library. I could use a bus which will cost me £2.60 return on an Oyster Card. I also have a back problem which limits the amount I can carry. The same journey time, carriage problems and transport costs apply to Kingsbury Plus Library… Preston Road Library was a ten minute walk away. I would pop books into my shopping trolley and shlap [sic] them to the library and shop on the way back. There is no free library car park in Kingsbury Library Plus. Does the “Plus” mean plus travel time and plus transport costs? 6 24. Prior to the closure decision being taken the Brent Youth Parliament also set out its concerns about the effect of library closures on local young people: BYP consists of 72 elected members who represent the 72,000 young people…cuts to the libraries should be reconsidered, as they will have a detrimental effect on Brent’s educational standards and the young people you represent. Around 50% of the libraries’ regular users are young people aged 19 and under – the group that has suffered most from central government cuts already. The sudden withdrawal of these services will hit this vulnerable group at a time when it is most needed…Brent Town Hall, one of the libraries set to stay open, has seen overflow of study spaces for many years now. It is not acceptable to see young people studying on the stairs of the Town Hall. Barham Park has been packed throughout the Easter break with students and young people of all ages. The impact on young people is going to be very substantial… 7

6 7 Brent Youth Parliament’s Recommendations to Overview and Scrutiny


25. There were 62,120 members of the six affected Brent libraries prior to closure. Library Barham Cricklewood Kensal Rise Neasden Preston Tokyngton

Registered members (pre-closures) 11,644 6,977 9,136 11,562 15,014 7,787

26. In the case of Barham Library 3,800 of the registered members were identified as ‘active’ users of whom around 50 per cent were aged under 19. The proportions were very similar for the other five libraries. This means that over 20,000 active users (including over 10,000 active users under 19 years of age) have been deprived of their local library as a result of the six closures. Inquiry issue 3: The impact of library closures on local communities 27. The library closures in Brent have affected a) Young people, notably at exam time: during this time local libraries are full of young people revising for their exams. Libraries offer the space for the right environment where youngsters can study by themselves or with their friends especially for young people in overcrowded or disrupted home environments. The loss of study spaces is a blow for young people, especially as further study spaces will be lost when Willesden Green library closes later this year for 18 months for refurbishment, leaving Brent with just five open libraries. The group hardest hit by the closures are young people under the age of 19, who represented half of the active users of the closed libraries. b) Residents without internet access at home or work: libraries provide PC access to those without access to their own PC or the internet. Closed libraries such as Barham, Preston, Tokyngton or Neasden were extensively used by new arrivals into the UK for their research or helping them with learning English. c) Older people: the newspaper reading sections are always full of older people for whom a library represents a place to go. In the case of Barham the Park presents an additional attraction and is accessible by walking to hundreds of older people. d) Parents of very young children now need to travel long distances to get to the nearest local library and are less likely to take advantage of the services provided. e) Older youngsters have to travel much further too and they have been deprived of substantial after school study space.


f) Three out of the six closed libraries – Barham, Preston and Tokyngton – served large Asian communities some of them with special requirements. The closures have disproportionately impacted on this community group. g) Local schools have been deprived of convenient local library venues for regular educational school trips. 28. In the case of Barham the future of the Children Centre has been put at risk. 29. Brent Council has decided to provide an ‘elitist’ library service and turned its back on tens of thousands of actual and potential library users. 30. By choosing to adopt the ‘maximum impact’ option of closure for half of Brent’s libraries Brent Council neglected opportunities for delivering efficiency savings such as sharing services with other local authorities, pooling budgets, working in partnership with volunteers and voluntary organisations, making better use of buildings by co-locating services and in some circumstances making use of charitable trusts. Inquiry issue 4: The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 31. The power to hold an independent Inquiry is an important tool which should provide confidence that local residents can access an adequate local library service. 32. In the case of Brent Council the strongly held view is that the Brent decision was predetermined and that the so called consultation exercise conducted by the Council was a sham. There is clear evidence that vulnerable groups of people in Brent are being deprived of a library service as a result of the decision to close six libraries. Local people have had to resort to a Court challenge when they should have been able to expect the Secretary of State to ensure their concerns were properly considered. 33. The Secretary of State has so far refused to give a hearing to local residents concerned about library closures. This is notwithstanding that, in the case of other library closure campaigns, his team has met with both the Council in question and campaigners. In the case of Brent, only meetings with council officers have been held and the content of these meetings has not been disclosed. 34. The power of intervention is there. What seems to be lacking is the political will to take action which should have been triggered as soon a local Council proposed to close half its local libraries thus threatening the provision of a comprehensive and efficient service. Conclusion 35. The drastic and severe library cuts in Brent are of sufficient concern that the Secretary of State should establish an inquiry to investigate the matter.


36. The Secretary of State should be prepared to use his powers to establish inquiries in other areas where drastic and severe cuts have been proposed and place the delivery of a comprehensive and efficient service at risk. 37. There is also a case for publishing minimum standards (perhaps drawing on the work carried out to develop the former Public Library Service Standards and in line with the approach taken by the Welsh Government) which would give local authorities and residents greater clarity and certainty about the circumstances which would trigger the Secretary of State’s intervention; 38. The objective of ensuring that 100% of residents in inner London and 99% of residents in outer London live within one mile of a local library remains an appropriate. 39. Many councils still have scope to run library services more efficiently without severely adversely affecting the service provided to local residents by sharing services with other local authorities, pooling budgets, working in partnership with volunteers and voluntary organisations, making better use of buildings by co-locating services and in some circumstances making use of charitable trusts. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by UNISON (LIB 059) Inquiry into library closures UNISON welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee Inquiry into library closures. As the biggest union in the UK for the library and culture service we represent the majority of the 27,000 library staff employed as librarians, library assistants and managers in all library authorities in England, Scotland and Wales. Executive summary UNISON recognises the value of professionally qualified librarians and trained library staff as an essential part of the services libraries provide to the community. However our members are under attack from those who think that librarianship is little more than a hobby. Whilst UNISON feels that there is a place for volunteering in libraries, we argue that this should not be at the expense of directly employed, paid, professional staff. UNISON has a long-running campaign which aims to highlight threats to the public libraries and calls for local authorities to protect and invest in services. Since the launch of the campaign, UNISON has been dismayed to witness the growing threat to local services posed by the cuts to local government funding. The latest figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy show a drop in paid staff numbers of over 4%, whilst the number of volunteers within libraries has increased by 22% since 2010 1 . Urgent action needs to be taken to halt the continuing fragmentation and decline of the library service, including the de-skilling of experienced library staff. UNISON argues that: • • • • • • •

Library services should be publicly provided via an in-house service model Services should be regularly reviewed in conjunction with staff and users A service improvement plan must form the basis for any change to the service The current cuts and closures programme amounts to the dismantling of the network of public library services Libraries should remain the responsibility of the library authority and not fall outside of this remit through transfer to the community Local users and taxpayers should not be expected to volunteer to run their library service Volunteers should not be used to undermine the position of paid, trained staff within library services.

It is disappointing that none of the questions posed by the Select Committee relate to the experience of staff in the current climate, nor make explicit reference to the impact that other cuts, which stop short of outright closures, are having upon library services. Our members report a catalogue of cuts to staffing and services which have a detrimental impact on local users and communities, yet which often fall under the radar if the council can assert to the public that no library has closed. This effective ‘hollowing                                                              1

CIPFA annual statistics charting library usage in the UK for 2011:  


out’ of services is particularly worrying to UNISON members, as our responses to the following questions seek to highlight. 1. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century? 1.0 The wording contained within the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 (the Act) is broad enough to allow a range of interpretations. Whilst this kind of freedom enables forward-thinking local authorities to provide excellent public library services which meet the changing needs of their communities, for others the ambiguity surrounding the definition of ‘comprehensive and efficient’ provides justification for poorly planned and resourced services. 1.1 Critics of the Act point to its reference to the provision of gramophone records as evidence that it is outdated, and indeed by default imply that the public library in general is an outmoded institution. Whilst the provision of books and printed material remains a core function, modern library services are about more than just books. Access to the internet, literacy initiatives for families and children, adult education, work with schools and colleges, outreach for vulnerable members of the community, hosting local groups and organisations and a range of information and advice provision form the basis of a ‘typical’ day in a modern library. 1.2 UNISON strongly opposes the current trend towards alternative models of service delivery, including moves to hand libraries over to the community. We are clear in our view that this approach effectively holds users to ransom over the fate of their local services. Anecdotal evidence from a number of different areas where this has happened suggests that local user groups want a publicly funded, professionally staffed and resourced facility. It is only when this is withdrawn that local people feel they have no other choice than to step in to try and keep some form of provision available. For the government to try and suggest that local communities want to run their own services under the notion of the ‘big society’ is simply false. 1.3 UNISON is of the view that only a publicly provided library service can ensure quality provision, value for money, democratic accountability and equality of access. The spectre of privatisation has hung over the public library service for many years. But whereas in years past the option has been rejected, the current climate of austerity means that many local authorities are considering turning to the market in order to ‘save’ services and slash costs. We believe this to be a false economy and that the idea of turning libraries over to private profit-making companies to be anathema to the founding principles of libraries as public institutions. 1.4 Whilst privatisation of UK libraries is still a rarity, several local authorities are seeking to go down this route, which may signal the beginning of a worrying trend. UNISON remains opposed to privatisation as a form of service delivery, as experience shows that service quality suffers and the majority of savings are made through worsening the terms and conditions of the workforce. Furthermore we remain unconvinced of the benefits of other alternative models such as leisure trusts, which are often questionable in terms of democratic accountability.


2. The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report 2.0 UNISON believes it is right that the provision of a public library service is a statutory duty on local authorities with central government oversight. Our view is that the legislation does not need to be updated but, guidance should be put in place about its practical application for the 21st century library, linked to a new set of standards for public libraries which local authorities should adhere to and be benchmarked against. 2.1 Following the much reduced local government settlement under the Coalition Government’s 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review, proposals for large scale cuts and closures of libraries have become commonplace. Despite having lobbied vociferously for intervention by the then Secretary of State, Andy Burnham, now in office Jeremy Hunt has made no such moves for any level of intervention, repeatedly stating that officials are ‘monitoring’ the situation. In two high profile legal cases campaigners in three local authority areas have now been forced to take action against closures via the courts, such was their frustration at the Secretary of State’s unwillingness to intervene. 2.3 The Secretary of State has made it clear that individual closures alone do not necessarily breach the Act. Similarly UNISON believe that limited closures undertaken as part of well-planned process involving staff and communities can in fact improve library services, reflect changing needs in the local area and enable the provision of a more comprehensive and efficient service. Our concern lies in the fact that many of the current round of closures are taking place solely as a cost-cutting exercise, have little strategic direction and are being undertaken in a hurried fashion with scant regard for the long term consequences and impact on local communities. Ironically the Secretary of State’s department has previously stated that closures which are undertaken on financial grounds alone are unacceptable 2 . 2.4 In a 2011 blog piece, Francis Bennion (the civil servant who drafted the original Act), said that in his opinion any library closure would breach the Act as it could only be assumed that local authorities were currently providing a comprehensive and efficient service 3 . In his view any less would be a clear diminution of the duty. It is well known that library services have suffered from decades of underinvestment and neglect. Yet too many library services are being branded ‘not fit for purpose’ after years of neglect and this is simply not acceptable. UNISON advocates any change to services to be precipitated by a thorough review, culminating in a staff-led service improvement plan. 2.5 UNISON locally was central to the campaign in the Wirral which led to the Charteris report following the proposed closure of half of the local authority’s libraries in 2009. In December 2011 Wirral Council approved their Libraries Strategy, which was drawn up in conjunction with the (now disbanded) Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) as a direct recommendation of the Charteris Report. The Strategy sets out a vision for libraries in Wirral and details the planned work and investment that is taking place in                                                              2

‘We would be concerned if libraries were closed, or their services disproportionately reduced, just to save money’ - 3 ‘Drafting the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act’  


order to sustain the library service into the future (central to this is the proposal to merge with the Council’s network of One Stop Shops). It also crucially places libraries within the context of other strategic council priorities including the Corporate Plan objectives concerning children and young people and adult social services, as well as linking with the authority’s Customer Access Strategy. 2.6 This kind of long-term strategic consideration of the development of libraries within a local authority has too often been lacking. Many UNISON branches report the library service moving between various departments down the years, losing experienced heads of service and effectively existing in isolation from main council business, with staff affected by a lack of leadership, recruitment freezes and unable to access good quality training and development opportunities. 2.7 Yet despite the recommendations arising from the Charteris Report, many councils are still failing to base changes to library services on a thorough assessment of the needs of the local area. UNISON members report that thorough and meaningful consultation with both staff and users is the exception rather than the norm (this is further evidenced by the number of legal cases which have been brought by local campaigners citing poor consultation as one of the areas for challenge). Too often councils devise a ‘solution’ without adequate consideration of local needs and then attempt to fit their findings to whichever model is proposed. Despite the experience in the Wirral, many local authorities’ closure proposals fail to adequately assess needs from an equalities perspective, particularly in relation to areas of socio-economic deprivation, disabled and older people, as well as the needs of young people, schools and children’s centres. Indeed the recent legal challenge to planned closures in Gloucestershire and Somerset was successful on equalities grounds. 3. The impact library closures have on local communities 3.0 The level of public outcry to library closure plans has shown the level of public support for library services. Too often campaigners are dismissed as ‘the middle classes’ who adhere to the founding principles of public libraries but do not actually use them. UNISON argues that in an era of unprecedented austerity and public spending cuts, libraries are in fact more vital than ever. 3.1 In many places libraries are often the only remaining public open space, offering a vital lifeline to many people both young and old in the community. Outright loss of a library has a detrimental impact on all users, but particularly those who may not have the means to easily access other services such as older and disabled people, parents with young children and local schools. An equality impact assessment should always be undertaken in the case of major service or policy change, which would allow local authorities to assess the impact of their proposals against all protected equalities characteristics in advance, in order to inform decision making. 3.2 In the case of outright closure of a facility it is vital that local authorities put in place measures to mitigate against negative impacts and to offer alternative means of access, which could be undertaken via an equality impact assessment. However it is UNISON’s experience that this kind of thorough and considered approach is often lacking. Our members working in libraries report having to inform users of the loss of the service


themselves – for example to those who use home library services who can often be amongst the most isolated and vulnerable members of the community. 3.4 Campaigners in the inner London borough of Lewisham have sought to highlight the impact on services of the Council’s decision to hand five libraries over to the community (three to a social enterprise, one to a charity and one being kept open by local people). Early figures suggest a sharp decline in lending figures, vastly reduced book stock and loss of professional input into the service. The local UNISON branch argues that these transfers are effectively as bad as outright closure and come at an exceptionally high cost to the Council and local community. However, despite this, local authorities who choose this route can still make the claim that no libraries have closed (although local people in Lewisham argue that a ‘two tier’ library service now exists). 3.5 Within the debate around community run services, particularly worrying for UNISON is the implication that librarianship can be undertaken by anyone willing to give up a few hours of their time to shelve and stamp out books. This kind of view demonstrates a startling ignorance of the role and function of a modern library and its staff. Librarians and library staff are multi-skilled and professional individuals who have a unique insight into the needs of their users and local communities. In many areas they are held in high regard by their local communities and seen as the representatives of the local authority in the locality. 3.6 There are genuine concerns over how the ‘big society’ approach will play out in those communities which are deprived or lacking in sufficient ‘social capital’. Whilst many cite the experience of Little Chalfont library in Buckinghamshire as evidence community-run libraries can work, the founder of the library has stated that he believes a similar service would be difficult to sustain in another area. Jim Brooks, who established the library in 2007, states the initiative has been successful due to a number of unique factors, including the relative affluence of local people and the existence of business skills amongst volunteers 4 . UNISON believes the reliance on such a model as a ‘solution’ for public library services is dangerous and is unlikely to be sustainable in the long-term in the vast majority of areas, including those within deprived inner cities and isolated rural areas alike. 4. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 4.0 UNISON believes intervention by the Secretary of State should be a last resort and it should be for local authorities to determine the best way to ensure a comprehensive and efficient service for their area. Nevertheless some safeguards and form of sanction clearly need to be in place to ensure local authorities comply with their duty. UNISON would like to see a set of common standards for public libraries and a framework for their application to be in place to signal greater political commitment to libraries and the vital services they provide.


We want to help them but want to make a key point that although Chalfont Community Library is a very big success it doesn't always fit other models in the UK.” ommunity_model/


4.1 To date the only experience of intervention taking place has been in the Wirral in 2009. The local UNISON branch take the view that intervention would not have been necessary had the local authority sought to consult the branch, staff and community on the plans as part of the review process. The Charteris Report took the view that the planned closures were made ‘without a clear understanding of the extent and range of services currently being provided in the libraries’ and that the Council displayed ‘a lack of logic around why some facilities were recommended for closure’ 5 . 4.2 At that time the Wirral case, with its proposal to close thirteen libraries, was an exceptional one. Now similarly swingeing proposals are happening around the UK and are drawing little if no comment from the Secretary of State, whose duty it is to superintend the service. Whilst UNISON accepts that local authorities who provide the service should be charged with determining what level of provision constitutes ‘comprehensive and efficient’ there should always be some form of sanction against those authorities who are deemed to be deficient in meeting the requirements of that duty. Intervention should be the last resort, but the prospect should remain. 4.3 The experience of UNISON in the Wirral since the Charteris report demonstrates that there are both positive and negative aspects to intervention. Whilst the action meant all libraries remained open, many feel that the service has been delivered on a ‘shoestring’ budget for the last two years, with little marketing or promotion of the library service. Many of the libraries earmarked for closure were uncertain of their future until the very last minute, causing some to be emptied of much of their stock in preparation for being boarded up. Despite being granted a reprieve, many libraries reported a drop in visitor numbers amongst those unaware of the success of the campaign in averting closures. Conversely, staff have reported an increase in community support for libraries and staff, which continues to be unwavering. 4.4 At a very basic level one of the key criticisms in the Charteris Report was that the Council had taken decisions without a clear understanding of the range of services provided by staff working in the library service. Before any decisions are made about the future of a library service, UNISON is clear that staff must be given the opportunity to input into the review process and work towards a staff-led service improvement plan. The input of experienced staff, who have many years of working on the frontline of their local communities, is invaluable to this process, but our experience is that this is seldom the way in which local authorities opt to conduct service reviews, which we believe is a missed opportunity. Reports from many of our branches suggest that library services which have suffered from years of underinvestment and neglect are being hastily branded as ‘not fit for purpose’ in an attempt to justify what UNISON believes are unwarranted cuts and closures. 4.5 Rather than reach the stage where intervention is necessary, and damage already inflicted on the service and staff morale, we would like to see a new set of library standards in place alongside practical guidance for local councils to guide them in seeking to make changes to their library services. As opposed to a knee-jerk reaction to the need to make spending cuts, UNISON would rather see the value of libraries recognised and councils required to strategically plan for sustainable service delivery.                                                              5

A local inquiry into the Public Library Service provided by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council led by Sue Charteris, September 2009.  


January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Friends of Carnegie Library (LIB 060) Summary: • A short introduction to our library and the Friends. We were formed in 1999, successfully fought to prevent closure of our library and have achieved a great deal in increasing membership and use. We liaise with the Herne Hill Society, fostered a chess club, support Ruskin Readers adult literacy clubs and others. • Definitions. We outline what constitutes a comprehensive service, what people want and expect from the service and what would make the service efficient. We note some results of a local survey and more recent meetings and give examples of inefficiencies which could be improved. • We touch on access, including minimum distance recommended, and opening hours required to be fully inclusive. The range of material to appeal to all. We also stress the need for sensible stock policy (purchases and disposal), building maintenance and promotion of the service. • It should be obvious from these points that planned library closures, by failing to meet the standards of providing a comprehensive service, are not compatible with the requirements of the 1964 Act. They also fall foul of the Charteris Report by not conducting a proper needs analysis. Furthermore, far from being an example of efficiency, closures are generally the reverse. Closing a library is an act of despair, an unimaginative, seemingly easy cost-cutting exercise, a quick fix that fixes nothing, but rather causes far more problems: lack of community cohesion, social isolation, rising illiteracy, mental and emotional maladjustment. • We have seen a growing outcry for the Secretary of State to intervene, and we cannot understand how or why he has thus far failed to do so. A strong stand rather than the unhelpful watch and wait attitude would be very effective in getting local authorities to think again, to find other ways to save money by greater efficiency and more effective, less top-heavy management. What is needed is a creative approach, which the Secretary could and should guide. 1. Introduction: The Carnegie Library was opened to the public in July 1906. It is a Grade II listed building in the heart of the community of Herne Hill. Run by Lambeth, but situated 180 metres from the Southwark boundary, about a third of the members and users are Southwark residents. It has suffered from neglect over the years, with book stocks diminished and opening hours reduced: at 31 hours a week spread over four days, we have the worst in Lambeth. A threat of closure from 1999-2002 was averted by the formation of a very active Friends group, who continue to work to improve and enhance the library and raise its profile, including organising events and activities, successfully applying for funding, creating an art gallery, reopening and maintaining a reading & wildlife garden and so on. With the current budget cuts threatening the level of service further, we are adopting the ‘community hub’ model, aiming to bring in compatible uses, bookings and functions to augment the core library service. We have been noting with dismay the closures and threatened closures in other parts of London and around the country; this submission has general application. 2. Comprehensive is defined as ‘covering or including everything or a great deal; complete; containing much, inclusive’. This indicates that libraries should provide a wide range of books and other material to appeal to all ages, tastes and interests and that they should be located to be accessible to everyone who


wishes or needs to use them. Some dozen years ago the Government produced a set of standards specifying a minimum number of books per head of population in any area and stated everyone in greater London should have a standing public library within a mile of his/her residence. Advances in technology since then notwithstanding, these standards and principles are as valid for the 21st century as they were for the 19th and 20th. 3. People generally like to walk to their local library and can do so only if it is within 15 – 20 minutes of their home. The local library is also seen as the community gathering place or hub. It is often the only free to enter, non-denominational building in the neighbourhood, the one place where everyone belongs and feels welcome and safe. To ensure the library is truly inclusive, it must be open for use by all, whether pre-school, student, working, unemployed or retired. Limited opening hours cannot provide a comprehensive service. 4. Efficient, from the Latin base meaning to accomplish, is defined as ‘producing satisfactory results with an economy of effort and a minimum of waste, competent, capable of doing what may be required, effective’. Too often, inefficient book buying policies result in multiple copies of some titles in one location, few or no copies in another. Consultation with user groups and briefing on the demographics, local history and heritage of an area would help. Also, the arbitrary policy of ‘weeding’ and selling off books precipitously is wasteful. An efficient system assesses need, provides material to satisfy it, retains material as long as it is in good condition and is not out of date and adds to the stock to fill any gaps and keep up with demand. 5. In 2000, with our library under threat, the Friends conducted a survey of 2865 households. There was massive support for retaining the library and improving it with more and better books and increased opening hours. Results showed overall use of public libraries would decrease significantly if the Carnegie were closed: 39% would stop using libraries altogether, 28% would reduce a lot, 15% by a small amount, 6% not stated. Of the 55% indicating they would use another library, the majority opted for one 1 ½ miles away in the next borough; other libraries named were 1 ½ - 2 miles away. The reaction to a mobile library alternative was either apathy or antipathy. Typical comments: “Elderly people can’t travel and young people won’t.” “This is the only local library within walking distance for my children. Its closure will, in reality, deprive them of such a facility due to the time, cost and difficulty of using an alternative.” The town centre library favoured by Lambeth (Brixton) was judged “too far away and too difficult to park. Need to be able to walk to library with kids and books, not on bus.” “To people of my age, 79, who are avid readers, it is essential to have a library within easy reach.” “The library is the cultural and social focal point of the neighbourhood.” 6. At Lambeth-wide public meetings on libraries in 2011, residents of two areas, Clapham Park and Streatham Vale, whose libraries were closed in March 2000, stated they had not used libraries since; they wanted provision in their vicinity and lamented that a whole generation of children is growing up without access to a local library – that is the impact of closures on local communities.


7. Beyond proximity, there is the issue of even-handedness. The current thinking in Lambeth is to use 40% of the libraries budget on shoring up two libraries, Brixton and Streatham, as fully stocked facilities open all week. The other seven libraries (not counting the joint Upper Norwood one) would thus be reduced or demoted. One notion, ‘themed libraries’ each with a narrow focus, would fly in the face of comprehensiveness and efficiency. Another notion, ‘library access points’ dotted all over the borough, effectively no more than a vending machine or shelf in some unrelated venue, may aim to give the appearance of being comprehensive. Instead, it is rather like saying to the hungry masses they can get a full meal at two restaurants any time, a bowl of soup in seven cafes occasionally, or else scramble for grains of rice being scattered here and there. 8. Regular maintenance is also essential. It is inefficient and wasteful to avoid basic maintenance and care of library buildings or wait to take action only in emergencies. For example, clearing the gutters two or three times a year is a relatively minor, inexpensive job compared with having to refurbish every few years when ingress of water caused by clogged gutters damages plaster, paint, books and computers. Invest to save should be more than a theory. There is a further duty of care with listed library buildings, like the Carnegie, where repairs, refurbishment, etc. must be in keeping, with appropriate material. There have been instances in repairing damage, often caused by neglect, where short cuts have been taken or contractors have not been properly briefed, with poor results. False economy is inefficient; and the service suffers from unscheduled closures. 9. A worrying trend in some areas is for the authority to hand over libraries (either the building or stock or both) to a business, social enterprise or volunteers. This is being done without those expected to take over receiving sufficient preparation or support. There is some scope for a properly constituted community management team and/or a trust assuming control of a library building, with the possibilities of applying for funding for repair and refurbishment. We are looking into the idea of such a move for our library over the next few years. However, there must be a definite guarantee that the building concerned would remain first and foremost a free public library. Any additional services run from the site should link in with the main functions of a library: learning, discovery, skills development, creative expression, advice and information. Sticking a few books in a doctor’s surgery or cramming some other alien function into a library building marginalises the service and excludes potential users. Moreover, volunteers cannot be expected to run a library service, however much they may be willing. We all pay our council taxes so that the council will fulfil its statutory responsibilities, and these include provision of books and other material plus professional staff. Volunteers can assist with ancillary or complementary activities that add value. 10. A final point concerns promotion and publicity. It is no good providing a library service if people do not know it exists or where to find it, or if they are not aware there is something for them. Relying on having a website is not enough, as not everyone has access at home or thinks of using it. Street signs, notice boards, banners and direct engagement with community groups, schools and the like would help to get the message across, as would clear signage within the


libraries. Scrimping on putting out this information or reaching out to estates and back streets excludes a significant potential user base. Friends groups are proactive in drawing people in for events and activities; local authorities could do more to draw people in for the service itself. 11. On that point, the 1964 Act cites a duty of “encouraging both adults and children to make full use of the library service”. Without proactive publicity to alert potential users of the service available, councils fail in their duty; this is exacerbated when libraries are closed at times people would make full use of them, e.g. when students are on their way home from school or adults working during the day have an evening free for self-enrichment. 12. In conclusion, a comprehensive and efficient service provides a welcoming library in every community, open sufficiently often to maximise use, with a reasonable mix of adult and children’s fiction and non-fiction, reference material, audio books, music, DVDs, computers with Internet access and such other formats as are developed to provide information. There may be additional specialist focus or identified needs in particular areas; and every authority should have local studies facility and home visit & outreach service. It may be that neighbouring boroughs could share some of these services for greater efficiency. As the Charteris Report concluded, provision must be based on need; but needs must be properly assessed to ensure they are comprehensively, efficiently and appropriately met. The Secretary has the power to take a much more active role to “superintend and promote the improvement of” the service and “to secure the proper discharge by local authorities” of their functions as library authorities. We recommend he acts. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Friends of Goring Library (LIB 061) We have just been through a rather unsatisfactory consultation on the Oxfordshire County Council Library Service. The brief points and questions noted below are based on this experience.


means covering completely or broadly; inclusive wide ranging


means productive of desired effects, esp with minimum waste.

These terms are somewhat in conflict when considering libraries. It is essential to consider the whole service rather than just activities associated with the library and the issue and return of books, a situation we are experiencing with the consultation in Oxfordshire. It is essential to consider users and their needs rather than concentrate on just numbers which can be a consequence of concentrating on efficiency. Care must be taken to ensure that particular groups or section of the community are not unduly disadvantaged and that comprehensive does mean completely or broadly. In situations where it is proposed that volunteers replace paid staff in order to make cost savings can a volunteer provide, or assist in providing, a comprehensive service in all or any libraries? What would be a sensible maximum ratio of volunteer to trained staff? The DCMS web site stated that the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 sets out the statutory duty for all local authorities to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service, set in the context of local needs: that is specifically of those who live, work and study in the local area. This immediately introduces difficulties with definitions eg what is meant by local needs and what is meant by local area. In the case of Oxfordshire, those who live, work shop and study in the local area has meant an estimate of footfall within a half mile radius of a library without any proven connection between this estimate of footfall and local library need. Local area means within a half mile radius of the library which removes it totally from the rural/urban context. The dictionary definition of local gives characteristic of or belonging to a particular place; not general or widespread primarily serving the needs of a particular limited district.


What is meant by needs and how can this be measured? The present demand on a library is the satisfaction of present need. Changes to this need will generally be slow and brought about by demographic features (changes in schools’ populations, housing estates etc) and technological changes (e-books, changes in transient populations and their demands for internet access). Estimates can be made of these factors and applied the present demand. Is the library serving a rural community more or less valuable than one serving an urban community? Can urban libraries be treated differently from rural libraries? Perhaps we need a description of what we could expect a library to provide in both the urban and rural environments. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Voices for the Library (LIB 062) Summary: • •

• •

Voices for the Library is a nation-wide campaign group promoting the value of public libraries and presenting the views of anyone who loves libraries. 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.

Introduction 1. Voices for the Library would like to submit the following evidence to the Department of Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee on public library closures in England. The evidence has been taken from our website ( and includes the testimony of library users from across the country. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century? 2. A comprehensive library service should be accessible to a wide range of people. As the High Court ruled in the case of Gloucestershire and Somerset county councils, before library closures are undertaken councils must “consider or address the findings of … Equality Impact Assessments.” The MLA’s ‘comprehensive and efficient checklist’ also places emphasis on considering the specific needs of adults and young people within the community particularly based on access and Equality Impact Assessments. Voices for the Library has published testimony from The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Education’s ‘Report of the Inquiry into Overcoming the Barriers to Literacy’, the Six Steps to Library Services for Blind and Partially Sighted People initiative, and from dozens of people with special accessibility issues. As part of the definition of ‘comprehensive’ as ‘inclusive of; embracing’ from the Oxford English Dictionary, comprehensive library services need to be accessible to anyone and everyone regardless


of the user’s income, socio-economic background, level of education, gender, race, age or any other myriad factors. 3. A comprehensive library should cover a particular geographic area. From Alison Cullingford’s post on our website: “The reductions in library services are often deeper than the cuts to funding require, and hit areas that need services most, like remote rural areas and deprived areas in large cities.” Alison goes on to articulate the need for local heritage services in public libraries which are tailored to the community in their assigned geographic area. Comprehensive libraries should offer tailored services which meet the needs of their particular community and should have the resources to cover their geographic area efficiently regardless of the area’s size. The MLA checklist emphasises the need for proper consultation with users in the community before closures should be considered. 4. A comprehensive library should have a wide range of services and a large amount of content. A library needs to include every service that a user could reasonably request of a public library in the 21st Century. From a post on the ‘Report of the Inquiry into Overcoming the Barriers to Literacy’: “Both school and public libraries are important because they provide a broad range of reading materials, which improves literacy and this in turn improves educational achievement.” A modern comprehensive library also requires a range of technology and staff able to assist with IT or technical services. If appropriate, these services include enabling ebook access for users. From our statement in response to the Publishers’ Association: “The delivery of remote ebook access has been a highly successful initiative, with many services seeing increased demand, including the return of those who had ceased using the library service.” 5. An efficient library has the ability and the resources to provide all the services which are required of a comprehensive library effectively and without interruption. The MLA checklist stresses the need for buildings and facilities which are “fit for purpose in terms of access, condition etc.” 6. An efficient library requires a sufficient quality and quantity of library staff. Part of the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of ‘efficient’ is “Of persons: Adequately skilled.” Efficient library staff need a high degree of professional and technical competence. From author Philip Pullman: “The librarian is not simply a checkout clerk whose simple task could be done by anyone and need not be paid for…” We have received dozens of statements from library users testifying to the importance of professionalism and competence in library staff. Efficient staff need to have interpersonal skills, professional discretion, trustworthiness, technical training particularly with regard to IT equipment and services. Please see our essay on ‘What librarians do’ for more information. 7. An efficient library needs sufficient staff to deal with the average volume of library users. These staff need to have the legal and practical abilities to work with the range of people expected to use a comprehensive service: staff who have been CRB-checked, who are trustworthy, who are responsible, and who are accountable. It is extremely difficult for volunteers to provide such a service: Mr. Shepherd of Doncaster campaigners has said “The issue of community libraries is an absolute misnomer. Some parts of the country are already trying this and it takes 50 to 60 volunteers plus management to run one.”


8. A comprehensive and efficient library needs to be available to people at their point of need. This means being accessible when its users require it, with opening hours that meet the needs of working people and children’s groups. In a response to the latest CIPFA statistics on library use, Ian Clark wrote “Opening hours are also responsible for a decline in book issues. Library opening hours have been slashed in a number of authorities in a bid to save money…. A library is not going to be used more if it is open less.” 9. The reintroduction of appropriate library standards would assist in ensuring that public library services were comprehensive and efficient. The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report 9. IPSOS MORI Research found that the English public widely value public libraries as a force for good and one that should be provided free. A significant proportion (74%) of current users surveyed described libraries as “essential” or “very important” in their lives. 59% of non users also think libraries play an “important” or “essential” role in the community. A significant number of groups have formed to challenge councils' decisions to close libraries (see Appendix to this document). This demonstrates the continuing need for statutory protection of library services, especially in the light of councils disregarding the views of constituents consulted on the issue of library cuts and closures. Many of the current cuts to UK library services, including closures, are not compatible with the requirements of the Act. Francis Bennion, the barrister responsible for drafting the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964, submitted a post to our website in which he stated: "An Act of Parliament consists of express words and implications. Thus for example it is implied by the 1964 Act that library authorities will fulfil their duties properly, will provide suitable buildings that can accurately be called libraries, and will employ sufficient trained, experienced, paid staff, not relying unduly on volunteers. The official 2011 publication titled Future libraries – Change, options and how to get there does not appear to meet the requirements of the 1964 Act. It is primarily a charter, stuffed with jargon, for reducing costs. Yet any library authority which in 2012 and subsequently spends substantially less on its library service than it did in 2009 would be acting unlawfully. This is because all the 2009 expenditure would be assumed to have been necessary to comply with the 1964 Act." It is evident from this statement that the spirit of the Act is not being upheld by local councils under pressure to implement cuts to services with little time to plan how to avoid breaching the Act. The standards and expectations outlined in the Charteris report do not appear to be adhered to by councils, the report stating “… the Inquiry has found the Council to be in breach of its statutory duties under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, because it failed to make an assessment of local needs in respect of its Library Services. It therefore cannot have acted reasonably in meeting such needs in the context of its statutory duties and available resources, as, in the absence of such assessment or demonstrable knowledge of local needs, it was incapable of


identifying a reasonable option for meeting such needs both comprehensively and efficiently.” It seems as though, as with the 1964 Act, local authorities have little understanding of the Charteris. The local authorities in Gloucestershire and Somerset have failed to assess local needs before announcing closures. Other counties have carried out the bare minimum assessments, with Suffolk stating that an assessment would only be needed if a library were to close. It is apparent that the needs of children have not been adequately taken into account by Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, who have conducted an Equalities Impact Assessment and found that certain groups will be at a disadvantage but solutions have not been put in place to mitigate this. 10. Planned library closures appear in many respects to be incompatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964. The act of closing library branches is not the only aspect in which local authorities are contravening the Act: reducing resource budgets, the number of paid staff, reducing opening hours and failing to modernise when necessary are all detrimental to library services. Promotional activities in libraries are being cut, which conflicts with the Act's requirement for councils to actively promote the use of the library service. 11. The UNESCO Public Library Manifesto states: “The librarian is an active intermediary between users and resources. Professional and continuing education of the librarian is indispensable to ensure adequate services.” Nationally, library authorities are making large numbers of paid library staff redundant and removing them from libraries which are to become volunteer run. To remove qualified and trained staff from communities through library closures is a failure to provide adequate services in both the eyes of the Manifesto and the 1964 Act. 12. Councils are making decisions to close library branches based on their popularity, measured by footfall statistics and the number of book issues. If councils wish to save library branches from closure by encouraging more visits and issues, they may therefore feel under pressure to provide more populist material, which is against the spirit of the universal public library service and may be in breach of the Act's requirement for libraries to stock 'comprehensive' resources. In a guest post for Voices For The Library, Professor Bob Usherwood writes: "The public library if it is to survive and remain true to its public purpose will need to protect and promote good writing, be it fact or fiction, and the provision of trusted and accurate information. In providing information and imagination services it will need to make available to all “the best that has been thought and said”. At a time when there is increasing concern about intergenerational fairness there is a danger that if public libraries only concentrate on the current and popular our children and grandchildren will be deprived of free access to their intellectual heritage." 13. Local authorities are finding it difficult to define what 'comprehensive and efficient' constitutes, even with the aid of the MLA's 'Comprehensive and Efficient Checklist'. There is an urgent need to update the 1964 Act, to make it easier for councils to interpret the Act and ensure that a modern and relevant service is provided. David McMenemy's article on the topic is an excellent source of information about the key issues and needs. McMenemy states:


“We need an Act that considers the totality of services provided by the modern public library if the vital role they play is to be protected from cuts. Public libraries should certainly not be immune to cuts other services receive, however they should also not be the easy touch they are due to their propinquity and their perceived nonessential status by some.” He goes on to conclude: "It is clear that in the current climate the term ‘‘comprehensive and efficient’’ is so meaningless as to be almost redundant. While it is obvious that an Act of Parliament cannot set in stone how library services are managed, it can at least offer some security to the general public if it is well framed. Certainly no central government wishes to determine to local authorities how they should spend their money, but equally the public need to be sure that their right to a high quality library service is not damaged by short term financial concerns." 14. In order to offer a comprehensive service fit for modern society, library services need to reflect users' changing and varied information needs, including support for information literacy, access for all members of society including those with disabilities, access to online reference services, and local history and heritage resources. Trained and qualified library staff are needed to tackle the "poverty of trained librarians" as described by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Education. The impact library closures have on local communities 15. The 1998 University of Sheffield report, ‘Access to Public Libraries: the impact of opening hours reductions and closures, 1986-1997’, highlighted the fact that “People valued the public library highly as an educational and community resource. The local library acts as an ‘information junction’ helping to bind the community together and improving the general quality of life within it. The building-based local library was shown to have a value which is distinctive and irreplaceable by any alternative form of provision.” This research notes that people do not use their next nearest library when a local one closes unless they already have a reason to visit the area. The closure of their local library means they no longer have access to the service. 16. Closure of libraries would have a significant impact upon children. In 2011 the National Literacy Trust report, Public Libraries and Literacies, stated that 52% of young people use Public Libraries. In ‘Young People’s Reading & Writing’ The Literacy Trust reported that children who do not have access to books or a desk at home are more likely to struggle with reading. 23% of children don’t have access to a desk at home, and this figure increases in children who receive Free School Meals. E-Learning Foundation recently reported that 1 million children in the UK live in homes without computers and 2 million children do not have access to the Internet at home. Libraries are places where children are able to overcome these barriers through free access to books, computers and the internet, and study areas providing desk space. Libraries also offer child specific services, such as assistance with homework. This highlights the benefits of keeping libraries open to avoid a negative impact upon the development of children. The University of Sheffield report 'Access to Public Libraries: the impact of opening hours reductions and closures, 1986-1997' concludes that closure of libraries


has a serious impact on children and their development. Parents, carers, teachers and library staff were concerned that library closures led to loss of support for children's education and literacy; loss of pre-school support; loss of opportunity to "gain independence and self-confidence in choosing own books"; loss of opportunity to improve social skills; fewer children's amenities; loss of a community focal point that assisted in interaction between children and adults; likelihood of future generations of adult non-users; and impeding access to a broader range of resources. 17. Library closures would have a negative impact on the physical, mental and emotional health of the local population. Recent research identified the ‘Value of therapeutic reading groups organized by public libraries’. These reading groups provide access to books and information as well as the social aspects of interacting with others. They have a positive impact on individual participants and the groups also have positive consequences for social inclusion and involvement in the local community and economic activity. Voices for the Library documented further evidence about the positive impact of the ‘Feel Better with a Book’ project in Essex and Irene's story highlights how a librarian helped her children deal with their father's death by providing access to the right materials. 18. Library closures would have an impact on the lifelong learning agenda. An inquiry by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education set out to highlight how museums, libraries and archives contributed to lifelong learning. It recognises the essential role that libraries played in supporting adults to continue to learn throughout their lives. “They provide opportunities for people to immerse themselves in deep learning experiences or to dip in and out of learning – both of these types of learning are equally valued and respected.” In its report, The Modernisation review of public libraries, informal learning opportunities, including the opportunity to learn basic skills were acknowledged to attract a wide range of users. In 2006, the BOOST scheme in London trained library staff to provide basic skills in library venues within hard-to-reach communities. The scheme supported 361 people before being expanded across London. We have received stories showing that library users have used informal learning to improve their quality of life, including learning English as a second language, computer skills and assisting users to learn a new language. 19. Library closures would impact on community cohesion and inclusivity. In the East Midlands Development Agency report Unlocking the potential of the creative and cultural sector: A Meta Review of the Evidence Base Final Report (March 2010) it considered the notion that "shared cultural spaces, such as museums, libraries, and heritage sites serve to develop cohesive communities. Studies have been published to this end, with for example a recent report looking at the benefits to older people from learning in museums, libraries and archives as part of the wider Building a society for all Ages study. It recognised the benefits to older people of engaging with these facilities and set out four literacies for older people which museums libraries and archives can help to deliver – financial, technology, citizenship and health." In “Libraries and the Social Capital,” Anne Goulding discusses the concept of social capital in relation to libraries. “By providing information resources, libraries were able to contribute to a community high in social capital, characterised by trust, shared values, community involvement, volunteering, social networks and civil participation, which lead to lower crime, better health, educational achievement, and better child welfare”.


20. Library closures would impact on the local economy. The 'East of England Implementation Plan: Culture, Creativity and the Visitor Economy: Theme Advice (April 2009) states that “public libraries are significant providers of information, advice and guidance to SMEs and sole traders at the earliest stages of business development.” Further evidence to illustrate the positive impact and value that libraries have on the economy can be found in Economic Contributions of Museums, Libraries and Archives in the South West, Public Libraries in the Knowledge Economy, Londons Culture Equation ‘06. In May 2009, The South East England Development Association published its report ‘Management and Leadership in the Creative Cultural Sector in South East England’ and noted that ‘Museums, Libraries and Archives … has been estimated to generate £224 million per year in tourist revenue in the region, and so contributes seriously to the employment and economics of the region." Libraries are also continuing to increase employability, offering services such as writing CVs and online job search activities. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State's powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 21. We are not persuaded that the Secretary of State's powers under the Act are deficient. We believe that the problem is that successive Secretaries of State, in governments of all types, have been reluctant to use their powers, we suspect for party political reasons. Since the most recent General Election, and before, much of the debate in Parliament and local councils has been coloured by party interest. Thus, for Conservatives, cuts in provision in Conservative controlled councils are prudent management of resources, while those in Labour-controlled authorities are cultural vandalism, and vice versa. 22. Wherever ministerial responsibility for the public library service has sat, office holders have been distracted by the claims of other parts of their portfolios, which may be higher spenders or more glamorous. How can public libraries expect to have the attention they deserve when managed by departments that have to deal with, in the most recent administration, the Olympic Games and press regulation? 23. For us, therefore, the central issue is that the Secretary of State should be ready and prepared to use the powers the Act allows. This is a political question, and not one that can be resolved by tweaking the Act. It requires a new political perspective from officeholders in which they are prepared to take their responsibilities seriously, rather than as part of factional party interest. 24. Under the current Secretary of State, three letters (19 August 2010, 3 December 2010 and 24 February 2011) were sent to all local councils from the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries to remind them of their statutory duties and to highlight the existence of the Future Libraries Programme. It was felt by the DCMS that this action indicated that The Secretary of State was fulfilling his duties to superintend libraries under the 1964 Act. However, the extent to which library users throughout the country feel The Secretary of State has not fulfilled his duties with any subsequent escalated action can be highlighted by the fact that three local councils (Brent, Gloucestershire and Somerset) have recently had legal challenges regarding cuts to library services raised against them by library users - two of which, Gloucestershire and Somerset, ruled against the councils cuts and service reductions. Many more


groups of library users find themselves in situations similar to those in the above three local authorities, but are unable to progress down the legal challenge route for a variety of reasons. None of these library users should have been put in a position where they are acting as superintendent to their own library services, whilst the Secretary of State continues to monitor the situation. It is The Secretary of State's duty to take on this role, not library users. 26. Even though it is the duty of Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport to intervene in relevant situations under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964, we feel that responsibility for encouraging action should also be placed with senior ministers (Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries) and appropriate Government bodies (DCMS & ACE), whose remit involves public libraries. 27. The fact that high profile organisations such as the Women's Institute and UNISON, who are not directly linked to public libraries, are championing public libraries under their own nationwide campaigns (Women's Institute campaign; UNISON campaign), emphasises the concern that Central Government and its Minister in charge of superintending libraries are not fulfilling their responsibilities. The Woman's Institute petition aimed at the DCMS calls for "the Government to honour both its commitment to act as a champion of the library service, and its duty of oversight to ensure that a comprehensive and efficient library service is provided." Appendix – List of library campaign groups in England With regard to the effect that threatened closures have had on local communities, the following list of local campaign groups, which were formed from mid 2010 onwards, in response to library service cuts and closures in their local area, illustrates the depth of feeling local communities have about proposed plans for reductions in service. Many of these communities have fought hard for properly funded library services provided by their local authority. Further details of the action these campaigns have taken can be seen in the links attached. This is by no means a comprehensive list of library campaigns. Even though some of these campaigns may no longer be active, we feel it is still important to note that they were set up to campaign against closures. •

Barking & Dagenham - Save Robert Jeyes Library (Facebook group , Twitter account)

Barnet - Save Friern Barnet Library (Website , Twitter account , Facebook group)

Bolton - Save bolton Libraries (Facebook group)

Brent - Brent Save Our Six Libraries (Website)

Brent - Save Kensal Rise Library (Website , Facebook group , Twitter account)

Brent - Preston Library Campaign (Website)

Bury - Save Unsworth Library (Facebook group , Twitter account)

Cambridgeshire - Friends of Arbury Library (Website)


Croydon - Save Sanderstead Library (Website)

Croydon - Save Croydon Libraries (Website , Twitter account)

Croydon - Save Norbury Library (Website)

Croydon - Save Upper Norwood Library (Twitter account)

Doncaster - Save Doncaster Libraries (Website , Twitter account)

Ealing - Save Ealing's Libraries (Facebook group , Website)

Gloucestershire - Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (Website , Facebook group , Twitter account)

Hertfordshire - I love my Herts Library (Facebook group)

Isle of Wight - Save Our Libraries on the Isle of Wight (Website)

Kent - Save Kent Libraries (Facebook group , Twitter account)

Lewisham - Save Sydenham Library (Twitter account)

Milton Keynes – Save Stony Stratford Library (Facebook group , Twitter account)

Milton Keynes - Woburn Sands Library (Twitter account)

Northamptonshire - Save St. James Library (Facebook group)

North Yorkshire - Save North Yorkshire Libraries (Website)

North Yorkshire - Friends of Easingwold Library (Facebook group)

North Yorkshire - Save Eastfield Library (Facebook group)

North Yorkshire - Save Bentham Library (Website)

North Yorkshire - Save Great Ayton Library (Website)

Oxfordshire - Save Oxfordshire's Libraries (Facebook group)

Oxfordshire – Save Benson Library (Facebook group , Twitter account)

Oxfordshire - Headington Library (Website , Facebook)

Oxfordshire - Save Sonning Common Library (Twitter account , Website)

Somerset - Save Somerset Libraries (Facebook group)


Somerset - Friends of Glastonbury Library (Facebook group)

Suffolk - Save Leiston Library (Twitter account)

Suffolk - Save Debenham Library (Facebook group , Twitter account)

Suffolk - Save Rosehill Library (Twitter account , Facebook group , Website)

Suffolk - Save Stradbroke Library (Facebook group , Twitter account)

Surrey - Byfleet Library Action Group (Website)

Surrey - Surrey Library Action Movement (Website , Twitter account)

Wandsworth - Save account , Website)





group , Twitter

The depth of library campaigners concerns for the future of their libraries can also be seen in the signatures and comments against this open letter (December 2011) to Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by the Society of Chief Librarians (LIB 063) 1. Summary response. •

A comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21 century should: 1

Be designed to meet the needs of local communities and wherever possible involve those communities in their planning and delivery.


Be a professionally delivered service.


Be a key delivery mechanism for local solutions to the problems faced by disadvantaged communities, in partnership with other providers.


Not overlook the importance of the traditional elements of the service...quality bookstock, current and historical information sources; expert staff to support customers; and safe and neutral community space (most people, including non-users, appreciate the availability of a public space which is freely available when more and more public space has become privatized or chargeable).


Be led nationally and locally.


Do all this efficiently by ensuring that the best possible services are available at a cost that is acceptable to local taxpayers.

But there is a need to clearly define what “Comprehensive and Efficient” means in the 21 century (for example, the public library service’s digital offer which has to include digital content which the customer can access on site, or remotely via their own devices), •

The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Public Libraries and Museums Act (1964) and the Charteris Report. 1

We believe that the front loading of expenditure reductions creates greater risk of breaches of the Act.


We also believe that library services should only be subject to proportionate cuts, but would suggest that the pressure on local authorities can make this very difficult to achieve. It would be helpful if the Secretary of State could make this point publicly.

The impact library closures have on local communities. 1

We believe that the impact of closures can be very significant and damaging. But at the same time, closures can also be the result of robust and forward thinking and service planning.



The heaviest impact is likely to be felt by those members of the local community who are least able to fend for themselves: the excluded, and those least likely to cope; the young; the elderly; and the unwaged. They are least able to travel to a library further away or purchase what they would have previously borrowed.


There needs to be a greater awareness of the implications of other reductions in spending. Where buildings are not closed, cuts to services, book funds, opening hours, building maintenance and staffing can be equally significant to local communities.

The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s Powers of Intervention under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. 1

The intervention powers of the Secretary of State under Section 10 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act (1964) are technically adequate for the leadership and planning required at national level, but in our opinion are not clearly and consistently exercised or promoted.


There needs to be a more measurable/objective basis to allow the Secretary of State to judge when intervention is appropriate. The removal of Public Library Standards, the reduction in importance of CIPFA returns, and the absence of other performance measures must surely make it difficult to decide when to intervene?


The outcomes of recent court cases and the judges’ views that their powers of judicial review are more limited given the Secretary of State’s duty of superintending the service, only highlight the ultimate responsibility of the Secretary of State to act, and to provide the necessary national leadership.


The Government has a key role in ensuring public sector services are accessible and effective. SCL would welcome the opportunity to give further evidence to the Committee to support the recommendations that we make in this submission.

2. Detailed response. •

What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st Century. SCL believes that a comprehensive and efficient library service in the twenty first century will: 1.

Meet the needs of local communities by providing opportunities for learning; traditional and digital literacy development; access to information and knowledge; safe and quality learning and community space; and support for families and disadvantaged communities. Libraries must be at the forefront of digital innovation in the creation and delivery of services, mobile communications and e- content, becoming an integral part of a networked society, promoting the information literacy and


digital skills necessary for full and equal participation in contemporary life. Linking with national campaigns like Race Online 2012, libraries are working hard to help their communities get online. Martha Lane Fox, UK Digital Champion, stated in January 2011 that ‘councils can bring about a digital future for all…in this challenging budgetary time, being online is one clear way of lowering costs’. Public libraries, and the People’s Network, are fundamental to the delivery of this ambition. Public libraries help to create literate and articulate individuals and communities that can better support themselves. 2.

Be a professionally delivered service, using the skills, experience and networks of expert library staff to shape services to the needs of local communities, partners and business, engaging them effectively in service development, and ensuring safe and impartial access to services. Library staff are trained in these skills and work within a unique professional code of practice and ethical values. They bring expertise in reading (actively supporting the development of a fluency of reading) and learning especially in terms of independent learning and personal development. Libraries provide an extensive range of books for children in the early years; they also run baby and toddler rhyme times and music times, all of which contribute to the development of language and later to literacy.


Library staff are also skilled in specialist information management – for example business information, support for SMEs. They also support residents in navigating the mass of data and online information that is increasingly used for decision making in daily life.


Be a key delivery mechanism to respond to the real difficulties faced by disadvantaged communities in partnership with other local providers. By helping to bridge the “digital divide” libraries can support people to access and understand the wealth of resources available in the Information Age. In partnership with other agencies and services libraries can help to combat poverty and disadvantage, support social mobility and fairness, enable employability and economic self-sufficiency.


Be delivered and developed alongside close and regular customer and community engagement and involvement, and with effective partnership relationships both locally and nationally.


Do all this efficiently by achieving economies of scale through partnership consortium, collaboration and shared services, and ensuring that the best possible services are available at the best possible cost for local taxpayers:


Be led nationally and locally. The Library Service is a national service delivered locally. It needs to have a national vision in terms of its delivery potential and its contribution to local quality of life. It also needs national focus on the negotiation, development and delivery of electronic resources, membership promotion and the marketing of nationally-led services. This national leadership is non existent at present.



But we strongly believe that there is also a need to provide local leadership for locally tailored services, designed for community support. These include cultural opportunities; reading development and promotion; specialist services such as children’s work; business and employment support; music and local studies. For example, users of successful Libraries’ Job Clubs have reported that their location in public libraries makes them easier (less intimidating) to access, and provides an immediate link with information and technical resources to help in the search for employment.


SCL recommends that the Secretary of State (with the Arts Council) set out a contemporary vision for the 21st Century Public Library Service (developed in consultation with local authorities and ideally with local communities) defining what comprehensive, efficient and accessible means and forming a basis for local planning and delivery.

The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Public Libraries & Museums Act (1964) and the Charteris Report: 1.

The high level of public interest and outcry from local communities clearly reflects a view that the closures of libraries and reduction of services are not compatible with user views of comprehensive and efficient services.


We believe that the front loading of expenditure reductions creates greater risk of breaches of the Act. By not allowing sufficient time to reconfigure services effectively, there are increased risks of hasty closures and the loss of comprehensive library provision, particularly in those areas of the country where the full contribution of the library service is not recognised/acknowledged.


Reductions in services and staffing threaten many of the partnership programmes that allow libraries to make a significantly wider contribution (for example the Bookstart service; traditional and digital literacy programmes), addressing social problems in disadvantaged communities.


Closures, reductions in opening hours and redundancies can only be justified within the context of a properly developed and endorsed local library strategy. Identifying efficiencies that do not impact on services is not a short term task.


On average library services consume less than 2% of local authority budgets, draw more users than any other service of choice, but are facing significantly high levels of cuts. Current research suggests that levels of cuts are significant across library services. The findings of the ‘tough times’ report published by the Audit Commission in November 2011 looked at how councils were coping with their budget reductions and found that the overall reduction in authorities’ spending was 6.5% but spending on culture had been cut by 13%.



Recent Judicial Reviews support the findings of the Charteris Report that there should be a proper needs analysis informing the nature of the local library service before any services are reduced. . The Charteris Inquiry also found that Wirral Borough Council would fail in its duties primarily because it had not addressed the needs of disadvantaged groups, including older and disabled people. The importance of equality considerations have been reinforced by the High Court judgment in the case brought against Gloucestershire and Somerset County Councils where they were found in breach of their statutory equality duties.


We are concerned that moves to hand over the exclusive control of libraries to local community groups could undermine the role of libraries in addressing equal opportunities. The report ‘Future Libraries: change options and how to get there’ published by the MLA and LGA in August 2011 cast doubt about the community governance model, asking how it reflects that it is a statutory duty of a council to provide a library service. How will a council guard against service failure or if local people no longer want to run their library?


Any proposed changes to libraries should be articulated in a strategy. The Secretary of State has the power to act, but appears to be reluctant to do so. Furthermore, England is now the only part of the United Kingdom without a national benchmark or assessment framework for its public library service, unlike the other home countries.

The Impact library closures have on local communities 1.

We believe that the impact of some closures and the potential reductions in levels of service and staffing could be significant and damaging.


The heaviest impact is likely to be felt by those members of the local community who are least able to fend for themselves; the excluded, the young, the elderly and the unwaged. They are least able to travel to a library further away or purchase what they would have previously borrowed.


Where buildings are not closed, cuts to service budgets (including book funds), opening hours, building maintenance and staffing are equally significant. As the cuts impact on staffing, services and partnerships, these are potentially every bit as damaging as the closure of a building. Local authorities need to be able to demonstrate that services can still be comprehensive and efficient with fewer staff, hours and support, even if the number of library buildings is not reduced.


Many local communities rely on libraries as they do other community services such as schools or hospitals, and see the cuts to libraries as equally serious. Many local communities have already demonstrated their strength of feeling but not all have the political leadership and resources available to do this. The intense commitment and activity of library pressure groups illustrate this passion for the local presence of the library.


Those in disadvantaged communities may be even more affected by the proposed closures but less able to articulate the impact of this or to organise campaigns. The Secretary of State should be acting for them. 5.

SCL recommends that the Secretary of State asks the Arts Council as a matter of urgency to review research on the social impact and public value of public libraries, commissioning new research as appropriate, and urges caution in further closures until the impact of these upon communities is clearer.

The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s Powers of Intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 1.

SCL believes that, if properly exercised, the intervention powers of the Secretary of State under Section 10 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act (1964) are adequate for the leadership and planning required at national level. Section 1 allows for the collection of information or inspection of a public library authority and Section 10 for an Inquiry where an authority may be in default of its obligations and an order specifying improvements required following an Inquiry. Ultimately the Secretary of State has powers to take over the running of a service. What is not clear, however (with the closure of the MLA, and the earlier removal of professional advisory capacity from DCMS) is who advises the Secretary of State on the need to intervene, and what evidence is used to inform such advice? Furthermore, the removal of Public Library Standards, the reduction in importance of CIPFA returns, and the absence of other performance measures must surely make it difficult to decide when to intervene?


The outcomes of recent court cases and the judges’ view that their powers of judicial review are more limited given the Secretary of State’s duty of superintending the service, only highlight the ultimate responsibility of the Secretary of State to act.


We believe that it is now vital that the Secretary of State has a new framework within which the performance of public library authorities in meeting their obligations under the 1964 Act can be assessed. It should be accompanied by a renewed vision for the public library service in England, with strong national leadership to help the public library network address the many challenges ahead. The Arts Council with its new library responsibilities should be charged with helping the Secretary of State to develop this.


SCL recommends the Secretary of State robustly uses the available powers of intervention where there has been clear evidence of a potential breach of the 1964 Act.

January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Pam Jakeman (LIB 064) My name is Pam Jakeman, I am a lifelong library user and a qualified librarian. I held a professional post for 25 year, in an inner London borough, before taking voluntary redundancy and moving to one of the most rural counties in the country. I have been employed as a library assistant in a County Library for 2 years. I am making this submission as an individual, all opinions are my own not those of my employer. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century? • • • • • • •

A service which is FREE at the point of use. A service which consists of a network of libraries which are easily accessible by all who live within the library authority’s catchment area. Professional, knowledgeable, well trained staff. A service which is well stocked with a wide selection and variety of good quality, up to date, books, housed in buildings which are fit for purpose. A service which is welcoming to everyone, regardless of age, personal circumstances, social and economic background or abilities. A service which provides activities that support, literacy and reading development, and education, with access to up to date ICT facilities and training if required. A service which embraces technology in all its manifestations whilst retaining book lending as its core business. The book is not dead yet, many people still want to read and borrow traditional books, as evidenced by the popularity of the recently opened Canada Water library. A service which interacts with, and supports the work of other service providers e.g. education, health, job seeking agencies, social services and tourist information. Examples of existing partnerships which can be built on are; ‘Books on Prescription’, ‘Homework Help Clubs’, ‘Bookstart’, First Click’’.

The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report Present closures cannot possibly be compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report. Library closures have resulted in many council tax payers no longer having access to a local library service. Experience tells me that many library users, especially the old and the young, are unwilling or unable to travel long distances, in order to use a library. In my own county, following the closure of the Mobile Library Service, ex library users have told me that they are no longer able to access the service because their trips in to town are infrequent, bus services have been cut and parking close to the library is nigh on impossible. The impact library closures have on local communities


Many people, all ages and from all backgrounds, are adversely affected when a local library is closed, especially when the next nearest library is inaccessible. The following are just a few examples of what is lost to the community: •

• • • •

As well as a place from which to borrow books, the local library provides information and free ICT. It’s a place to meet friends and join social activities such as, reading groups, bounce & rhyme sessions, storytelling sessions etc. Pre-school children need libraries to support their literacy development; school age children need libraries to support their reading development. The library also provides a place to study with staff who are able to help children and young people with their homework. There are many people, especially the elderly, living alone, who value the opportunity offered by the library and its staff, for conversation and companionship. The local library is a place where vulnerable members of the community feel safe and receive support. There are very few indoor, public spaces which are warm and welcoming, where one can linger without spending money People visit the local library if they need help, for example with form filling, letter writing, using ICT etc., or when they need a vital piece of information which they are unable to find elsewhere. There are still large numbers of people not yet connected to the World Wide Web. Job seekers, make use of the library’s ICT to both look for and apply for jobs; they are able borrow books on job seeking techniques, writing CVs, interview skills etc., and books to help them improve their work based skills. An economic downturn is the worst time to close libraries.

The effectiveness of the Secretary of State's powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 So far the Secretary of State's powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 have been totally ineffective. It is wrong to rely on ordinary members of the public taking their local authority to court. This is an expensive and time consuming activity. Had the Secretary of State intervened when, for example, Gloucestershire County Council proposed closing many of their libraries, a lot of time, effort and public money could have been saved. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by the Upper Norwood Library Campaign (LIB 065) When in Opposition, MP Ed Vaisey visited Upper Norwood Joint Library at the invitation of the then local Lambeth councillors. He is recorded as having been impressed. But, as noted elsewhere and in a letter submitted to him and signed, by among others the Upper Norwood Library Campaign, he is implored to act to save our library services. The UNLC welcomes this Select Committee and hopes for greater pro-activity from Government than has recently been the case. We have read and support the submission by The Library Campaign, the national campaigning body after which our local-based group is named. •

Such is the quality and value for money of the Upper Norwood Joint Library service that the Upper Norwood Library Campaign would like to suggest that its essential features be considered for adoption by library services nationwide, thus proposing a practical solution to the expenditure reduction dilemma faced by many local authorities and, in the process, prevent cuts to library services. Being responsive to local needs, it has very high user satisfaction.

Please consider this submission under ‘other matters’ since, for example, any library closure has a huge impact on the community it serves, and the UNJL library is a role model for others to follow.

Please read on : more supporting documentation can be provided if required. History of the Upper Norwood Library, London SE19 1.The Upper Norwood Joint Library (UNJL) has served the Upper Norwood crossborough community in South London since 1900 and, from inception, the London boroughs of Lambeth and Croydon have been jointly funders. It is a library authority operating separately from the two funding boroughs, as covered under the provisions of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act. Library users in Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood regard the UNJL as a vital local amenity in an area with very little in the way of public buildings. The Joint Library plays an indispensable role in Lambeth and Croydon Council fulfilment of their statutory responsibility to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. Many residents of local wards and further afield rely heavily upon it. 2.The UNJL has strong links with the local community and an extensive outreach programme encompassing local organisations, schools, youth and children’s groups. Annual programmes of special events and activities cater for all ages and interests. Regular reading and creative writing groups for adults, sessions for parents and children, imaginative and informative events for local residents (Crystal Palace Park and Read promotions, Local History Festivals and Writers’ Days to name a few), and two days of celebrations for the 110th anniversary attended by hundreds of people,


all illustrate the Library’s ability to deliver vital information while meeting educational, cultural and recreational needs. The advantages of independence. 3.The Upper Norwood Library is a totally self-contained, self-sufficient and standalone library authority and not part of any wider system - unique amongst public libraries in Britain today. Such a service is wholly geared to the needs of the community it serves. The Chief Librarian is able to plan for the specific needs of residents, giving the library a tailor-made and bespoke community character, unlike that of a one-size fits all corporate model. 4.Regular staff are always on hand at the one location, not transferred around the borough to meet staffing requirements elsewhere. This enables them to understand the interests and needs of their readers, enhances relationship with customers and adds to the quality of the service. Staff enthusiasm, motivation and commitment are strengthened by the sense of belonging to something that is highly ‘communityspecific’. 5.Democratic accountability is achieved through the managing body, the Joint Committee, where efforts have been made to ensure local ward councillors are strongly in evidence. In addition, two local representatives of library users (normally from the Upper Norwood Library Campaign) have a guaranteed place on the Committee. 6.Numerous reports have shown the UNJL ‘independent’ financial and governance model to be highly cost effective and efficient. An AWICS report commissioned in June 2011 by the Upper Norwood Library Campaign, showed

Expenditure per 1000 population Expenditure per issue Expenditure per visit

Upper Norwood £14,001 £3.28 £2.53



£26,166 £6.16 £4.15

£28,237 £9.53 £6.00

7.For example, recent data posted on Lambeth’s website concerning the Lambeth borough library service states; “To run 9 libraries in 2010-11 cost Lambeth Council £7.3 million” (£7.09 million after deducting the £0.21 million given by Lambeth to UNJL). The average cost of each of the nine sites is therefore £788,000. This demonstrates that UNJL with a fully inclusive total cost of £454,000, including Croydon’s contribution and estimated ‘in kind’ support and income from fines revenue etc., is significantly cheaper. 8.If all nine Lambeth libraries were to be modelled on UNJL, forming a loose federation of independent libraries, each with its own small local committee and able to organise formal cooperation between individual sites where appropriate, the savings would be considerable. If funding were modified so that each library was resourced to an average cost of £500,000, the total outlay would still only be £4.5 million – a potential saving of over £2.5 million, without detriment to the quality of service enjoyed by local residents.


9.Local amenity groups are not alone in thinking that the UNJL model has much to offer at a time when innovative and imaginative approaches are being urged in response to Britain’s current crisis in public expenditure and the resulting future provision of library services.The South London Press, the BBC’s Radio 5 Live, the Evening Standard and Tim Coates, former MD of the Waterstone’s bookshop chain, have recently taken interest in the UNJL praising its decentralised, community engaged and value-for-money management arrangements. 10.Lambeth Council, as co-funder of the library, have been asked to consider the adoption of the UNJL model as an imaginative way forward for Lambeth’s library services, believing that it would be possible to exceed the required budgetary savings, whilst implementing a more locally focussed, locally accountable and successful library service. Such an initiative would also fit closely with Lambeth’s new Co-operative Council service model, which is closely aligned with the ethos of the UNJL. Croydon Council, the other co-funder, have also been approached to use the UNJL model for their own library services but have so far not shown interest in a co-operative council model for their libraries.

LIBRARY SERVICES 11.The Upper Norwood Joint Library is a substantial and sizeable public building and, as a self-contained, self-sufficient library authority, is a microcosm of a boroughwide library authority, offering a range and variety of library services. For the visitor, it has the feel of a large district-type Inner London library. The key and fundamental difference is that the UNJL is not part of a library system, but is the whole system in its entirety. There are no supplementary staffing input or overhead costs that characterise conventional borough branch libraries. 12.Importantly, the total pro-rata cost of the Joint Library equates to approximately half that of the average Greater London spending on library services per resident served. For example, if a decentralised and community specific model of library service governance and management, such as that adopted by the UNJL, were introduced to another library service, currently costing say £8m per annum, the latter would have the opportunity to reduce its costs by around £4m. 13.Service users value the availability and visibility of experienced and helpful specialist professional librarians and ‘front-line’ assistants - an essential component of a modern library service. It is even more important at a time of major socioeconomic change. This is likely to generate greater public demand resulting from the negative impact of cuts and increasingly restricted access in areas such as adult, higher and further educational institutions, advice information and guidance agencies and other Council departments. There is also the likelihood of greater demand for library services arising from detrimental social and economic change, with fewer people able to afford broadband subscriptions, ICT hardware and even books, consequent to the effects of unemployment, tax increases, inflation, pay freezes, pension reductions and a higher ratio of low paid, temporary and part-time jobs.


14.Trained and experienced professional and specialist staff are greatly valued and should be consistently available to provide expert assistance, advice and guidance in terms of access to printed and electronic resources and services to children, young people, adults and those seeking information or local history resources. 15.There is the limited use of volunteers – but, in accordance with the intentions of retired barrister Francis Bennion who drafted the 1964 Act, UNJL does not rely unduly on volunteers. Certainly volunteers are not used as a cheap replacement for paid skilled library staff. 16.The Joint Library is located at the confluence of five London boroughs. This unique district generates a complex array of information requirements and demands from local residents – many of whom can be confused as to which borough they are part of and accordingly, where they should go to find the information they are seeking. With the exception of the Library, the Crystal Palace district has few other Council facilities, no dedicated adult education premises and few information, advice and guidance agencies.Upper Norwood is a heritage-rich district. Located close to the site of Paxton’s renowned Crystal Palace, the UNJL fields a constant stream of local history enquiries. These arise from both the immediate locality, neighbouring and regional authorities, as well as nationally and internationally. Consequently, it is essential that both relevant resources and experienced staff assistance are consistently available on-site. This ensures that effective access to services can be facilitated by expert staff guidance. 17.The Joint Library has survived two World Wars, the Great Depression of the 1930s and numerous severe recessions since it first opened to the public in 1900. It provides opportunities for life-long learning and creative browsing, an outstanding Children’s Library that helps to create a love of books and reading in our youngsters, access to information and informal education, a fantastic programme of special events and activities each year and a free, inclusive and welcoming space for the whole community to benefit from.

BENEFITS TO THE COMMUNITY 18.Thanks to the concept of ‘shared expenses’, one of the greatest bonuses to Crystal Palace residents (as well as the ‘parent’ boroughs, Lambeth and Croydon) is that a wide-ranging, community-specific and extensive local resource is provided for local people at only half of the cost to each authority. 19.Governance of the service already follows Cooperative Council principles, with local elected members and community representatives sitting on the management committee for the Joint Library Authority. This ‘grass-roots’ involvement creates an ongoing dialogue between the local authorities and the community which can only assist the quality and relevance of the service provided by the UNJL, whilst minimising any risk of discord or disagreement - and possible damage to the image of the Council as a result. The self-sufficient Joint Library offers all of the facilities, range of stock, staff expertise and services that one would expect to find in a ‘conventional’ library authority, but to a quality standard and level of performance that equals or betters that of other libraries. These standards are achieved in spite of


a ratio of funding that is proportionately much lower than other library services. This means that the value for money offered by the Joint Library service ‘model’ is around 50% higher than that of the Greater London average. 20.Operating as a stand-alone service, all staff have daily contact with service users. This ensures an informed awareness of the needs of members of the public, which in turn directly guides service planning and provision, performance management and monitoring and ongoing modification and refinement. 21.Unlike other library services whose self-generated income is appropriated by the council, UNJL’s money from fines, fees, charges, sale of books, rentals etc, is reinvested in the service. This increases the motivation of Joint Library staff to innovate and strive to create higher use and take-up of their services. 22.There is a lack of clarity over conventional ‘centralised’ funding of library authorities, where support services and overheads costs form a substantial proportion of the overall library budget. Accordingly, it is not clear how this money, for example, in Lambeth’s case £2.7m from a total of £7.3m, actually benefits the library service. There are no such ‘hidden costs’ at the UNJLA. 23.We are aware that the repute and popularity of the services at the Joint Library and the annual programme of special events and activities that it holds has been instrumental in drawing people into the Crystal Palace area from farther afield. Traders and local businesses have acknowledged that this continues to benefit local commerce, whilst helping to raise the profile of the district as a whole. Parents /guardians who attend the ‘Waggle and Hum’ sessions with small children then go on to use the local cafes and shops thus benefitting the local district. Older people create their own ‘day opportunities ‘ instead of attending day centres by spending time in the library regularly before using the local shops and restaurants. Unwaged persons are able to access newspapers and the internet in their search for work. 24.Upper Norwood Library Campaign research has indicated that a majority of the participants using more than one library (in addition to the UNJL) expressed a preference for the Joint Library. Formal consultation exercises (including CIPFA public library user surveys) have seen the UNJLA ‘out-scoring’ other local library authorities in most areas. COMPARISON WITH THE CONVENTIONAL LIBRARY AUTHORITY SERVICE MODEL 25.Some library commentators have recently identified library service overheads and support service costs as being problematical, in that they form a disproportionately large part of total Council spending on library services. More worrying is the contentious and unwelcome possibility that cuts in government grants could lead to the ‘culling’ of front-line staff (librarians and library assistants) whilst overhead costs remained largely unchanged. Rather than reducing expenditure, many ‘conventional’ support service contracts, with their plethora of expensive and opaque overheads, turn out to be rigid, over-expensive, inflexible in their duration and difficult to alter or supervise effectively.


26.Spending reductions have generated another approach that purports to keep services afloat whilst saving money. The London Libraries Change Programme and the Future Libraries Programme work with the ‘received wisdom’ that money can be saved by amalgamating library services and authorities to achieve ‘economies of scale’. Having experienced the UNJL model, the UNLC has profound doubts about the wisdom of this approach - not least the inevitable fall in the availability of specialist/professional staff and a resulting decline in service quality, effectiveness, comprehensiveness and efficiency, while the drawbacks that arise from ‘diseconomies of scale’ are less often quoted. 27.We are firmly of the view that the Upper Norwood Joint Library service model shows that the real way to make savings in library service budgets and improve services at a locally orientated level, is to adopt the ‘small is beautiful’ approach. This would require dispensing with expensive corporate support systems and service overheads, revision of borough wide staffing roles and centrally based remote management, moving instead towards a fully decentralised library service network consisting of autonomous library provision. This may not find favour at ‘officer’ level, but an idea with the potential to improve service quality, value for money and accountability to residents should not be dismissed out of hand as supposedly ‘unworkable’. WHY THE UNJLA SHOULD BE USED AS A FUTURE SERVICE MODEL FOR LIBRARIES 28.Advocates for the initiatives described, involving the creation of bigger and bigger systems, argue that savings can be made through economies of scale. Paradoxically, the small autonomous Upper Norwood Joint Library Authority offers a full range of library services proportionate to the area that it serves, at half of the prorata cost of library services in London (Greater London average). In tandem with this cost-effectiveness, it offers a quality, expertise and depth of service that is highly valued by library users and local organisations alike. 29.Performance summaries drawn from the 2009/10 CIPFA statistics and the annual accounts for the UNJL for the same financial year confirm the contention that the cost of providing a library service along decentralised and autonomous Joint Library lines is dramatically lower than that of the conventional, centrally supported library authority model. 30.Conventionally managed borough library services are prone to the detrimental and negative effects of diseconomies of scale. When combined with the expense and inflexibility of unwieldy service contracts and support costs, it would seem that there is a convincing case for a much wider consideration of library service autonomy. This could be combined with local community and locally elected member governance, in line with the tried and tested management arrangements for the UNJL. 31.A larger organisation is much harder to monitor and manage effectively, is more complex and co-ordination between different departments and divisions can become more difficult. As well as making management less effective, and therefore indirectly


imposing costs, the systems designed to cope with the extra complexity may also directly impose costs. Those working within larger organisations may feel less committed, more isolated and less appreciated, so their loyalty, morale and motivation may diminish and, as an organisation gets bigger, it is harder to ensure that all workers are aiming for the same overall goal. It is more difficult for managers to stay in day-to-day contact with workers and build up a good team environment and sense of belonging. Lower employee motivation can have damaging consequences for productivity levels, innovation, and quality. As a result the organisation becomes much less effective.The larger the organisation, the higher transport costs are likely to be. A small organisation is able to respond much more quickly to need, demand, changing circumstances, etc, than a larger and more unwieldy one that is hampered by its sheer size. As an organisation expands communicating between different departments and along the hierarchy becomes more difficult. This may result in workers having less clear instructions from management about what they are supposed to do and when. In addition, there may be more written forms of communication (e.g. newsletters, notice boards, e-mails) and less face-to-face meetings, which can result in a lack of coordination, less feedback and therefore less effective communication. 32.If other Councils were to adopt the UNJL model, the savings made would be more than sufficient to allow for the improvement of library services, increased staffing and a greater volume of new books at local level. This would in turn inspire greater community involvement, engagement and participation, enhanced staff commitment and morale, an improvement in the use of library services in a local authority area and quite possibly, a rise in the income generated at each individual library. 33.The UNLC consider that this is the most cost-effective, community orientated and constructive way forward for the provision of library services in London and elsewhere. It is closely allied, for example, to the ideals and principles of Lambeth’s Co-operative Council initiative. Objectives such as greater community involvement, an enhanced role for ward councillors within their communities, empowerment to innovate in service delivery, co-produced service specifications, community budgeting, reduced bureaucracy, greater transparency all strike a chord of recognition and are redolent of aspects of the Joint Library’s management arrangements and operation. 34. Although not strictly adhering to the views requested for the Select Committee, the UNLC would appreciate the consideration of this paper since the saving of libraries is paramount to being a civilised, fair and caring society. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by the Friends of York Gardens Library and Community Centre (LIB 066) The Friends is an organisation formed to keep open a library in a deprived ward that otherwise would have closed 1. York Gardens Library and Community Centre (YGLCC) is a small neighbourhood library moments from the centre of the August 2011 riot at Clapham Junction. 2. In response to budget cuts, Wandsworth Council identified YGLCC for closure in late 2010 1 . It was the only neighbourhood library in the Borough threatened with closure. Local residents and civic groups campaigned against the decision. These groups objected in particular to the fact that this library had been singled out for closure, when the Council’s evidence and data show that it serves the most deprived ward in the borough 2 (in the top 5% most deprived in the UK) and is especially important to children and minority groups. It is on the edge of the Winstanley Estate and York Road council estates. 60% of residents on the Winstanley Estate are unemployed. More than 40% do not have English as their first language. Incidents of hidden homelessness and overcrowding are five times more likely in this ward than the average. The area is associated with issues of crime and antisocial behaviour. In the words of a local reverend, “The expected outcomes for families in terms of health, education and wellbeing are notoriously low for the UK.” Access to books and IT at home are both significantly lower than the average. The need for library services here are unquestionable but the way these services are used may be unconventional. 3. The campaign ultimately led to a decision in March 2011 by the Council that YGLCC would not be closed – but would instead be kept open as a ‘Big Society pilot project’ with reduced funding, a focus almost entirely on children’s services, and a reduced staff supported by volunteers 3 . The Council committed management resources (the Head of the Library and Heritage Service and a Library Service Development Manager), to be the budget holders and managers responsible for coordinating staffing resources, provision of stock, supplies and services. However, the library would only remain open if a significant amount of income could be raised by the community and with community volunteers performing crucial functions of the library and the attached community centre. 4. The Friends group was formed in the summer of 2011. It comprises local residents, library users and community groups. The Friends is a stakeholder group, working alongside the Council to help identify and recruit volunteers, raise funds for the library, and promote the community hall and other hireable 1 See the Equality Impact Assessment of 8 December 2010, produced as part of the consultation process on the decision to close the library, available at: 3 The full minutes of the Council’s decision are available here: 2


space. Wandsworth Council requires the Friends to raise sufficient funds to cover the shortfall in funding for the library (approximately £70,000 annually). This may be done through fundraising and hiring out rooms in the building. 5. The Friends’ key messages for the Committee are: a. YGLCC is still run, owned and supported by the local authority, however its continued existence relies on community participation. The required level of community participation cannot be guaranteed in the long-term, particularly considering the particular social context of this library in a very deprived area. b. The local authority has recognized that maintaining the library service here is both socially and economically desirable. However, while the ‘big society’ concept has immense value, in order to embed a successful project, the Friends group believe a greater initial investment is required. c. The Friends face considerable challenges in meeting the financial and resourcing (volunteering) targets set by the Council. These challenges are described further in the remainder of this submission and threaten the sustainability of the library in the long term. d. Accordingly, any local authorities considering whether to replicate this ‘Big Society’ library concept, in which volunteers and the local community are relied on to play a key role, should be aware of those challenges. Key Challenges – the Friends’ experience 6. Overall, the Friends would wish the Committee to be aware that this is not a role that any of them would have chosen – everyone who is a member of the Friends would have preferred that the library continued to be entirely professionally run and funded by the Council. Nor can the group guarantee its ongoing commitment over the long-term, since the demands of the library competes with their own other professional and family responsibilities. 7. Given the Council’s position that it could not retain the library in its previous form, the members of the Friends have been willing to ‘step up’ and do their bit to keep the library open. We list below some key challenges the Friends have faced, and continue to face. • Challenges in recruiting sufficient long-term voluntary staff, and confusion over the role of volunteers and how they are to be recruited. • Despite the approach of the one year anniversary of YGLCC as a ‘Big Society’ Pilot Project library, there is still no identified library manager (a Wandsworth council appointment). This is significantly hampering the coordination of volunteers; the ability of the centre to hire out spaces and raise funds; and community outreach to raise participation to the levels required to sustain this sort of project in the long term.


• The diminution of the library as an adult library, in that it is now almost exclusively stocked with children’s books and a few reference and adult titles. No budget provision has been made for newspapers – an important social provision that had been previously made for local adults. This has made it hard to build and retain community engagement. • There has been some confusion about the division of roles and responsibilities between the community groups and the council staff. These ‘teething problems’ (which are yet to be fully resolved) lead to inefficiencies in the way that decisions are made and may have a negative impact on budgets. • Difficulties in filling lettable rooms / generating sufficient income through hall hire. There are many reasons for this, including the economic climate, but also (and inevitably) the lack of a clear understanding of what roles are played respectively by the Council and the Friends in generating bookings and managing the booking process. For example, it is the responsibility of the Friends group to raise funds, but the responsibility of the Council to set hire charges and to record bookings. This sort of division has lead to a great deal of confusion and has certainly impacted the ability of the community groups to fulfil some of the tasks expected of it in its “Big Society” role. • Like any new ‘business’ favourable outcomes may not initially be obvious and targets will need to reflect an early development period which is not overly ambitious and does not force the community enterprise into an immediate ‘failure position’. 8. Despite this long list of challenges and difficulties, one thing remains clear: York Gardens Library and Community Centre remains open today. Anyone visiting it now can see it is being well-used by the local community, with children coming in for story time, babies for rhyme time, and adults to play bridge, use computers or borrow from the available stock. As the community said during the consultation on closure, it is a well used and valuable resource and its closure would negatively impact people who really need a place like this to go, to read and to learn. 9. So while it is not the situation that anyone on the Friends wanted, the members of the Friends are all glad that the library is still going – and would wish also to place on record their thanks to the library’s staff and to the Council for its ongoing support. However, it is our belief and experience that the most efficient, effective and sustainable delivery model for library provision is through full funding, professional management and appropriate community outreach. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Dorset County Council (LIB 067) In common with all other Local Authorities Dorset County Council has had to consider and make difficult budget decisions over recent years. The current position is that Dorset county Council has a projected savings requirement of £38.5m over the three years 2012/13 to 2014/15, of which £13.4m has been identified in the existing Meeting Future Challenges (MFC) programme. This comes on top of savings in 2011/12 of £30.5 million The overall budget challenge for the County Council between 2011/12 and 2014/15 totals £69 million, a saving of 23% on the base budget in 2011/12. Throughout all consultations the County Council has had regard to its statutory obligations. As part of this great care has been taken in relation to responsibilities under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act and other appropriate legislation. Decisions were underpinned by extensive consultation, a full Equalities Impact Assessment and a new strategic approach for the library service. In order to fulfil the responsibility to provide a comprehensive and efficient service for all persons who wish to use it, the key features of the library service strategy are: • • • •

a core network of libraries geographically spread across the county a mobile library service access to a range of online resources and services via the website work with partners to provide services, including enabling local communities to provide a local library service and use of the building for wider community benefit.

The vision is of a “dynamic library service, fostering the joy of reading, learning and a love of knowledge to enhance lives and build communities.” The strategy outlined that the primary focus for the library service will be: • • •

Providing access to reading and books through a range of stock and reading activities Providing access to information, including access to the internet Supporting learning, education and knowledge

The key feature of the option chosen by the County Council was that the County Council meets its statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient service under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act by retaining 25 core libraries, supported by a resources fund of £530,000, mobile library provision, access to a range of online resources and services via the website and work with partners. The County Council would also use its wellbeing powers to work with communities who will no longer have a core library but will have a support package which will enable them to continue and expand the use of their library and to make better use of the building as a community asset. There would also be a reduction in bookfund and in frontline, management and support staff as well as the introduction of income options. This new strategic approach results in 76.3% of Dorset’s residential population living within two miles of a statutory core retained library building and 94.8% living within five miles. (The situation for the present 34 libraries are 80% living within two miles and 96.1% living within five miles).


In addition to discharging its statutory responsibilities under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museum Act the County Council decided to seek to enable and support up to nine communities to take a community managed library approach. The support package is worth some £5,500 per annum and includes provision and maintenance of computers, internet connection, provision of new books and a refresh of books and a member of library service staff for three hours per week to support volunteers. Where the County Council own the building it is offering transfer of the freehold or a 99 year lease at a peppercorn rent and requiring local communities to maintain the building. The current position in relation to the transfer to a local, community managed service for these nine communities is eight communities have been interested in exploring taking on responsibility for their local library. Comprehensive information has been provided to help local communities in their planning and consideration of a community managed library service in addition to meetings to explore the detail and understand issues. Local communities have been asked to submit business cases by January 2012 and to date, two plans have been received. Four other communities are working to finalise their plans. There is some progress, albeit slower, with the other two communities. The revised package of support agreed by Dorset County Council in July 2011 illustrates that the commitment to making the approach work within the constraints of budget, resources available and timescales. Providing this package of support is seen a crucial by the local communities to making the transfer work successfully. Dorset County Council is very committed to making the development of a community managed service a success and part of the success as this new way of delivering a local service will be reliant on working with local communities. In addition to the decision equal to reduce service expenditure the County Council is making significant capital investment. In 2011 Swanage library was totally refurbished at a cost of £450,000. Building has started in Dorchester for a new combined library and Adult Learning Centre. This will bring the services together which previously operated from two buildings. In Christchurch major work will start in March 2012 on the extension and further refurbishment of Christchurch library to provide a new library and Adult Learning Centre due to open in 2013. This will see the relocation of the current Adult Learning Service from a separate building. These are major and multi million investments. Full documentation presented to the County Council at it meeting in July 2011 is provided (not printed) The minutes of that meeting are provided here: 02578DF002E4792?OpenDocument There was a further debate in November 2011 when the County Council considered whether it should rescind the decision made in July 2011. A copy of the Minutes of that meeting, when the July decision was confirmed are attached (not printed):

315 25795A0046E9EC?OpenDocument Throughout the process of consideration and decision-making the County Council has ensured that reports have been provided to officials at the Department of Culture, Media Sport and to the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and latterly to Arts Council England. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) (LIB 068) About the NFWI 1. The National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) is an educational, social, non-party political and non-sectarian organisation. It was established to ensure that women are able to take an effective part in their community, to learn together, widen their horizons, improve and develop the quality of their lives and those of their communities and together influence local, national and international affairs. The WI has some 210,000 members in 7,000 Women’s Institutes across England, Wales and the Islands. 2. The WI plays a unique role in providing women with educational opportunities and the chance to learn new skills and take part in a wide range of activities. This ethos has guided the organisation since it was formed in 1915 with the aims of building an educated and informed civil society, and enabling women to take an active part in civic life. In the organisation’s early history, this commitment was directed towards expanding library provision - with WIs forming their own village libraries, often when local authorities were uninterested or unwilling to provide them. The WI worked to spread awareness of the Carnegie Trust’s work in establishing libraries, and WI members lobbied their local authorities to ensure that they took advantage of the funding on offer. Since then WIs have developed close links with local libraries, and members have championed library services in their own communities. A number of WIs have evolved directly from community links stemming from local libraries. 3. As the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the UK, the WI is uniquely placed to comment on the importance of libraries to our members and the impact of service reductions on women. The NFWI is also one of more than a thousand partners in the Government’s Race Online 2012 Scheme, and is committed to helping more than 10,000 WI members become Digital Champions. 4. The NFWI’s Love Your Libraries campaign was launched after a resolution on the closure of local libraries was adopted by delegates at the 2011 AGM following a year of debate on issues facing public libraries on a local level. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the value of libraries and the services they provide to communities. 5. Our response to the Inquiry is informed by a survey circulated to WIs, and consultation with members. As the NFWI is not involved in the delivery of library services, we have focussed our response on the areas we feel most able to comment on, in particular libraries and communities.


Summary •

Libraries are a vital part of community life, particularly in rural areas, and contribute to outcomes across a broad range of policy agendas including lifelong learning, child literacy, wellbeing and digital inclusion.

Professional staff must be at the heart of a 21st century library service, and while volunteers have a role to play in public libraries, there is no evidence that communities have the capacity or appetite to run services themselves.

The NFWI is seriously concerned that the local authority duty to provide ‘comprehensive and efficient’ public library services is compromised by the extensive scale of the closures, and that the lack of scrutiny of these proposals is incommensurate with the scale of the changes proposed.

The powers granted to the Secretary of State under the 1964 Act are sufficient to enable the Government to oversee libraries effectively, but it is unclear under what circumstances the Secretary of State would exercise these powers.

What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st Century? 6. While the Act does not define ‘comprehensive and efficient’ it is clear that such a service will deliver for a diverse range of changing communities and recognise that needs are different in different areas. Features essential to a comprehensive and efficient library service are highlighted throughout the submission, but our members have indicated that the expertise of professional staff is central to the modern library service. 7. The expertise of professional staff must be at the heart of the modern library service. Staff provide the links between formal library services and the particular needs of their communities, ensuring that services are responsive and meet the needs of local people. They are a vital source of support, guidance and training to library users, helping direct users to appropriate resources for their needs. For many WI members, librarians are at the heart of the community: “The local children see her as an integral part of village life – she has welcomed my children to the library by name since they were babies” “I use the library almost every week lending books and for finding information. The staff know me well and are able to find almost everything I have asked them for, getting books from other libraries and finding information on a variety of topics and hobbies” 8. The WI believes that libraries have a key role to play in enabling the ‘Big Society’ by providing the facilities and tools to enable citizens to take an active part in public life. It is extremely important that community library services are


responsive to local needs, and communities have a role to play in speaking up for and helping to shape their local services. 9. However, the proposals for community-transfers and the increasing focus on volunteers running libraries in the absence of professional staff, presents problems of capacity, competence and sustainability which have not yet received due scrutiny and assessment. The WI believes that volunteers have an important role to play, but they are not a replacement for a trained, professional library service. 10. We are concerned about the ability of communities to take on the running of local libraries, particularly around their ability to raise sufficient funds to keep library premises running and replenish book stocks, and around the loss of expertise from removing professional librarians. In a time of economic downturn, existing community groups may have limited capacity to take on additional responsibilities. 11. Many volunteers are time-poor; already involved in many other aspects of community life and would find it difficult to take on the running of a complex local amenity without funding and professional support mechanisms. There is also no evidence to suggest that communities have the appetite or capacity to run such services themselves. The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Public Libraries and Museums Act (1964) and the Charteris report. 12. The NFWI has concerns about the compatibility of planned library closures with the requirements of the Public Libraries and Museums Act and the Charteris Report. The Act requires local councils to provide ‘comprehensive and efficient’ public library services. We believe this duty is being compromised by the extensive scale of the closures and are concerned that there seems to be little scrutiny of the cumulative impact of reforms on the nation’s public library network as a whole. 13. The failure to make an assessment of local needs was at the centre of Wirral Council’s statutory breach of duty, as identified in the Charteris report. The report emphasised the specific needs of certain groups (children, older people, disabled people, unemployed people and those living in deprived areas) and found that the “absence of a strategic plan or development plan for the service” hindered the ability of the Council to describe how its plans and use of resources would meet the needs of the community. The implications of this finding remain relevant given recent legal challenges and in particular the recent High Court ruling on the legality of decisions made by Gloucester and Somerset County Councils. This found the breach of “equality duties is a substantive and not merely a technical or procedural defect” and went on to state that the results of the decisions “would result in major and unfavourable


changes to the provision of statutory services…including the equality groups intended to be protected” 1 . The impact library closures have on local communities 14. Libraries are the hub of local community life, with library buildings offering a space for members of the community to meet and socialise, and providing further opportunities to access information about community news and activities. WI members have stressed the importance of libraries as a physical space within the community with many members describing their local library as: “A focal point for the community” 15. In addition to the core services that libraries provide, they facilitate community engagement providing a gateway for citizens to get involved in other community groups and activities. Libraries offer information about local events, host a variety of community groups and provide a chance for people to meet and socialise. As one WI member said: “It keeps our village together”. 16. Many WIs hold their meetings in spaces offered within libraries, and have developed close links with local library staff. Significant numbers of WIs have their own book groups. WI members have reported that the services offered to WI book groups by libraries are invaluable, and that their operation would be compromised without this service: “I am a member of two book related groups – a reading group and a poetry group – both are dependant on books borrowed from my local library” 17. The importance of the physical space offered by library buildings means that while the services they house may be delivered in a different way, the loss of this space means that communities lose the hub that can be the linchpin for local life. 18. Libraries and mobile library services also play an important role in rural areas. Residents in these areas may lack local community facilities, have limited public transport services which presents additional barriers to accessing amenities, and may have already lost other local facilities such as banks and post offices. One member emphasised the importance of their mobile library service in a rural area: “Living in a rural village, no shop, one morning a week Post Office in village hall. Doctors in the next village. Buses almost non-existent. We need to keep our mobile [library]”


Judge McKenna, Royal Courts of Justice, 16 November 2011


19. These services provide an often vital lifeline to those in isolated areas who are at risk of loneliness. Libraries provide a welcoming, neutral and open-to-all space, and have a large geographical reach. As such, they have an important role to play in helping to maintain the wellbeing of the local community. Through this work, and also through innovative partnerships with local health services, such as ‘books on prescription’ schemes, libraries can make a contribution to delivering outcomes in a wide range of areas, addressing for example the Government’s wider and inter-related agendas on wellbeing, health and lifelong learning. 20. In an increasingly interconnected world, there is a need to ensure that libraries remain relevant and adapt to these changes, while remaining true to their core purpose. Many members reported that their own local library already offers electronic services, including online catalogue searches, email updates and computer access. WI members understand the need for libraries to adapt to embrace an increasingly digital world, but are also keen that books remain at the heart of libraries: “A lot of people still like the feel of books to read” 21. With 8.4 million people in the UK who have never been online, representing 16.8 per cent of the adult population, the availability of free internet access, and the expert guidance and training to accompany it is essential in ensuring that all in society can utilise these tools. According to the Office for National Statistics, 23 per cent of households do not have an internet connection, meaning that the provision of free internet access in public places remains important. 2 22. Libraries have a central role in equipping society to embrace these new technologies, and in building a society ready to take advantage of modern technological advancements. The availability of computers and internet access within libraries is augmented by the range of free or low cost courses in IT skills offered by libraries that ensure people have the knowledge and skills to be able to successfully use new technology. “I was taught how to use a computer and the internet and emails there, as well as attending different courses on various skills” 23. Half of those who do not have an internet connection at home said they didn’t have one because they ‘don’t need the internet’. 3 However, internet access has financial benefits, as households offline are missing out on savings of up to £560 per year by shopping and paying bills online. 4 With evidence showing that digital inequalities replicate and compound existing inequalities by race, age disability and gender, it is clear that internet access also has an important role to play in combating social exclusion, by providing opportunities for 2

Office for National Statistics, Internet Access – Households and Individuals, 2011 3 Office for National Statistics, Internet Access – Households and Individuals, 2011 4 Race Online 2012, PWC, The Economic Case for Digital Inclusion, October 2009


communication and lifelong learning for all ages. WI members reported that libraries had helped open up new communication methods and social networks tackling isolation to those that had not previously used the internet: “For the older members of our community it is a source of pleasure and company and for some it has introduced them to new skills such as IT so it is now easier to talk to distant children and grandchildren” 24. Library staff are key to communicating and championing these benefits to those who may not know the advantages it could bring, and guiding noncomputer users to sources of training to enable them to get online and use new technology successfully. 25. The NFWI acknowledges the need for public services to adapt to a changing economic and political environment. However, we are concerned that the spending reductions, and associated cuts in public sector jobs are having a disproportionate impact on women. With women making up 65 per cent of the public sector workforce and 75 per cent of the local government workforce, cuts in professional staffing of libraries are likely to have a disproportionate impact on women. 26. Reductions in public services, such as the activities for children offered by libraries, are also likely to result in women compensating for the loss of these services through their own unpaid work, for example by reducing paid working hours as a result of cuts to after-school programmes for children. 27. The NFWI believes that the economic downturn places an even greater importance on the services that libraries provide. WI members stressed the importance of libraries as a place to access books, the internet and lifelong learning free of charge; resources whereby individuals can acquire new knowledge and skills: “With the credit crunch biting it is a place where everything is free” 28. The internet and digital technology is becoming increasingly important both in employment, and also to those who are seeking work. Many jobs are advertised online, and the internet is a useful source of careers advice and information to those who are seeking work: “Libraries provide free access to the internet for unemployed jobseekers which is a very, very important service” 29. Libraries provide services for all, throughout their lives. The flexibility and responsiveness to local need is the strength of the library service, enabling it to meet the differing needs of groups within the community at different times. WI members reported that they have been lifelong users of libraries: “Wherever I have lived during a long life I have always used the local public library for reference, for borrowing books and a place to make new friends when arriving in a strange locality”


30. Libraries are particularly important to older women – providing opportunities to socialise, find out about community activities and explore hobbies and interests. Many WI members expressed the importance of libraries in combating isolation and loneliness, particularly for older people: “The library is also a meeting place for people who enjoy reading and who would otherwise become increasingly isolated, particularly if they live alone” 31. The World Health Organization highlighted the role of libraries as meeting places and for access to computers and the Internet in its Checklist of Essential Features of Age Friendly Cities. 5 For those with mobility difficulties or disabilities, libraries and their associated outreach services are often a vital lifeline, offering information in formats to meet their specific needs: “At the age of 84 and a half, disabled and not always well, reading is so essential to me. The fortnightly arrival of the library van is a high spot in my life and much pleasure is gained from the travel, biography or autobiography books I reserve and receive” “Partially sighted. Talking books a lifeline. Mobile library provides and also helps to select books” 32. Libraries are also central to supporting lifelong learning, both through the range of materials that they make available, and also through the provision of courses and the availability of space for community groups to meet and learn together. 33. For mothers, libraries can be an important forum to meet other parents and make friends following the birth of a child. The range of low or no cost activities offered by libraries provide a valuable service for families, helping children to learn and instil a love of reading. “They give my reading mad eight year old son a place to go and choose many different wonderful books to read” 34. Libraries have an important role to play in supporting and promoting child literacy and reading for pleasure. The decline in the UK’s ranking in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to 25th out of 65 countries, from 17th out of 58 countries in 2006 is a real cause for concern, as are the increasing numbers of children who do not own a book of their own 6 . “Working in a playgroup for preschool children the library enables us to provide the children with a wide variety of books that without the library they would not have”


World Health Organization Checklist of Essential Features of Age Friendly Cities 2007 National Literacy Trust, The Gift of Reading in 2011, Children and Young People’s Access to Books and Attitudes Towards Reading, 2011 6


35. The early years activities offered by libraries, and those aimed at older schoolchildren, such as the Summer Reading Challenge play an essential part in building up children’s literacy. The 780,000 children taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge in 2011, and an increase in children’s fiction borrowing further make the case for the importance of library access for young people. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries and Museums Act (1964) 36. The NFWI believes that the powers granted to the Secretary of State under the 1964 Act are sufficient to enable the Government to oversee library services effectively. However, despite disproportionate cuts being proposed to many library services across England, it is unclear under what circumstances the Secretary of State would exercise these powers. 37. Furthermore, it is unclear what criteria the Department for Communications, Media and Sport is using to judge whether a library service is in breach of its duties. The NFWI would welcome reassurance from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that the appropriate analysis is being undertaken to fully understand the longer-term and cumulative impact of planned closures, proposed reforms and library service reductions. January 2012


00 44 (0) 7771 945945 Written evidence submitted by Sarah Tanburn (LIB 069) Summary I believe that there is a great hope for the future of reading and writing. New forms of literature are emerging, and old ones are reviving. In the current revolutionary state of the art-form and the industry, libraries can play a central role in improving access to books in all media, and in encouraging stronger links within neighbourhoods. The freedom to direct scarce resources to where they create the greatest benefit is central to the responsibilities of local authorities. The key role for central Government is to support library authorities and users to make the most of new opportunities arising as the technology develops. The Select Committee has entitled this an enquiry into library closures. The questions asked, rightly, suggest a wider debate about the role of library services in a rapidly changing technological, economic and governance context. This would be of value to everyone involved in this discussion, beyond the immediate and highly charged question of the future of specific library buildings. 1.



the decisions on how best to determine the shape, reach and nature of library services should remain with the democratically elected local authority the nature of “comprehensive” and “efficient” remains best determined at a local level and that attempts to provide national definitions of the terms in statute or guidance are misplaced the Secretary of State should retain the right to intervene and enquire into a service where there is an obvious or egregious breach of the relevant duties the Secretary of State takes a proactive role in engaging with the major producers and distributors of e-books to enable library services to extend their services to new formats


1.3 1.4


About me


Professionally and personally I am actively engaged in the work of libraries, their management and funding, use and role in local communities. I am making this submission on behalf of the small company I own and manage, Sarah Tanburn Associates. My business website is at


Sarah Tanburn Associates provides consultancy and interim management services, primarily to the public sector, in cultural, regeneration and strategic management arenas. I have managed library, cultural and place-making services in several authorities and I was an in-house adviser to LB Brent during the decision-making process on the borough’s Library Transformation Project.


I am also a member of three different public library services (Suffolk and Norfolk County Councils and LB Merton). I am a borrower from the Cambridge University Library and a user of the National Archives at Kew. My


fiction is available at several places on line and on paper, including Ether Books and the magazine Snapshots of History. 3. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century? 3.1

The core mission of a library service might be summarised as encouraging access to literature and enabling access to knowledge, reference and study materials. This is not, of course, a replacement for the formal duty enacted in the legislation, but a view on the central expectation of parliament as it should be applied in the 21st century.


Libraries and library buildings may do other things as well including hosting community events, lending music and film, or promoting local writers. All of these are valuable but are in many senses ancillary to the core role of the service. All of them face competition or replacement by other players, from LoveFilm to Google. Any realistic definition of the role of libraries must be centered on their mission, although decisions about specific services and locations will need to have regard to other activities.


A defining element of reading in the 21st century is the explosion of ways to do it. Only 20 years ago, if you wanted to become familiar with the contents of a book you read it on paper, or you listened to it on the radio or a tape. Today, you can still do those things, but you can also read digitally, on a wide range of platforms from your phone to your television, or you can listen to it alongside your music.


The new formats offer major challenges to the publishing industry, but have three important relevant characteristics: they are portable, they are popular, and they are cheap.


The portability applies both for the reader and the distributor. A library is a form of distributor; a central part of being comprehensive and efficient is that it enables access to books, through effective distribution, for its local community. Where or how people read the books they borrow is only secondarily a matter for the library service (subject to some protected books). A comprehensive and efficient service should therefore maximise the access channels offered through digital formats, not shy away from them.


The popularity of digital formats is obvious in the sales figures and usage. Many others will provide that evidence to the committee, but sales of the hardware (eg Kindles) and the software (ebooks) have both rocketed of recent years.


Thirdly, ebooks are cheap to produce and cheap to store. In many (but not all) cases they are cheap to buy. For a distributor, a library service, their ease of storage and circulation are valuable features.


All these features have implications for how a library service considers access to and use of books. They lead me to consider the importance of the 'book as


object' - the occasions on which the physical paper is the only, the best or the most popular way to access its content. Access to reading and study is changing so fast that this is difficult to pin down, but I suggest five types in particular: (i) Reading with small children, with exciting, manipulable picture books that generate excitement, curiosity and togetherness. (ii) Reading reference and study books that are wanted for only a short time but represent a significant investment for individuals during a formal course of study, which may be closely associated with space to use the books. (iii) Reference books used for research or study outside the formal academic context, which may not be used often. These latter categories particularly reflect the fact that no digital experience yet matches a 'real' book for ease of study, crossreference etc. (iv) Books produced to be beautiful objects in their own right, often thought of as coffee–table books, and including a small but growing segment of hand-printed chap books (v) Books not available in digital format, including many books in languages other than English, minority and small press imprints, mid-list writers etc. 3.9

Another element of access to reading is browsing, that serendipitous discovery of a new book, a new writer, a new adventure. A comprehensive library service must facilitate that exploration both on line and in the real world. An excellent example of addressing some of the online barriers to such investigation comes from New Zealand, at Many libraries have increased their use of face-out display, reading groups and other ways to help readers discover new books. Both rely on staff commitment and expertise in communicating their ideas.


A comprehensive library service in the 21st century needs therefore to think both about its use of digital platforms for their convenience, portability, popularity and relative cheapness (efficiency) as well as the demand of its membership for the book-as-object. In any community the stock in all formats, as in the 20th century, will vary reflecting the needs and aspirations of local people. These reflections, in turn, influence the use, location, layout and management of library buildings and have implications for the nature of the service’s online presence and the skills of staff.

4. The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 (“the 1964 Act”) and the Charteris Report; and the impact library closures have on local communities 4.1

Closing a library building is never popular. Its current users, however few in number, are invariably passionately loyal and often vocal. I am well aware that many non-users also see libraries as symbolically important in their


neighbourhood. However, it cannot be the case that no existing library should ever close. Communities change, needs arise and disappear, budgets are constrained. 4.2

The balancing of all the issues, alongside financial stringency and effective use of all resources must be the responsibility of the locally elected authority. Libraries represent an important and high profile service, but as that Court of Appeal said in respect of the Brent case, "a decision that the library service should bear a share of the reduction was not ... unlawful". In short, when looking for efficiencies and savings, the library service is not exempt from consideration.


The major part of the cost of any public lending library service is the buildings and the staff. In Brent, a significant motivator for change was that only 9% of the budget was being spent on actual books. To either reduce savings or increase reach within current budgets will mean considering how money is spent on staff time and the library buildings. Some improvements and savings may be made through increased efficiencies, reduced management, improved procurement, changed opening hours and a range of other possibilities, but this is a finite pool of money from which to modernise or improve the use of the service. At some point, faced with the need to make savings, any responsible authority will consider the future of specific buildings from which it delivers services. (There may also be contingent but legitimate reasons to consider the future of a particular building from its ownership to exorbitant maintenance costs.)


In considing closure it is therefore important that library authorities can show that their proposals are part of a strategy for promoting the objectives of their library service, and that it fits within broader activities to support literacy and access to literature, including work in schools. The library service is immensely important, as represented by the statute; this does not mean that every individual library building is equally important or of equal continuing value in delivering the service’s core mission.


Sometimes a library is the only public building in a settlement, or performing a unique community function. This will be particularly important in rural areas or places where there is a particular concentration of one community that may be disadvantaged or marginalised in other ways, restricting their access to, for instance, mainstream education. If the authority wants to significantly change or end that library service, it must consider its role in that community as a function of its location, not as part of its core mission as a library. Changes to the service in this situation should also part of a community strategy for that area.


It has been argued that rather than fully close buildings, authorities should by default look to keep them open but reduce hours. This may be the best solution in some places. In others, however, this may be a poor solution to reducing costs while retaining a comprehensive and efficient service. In Brent, for example, reducing hours rather than buildings affected visits for many more library users than closing buildings, a factor taken into account in


the relevant decision-making process. The Brent decision was taken for a small geographic area well served by public transport and with many other community meeting places. Such opportunities might not be reflected in a rural area with poor transport links. 4.7

This choice is therefore again a proper matter for local members.

5. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the 1964 Act. 5.1

The Secretary of State's intervention was clearly valuable in Wirral. Although the Charteris report does not have statutory force it is very useful in providing thought out guidance about the importance of the library service and matters to be considered in developing a strategy for comprehensive and efficient delivery.


The Secretary of State should view intervention as a last resort, and only be expected to intervene when there is an obvious and egregious risk of breach of the relevant duty. Recent litigation and appeals to the Secretary of State have largely been based on rather narrower interpretations of the law. In the Brent case, the Appeal Court has now ruled that "the decision ... to close was carefully considered [and] cogent reasons were given"; the Secretary of State should only be expected to intervene where there is no evidence of such consideration by the proper decision makers.

5.3 A more active role, as apparently envisaged in some appeals has at least three major drawbacks: •

• •


It assumes that a single pattern of definition of ‘comprehensive and efficient’ is achievable when in fact widely varying local circumstances make this impossible. The various attempts at library standards show how difficult such an idea is in reality It has the potential to (further) undermine the proper role of local councillors in setting budgets and services for their local communities, in direct contradiction of the stated objectives of the Coalition government and the Localism Act It potentially represents a significant task for the DCMS in an area where it has neither the resources nor (apparently) the will to take on local management of individual buildings and services In the context of the Localism Act, it is of course open to local communities to put forward proposals for community management of library buildings. Proposals made in Brent received, according to the Appeal Court, “detailed consideration”, and were rejected for “cogent and persuasive” reasons. The experience highlights the need for realism about such proposals, especially if the proponents wish the library to remain part of the authority’s fulfillment of its statutory duties. This suggests the DCMS could usefully be signposting groups to existing advice on the issues to be considered in asset and service transfer, such as the Asset Transfer Unit, rather than either taking the role themselves, or expecting individual authorities to provide detailed guidance in every case.


5.5 The Secretary of State can and should be providing leadership on the role of libraries in the changing world of publishing and reading. He should be intervening to support the expanding role of libraries in respect of formats which offer new routes to reading. In particular the major stakeholders in both publishing and distribution (especially Amazon and Apple), must be strongly encouraged to make material easily available for public libraries to lend. This lending should • • • • 5.6

be free for library members; come at a reasonable acquisition cost to the library (and not more than the equivalent paper version); not be unduly restricted as to the number of loans (as Harper Collins has tried to impose in some circumstances); and protect the public lending rights income stream for authors. All of this is presumably technically feasible as it has been achieved in libraries in the USA. Attempts to promote e-lending by public libraries in Britain have been limited by the disinterest of the big players; concerted intervention at a national level would be invaluable.

January 2012


Written evidence submitted by The Library Campaign (LIB 070) 1. The Library Campaign is the only membership based national organisation with a mandate to represent users of libraries. The Campaign was founded in 1984 and became a charity in 2004. We welcome the opportunity to make a submission to the Select Committee Inquiry and will be pleased to give oral evidence. 2. A summary of the detailed submission below is as follows: 'Comprehensive' means both the services offered by a library and access to library facilities. One without the other is not sufficient. 'Efficient' covers a number of issues, but the main lesson is that many authorities have not yet explored or implemented all the options open to them before announcing cuts. In announcing cuts/ closures authorities have ignored the conclusions of the Charteris report on consultation. This omission has been made more glaring given the results of the recent judicial reviews concerning equality assessments etc. The Secretary of State needs to be more responsive and pro-active. The quality of research and advice Minsters get needs to be improved. 3. This submission takes each of the Committee’s issues in turn. We want to preface our detailed comments by re-affirming our belief, which we know is shared by user groups throughout the country, whether they are facing closures locally or not, that the public library service should remain a statutory duty devolved to local authorities. How that duty is interpreted locally is an issue related to the definition of ‘comprehensive and efficient’ but removing the obligation would allow an authority to run a very limited and inaccessible service with no possible comeback – or even not to have a public library service at all. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century? 4. We believe that comprehensiveness means both the services offered by a library and access to library facilities. One without the other is not sufficient. 5. In terms of services the availability of a good bookstock is clearly an essential. This means up to date titles but also a balanced range of backlist both in terms of fiction (including but not limited to the classics) and non-fiction (where there are many subjects where good literature does not date). Conversely we would expect to see tatty, out of date books (such as superceded medical titles or old travel guides) removed and replaced. 6. However, books are not the only type of lending stock. There should be sufficient material in other formats such as spoken word cassettes or CDs, DVDs and recorded music. We are not opposed to e-books being offered, though we believe that this service must be free of charge.


7. A second strand of service is Reference and Information. This used to be in book form but we know that online alternatives are now as affordable and require less replacement - even if the paper version is available, which increasingly is not the case. However, in large libraries we would also expect to see reference material on paper. Even the smallest is likely to need at least some titles - e.g. Whitaker's Almanac and a good English dictionary. 8. Reference and Information provision is not confined to the traditional types mentioned in the paragraph above. We would expect library authorities to be making their own material available to their own users and those of other public services. Once again much of this material is available electronically, but we know that not everyone has access to (or the skills to make use of) the Internet. In addition, reading a detailed planning development scheme online is often something only for the brave professional - let alone a lay person. 9. We see a huge role for education in and by the library service. Many are participating in UKOnline. But libraries also need to be open for children to do their homework, and should work with schools to ensure that there is suitable stock to help with this. Adult Literacy is another area where libraries have been doing, and must be able to carry on, invaluable work using such tools as the Six Book Challenge, Quick Reads and work with families. 10. Much continuing education is done by adults in their own time and at their own speed. There needs to be suitable provision for them to obtain and use material that will, for instance, help them learn a foreign language, work out how to repair the car or find out what more formal avenues they can pursue to improve themselves. 11. This should not be regarded as excluding other possibilities. We want to stress in particular that this is what an authority-wide service should offer - not necessarily an individual branch. This may mean that smaller branches cannot do everything, but they should be in a position to enable users to access any of the services listed. 12. 'Comprehensive' means access across the authority, not just resources inside one building. This is underlined in the more detailed guidance in the Act covering various needs. In this sense it is as fundamental as the 'efficient' bit. Physical access is in no way outdated in the 21st century - with the disappearance of other community spaces, from pubs to post offices, plus the increasing importance of online access even to the poorest (80% of benefits to be claimed online) it is more important than ever. 13. In addition a comprehensive service is one that is fully interlinked, so that a user at any branch can expect the same answer to her question as would be given at the central library; be able to request a book (etc) from any library in the system; use the same online tools in all libraries etc. This makes closure of small service points even more undesirable.


14. ‘Efficient’ can have a variety of implications. A good deal has been spoken and written about streamlining support and ‘back office’ functions. There is still a fair amount of work to be done in many services to achieve this. There are services such as Westminster, Hillingdon and others which have already made great efforts in this regard. We do not believe that running services outside the local authority (whether as outsourced services, mutuals, trusts or arms length companies) necessarily results in improvement. 15. Shared services may be one way of making more efficiencies but only if the authority - and its users - has/ have the same amount of guarantee that services will be delivered on time, to budget and where required. There is no point in a shared service which simply means shipping books from one huge central depot to the branch if there is no other saving. 16. Self service had been used as a way of making better use of staff before (or at least as well as) becoming a money saving innovation. It has been used to enable staff to keep their libraries looking clean and welcoming and allow them time to talk to users about what they are trying to find, make recommendations about what to read next, and help them use online tools. We would much prefer it to be introduced for these purposes rather than to save staffing costs. In the same way as a closed branch is difficult to re-open, making staff redundant and/ or deleting posts makes it much more difficult to reintroduce them to work on other services. 17. We are not opposed to co-location of library services, as long as they are not being shoehorned into back rooms and hailed as a full replacement for a stand-alone building. Conversely we do not oppose other public services sharing premises with the library, as long as this does not diminish the library’s presence and ability to offer the same services and functionality as before. 18. Finally the use of partnerships, both locally and nationally, should be part of the library service routine. Locally this may be with SureStart or Children's Centres, or local arms of national organisations such as Macmillan Cancer Care. Nationally such organisations as The Reading Agency and National Literacy Trust have strong connections with libraries and should be used where they can add value. The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report. 19. Our understanding of the Act and the report is that they deal with different issues. The Act is primarily about ‘comprehensive and efficient’. The Charteris report is about process - specifically that used in arriving at a decision, including such things as proper consultation and planning. In addition, the recent judicial reviews have again pointed up issues around consultation, and also about impact assessment and equality.


20. Most authorities that are proposing to close libraries, or have carried out closures, have tried to get local groups to carry them on using some volunteer labour - or at least staff not paid by the statutory library authority. There are some we know which have offered some staffing, but principally as support to community volunteers etc. 21. We do not believe that this can be regarded as being compatible with the Act. We do not believe that a library run by volunteers, even if well trained, committed and available, can guarantee to maintain the same level of service. 22. Moreover we are aware from user groups in some areas that, because volunteers cannot be given full clearance for data protection, CRB and other reasons, the libraries they run are not fully connected to the local authority systems and cannot fulfil a role as part of the statutory service - since they cannot offer the full range of services that the ‘parent’ does. 23. Apart from this, in some areas the authority has claimed that there are enough libraries in close proximity to allow residents to use them with very little difficulty. This ignores concerns about accessibility such as the availability of public transport and suitable opening hours. 24. Taking one bus to a library with two children, one in a pram, may be manageable, but two - with a longer journey time even if the connection is guaranteed - is a challenge for many parents. Yet that is what some closures appear to demand. 25. For a child wanting to use the library to do homework - or just as a quiet study space if they don’t need the stock - travelling to a library in the wrong direction to their school, in the evening, is again not something most parents would be keen on. 26. Elderly people may have just as may difficulties with travel. 27. Some authorities are also ceasing mobile library services, which were once, and in some places still are, offered as some replacement for the closure of a static library. This seems also to reduce the comprehensive nature of the service for those in rural areas and even some urban environments where, for whatever reason, there is no library building. 28. We remain to be convinced that many of the authorities which are closing libraries have tackled the efficiency issue first. Apart from the issues mentioned above, they should also be looking at the overheads and re-charge costs that the library service incurs. We know that these cannot be separated out for the library service alone (i.e. without looking at the effect on housing or adult social care) but they certainly bear examination before the front line is attacked. 29. So far as the Charteris report is concerned, we believe the principles it laid down were good ones and widely accepted. They were indeed endorsed by the Minister in his letters to Local Authorities. If there are to be any changes to law governing public


libraries, the Charteris principles should perhaps be given some kind of legal status. 30. We believe that much of the planning and many of the alleged consultations before closure decisions have been announced are flawed, to say the least. Too often the choices are ‘close or run with volunteers (there is no option C)’. No other options are listed and most individual users - indeed many user groups - struggle to find enough information to allow them to make informed alternative suggestions, even if they might be considered. 31. Authorities need to be much more transparent in explaining what is on the table, and more prepared to enter realistic dialogue with users and their representatives about other solutions. The shape of the central government budget settlement for the next couple of years is reasonably clear and councils should be planning ahead anyhow - why not lay open the details for libraries as part of this, especially if they are actively being considered for closures or cuts? 32. Such disclosure must include equality and other impact assessments, so that those responding to consultation can make appropriate comments and perhaps suggest alternative solutions. The impact library closures have on local communities 33. As we hope we have indicated above, this can be considerable. Libraries are the only community space in some places - especially as post offices, pubs and other facilities close down. 34. Beyond that, we understand that a number of local groups and users will be submitting evidence. We believe that their testimony will be more informed on this point than we, as a national umbrella organisation, could offer. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State's powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964. 35. There is nothing wrong in theory with the Secretary of State's powers to intervene, but new light has been thrown on this by the unprecedented passivity of the present incumbents. 36. The Minister has met representatives of a number of local user groups and the relevant local authorities in the last year. A duty on the Minister to seek and listen to such representations is surely implied in the Act. However, we understand that none of the user representatives have had any feedback after discussion with the authority. It is true that the user groups would have been unlikely to accept their authorities’ reasoning. But a failure to communicate at all does not speak well to the desire of Ministers to resolve the difficulties. A number of local campaigns have tried hard to have a dialogue with their library authority. Most have used all the council's democratic processes and have produced alternative suggestions or even whole budgets, and have been completely ignored. This is not the Big Society model to


which the government claims to be wedded. Altogether the various official bodies that deal with libraries have no provision for including library users and little interest in hearing what they think. This has led to unproductive fights all over the country. 37. The key might well lie in the quality and source of the advice - if any - that Ministers get. It demonstrates the need for proper, independent professional input and some formal machinery for consulting users. The MLA, when it existed, was sometimes put in a difficult position of being expected to offer advice to authorities on behalf of the DCMS but with no overt support and, it seemed, no backing in private either. We have not yet had an opportunity to talk to Arts Council (England) but, given the staffing resources it has at its disposal, it seems unlikely that they will be able to do much more than has happened previously. 38. The Advisory Council on Libraries would have been another source of such advice. However as it is a victim of the ‘bonfire of the quangos’ the Minister cannot look to it for advice. Other Matters 39. There are some other issues which informed or interested users of libraries have raised with us which we think the Committee might want to consider in formulating recommendations. These principally relate to the way that closures and cuts which have already been proposed or taken place, may be analysed. 40. For instance, it may be worth looking at the possibility that they have happened where a local authority has had heavier than average cuts to its main grant. The (perhaps poorly managed) library services then had to make drastic, in-year cuts or closures. The evidence for this should be available in part from the CIPFA data. 41. Part of this exercise would be an examination of how library budgets and expenditure are reported. CIPFA is a blunt instrument. However it is revised, some differences will be hidden in the way that authorities respond. Looking at annual reports or the library sections of annual accounts may be as useful. 42. One of the things that may be highlighted by this work is whether there is a relationship between budgets, management of services and falls in issues and other figures about library service use. Despite the existence of MLA/ ACE, LGA, SCL, CILIP nobody (or no body) seems to be pulling together evidence on this in a systematic way - perhaps this is a job for DCMS or ACE if they are to take their advisory and guidance roles seriously. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Lewisham People before Profit (LIB 071) Lewisham People Before Profit was formed in 2008 as a political group. Candidates representing the group have stood in the Lewisham Mayoral election and local council elections in 2010 and had parliamentary candidates in Lewisham in the same year. Among many other issues LPBP has been heavily involved in campaigning against Lewisham library closures policy as well as taking a stand against the implementation of 4 “community” libraries (Blackheath Village, Sydenham, Crofton Park, Grove Park) and the future of New Cross Library. LPBP organised the Lewisham Carnival Against the Cuts which involved a strong library campaigning contingent. Members have also been involved in publicly lobbying and demonstrating outside the DCMS, followed by a public lobby of No. 10 Downing Street. Library Policy: •

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The London borough of Lewisham is the 39th most deprived borough in the country. It is the 16th most deprived in the greater London area. Within the borough there are pockets of severe deprivation. Libraries are therefore an essential support for education, literacy, community, access to information and reference material. Local need must be met. Local people must feel their needs have been realistically consulted on, understood and taken into account. “Comprehensive” as stated in the 1964 Act refers to both the services offered by a library and access to such facilities. Good quality book stock is a priority including up to date titles, strong backlist of both fiction and non-fiction, audio cassettes or CDs, DVDs and recorded music. Reference and Information material may be obtained on line and libraries are working towards more availability but not everything is online and not every library user has the skills to access such information. Cross borough interlinking of all the above. Each library is the entrance to the library world. “Efficient” services must be those received by the user and how they are managed by the council. There is much room for improvement in the organisation of use of budgets. Administrative costs may be reduced significantly where so much of the budget is linked to recharges. Information on this matter needs to be made widely available to the public, in detail, and not the result of regular FoI questions. Partnerships, co-location, self-issue may be used provided they do not diminish the essential library service. Following on from this is the employment properly trained, effective and experienced staff. The library profession is dying as it is now assumed that anyone can do the job. This harms both the service and the user experience of that service.


The assumption that volunteers are the answer is short sighted and damaging. Finding such numbers, who can make the regular commitment, being managed, trained, monitored is not necessarily a cheap option. It is harder to do in deprived areas than in middle class communities. Accessibility is key. There is no point in expecting users to take expensive bus rides or longer journeys, especially the young, infirm, the elderly, the socially disadvantaged. The Home service is available for some but if such users can get out, get to a local facility and connect socially this is a far better solution. Such buildings need to be pleasant public spaces, fit for purpose.

1. The current Lewisham Library and Information Service 1.a The latest revelation of the collapsing visit/issues figures is a salutary warning. 1.b Some Lewisham residents no longer access the same service as their fellow residents. This cannot be in accordance with the 1964 Act. 1.c Considerable stock was removed from the 5 libraries under threat where it had once been available. Why would library users visit a facility where they cannot regularly borrow a book to take with them? 1.d The spread of the Lewisham run libraries removed badly affect a certain area. The loss of New Cross, Crofton Park and Sydenham leave gaps in connected parts of the borough On 30th September 2011 Wavelengths Library in Deptford closed. It was to re-open as the Deptford Lounge (again, not called a library) on 1st January 2012. This also applies to the Downham Health and Leisure Centre. Consequently the North of the borough had only the community run facility, very short of books, available in New Cross. According to Lewisham’s plans this should not have existed at all. Lewisham’s most deprived area operates as a library free desert, unless you can get down to the other end of Deptford High Street. There is no longer a thriving network of branch libraries in the borough. 1.e Volunteers are still being sought. 1.f Crofton Park, Sydenham, Grove Park buildings all required considerable structural repairs and maintenance. Eco Computer Systems has been given a 25 year lease on each of these, with a 5 year review. Advice to Mayor and Cabinet was that this was a risky venture with a reputational risk to the Council. How is this acceptable to the Mayor, Cabinet, people of Lewisham and the Secretary of State at the DCMS? 1.g Blackheath Village Library’s rented building was closed and some stock moved to the Bakehouse, owned by the Age Exchange charity. This charity was also given £200,000 of public money, by the council, which cannot afford to run libraries properly for all the people of Lewisham. Were the people of Lewisham asked? Of course not! 1.h Staff restructuring has damaged availability of the Local History department and Archives. 2. Observations 2.1 How is it that a democratically elected council can completely ignore the view of its residents?


2.2 How is it that such damage can be inflicted on a library service which is supposed to have the statutory protection of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act? 2.3 How is it that a local council can ignore its statutory duties? 2.4 Why is it that neither the minister nor the Secretary of State at the DCMS makes any attempt to deal with these breaches of duty? 2.5 It is clear neither the Mayor and Cabinet of Lewisham, the minister, nor the Secretary of State care if Lewisham’s residents, of all kinds, receive the decent service required by the 1964 Act. 11 January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Alan Goodearl (LIB 072) I am worried by the closure of libraries and particularly by what is happening in the London Borough of Brent, where I live. This authority is attempting to close half of its libraries permanently and at least one other temporarily. I have four areas of concern: 1. I wonder how such large scale closures can reconciled with the 1964 Museums and Libraries Act. 2. I worry about the effect closing the libraries will have on local people. 3. I worry about the way the closures were handled and about how this has damaged relations between my council and the people it is supposed to represent. 4. I am concerned by the failiure of the Sect of State to uphold the 1964 Act.

1. The Museums and Libraries Act With regard to the 1964 Act, I came across a letter written by Francis Bennion, who I believe is a now retired barrister, who helped draft the Bill. He writes, ‘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”. ‘ This was published in part in the Times on 16th August 2011 and in full on the Voices for the Library website at: This reading of the Act would hardly encompass Brent council’s attempt to closure half of its libraries. While obviously what matters is what the Act says, rather than what the man who drafted it thought it should say, his view is surely worth taking into consideration when looking at the legality of such cuts.

2. The effect of library closures on people in Brent. Brent is trying to close an unusually high proportion of its libraries. Many other London councils reduced or abandoned their closure plans once the strength of public feeling on this issue became apparent. Brent has not. If they are not over-turned, these library closures will be particularly felt by studious children from poor families. Brent is unusual in combining areas of high depravation with relatively high property prices. In consequence, a lot of families live in cramped accommodation. Many do not have room for a study or the money to equip it with suitable books. Children might not have a computer of their own, or a quiet room in which to work on it. In a borough like this, libraries give many children the only chance they have. A teenager who came to public meeting held to discuss libraries in Brent said that after school her classmates go to the off-licence and on to the streets to make trouble. She goes to the library and does her homework. She asked why was she the one being punished? It is a question your committee might usefully address. She spoke before the recent disturbances in London, but it cannot be a good if even diligent children like this are seeing opportunities lopped-off. The closest to me of the threatened libraries, and the one of which I know most, is Kensal Rise. Under council control, only one of the three floors of this substantial building is used. A charity called Into University, which provides mentoring and support for deprived children studying for university, operates in the area and is short of space. They have expressed interest in moving into some of the empty rooms at Kensal Rise library. The rents they can pay will off-set to a considerable degree the costs of maintaining the library. Local people trying to preserve the library have suggested this to the council, but received no useful response. Libraries are also wonderful places to introduce toddlers to the world of books. This is particularly true for children whose parents don’t have English as their first language and who might not have many English-language books at home. This is relevant to Brent, which I think has the richest racial mix of any local authority in the country.


Kensal Rise had a thriving children’s library and, I believe, the lowest age profile in the borough. Local libraries are also vital to elderly people. They give human contact. For those who cannot walk easily they provide a destination at which they can rest before facing the journey home. If one compares the education and health benefits libraries produce with the cost of schooling and of health care, the bargain that this service provides becomes apparent. Libraries suffer from being seen in isolation.

3. The damage the way the closures were handled has done to the relationship between local people and their council. As well as objecting to the scale of library closures in Brent I am concerned by the way in which the council have gone about closing them. Local people have been so shocked by this that they have taken the council to the High Court and then to the Appeal Court. The fact that local people have been willing, with little notice, to raise around £30,000 towards the cost of legal action is indicative of the strength of feeling the council’s behaviour has provoked. While some of the issues discussed in court were necessarily narrow and technical, local disquiet stems more from suspicion that the council had essentially decided to close these libraries before the consultation began. I attended one of the first public consultations held on it, I think in December of 2010, and drew from it the impression that the council had already made up its mind. The only element of this consultation open to all members of the public and to dispassionate analysis was a questionnaire, put out by the council. Confidence in the value the council put in its consultation was not helped when it was noticed that the closing date for the return of this questionnaire came after the budget meeting which essentially determined the library closures. A good number of questionnaires were returned after that date and so could not possibly have been considered by councillors voting on the library budget. Despite this, the council were surprised by the number of questionnaires that were returned. Over eighty percent of respondents rejected the council’s closure plans. Given the nature of these plans that is hardly surprising. What surprised me, though, was the council’s response to its consultation. If you’ve a low boredom threshold you can check it out here: But essentially there is nothing there. You’d expect a council consulting on proposals that had been rejected by more than eighty percent of people who responded to its


own questionnaire to at least make some superficial changes to give the impression that they were listening. If they have, I could not spot them. The council argues that a consultation isn’t a referendum. A consultation, though, if it is to be more than purely decorative, has to allow for the possibility of change. If a policy rejected by eighty percent of those consulted on it sails on, immaculate and unchanged, one has to ask whether people were consulted in any meaningful sense?

4. The Secretary of State’s inaction. I put these concerns to Jeremy Hunt in a letter of 31st August 2011. I received in response a ready-made letter which gave the impression that my letter had not been read. It did not answer any of the questions I had asked. I know of many local people who have written along the same lines to Hunt. I do not know of any who have received an adequate reply. 11 January 2012



Written evidence Kirsty Braithwaite (LIB 073) This is a response to a request for evidence on the issue of what constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century, and the impact of public library closures on communities. Other areas of interest in the Inquiry Brief are addressed only peripherally. Summary: • •

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a comprehensive and efficient service public library service enables people of all ages and abilities to access the information and resources they need for work, education, and leisure. Public library closures on the scale that has been seen, particularly in England, over the past year are disproportionate to overall cuts which are being made to public services, and will damage digital literacy, educational attainment, and quality of life. It is unrealistic to expect communities to run a public service with little or no support for volunteers. It is desirable for national standards for a public library service to be developed, so that communities have a say in the standards of service they can expect, and local authorities are aware of the obligations they have to fulfil. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee cannot ignore the High Court's ruling that library closures in Somerset and Gloucestershire were unlawful on equalities grounds. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport must therefore fully consider impact of library closures on vulnerable groups of people.

1. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century? 1.1

A comprehensive and efficient service public library service is created by provision of programmes and materials for the communities they serve, and also by realistic consideration of accessibility of library buildings.


Public libraries must be placed in locations which are convenient for users, and mobile library services provided if desirable. This requires an awareness that for some of the people who need libraries the most – for example, young families, the elderly, the poor, and people with disabilities – travelling to a building that is far away is no small undertaking. Public libraries must also have opening hours which realistically meet the needs of the communities they serve.


Public libraries provide use of computers, free internet access, and computing instruction. Through national policy initiatives like Race Online 2012, the government recognises that the digital divide – the fact that millions of households in the UK have no home internet access, and millions of people have never used the internet at all – is a problem. Public libraries are well-placed to help in fulfilling these goals. Public libraries help bridge the digital divide by providing free access to computers for the many people who can not afford computers or ebook readers,


and who are unable to access the internet at home. Public libraries also provide support through staff who have the knowledge and patience to teach someone to use a computer if they lack experience or confidence. Lack of access to and knowledge of computers results in both short and long-term difficulties for individuals and for communities as a whole, as members of the public may be unable to access e-government initiatives, have difficulties hunting for jobs, or be excluded from the many educational opportunities which are available online. Finally, while a wealth of information is available electronically, that does not mean it is freely available online; many periodicals, ebooks and newspapers are available solely or partly through paid subscription, and once again, this is an area where public libraries bridge a gap for their users. 1.4

Public libraries should, where applicable, provide support for people who speak English as a second language. This may include providing materials in community languages according to local needs, as well as educational materials and programming for people who are learning English as a foreign language.


Public library staff are trained to provide a knowledgeable and competent reference service, including readers advisory for people of all ages and abilities. Library staff are trained to respond to a range of enquiries; these may range from research questions from students looking for reference materials, book recommendations for children, queries about local history for people interested in genealogy, or questions about different government and council-run services.


Public libraries work in partnership with schools and other educational institutions – for example, further education colleges, or local adult learning services – to encourage love of reading and literacy in all ages, as well as information literacy skills. This requires up-to-date knowledge of the curriculum and how schools function. It may include promoting the library and the materials it provides to school groups, and providing access to reference materials as well as paid subscriptions to electronic resources. Giving talks as requested on referencing to secondary school students.


Support for carers and people with disabilities. Public libraries provide material in a wide variety of formats, including audio books and large print. to give due regard to the needs of users with particular special needs, such as the disabled and the visually impaired.

2. The impact library closures have on local communities 2.1

Public library closures will make it harder for people to access books or other educational materials, and improve computer literacy. 2.2

Populations with specific information needs – e.g. people who have disabilities or speak English as a foreign language – may also become more marginalized as a result of library closures.


While some local authorities are making the decision to concentrate resources on “core” libraries, this isn't a perfect solution; many sectors of the population for whom public library services are the most important – e.g. the elderly, disabled people, poorer people, or young children – may find it difficult to


reach more far-flung facilities. 2.2

The role of volunteers in public library provision has been debated in the wake of funding cuts, with some councils making the decision to hand over the management and funding of public libraries to community groups. There may be a role for volunteers in public libraries. However, none of the goals of service provision mentioned above are easy; building relationships with community groups, and having the skills to assess and respond to community needs, requires training and experience. While the management of public libraries has, in some cases, been successfully handed over to community groups, this should be considered with the caveat that this is not a realistic option for every community. Specifically, community-led libraries have succeeded in those communities where the time, social capital, and money to run one with little support has been available. In time, cash, or experience-poor areas, building a collection, renting a building, purchasing computers, and training and retaining staff may not be possible. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Anne Bennet (LIB 074) Submission by me, Anne Bennet, in my personal capacity. I was a user of Lewisham’s Blackheath Village Library until it was closed at the end of May 2011, I am a member of Libraries for Life for Londoners and member of The Library Campaign, and I am an active campaigner against library closures. Summary: • In all circumstances the users come first, otherwise there is no point in having a library service. The library should serve the needs of people of all intellectual levels. • Location of the building - convenience for users • Sufficient number of books on the shelves to serve and inspire users and borrowers • The library service must be properly costed and properly funded, all costs to be known and to be publicly available. No depending on other budgets. • The service should advertise itself and have a presence whenever possible where there are people. • All online services must be very user friendly and open source software used wherever possible. • If possible there should be room and quiet for study and homework • Policy on Inter-library and international inter-library loans - Links to world libraries - policy on charging for specialist service. • Volunteers and work experience • Dire effects of closing or reducing the size of a library. • The Secretary of State must be seen to use his powers • The Act should say something about the library budget What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library services for the 21st century? 1. Location - Preferably the library building should be in a place of common resort/ thoroughfare. It should be within reach of as many people as possible. The main reason for the Public Library’s existence is to provide books for the users. So it must be a sustainable and useful service that is easy and cheap to reach. Visiting the library for most library users is not a separate activity, people wish to multi-task; so the library must be where they can do shopping, banking, posting letters, collecting children from school, catching a bus or visiting a park during the same outing. 2. The central or main library - ought to be in the busiest place in the borough and of a size considered in relation to the number of people it serves. It should not be an iconic building at the expense of the branch and neighbourhood libraries. Size and beauty is not a formula for value or fairness or usefulness. Indeed, Londoners may be able get to specialist and large libraries throughout the city centre more directly and as cheaply as they can get to their borough’s central library.


3. Number of books - The library ought to have a sufficient number of books on the shelves to satisfy the varied interests of the users, to wet their appetites and to invite browsing. What this number is I do not know but somewhere above 20,000 looks right. I have not found any guidance on this, there must be a tipping point below which there are not enough books to serve the users. 4. Properly funded - The library service must be lean and the core business should be identified and properly costed and funded. There will be many desirable extras but these should be capable of dismantling in hard times without affecting the core business. Services which are not sustainable should not be initiated, I am thinking of the people’s network which in some libraries is slow. If the library is used to display council information such as events or planning notices. or to house non library activities, the library budget should be credited. All expenditure necessary to run the library should be contained in the library budget. The library budget should be available to be read in every public library. 5. Advertising and promotion - It is part of our world and libraries need to do this. Take a lesson from the shop window displays and have something tempting and informative on view when the building is closed. Display the contents in a way that will establish the idea of reading as normal, desirable and just what people do. Offer appropriate book lists to local organisations and clubs and possibly also at concerts and theatres. The library must show what it has to offer and how it can enhance everyday life. It must reach out as well as invite users to come into the building. 6. Hi-tech and traditional - Literacy is fundamental to an educated society but is in danger of being overshadowed by the more immediate transmission of information and entertainment through television, radio, graphic posters, etc. These are appealing, easy and undemanding but lack the variety of mind’s-eye images, interpretations and connections of ideas that are stimulated by reading and are truly original and personal. Books allow ideas to be absorbed at a speed suited to the reader unlike electronic media where information is often ephemeral. The library can fuse the two and turn this into an advantage if its own electronic systems are slick. Self service, the catalogue, the public computers, communications with borrowers, e-books must be trouble free. Preferably the library should use open source software and communications be readable on both old and new technology. This should not drive out the conventional presentation of the service but there should be a link between unhurried and fast contents - quick reads, quick choice, quick exchange of books contrasting with quiet, leisured browsing and study will make for a comprehensive service.. 7. Online services must be user friendly and errors or faults acknowledged on screen as soon as notified. There must not be a barrier between the user and the operator of the system. 8.. Room for study - If there is room, the library should accommodate homework clubs, and be a place for peaceful book based research with an atmosphere of aspiration, at all levels. Few of us have enough quiet space at home, so libraries are vital for studying whether it is after hours for school and college people and workers, or after years for retired people.


9. Links to world libraries - I think the public library service needs to address the gap between what is available in college, university and Institution libraries and what is in the ordinary public library so that graduates are not shocked by the reduced service that is apparently available from their local library. How does the public library link with specialist and academic libraries ? • Should the library user be made aware of the links with the wider library world and if so how? • How can the library budget accommodate the costs of providing a proper interlibrary and international-inter-library loans. • Should the public library user pay for search and delivery beyond the scope of the normal public library, should he be denied access to the facilities of the British Library’s lending division, etc. because his public library’s policy is that lending is free but the budget can’t stretch? • What readers and other users of the library service want is not always obvious to administrators who have difficulty seeing their service from the perspective of a user so they must encourage requests for literature. There must be prominent invitations to ask for what cannot be found on the shelf and the extraordinary range of the library’s holdings and reach in terms of its borrowing capacity should be advertised. 10. Volunteers - The library in particular and councils and government in general need to meet the demand from school and college leavers for work experience. Volunteering is a valuable way for young people to get to know about work and the library is a safe environment for very young people to learn to be useful. 11. Service provided by the Library Authority - If the library authority wants, or needs, to use volunteers the authority must provide the essentials, the premises, the books and basic technology. Abandoning a complete library to volunteers is not acceptable. The community might be able to provide manpower but actual cash for rent, utilities, etc. is very hard to come by. Sidney & Beatrice Webb described local government as “the obligatory Association of Consumers for the collective provision of those services and commodities for which profit-making enterprise seemed less well adapted than communal organisation.” and I think this is what my taxes are for. I will pick-up litter on the street when there is a publicly funded litter bin for me to drop it into. The impact library closures have on local communities 12. Loss of footfall - Our local paper, The Mercury, on Wednesday May 12, 2010 featured the plight of shopkeepers who claimed their businesses were suffering because of the loss of footfall due to the neighbouring library being closed for refurbishment. The headline was “closed library saw trade dip”. The library is in a council owned row of shops. Since then two of the businesses featured in the article have closed, I used both of them frequently. 13. Loss of footfall - Similarly, my hairdresser, next door to the now closed Blackheath Village Library, says he has lost business in excess of what had already occurred due to the economic downturn. He has made his own submission in this


regard. If he goes out of business, this will affect me and, of course, the rest of his customers who are mainly elderly. 14. Reduced visits and issues - The proper, council run, Blackheath Village Library (BVL) is now closed. In 2009-10 the CIPFA figure for visits to BVL was 91,797. BVL has been replaced by a very small volunteer run library in a nearby charity owned building with increased opening hours and opening days but about a third of the stock. The change of location, unfamiliarity, loss of habit and reduced stock has naturally caused the number of issues and visits to drop. Comparing the council’s figures for the relocated library in 2011 with the original library in the previous year and covering the same 3 months: Aug. Sept. Oct shows a reduction of approx 90% in visits and 87% in issues. There may be an improvement once planned alterations to the building are completed and an extra 1,000 books are added to the stock. 15. With fewer visits to the library the council has less opportunity to interact and communicate with residents. Information about local events, about developments in the library service and personal contact is diminished. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 16. Execution of powers -The effectiveness of his powers lies in the execution of the powers. Having it written in the Act does not effect the job. 17. Lack of foresight - The Secretary of State is entrusted with superintending the provision of the library service but has not faced up to his responsibilities in this direction. Where was the foresight to curb back-office functions, costs and expansion of the service that might have avoided the need for such disastrous cutting back? It is his duty to promote the improvement of the public library service he has not done this. 18. Library premises - The Secretary of State has a clear duty under the Act to inspect the library premises “Every library authority shall furnish such information, and provide such facilities for the inspection of library premises, stocks and records, as the Secretary of State may require for carrying out his duty under this section”. Condition reports on four of Lewisham’s library buildings show that they are suffering from lack of investment in repairs and maintenance leading to: deterioration of the roof and internal decoration in all four and, in three of them, the windows too. The consulting engineers estimate the repair costs will be over half a million in the first year and more than a million and a half over ten years. These libraries were scheduled for closure but subsequently the buildings were transferred to social enterprise and community control as volunteer run libraries. However, I am unsure of the meaning of “require” in the above paragraph of the Act Is it up to the library authority to volunteer what is needed or must the Secretary of State demand what is needed? Perhaps this needs clarification in the hope that the Secretary of State will prevent other library buildings becoming unfit for purpose. 19. In Lewisham’s case, the library buildings were not included in the library budget. I think the Act should say something about the budget of the library service. And I


think the budget ought to contain everything that allows the library service to function so that responsibility and authority for the running of the service is clear. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Newnham Library Support Group (LIB 075) Library closure - Newnham on Severn, Gloucestershire Newnham on Severn Library is one of the ten libraries in Gloucestershire, which were threatened with county library withdrawal from the library service. Newnham supported the Public Interest Lawyers in the challenge they successfully made to the Gloucestershire County Council proposals. Background Newnham is a village set in a rural part of the Forest of Dean district of Gloucestershire. It has a population of 1,037 according to the last census. 23.4% are children which is larger than the Gloucestershire average of 18.6%. 23.4% are people who have reached pensionable age. Again this is higher than the Gloucestershire average of 21.1%. 15% of households in Newnham have no car or van. Gloucester is 11 miles to the north and Lydney, the nearest town on the bus route, is nearly 8 miles to the south. 1.

Newnham library is well supported. Gloucester County Council figures show that in 2009/10 the library had 7,740 visits and issued 11,225 books. These figures place it in third position in the county ratings in relation to size of population.


Older people make good use of the library for books and large-print books. For this group access to the Internet, with help provided to use it, is often only available at the library. This is important at a time when many services are increasingly only available on the Internet.


School children without computers at home make use of the library computers and the help they receive there. Newnham’s summer reading programmes are aimed at school children and have been important in maintaining the literacy levels of children during the long summer holidays. The programmes keep interest in reading alive during these months.


Those on low incomes also make use of the library computers. Job-hunting, looking for accommodation and looking for transport are all becoming more difficult without Internet access.


As well as books and Internet access, the library also has photocopying facilities – indeed the only facility in Newnham to offer A3 photocopying which those working from home find invaluable.


The library has a good collection of local books – historical as well as those dealing with Newnham and the Forest today. These are of interest to resident and visitor alike. The Forest of Dean does attract many visitors and the library is an important information point.



Newnham library is also an important meeting place. For example, the local youth drama group meets there – important in an area where there is little provided for young people. It is a more informal meeting place for young mothers and the old.


The library is an important asset to the commercial success of the village giving added value to the High Street and a reason for surrounding villages to visit Newnham.


The Grange, a Steiner community situated on the edge of the village, is home to a large number of disabled people who make full use of the facilities in Newnham and who are a much valued part of the Newnham community.


The responses of the Newnham community to the Newnham Parish Plan, to our own library survey and to our public meeting all produced a high level of support for maintaining Newnham library. We feel it is vital it remains part of the statutory Gloucestershire library system, especially for those library tasks which are more cost-efficient when implemented centrally and so that it can be managed by a professionally qualified librarian. If required there is sufficient support for some sort of community involvement. The Judicial Review supported our view that a community run library is not a suitable replacement for a professionally managed service.


There is also the question as to what happens to that portion of the residents’ council tax which goes directly to fund the library if in fact residents are forced to run the library themselves. Are we expected to pay twice? We are aware that our County Council has reduced its annual book stock fund from just over £1.2m four years ago to just over £330,00 last year.


We appreciate that since the passing of the Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964 much has changed. The role of libraries in educating and providing information for the population, was much more critical before the days of the Internet. We would argue that the role of libraries in providing a link to the digital world for the old, for the young and for the disadvantaged in the community is also critical. Books and the Internet complement each other and those skills learnt in handling information in book form are essential for efficient and discerning use of the Internet.

Summary: The proposed closure of Newnham library will hit all in our community and especially our groups of young, old and disadvantaged. With the emphasis on the ‘big society’ libraries are ideally placed to play a major role. They already provide an information point and a meeting place for a wide cross-section of residents. We hope a future can be secured for libraries in rural areas where they play such a key role in their communities. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by John Laing Integrated Services (LIB 076) Introduction John Laing Integrated Services welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Parliamentary Culture, Media and Sports Committees’ review regarding library closures, and to put forward our considerations on what constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service. We are the only private sector provider of library services in the UK, in partnership with the London Borough of Hounslow, and our submission is based on the expertise of our library and culture staff. Our submission is covers; • • • •

The importance of local communities in shaping and delivering library services The need for libraries to provide a wider range of services, relevant to the communities they serve Consideration as to the best form of governance for the future delivery of libraries and the development of a mixed economy The need to address the position of library services within a local authority and across wider strategic partnerships.

What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century? The Library Act does not outline or provide guidance as to what constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service. Therefore the Act is open to interpretation and has led to significant variation of understanding across the 151 library authorities. This is not necessarily a negative, with local needs being met on an individual library basis. However, what is missing is a mechanism to assess whether the services being delivered are contributing to improved outcomes for users. Therefore an over-arching definition of comprehensive may not be of any value. Comprehensive In considering what constitutes a comprehensive library service, we are of the view that the core elements of the publication, Framework for the Future (published by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in February 2003) still remains relevant. • • •

Books, reading and learning Digital citizenship Community and civic values

The Modernisation Review of Public Libraries published by the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in March 2010 acknowledged that ‘the vision for public libraries set out in Framework for the Future still holds true today and their role continues to be to provide books, learning, information and entertainment to customers, to provide a centre for communities and to provide an education resource”. However, the way these services are designed and delivered needs to evolve, not least in terms of a greater emphasis on efficiency, but also in terms of community participation and the role of the community in designing and, in some instances, delivering services.


Historically, libraries have been a universal service but to adapt for the 21st Century, the need now is to develop a tailored approach that can deliver efficiencies through the rationalisation of back office functions as well as delivering an individual service that meets the needs of each community that each library serves. The role of libraries is evolving away from providing just universal services towards addressing local needs by providing relevant advice, support and guidance to those who need it. This will ultimately build community capacity and resilience. As the role libraries play in communities widens, so should the outcomes for the community, not only meeting the needs in Framework for the Future, but also contributing to improved health and well-being, community cohesion and other priorities relevant for that community. In taking this approach, the role of the community is acknowledged and enhanced; enabling the community to shape the services they want to use as a driver for change. In taking a community-led approach there are a number of challenges that need to be acknowledged: • • •

Professional interpretations of how services should be delivered and the requirement to identify new ways of working Overcoming the lack of investment in libraries that have led to impacts on perceived relevance and therefore usage Local authorities’ capacity to engage with local communities and partners in shaping services for the future.

The library service can add value to communities, the council and its partners through the integration of services. Bringing a range of services together under one roof or within close proximity to each other can enable libraries to become a destination in the community. Examples of integrated services include facilities that combine libraries and leisure centres in the one location, Advice Centres, Connexions and Youth Services, Adult Education and Police support. There is also the potential for libraries to become commercially orientated through the provision of services such as nurseries, retail, catering provisions etc, thus drawing in new audiences and developing new revenue streams that can be reinvested into the service. The provision of services should be guided by local research and consultation, so to meet community needs and deliver the efficiencies shared service delivery can provide. Our view is that there are three strands to a comprehensive library service, the physical, the virtual and outreach. Physical Each local authority should have a duty of care to ensure that their library buildings and facilities are fit for purpose, welcoming places that people will want to visit and enjoy. This approach is best placed within an asset management strategy that forms part of the overall library strategy. Asset management should include a financial assessment of the likely expenditure over the lifetime of a property and an assessment of community value and benefit.


We would advocate a hub and spoke approach, where central or regional libraries offer a more diverse offer, including reference, but that small, local library services are then designed and delivered in real partnership with the community. In this way, a community with, for example, predominantly young people would, have a library that was principally delivering services for them, perhaps through a dedicated children’s library that offered access to other specialist children’s services such Virtual When talking about a comprehensive library service, this is no longer just about books and not just about technology. An authority could purchase an e-reader for all its residents and then close the library service; this could be cost-efficient but does not deliver a comprehensive or sustainable service. An essential part of a modern library service is high-quality, reliable IT provision for the public. We consider this will become ever important in the future as customers will increasingly move towards e-enabled services. Equipment including self-service equipment, free Wi-Fi, a virtual library and enhanced web-based service are now standard parts of a library service but it is difficult to look too far in to the future to see what new technologies will be developed for the benefit of library services. These, together with other developments such as the loan of e-readers and laptops, e-books and new technology in stock procurement and management show that libraries have embraced new technologies, where it is shown it has tangible benefits. In addition, new advances in technology can enable communities to undertake additional connected transactions from self-service terminals within the library. This may include, but is not limited to, car parking permits, council tax, car park fines, business rates and rent. We would suggest that an issue for consideration by the Committee is the cost of developing advances and often the cost of being first adopters in an ever-changing market. The lack of a national approach to some of these advancements can be to the detriment of the service that would otherwise mean better efficiencies in the procurement of technology. Outreach Libraries also need to reach out to their communities and have in place a robust and comprehensive outreach programme tailored to meet community needs as well as supporting and delivering the council’s wider corporate agenda, for example community safety, community cohesion and educational attainment. Any library service in the 21st Century must show its ability to profile its local community and align this profile with event programmes and partnership projects to develop a robust outreach offer that is timely and of relevance to the community. Outcomes from library outreach programmes should be documented, not only in quantitative terms but qualitatively, to adequately reflect the impact of said programmes on users over the shorter and longer term. Tools which enable this analysis have already been created and are available for use such as the ‘culture and sport outcomes toolkit’ devised by the Improvement and Development Agency, as well as a host of other survey modules.


Efficient In terms of an efficient service, Phase One of the Future Libraries Programme 2011 established a number of pilot projects to test drive an ambitious change programme. The pilots were based on a number of areas to ascertain where/how services could be delivered more efficiently including: • • • • • • • •

Share back office services Work with other local authorities Provide services digitally Co-locate services with other local services Use the library service to deliver other service outcomes and priorities Better understand service costs Better understand community need and aspiration Look at alternative ways to deliver the service (governance).

From our perspective, governance is an important consideration in delivering efficiencies. We see very much a mixed economy in the future where a range of delivery models are in place, with each authority engaging the one that will most effectively deliver savings whilst meeting the service objectives. The Big Society agenda envisages greater engagement of communities in the delivery of services and management of assets, with new powers to challenge councils on service delivery and to bid for assets of community value. We recognise the important role the community can and will play, and that communities may be best placed in some instances to deliver the front-line services. The delivery of outreach, property management and investment in ICT infrastructure are, however, best placed to remain either with the local authority or to be delivered on their behalf by a service delivery partner. This is because cost-efficiency, specialism and expertise will still be required in some areas, not least health and safety. However, transferring the ownership of services directly to communities, or by giving neighbourhood groups democratic control over them, can still take place in the context of service management being transferred to a service delivery partner. In this way cost-effectiveness can be achieved through economies of scale together with services designed specifically for the local community they serve, delivered in partnership with the community. This approach can also be taken in parallel with a number of authorities delivering services together and/or services beyond the traditional library service being delivered, producing further efficiencies. As discussed, the approach taken will depend on a needs analysis supported by a comprehensive appraisal that considers the benefits of the options available. One challenge to this is the barriers that can exist to authorities working in partnership, be they physical, social or political. This may be an area where the Committee may want to look at further. Another barrier is the current capacity within authorities to undertake this work comprehensively and with the necessary skills to do so at a time of rationalisation.


As with the Government’s recent initiative, “Free Schools”, there is the potential to adopt the good practice and lessons learnt and apply them to libraries. John Laing Integrated Services would be interested in being involved in such a project as we see a role for service delivery organisations such as ours in supporting communities and other interested groups in delivering local services. Partnership working In advocating that libraries become the focal point for delivering a more diverse range of services, tailored to meet community needs, effective partnership working is at the centre of this. Those engaged do not necessarily have to be senior but need to be empowered to make decisions, including financial commitments, with a range of agencies engaged to ensure that they are effective in identifying and accessing key audiences, understand their needs and aspirations and that they are able to input into the services and opportunities provided by the library service. Whilst considering partnerships at the most local level, the position of libraries within each authority also warrants consideration. The way that libraries are positioned within an authority varies widely and can have a direct impact on the level of investment in the service, its relevance and quality. We would recommend that the Committee considers how responsibility for library services varies across different local authorities and the potential impact this has on the decision-making process and the services delivered. It is our view that Government needs to develop a framework that local authorities have to adopt that puts libraries at the heart of their local strategic partnerships and other high level governance arrangements within their local authority. This would provide some consistency of approach. A three to five year plan should be developed within the library authority around the desired outcomes for the service and its respective individual libraries that is fully supported through the library service, the community and its partners, together with tangible and measurable outcome targets. Consideration also needs to be given to the role of a number of existing organisations, public bodies and charities such as the Chartered Institute of Library Professionals, Society of Chief Librarians, Public Library Authority, the Arts Council and the Reading Agency and how they can support the delivery of library services and the wider cultural offer. Furthermore there is a need to establish partnerships with private organisation that are directly related to the library offer. Better partnership working with publishers and technology companies is needed to ensure that the audiences’ libraries develop for their products are receiving best value. The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report We have not examined in any depth the approach of individual authorities to their proposed library closures or indeed the ongoing judicial reviews. The Charteris Report, and subsequently the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, identified the following key considerations that every local authority should have in mind in considering the future of the service:


• • • •

A statement of what the service is trying to achieve A description of local needs, including the general and specific needs of adults and children who live, work and study in the area A detailed description of how the service will be delivered and how the plans will take into account the demography of the area and the different needs of adults and children in different areas (both in general and specific terms) The resource available for the service, including an annual budget.

Closures are not incompatible with this statement as long as services are re-provided and, overall, the changes contribute to better outcomes for the majority. Closing a physical building is also not necessarily the same as terminating the service. Consideration should be given as to whether a more relevant and appropriate service can be re-provided that delivers savings as well as service improvements, by addressing more closely the outcomes required for individual communities. Consideration also needs to be given to the most appropriate governance model. As our communities, technologies and behaviours have evolved, so has the role of library services. If anyone were designing a library service today, it is unlikely the location and services would be the same as they were in the past. The challenge for library authorities in developing and transforming library services has been securing the required investment, capability and capacity to achieve change quickly and effectively. We believe that by forming strategic partnerships with other public, private and third sector organisations, or indeed with all three, opportunities to transform services and ensure a sustainable future can be realised. As local authorities strive to find new ways to deliver further efficiencies whilst protecting front-line services and jobs, many are actively re-evaluating how services are delivered, and how to get the best value from available resources. The physical and virtual infrastructure needed to support new models of delivery is evolving and need to reflect this new reality. Radical as well as pragmatic thinking is needed to effect real change. Therefore, we are advocating that as well as considering the services, consideration also needs to be given to how the infrastructure can be strategically shaped and managed in a holistic way to deliver service improvements whilst making tangible efficiency savings and maximise revenue streams. The impact library closures have on local communities The only large scale closures of libraries have been in Brent, when on 19 December 2011, the Court of Appeal’s Lord Justice Richards, Lord Justice Pill and Lord Justice Davis ruled that the High Court judge, after a "most careful and thorough review of all the points advanced", had reached the "right conclusions" in taking the decision to close six of its twelve libraries. Lord Justice Pill said: "Given the scale of the spending reductions the council was required to make, and the information available following earlier studies, a decision that the library service should bear a share of the reduction was not, in my judgement, unlawful."


There have been many instances of individual library closures in the past, but limited evidence as to the impact these have had on local communities. Having kept all the libraries in Hounslow open after a review, and identifying savings through other measures, we do not consider John Laing Integrated Services to be in a position to comprehensively answer this question. As referred to in Section 3 above, closures are not necessarily a negative if carried out as part of a comprehensive service review that not only considers the physical delivery through buildings but also the virtual on-line offer and community outreach programmes most appropriate for local needs. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State's powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 We do not consider John Laing Integrated Services to be in a position to respond to this question. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by The Publishers Association (LIB 077) Introduction 1.

The Publishers Association (‘the PA’) is the representative body for the book, journal, audio and electronic publishers in the UK. Our membership of 113 companies spans the academic, education and trade sectors, comprising small and medium enterprises through to global companies. The PA’s members annually account for around £4.6bn of revenue, with £3.1bn derived from the sales of books and £1.5bn from the sales of learned journals.


In this submission we make the case that: • libraries are fundamentally important to the social and economic vibrancy of the UK; • UK publishers continue to provide full support to the library community through a variety of programmes and initiatives; • UK publishers are working with the library community and government to overcome the challenges and barriers to developing an e-book lending capability through the public library service.


The PA greatly welcomes the Committee’s timely inquiry into the current actual and threatened library closures. The full impact of library closures on the books and reading eco-system in the UK is probably impossible to accurately predict or evaluate. But there surely can be little doubt that depriving communities – be they villages, towns or cities – of universal access to free reading material will have a damaging affect on their ability to acquire knowledge, their social well-being and their education. In the longer term these negative impacts would inevitably be felt back up the supply chain, as over time a population decreasingly rooted in a reading culture will engage less with books and literature, which would translate into a diminished cultural and economic opportunities for authors. Nor could Britain’s vibrant and world-class publishing sector expect to be immune from these negative impacts.

Publisher Engagement with the Library Service 4.

Publishers have a long standing historic relationship with libraries and across our membership libraries are seen as a vital element of our country’s reading culture. We recognise the immense value professional librarians deliver to their readers in helping with discoverability and recommendation, and the role this plays in developing reading audiences. This role is of particular importance to publishers at a time when bookshops are under such strong commercial pressure. Unlike in some other countries, sales to libraries are relatively small, and so publisher interest in a thriving library sector is not so much a directly commercial question as one of long-term reader development and audience building.


A number of our members are founding partners of Reading Partners, The Reading Agency’s (TRA) initiative to increase the collaboration between publishers and libraries, through which publishers are active in promoting author events at


libraries. Several publishing initiatives geared at boosting reading and literacy, such as World Book Day, World Book Night and Quick Reads, see publishers engaging directly with the library sector and encouraging readers into their local libraries. 6.

Furthermore, The PA is currently engaged with TRA in a joint bid for funding from the Arts Council “Commercial Partnerships” programme. The bid has the PA working with TRA and the Society of Chief Librarians to support the strategic aims of library services through giving libraries access to publishers’ digital marketing skills and collateral. If successful, the bid would see the creation of six practical projects to act as case studies of excellent practice in digital reading initiatives, with evaluation of how well new digital reader services help build audiences for reading.


Publishers are also working on the National Reading Offer, which is aimed at helping libraries combat the effect of cuts by working together as a network to share costs through shared programmes, such as marketing content and supporting the Reading Groups for Everyone campaign to increase the number of reading groups to 2000 by 2013.

E-Lending 8.

Among the questions posed in the Committee’s call for evidence is what constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service in the 21st century. At least part of the answer is likely to involve a discussion on e-books and the ability of public libraries to engage in e-lending. To the extent that the Committee is interested in this issue, we set out below the views of The Publishers Association.


As a representative trade association The PA can have no part to play in encouraging member companies towards any particular commercial model of elending, be it a “download” model, such as provided by aggregators like Overdrive, or a “streaming service” of the sort developed by Public Library Online; or indeed whether to engage in e-lending at all. However, The PA does hope to perform a useful function in providing information about all of the relevant services and offerings available to member companies. It acts as a conduit between the publishing and library communities and a focused first point-ofcontact for those wishing to enter either the market, or the policy debate.

10. As an on-going example of this role The PA convenes regular meetings of the Society of Chief Librarians, The Reading Agency, the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals, to develop a greater mutual understanding of each others’ positions. (The most recent such meeting was on 8 December 2011.) The PA and its members have also been involved in conversations with Ed Vaizey MP and DCMS officials in seeking a sustainable future for the UK’s public library service which we and our members see as a vital component in the literacy community of our country


Challenges and Barriers 11. The public library service sees the ability to offer e-lending as an important element in ensuring that libraries remain relevant and popular in the coming decades. As the penetration of e-reading devices in the population continues to grow (as surely it must with the manufacturers’ pricing strategies clearly aiming for the mass market), readers will inevitably want to know what libraries can offer them, alongside the e-retail offering. Publishers are not opposed to such developments in principle. However, we are keenly aware of a number of challenges and barriers to the development of e-lending services. These are essential to overcome if the ambitions of e-lending are to become a reality. 12. As noted above, competition law rightly precludes The PA from taking a more proactive role in the development or promotion of commercial services. Whilst a fully understandable restriction, this does nevertheless create a challenge in terms of how fully we can be involved in the debate. 13. However, we are aware of two major concerns from many publishers with regards to the present viability of e-lending services. The first is the commercial risk. Facilitating the free acquisition of ebooks to readers does imply the risk of substitutional activity: bluntly, why buy when you can borrow? Experience in the physical book world, where lending activity can be strongly positively correlated to purchasing, will not necessarily be relevant in the digital domain. The relatively restricted supply of physical books in the library service means that there are always likely to be occasions when purchasing is the best option for the reader who wants a book immediately. Digital lending does not suffer from the same restriction meaning that borrowing is always likely to be a viable option. Furthermore, whereas the lending of “front list” titles can be managed through control of supply which will usually not meet demand, “mid” or “back” list titles are less in demand and so their supply can be more easily managed. For these titles, therefore, there is a considerably stronger risk that a huge amount of the current retail demand could be quashed through e-lending. 14. Publishers have a primary duty to the authors whose copyrights they license to ensure that their works are protected and afforded the maximum commercial opportunities. Allied closely to the commercial risk to publishers is the potential damaging impact to authors. Through our regular engagement with the Society of Authors – as well as through individual members’ engagement with authors and their agents – it is clear that although authors support and encourage library borrowing and reading, there is high degree of concern amongst authors about the potential impact of e-lending. The widespread proliferation of free e-lending would potentially deprive authors of significant royalty streams, thus clearly undermining their ability and incentive to create works in the long run. It could be further noted that given the on-going absence of Public Lending Right for e-books that authors will not stand to benefit from any e-lending activity. It would be a welcome step if Government were to implement this.


15. The second major risk factor is that of online copyright infringement. Whenever digital files are put on the internet the risk is created that they will be duplicated and disseminated in unauthorised ways, allowing widespread free access and undermining legitimate commercial activity. Although Digital Rights Management software is employed throughout the supply chain, this is relatively easy to crack. There is already clear evidence across the world that ebook piracy is a clear and present danger to publishers’ and authors’ royalty streams. 16. The combination of these two risk factors lies behind a great deal of the trepidation on the part of publishers to fully engage with current e-lending solutions. This is not simply a result of a natural commercial instinct for selfpreservation: the entire reading eco-system could be imperilled if wrong or rash decisions are made. If deprived of revenues by either or both factors, publishers quite simply lose their ability to invest in new works. This would have a huge negative impact on the volume, diversity and innovation in the marketplace. The losers in this scenario are not just the publishers, but authors, retailers, libraries and most of all consumer-readers. 17. One challenge for publishers and local authorities lies in the capacity of local authority IT systems and the rules governing their operation. To the extent to which local authorities wish to develop and deliver their own e-lending platforms, the provision of e-lending by public libraries is dependent on their being sufficiently robust IT systems in place in the services. It is our understanding that not all local authorities’ systems could sustain high levels of e-lending activity at the present time; and also that strict regulations around data protection and network security could make it difficult for public libraries to engage a well functioning system. (The basis for this view is largely anecdotal but it would useful to have a full discussion on this point.)

Concluding Remarks 18. Thank you for this opportunity to convey our views and we would be delighted to provide the Committee with any further views and evidence, either in written or oral form. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Lynne Coppendale (LIB 078) Below please find my submission for the current inquiry into library closures. Please note I use my local public library service to illustrate more general points. A comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century is one which does not mix the format of the content with actual access to content. In summary access to all manner for reading and information material (comprehensive coverage) in conjunction with professional, experienced and knowledgeable staff (efficient) to enable people to access the information. The creators of information would range from numerous editors of an encyclopaedic work, to a local resident produced poster about a local fete. All such information has its place in a library service. Past trends in information provision can be used to guide theoretical projection but overall room needs to be given for change regarding both format and social enjoyment of information and reading materials. A library service needs to be proactive not reactive and at present the harsh cuts, coming on top of 6-7 years of continual financial cuts and 8-10 years of structural reorganisation have permitted Doncaster Libraries to be minimally proactive and forcibly reactive. Strong leadership, with the ability to fund and train for the future, and given time to network links locally, regionally, nationally and internationally to remain current and involved in information world developments is vital in good library services. A Library service cannot be totally customer-driven. A prime factor in information provision is that the customer cannot know what is already available to them, how to use different formats of what is available and even if they are asking the right questions to get the answer they may not even know they are looking for. All personnel in such a service require training to appropriate levels to assist their customers; in addition the same information should be reliably accessible in differing formats to suit the customer’s ability and needs. Such personal service cannot be provided online as the nuances of tone, body language and time for consideration during a discussion are lost without face-to-face contact. Thus is would be a mistake to lose the physical space of a Library as the latest format is excitedly jumped upon. This is not to say nothing changes, the physical space provision could change, but the availability of that space should not. In short it is not possible to say what the Library Service will look like in 10, let alone 80 years time. But it is possible to say whom such a service should serve and to allow for equal access to such a service. In Doncaster the impact of library closures on local communities has been all but ignored. From the start of the process inadequate consideration has been given to which areas may lose their libraries, which may be forced to take upon the onerous task of running them as a ‘community-run’ resource and which retain their service fully funded. Mention has been made of developing the provision left (12 Libraries) but with the Cultural Quarter excluding a new Central Library and no plans being available regarding alternatives let alone plans, this is unknown. When a questionnaire was finally sent to residents (after 2 call-ins to Overview and Scrutiny) the council decided


which dwellings should be included (this was not comprehensive or met the requirements of those mentioned in the 1964 Act as persons working or educated in the 14 threatened libraries were not included, nor was the questionnaire offered in anything but high literacy level, English, paper format) and a covering letter from the Mayor, Peter Davies, insinuated that any non-returned questionnaires would be assumed to mean the people receiving said questionnaire did not want a library, and within the questionnaire the only options were those already decided upon prior to consultation. In a borough where the NEET percentage runs at 25 and redundancies in both public and private sector areas are on-going, this means a lack of access to the one equitable, non-judgmental and supportive place where people can apply for jobs, self-improve or access/continue with educational and/or self-improvement courses, widen their social awareness and community-participation or just relax quietly with a good book! Local communities will be separated, excluded, abandoned and ignored. Access to local democratic engagement, for example in such as Doncaster’s recent Mayoral referendum, will become a costly paper exercise for which little or no guidance will be given, vital as Doncaster also has over 30% adults with low literacy levels. Doncaster’s Cabinet and those responsible for the programme of change in out libraries make continual mention of Equalities Impact Assessment within their literature, but seem to have not actually been considered, rhetoric but no substance.

The planned and happeninglibrary closures make a mockery of the Libraries and Museums Act 1964, relying across the board as they all seem to that as long as they say a service is available and use the rhetoric of the Act, the substance of what is on offer is irrelevant. Whilst the Act appears deliberately vague to ensure room for growth and change in the provision of the services which the Act made Statutory, this does not mean such interpretation should result in the bare minimal being offered and the fault for non-take-up being that of the customer. The customer cannot be blamed for nonuse if this non-use is due to inaccessibility of venue and/or resource and/or assistance. At present it seems the Charteris report is being ignored in its clear warnings of local responsibility and the Act is being interpreted as loosely as possible. The effectiveness off the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under this Act have been called upon continually during the last 12-18 months, and have thus far been untested. The Secretary of State can force local governments to abide by the Act more honourably, to tighten the provisions of the Act and ensure required consultations are complete and that populations are not adversely affected by change plans. The Secretary of State can ensure provisions remain equitable to all residents and workers, but thus far the Secretary of State seems to have washed his hands of this responsibility and made no attempt to listen to the vast majority of people who have protested in numerous ways the decimation of the Library Service in the UK. In conclusion there has been no action of which to test the Secretary of State’s effectiveness so comment on this point is impossible. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Simon Gurevitz on behalf of Friends of Preston Library and Preston Community Library (LIB 079) I am a member of Friends of Preston Library and Preston Community Library in Brent. • This submission addresses the question “What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century”. • Library services are too complex and communities are too diverse for a simple formula to be identified. Instead, a robust methodology for assessing the impact of library closures is offered. • The approach is consistent with Charteris and has general application. References to Brent, by way of example, are confined to footnotes with the exception of paragraphs 39-45. • Following Charteris, it is argued that a clear strategy for library services is essential. • The strategy should be evidence based and aimed at delivering the identified and valued needs of users. • As part of the strategy, there should be an implementation plan that shows how services will be maintained for all users, not just those local to surviving libraries. • In the absence of such information, credibly based, the Secretary of State (SoS) should declare that the strategy is inadequately founded and should not proceed. • The SoS/dcms may find it useful to establish a panel of experts who could assess Council plans that come under challenge, comparable to Job Evaluation experts who can be called on by Employment Tribunals. • It should not be for the SoS to probe Council plans from a distance; the onus must fall on Councils to demonstrate that their strategy is evidence based and not simply a cost-reduction program or an ego trip by another name. • Councils are the providers of library services. Whether these services are comprehensive should primarily be determined by reference to the consumers of these services. • Efficient should not be reduced to “cheap”. It should incorporate whether the users can efficiently access the services. IS THERE A STRATEGY TO DELIVER LIBRARY SERVICES? 1. Charteris found that what Wirral Council claimed was an evaluated strategy was not a strategy 1 . A statement of intent or hope does not constitute a strategy even if a Council chooses to call it such. Improvements in operational effectiveness, which incorporates efficiency, are desirable but are not a substitute for a strategy. 2. A strategy is defined here to be a broad outline of how objectives are to be achieved. The objectives for a library should pertain to meeting the identified and valued needs of the residents; primarily but not exclusively focused on current library users but with provision for attracting non-users. To be effective,                                                          1

Logic was found to be absent or unsound. Needs were inadequately measured although Wirral Council claimed to have done so.


the plan for implementation of the strategy should be set out in detail and shown to be viable. 3. In the absence of clear objectives, or if the objectives do not relate to needs that library users value, a plan will suffer from lack of essential direction and will not justify the term “strategy”. 4. It should be possible to identify whether a library strategy is successful or failing, both during implementation and subsequently, by establishing criteria and collecting and monitoring the necessary data in a timely manner. If this is not done then there is a risk that failure will neither be identified nor admitted and so corrective action will not be taken. 5. The library strategy, as presented to the public, should provide the supporting, validated evidence on which it is based. If there is no such evidence, or if the evidence or the decision based upon it is shown to be flawed, then the strategy should be withdrawn and a new strategy devised. Resistance to this by a Council should be expected so it is critical that it is made a requirement; otherwise, Councils will be able to act without restraint or penalty. 6. The Secretary of State (SoS) can be called upon to assess whether he is satisfied that, following a closure program, the resulting library service will meet the 1964 Act in advance of the change being implemented and has no independent means of doing so. He has to rely on information provided by the Council. Given that the SoS, as a norm, is reluctant to intervene 2 , given the difficulty in reversing closures and given the detriment suffered by users while an inadequate program is pursued, the responsibility must lay with a Council to demonstrate rather than claim the potential impact of its strategy. 7. Therefore, if the SoS is not to spend his time collecting data from every Council, the onus must be put on Councils to demonstrate that they have done such work as would satisfy the Charteris criteria before instigating a consultation on library closures. The necessary data must have been collected and competently analysed, 3 forecasts of the impact of the strategy made using clearly specified and justified assumptions and tested with sensitivity analysis. Alternatives should be similarly assessed and not brushed aside. 8. Under natural justice, the issue must be resolved in a timely manner. The consequences for a local community are too great to allow undue delay. If a Council is unable to demonstrate that it has done its homework, such as would satisfy Charteris, and, if it is not able to do so immediately, that should suffice to demonstrate that the Council’s intentions are (as yet) unsound. This should lead                                                          2 “The Secretary of State will always wish, where possible, to use ways other than a formal inquiry in exercising his statutory obligations.” (M Hodge, 30 November, 2009) 3 At present it is too easy for Councils to table a false audit trail as a substitute for analysis. For example, an extensive tick list that purports to demonstrate that an Equal Opportunities Impact analysis has been conducted only demonstrates extensive ticking. There may be no evidence of the analysis that should have preceded the ticks.


to the SoS immediately requiring the withdrawal of the plans so that the Council can undertake the necessary research and/or revise its plans. It should not lead to an extensive, time consuming, correspondence. 4 The SoS should be able to call on an expert to quickly assess whether a Council’s strategy and plans are adequately founded. 9. At present, the 1964 Act seems to be a no-go area for the SoS. This means that the public is denied the legal protection which is its right and which can only be accessed via the SoS. WHAT CONSTITUTES A COMPREHENSIVE SERVICE IN TERMS OF PUBLIC ACCESS TO A RANGE OF SERVICES? HOW IS THIS TO BE MEASURED AND ASSESSED? 10. Even though comprehensive might primarily be intended to mean the scope of the collection (books, dvds, etc) and facilities (computer terminals, study space, etc), it cannot be divorced from the ability of different sub-groups of the population to access it. (The British Library in Boston is comprehensive but not very accessible.) So comprehensive access is an important component of a comprehensive library service. 11 It is not sufficient, therefore, to look only at the assets of the library service to determine if the service is comprehensive. The question of “Comprehensive to Whom” must be addressed. So it is library users, rather than Councils, who are best placed to assess whether the service is comprehensive. The Council may be regarded as the provider, the users as the consumer and it would be normal to ask the consumer about the quality of the service. 12.The withdrawn Public Library Service Standards (PLSS) of June 2008 addressed some of these aspects. PLSS1 used the percentage of households within 1 mile as a prime target. However, distance is really a proxy for cost and time; these are the factors that users consider. 5 13 PLSS 6 set a target (8,600-7,650) for the number of library visits per 1,000 population. It was explicit in stating that where a library is part of a multi service centre, authorities should count as a library visitor only those who use the library element of the overall provision. 6 14 Other targets addressed book replenishment rate, electronic access, speed of service e.g. to provide ordered books and overall service standards as assessed by the under 16’s (target, 87% Good+) and over 16’s (target 94% Good+). That is, the views of Under 16’s were viewed as of particular interest.                                                          This is the case with the Brent Library Transformation (=Closure) Project. 5 Brent Council has not provided even one metric for either comprehensiveness or efficiency. There are no forecasts of any kind. Brent claims that after closing 6 libraries usage will increase; they do not state how or by when. 6 Brent Council repeatedly declined to allow for non-library visits e.g. to toilets or to administrative offices. 4


NB These USER percentages do not capture dissatisfied users who go elsewhere or simply cease usage. 7 15 It may be thought that these targets are too restrictive given the range of contexts that different Councils serve. But perhaps they may be taken to broadly indicate where a sound service should lay (on those metrics), allowing for any specific features of the catchment area. 16 However, the underlying issue being addressed by the Select Committee is that of library closures. There will, therefore, be a specified change that can be assessed and it is the marginal effect of such a change that is the focus of this submission. 17 There are no significant technological or procedural efficiencies that would indicate a reduction in local libraries. The internet has allowed access to the catalogue, book reservation and reference material but this does not replace the need for libraries. Edinburgh has one of the most developed electronic offerings yet, far from closing libraries, it has continued to open new ones. 18 ebooks may be expected to alter the way books are borrowed but their usage is still small and the most popular eBook, Kindle, is as yet not able to access books on Overdrive, the London Library Consortium eBook system. It is, therefore, premature for a Council’s library strategy to depend on ebooks to deliver any significant volume. 8 9 19 Rather, current changes are, in the main, instigated by the need to make financial savings. However, the 1964 Act does not provide for any such escape route. Further, the dcms overtly states that change for primarily financial reasons is not acceptable. This obliges Councils to falsely claim that their change is instigated by more strategic considerations and that any financial benefits are merely incidental. 20 What has to be established is the test by which such changes should be assessed for compliance with the 1964 Act. It is argued here that the factors that should be taken into account are: Marginal Time and Cost to Users The Data and Assumptions on which the future library performance forecasts are based                                                          7 The only research conducted by Brent consisted of focus groups from which it is not possible to isolate the findings for Under 16s or Over 65s. 8 Almost all publishers in the US now block access to the ebook editions of either all their titles or the most popular ones. On Nov 21, 2011 Penguin Books US pulled ebooks from libraries making them non-available through Kindle. 9 Brent Council's libraries' Transformation Project leans heavily on the new ' Virtual library' which is planned for the new Super-library' which 'customers will be able to access from the comfort of their own home'. Many of the most needy 'customers' do not possess computers or e-readers. There is no evidence that any of the problems encountered in the 'Libraries Versus Publishers' debacle have been adequately considered. It is understood that the Head of Libraries and her deputy are Archivists, not trained librarians.


Indicators of Efficiency Indicators of Comprehensiveness Implementation Plan Transition Management 21 In all the above, the quality and accessibility of relevant information is paramount. To allow a Council to prevail by following a legal process using selective, biased data collected via an inept survey just makes a mockery of insisting on an expensive but pointless consultation process. 22 In a London or Metropolitan Council there will be found natural flows of people for non-library purposes such as getting to a station, bus stop or shopping street. Libraries do best when located in close proximity to these natural flows, less well when users are required to make a separate, single-purpose trip. That is because the marginal impact of going to a library located within a natural flow is low in terms of both cost (fares, petrol, parking) and time. Logistics is a further aspect, especially if you are a parent taking children, or have limited mobility due to age or infliction. 23 If such a well-positioned library is closed, users have to contemplate a significantly higher cost that is not effectively indicated by distance alone. A different time slot has to be found instead of popping in on the way home or when shopping. The time and cost of travel are now full cost and not marginal so the relevant distance will most often be from home to the nearest open library. If the travel time is, say, 45 minutes each way then the total time that will have to be found for a library visit is effectively half a day. Aside from some retired people, what percentage of people can conjure up an extra half day? 24 Further, if the service required is study space or access to a terminal and if the facilities in the nearest remaining library are inadequate to restore the space and facilities lost due to closure, users will simply not go to a library as they know their needs are unlikely to be met, irrespective of travel time and cost. 25 The reality is that each of the residual libraries must have the capacity to match the user needs of the increased catchment areas that they are asked to serve. If they cannot do that, users will not go there. And even if the capacity is provided, beyond a certain travel time – which I do not seek to here specify, it could differ according to context – the additional travel time and cost will effect to exclude users from the library service, irrespective of capacity and efficiency measures. 10 26 So the distance users have to travel to reach a library is an inadequate indicator of the service they receive; far from being a comprehensive service, it may be no service at all. Such a case would constitute a failure of service and a clear breach of the 1964 Act.                                                          10 Brent’s closures were originally scheduled to take place in June 2011. At the eleventh hour, in response to a plea by the Brent Youth Parliament, they agreed to delay until after A-levels as there was insufficient study space in the remaining libraries. This demonstrates the inadequacy of Brent’s plans and an unwillingness to forecast lest they discover something detrimental to their intent. Kingsbury, the nearest library to Preston, has no room to expand.


Neither the SoS nor Councils are currently required to identify such a failure so the Act is effectively unpoliced. In this way, the needs and rights of large tranches of residents can be ignored even while nearby communities receive a satisfactory service. 27 In rural areas the initial context is entirely different, as are both needs and expectations. For example, expected travel times are different and it may be a relatively rare need for a student to travel to a library to find a quiet study space. 28 If the purpose of a library is to advance the education of the public (or similar) then while that role has remained constant the means whereby it is achieved has changed. Consequently, what constitutes comprehensive has changed correspondingly and now includes such as DVD/CD loans, computer terminal usage for both study and access to the internet, non-computer study areas, books in different languages and children’s learning-related activities. 29 Comprehensive should also mean that this offering – or, at least, its core – should be available to all. The 1964 Act does not discriminate against so-called middle class areas. Therefore, the offering should appear comprehensive to users throughout the catchment area. Otherwise, Councils could reduce their libraries so that they could offer a comprehensive service in those that remained while effectively offering nothing to those users who do not live in close proximity. 11 30 However, all libraries need not offer the same full range of services. This could be uneconomic. It is more important that services should reflect local need. This requires that councils periodically identify and measure or assess local need in order to respond accordingly. A Council that does not do so cannot be deemed to have justified its strategy, as per Charteris. 12 AN EFFICIENT LIBRARY SERVICE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY 31 It is also suggested that the question of “Efficient for Whom” be considered. Even if “efficient” is taken to mean 'cheap to run' this must be assessed in terms of metrics such as cost per access, not just cost. Efficiency is a ratio of outputs to inputs and both must be incorporated into an appropriate measure such as cost per visit, cost per issue and these should be considered along with the impact on the potential user population or efficient could be consistent with a very small User base. That is why a target for users per 1000 population is essential. 32 As indicated above, what might be efficient (cheap) for a Council may be very expensive for a user and could conceal a diminution of absolute service, either in certain                                                          11 This is the case in Brent where those near the remaining libraries may receive a good service while those who live near the closed libraries receive a poor service or none at all. 12 It is perverse to set as an objective the immediate introduction of a standardized “offering” in a multipurpose building (hub). The needs of residents may differ, especially where there are ethnic communities geographically clustered and such a dogmatic stance discards, without evaluation, all other means of providing the desired services.


ignored areas or across the catchment area. That is, dysfunctional behavior 13 may not be identified by cost ratios alone. 33 Councils should be required to produce all relevant efficiency ratios, including cost per visit, cost per issue, cost per hour opened, etc. The PLSS definition of what constitutes a valid visit for this purpose is still valid and should be a required method. Such ratios have relevance but only as part of a wider canvas of information and so long as there is the ability to interpret in a non-trivial way. For example, some libraries may offer a greater range of IT support to users and this could appear to reduce efficiency. 14 34 Where, as indicated above, users are excluded from a library by reason of cost and or time, that is because the library service is not efficient from their perspective. 35 A library strategy involving closures should be required to include details of its transition plan. The necessary capacities for each service should be maintained throughout so that closures are not allowed before the replacement services are in place. The lost capacities should be specified, by library, and the new capacities specified by replacement library, not simply as a grand total for the borough; otherwise the new capacities could be in the wrong place. 36 Forecasts of usage and capacities must be presented and an effective means of monitoring specified and followed such that if the forecast effects are not realized – or can be shown to be unachievable - the strategy can be revised to recover the situation. This is necessary so that Councils cannot simply specify intent and call it a strategy (see Charteris) and so that users do not find themselves with an irreversible, inadequate service manifestly not consistent with the 1964 Act and which would never have been accepted had it been accurately forecast. 15 37 A community, by definition, applies to a group of people in a geographical area who cohere such as to obtain the benefits of support and camaraderie and avoid the worst of isolation and loneliness. Where are they to meet to achieve this coherence beyond places of worship? A library serves such a function e.g. with children’s reading circles, as does a local shopping parade where neighbours can be met without prior arrangement.                                                          13 A Council could deliberately reduce its number of libraries in order to produce good efficiency ratios from the surviving libraries, conveniently ignoring the lack of service elsewhere. 14 Brent Council’s Library Transformation Project was predicated on only one metric, cost per visit and offered no forecast of efficiency. 15 Brent Council has closed six out of its 12 libraries without demonstrating, even as an optimistic forecast, how it will provide service capacity where it is needed. Its one piece of research identified a need for more terminals and more study space. Perversely, both of these have been decimated by the closures. It has since been announced that Willesden Library, the largest in the south of the borough, will be closed for 18 months for a total rebuild. It is difficult to see how service capacity can be sustained in these circumstances.


38 The removal of local libraries means that these opportunities are lost. Travel to a further library may not be possible for those most in need and, even if it is possible, the new, enlarged community cannot fulfill the same function; those whom you meet may not live nearby. 39 The argument and proposals above have general applicability. So although not conceived specifically for Brent they can legitimately be applied there. On the basis of the information provided in the footnotes it is evident that Brent has not complied with even one “good practice”. There is no needs-based strategy, no forecast, no adequate transition or implementation plan and no means of determining failure. 40 As in the Wirral case, the simultaneous closure of half of Brent's libraries will lead to a clear failure to provide a comprehensive and efficient Library Service to local people. 41

Preston & Kilburn Libraries: A Comparison Preston


Cost (£k)*



Issues Visits Cost/Issue Cost/Visit Issues/100 Visits Visits/Squ Mtr

90,000 97,000 2.01 1.92 93

67,000 103,000 3.76 2.45 65



Costs used are Staff +Premises costs taken from the Brent’s Final Report on the Library Project, P140 and P17. 42 Preston is more efficient than Kilburn on every metric except raw Visits (which is the most problematic metric and is not an efficiency measure) and even here the difference is modest. Yet Preston is to close and Kilburn remain. The selection of Kilburn is based on the alleged greater presence there of the old, young and disabled; criteria that only appeared in the final report. But the “supporting” data Brent published was in the form of density maps with no legend and no means of grossing up even had a legend been provided. So the difference between Kilburn and Preston on these criteria remains unknown. 43 However, Brent published an earlier library strategy in 2008. In that document, the proportion of library users in these categories is clearly given in a bar chart form. In each case (under 16, over 65 and disabled) Preston comes second highest with Kilburn well behind. So Brent has perversely chosen to disadvantage the very users it claims to wish to service in order to offer a service to non-users elsewhere. 44 It seems impossible to conclude that Brent is offering a library service which is either comprehensive, efficient, equitable or non-discriminatory. Is this not what the Act is designed to prevent?


45 I ask, therefore, that your Committee recommend to the Secretary of State that he hold a Public Inquiry into Brent Council's decision and that all Brent’s libraries and their facilities be restored until the outcome is known. January 2012


Written evidence submitted by Alan Dove (LIB 080) 1. I have used public libraries for over 60 years. My comments are based on my limited experience, mainly in connection with Lewisham libraries. In 1999 I was very reluctantly involved in defending them when Lewisham Council wanted to close three small local libraries. In 2010 I again joined others trying to make sure that we are left with an effective service. This lead me to private discussions with people in similar situations, most notably last autumn at a national seminar in London. The complaints I heard about consultation, openness, and answers to reasonable questions were surprisingly similar to what I had seen. 2. My main concern is for a local service providing everyone with a library they can easily reach, though larger central borough libraries are also needed. 3.

The main points I raise cover: * * * * * * * * *

Libraries should be easily reached They should be based on printed material, but offer other facilities. Electronic resources will need examination, including consideration of their scope and use of open-source software on some public computers. Libraries should be run by professionals. Volunteers should help them. Libraries should be properly maintained. More work is needed to make sure the experiences and views of ordinary users are brought home to Councils and the Minister. Consultation on library closures has often worked poorly. A library is a great asset to its neighbourhood. The Minister should make better use of his powers in order to comply with his duties.

What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century? 4. Any good local library service should reach out to its users. In urban areas this means most users should be within an easy walk of a library. This might seem less exciting than a memorable new facility, but it is the basis of a service bringing a civilising influence to the places in which we live. Rural areas obviously have particular problems, but not having lived in the country I cannot say more than that they must not be overlooked. 5. This committee's 2004-5 third report quite rightly concluded that books, newspapers and journals must be the bedrock of library services. This remains the case. 6. The library should be a place where adults and children can sit comfortably to study as well as collect and return loan material. It might be an advantage for it to be located together with other services or near them, but this should not be at the expense of its core function. Council managers need to be encouraged to resist the temptation to use “co-location” as a justification for pushing the library aside or for forcing its users into a space where few would want to linger long or indulge in quiet reading.


7. Sensible people know their local authority cannot pay for an ideal service on everything. When a choice must be made the priority should be to put libraries where young and old can get to them on foot. Electronic technology 8. A modern library needs to offer access to electronic resources. This fits well with a truly local service because electronic resources can be made available at many points. And, the local library still has an unassuming role in introducing people to these systems. That, however, is likely to decline along with the number of people new to the technology. 9. At some point the the disparity between electronic resources in public libraries and those now expected in institutions of higher learning will need to be addressed. People coming from these institutions are unlikely to be satisfied with what is in the public libraries. And, it is unfair that those who do not attend these institutions must either pay fees to gatekeepers or be denied ever having access to the resources, particularly those based on information collected or maintained at public expense, including theirs (eg Census, book and newspaper collections, official statistics, archives). 10. This is might not the time to spend money extending resources, but as prosperity returns it should have a high priority. And, it would be worth looking now at whether information that belongs to the public is being made accessible to all its owners, and if occasional users need to find it costly or troublesome to obtain. 11. The software used also needs examination. Every public library computer I have ever used had an operating system and software sold by the same company. These machines must influence what people are comfortable using at home and work. It is surely time to look at having some of them use open-source software. This might be inconvenient but the library should do what it can to offer the same opportunity to use different computer software as it does when it offers books from different publishers. Private monopolies might for a time be comfortable for users as well as officials, but must end in tears. Controlling the library 12. The service should be well run. This is best done by handing the immediate task to professionals who have chosen to make a career in the libraries, and who have substantial local control. Democratic local control needs to be maintained of course, so that the constituents who pay for the service can make a direct input when they feel moved to do so. This also requires a strong external force able and willing to intervene when necessary to prevent special interests taking over. That should be the Minister's job. 13. There have undoubtedly been difficulties with Council management of many libraries. The remedy is to make councils work in the interests of their constituents. 14. The present fashion for transferring libraries to charities or not for profit companies or outsourcing them to commercial businesses will not put things right.


15 If a library is moved to a charity or company we must still pay for it; we just pay in a different way. But we lose control. We have already seen questions to Council officials about a service it is obliged by statute to provide turned aside because the library is now run by new management (which is not under the same obligation to answer questions or deal with criticism). 16. A charity answers to trustees who are normally chosen by the existing trustees and management. A company ultimately answers to directors and shareholders. Neither are appointed by the electors. This is satisfactory for a club, but not for an important public service. The founders are usually well-intentioned, but social history shows that such systems must tend to partiality and self-interest. 17. A small recent example, is that we tried but so far failed, to obtain the terms under which the Council gave a charity a substantial amount of money to operate a library. It seems that grants were conditional, with provision for claw-back if certain things are not done. But, for what those things are we have only a general gloss from officials. As far as we have thus far gathered this is because of “commercial in confidence” restrictions. It leaves us knowing something has been bought with taxpayers money but not exactly what has been bought. Maintaining the libraries 18. Both libraries and what is in them must be maintained. Some councils have fallen down on this. 19. I was particularly struck when the Council proposed to transfer a nearby small library, built with Carnegie funds in early in the last century. This meant disclosing that cripplingly costly repairs are needed because roof beams are rotten. We wanted to find out why a much loved and useful building that had survived two world wars, the Great Depression and sundry recessions is in that state. Someone familiar with the place for a long time explained that a few years ago gutter cleaning had been dropped to save money. This covered a time when money had been found for a shiny new library elsewhere, which has already been declared unfit for purpose and replaced with another shiny one. 20. This is not unusual. Buildings and services are erected, opened with VIP publicity, and allowed to run down because money is short. There always, however, seems to be money for consultants to recommend replacement and for the new venture to go ahead. Far better to look after what we already own. Feedback from users 21. Any efficient service should know what difficulties and experiences its users are actually having and what would improve them. This means going beyond superficial ideas about how things work and looking at what people actually do and why. This is a difficult task. There will not be a single source of information.


22. A good and strong library professional