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Lords urged to make ‘positive intervention’ in decline of libraries

30 March 2017

From The Bookseller:

Libraries body CILIP has urged peers to intervene in the declining library service ahead of a debate in the House of Lords today (30th March) on libraries and other arts services.

The library and information association has highlighted the “profoundly damaging” effect the “severe neglect” of the public library service has had on society ahead of the debate, which takes place in the House of Lords at 1pm today.

The debate will see Nicholas Le Poer Trench, the Earl of Clancarty, ask the government what steps it intends to take to protect and improve local arts and cultural services, including museums, libraries and archaeological services.

In a briefing provided ahead of the debate, CILIP said that despite the positive impact of libraries and librarians, the UK’s national library network has suffered from “severe neglect” as a result of successive programs of government policy. Recent CIPFA figures have revealed that 478 libraries have closed across England, Scotland and Wales since 2010 and budgets have been slashed by £25m.

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Ian Anstice, librarian and editor of Public Libraries News, told the Bookseller that he believes the debate is necessary as the government has “shown it needs to be told, apparently repeatedly, that it is not doing enough for libraries”.

“I’m delighted that the Lords will be debating this important national public service”, Anstice said. “If libraries are not talked about then there’s a danger that people think the issue is settled, which would be disastrous seeing the potential cuts that they are facing, and have already endured. While I am pleased with the setting up of a Taskforce and know the people within it genuinely want the best for the sector, it is tied to the government line of austerity and localism. The first means there is less and less money and the second means that local councils can happily atomise their services with no central direction. Each separately makes little enough sense for a national service but both together spells a disaster for the sector.”

Children’s author and library campaigner Alan Gibbons said that while he “always welcome politicians paying attention to libraries”, the “deliberations of the Libraries Taskforce have been long and labyrinthine”, and meanwhile “hundreds of libraries have closed, a quarter of librarians have lost their jobs, opening hours have been slashed, book stocks have shrunk and inevitably some of the public have drifted away, discouraged by this failure”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Libraries, Non-US