An open letter on #LibrariesWeek

FAO: John Glen MP, Libraries Taskforce, the DCMS, Arts Council England, Local Governments all over the UK

RE: LIBRARIES WEEK

Dear all

It is an exciting day today, with the launch of the first National UK Libraries Week, celebrating libraries of all shapes and sizes across the UK. Going by your twitter feeds this morning you are all big supporters of this initiative.

It gladdens my heart that you are all believers in equality of service, and that citizens of this United Kingdom, home to Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontes, Rowling, Riddell, Crossan and other giants of literature, both ancient and modern, deserve equal access to literature, learning and information through their local library service.

In fact as you are no doubt all aware, Public Libraries are a statutory service as enshrined in the Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964, with the Secretary for DCMS (currently YOU Mr Glen) having a right and a duty to make sure that local authorities do this (see below)

  • have regard to encouraging both adults and children to make full use of the library service (section 7(2)(b))
  • lend books and other printed material free of charge for those who live, work or study in the area (section 8(3)(b))

    It is the statutory duty of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to:

  • superintend, and promote the improvement of, the public library service provided by local authorities in England (section 1(1))
  • secure the proper discharge by local authorities of the functions in relation to libraries conferred on them as library authorities
  • Read the full act here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1964/75

    I would like to welcome you all to join with librarians, campaigners, authors and others who have worked tirelessly since 2011 (and before) to ensure the survival of the library service as we know it.

    I am aware that in the past other secretaries of state have not been minded to intervene or just sat on their hands while the service burned (whatever happened to them?), I also know that it many in government thought the public library question was best answered by local government (sadly many of those answers have been soul-destroying).

    Now I am confident that the online signals of support from yourselves and official twitter accounts from councils across the country that we can move past this unfortunate episode and work together to bring library services back under the umbrella of local government with full backing from the DCMS, bringing an end to piecemeal funding of special projects and making sure that libraries are funded in the way that they should be!

    While you are at it could you have a word with your colleagues at OFSTED about the importance of making school libraries and librarians statutory rather than leaving it up to individual heads as we can all see how that has ended up.

    All the best and happy Libraries Week

    Matt

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