Are you there John? It is me Matt

I have just written and e-mailed a letter to Parliamentary Under Secretary for the DCMS John Glen. I am hoping to open a dialogue with him to encourage him to be open and supportive of public libraries in the UK.

Full text is below

Dear John

I thought I would write this letter to introduce myself and say hello – hi!

I have been tweeting you over the past few days about Libraries Week and specifically Public Libraries as I believe (and am sure that you feel the same) that they are an integral part of the social fabric of life in the UK. They are one of the oldest public services run by local government still in existence (they have been around for 167 years) seriously, check your change pouch, you may have one of the 50p coins struck to celebrate 150 years of public libraries in 2000.

I wrote a bit about the Public Libraries Act of 1850, well mostly the arguments for and against here:

While the century has changed, many of the arguments are still the same, I am not writing to discuss these but if you are interested I am up for a face to face discussion about public libraries, I can bring my friends who share similar interests to join in and hope that you consider doing the same.

You were very vocal about libraries last week and I am hoping that this will continue now that Libraries Week has passed. It is easy to join in celebrations when everyone is shouting “hurrah”, but when the bunting is taken down and everyone gets on with their jobs I hope you will do the same as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the DCMS. In this role I am sure you will find supporting Public Libraries easier than many for as you are no doubt aware Public Libraries are a statutory service as enshrined in the Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964. Amongst the many duties that you have is the one that includes making sure that Local Authorities run a comprehensive and full Library Service this includes

  • 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
    I am sure that you already know it backwards but you can read the full act here:
    I know how busy you must be and how easy it will be for some duties to slip due to the immense pressure many in government must be under, so I want to reassure you that you are not alone. I will be here to chivvy you along if necessary and to support you as you engage with your colleagues in local government to remind them that they are legally obligated to run a library service rather than foisting it off on volunteers, many of whom will do anything to keep the service going – and that really is not fair! I mean I am all for volunteers in libraries assisting staff, but to make them responsible for running a professional service really is beyond the pale! I hope you will have a word with the councils that are doing this!

    This was supposed to be a quick note but I seem to have gone on I do apologise! Anyway, I look forward to hearing from you as to how we can move forward together and give the people of the UK a Library Service we can all celebrate and be proud of!

    Warmest regards

    Matt Imrie

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