The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has appointed Yinnon Ezra MBE as a part-time advisor on the public library service.
Ezra is a former director of culture, communities and rural affairs at Hampshire County Council, and has spent decades in the local government and voluntary sectors.
The DCMS said his role is to: “Work directly with library authorities who are identified as being ‘at risk’ of falling short of their statuary duty as a result of revisions to their library services. He will also advise ministers on their duty to superintend library services.” Ezra will also work with Arts Council England on its Envisioning the Future of the Library consultation and its Grants for the Arts funding stream.
Library campaigner Desmond Clarke said: “I welcome the appointment. I have known him for several years and he is genuinely very interested in improving public libraries. He has enormous experience in local government. The hope now is the the DCMS and ACE pay attention to what he has to say.
He added: “There has been all this palaver over who is responsible for superintending the service – at least this is recognition that the minister is responsible, and needs someone to give him advice.”
Bilbary founder Tim Coates said: “He understands very well the role that local government plays, which is important, because it is councils that matter.”
In a letter about libraries which Ezra issued when he retired from Hampshire in 2011, he emphasised the local nature of public libraries and the role that councils had in maintaining them. He said: “The key for me has always been the leadership at local authority level of libraries and culture.”
However in 2010, nearly 60 jobs were cut from Hampshire’s library service, while many local branches saw hours cut. A £7m Discovery Centre was launched in Winchester in November 2007.