Data about public libraries in England has been made available by the Libraries Taskforce, six months after it was originally intended for publication. However the data published is just a simple list of the names, addresses, websites and contact emails for public libraries that were open as of 1st July 2016.
Campaigners, library bodies and the shadow culture minister have all criticised it as "disappointing". Kathy Settle, c.e.o. of the Taskforce, has said that this dataset is merely the "first step" in creating a core dataset for libraries.
The publication follows pressure from opposition politicians and CILIP, the library and information association, which submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in January 2017 requesting the release of the data.
Nick Poole, c.e.o. of CILIP, said: “Reliable, open data about public libraries is the bedrock for good decision making. Having open data that can be examined and laid access other data-sets such as transport links, health information, urban infrastructure, education and socio-economic status will enormously contribute to effectively managing and developing library services.
“While the publication of this data is welcome, the lack of a full dataset including opening times and number of staffed hours is disappointing. I look forward to working with the Taskforce to expedite the publication of a full data set.“
Library campaigner Tim Coates added: “Is this an April Fool's joke? The dataset is just a list of libraries that are open with their addresses. It seems to have taken two years to compile. You only have to look at the website of each council and make the same list with opening hours etc - it shouldn't take more than a few days.”
Kevin Brennan, shadow culture minister, told The Bookseller that the data is "extremely basic" and "very disappointing". "What we need is data that tells us what’s happening to library services in communities and whether Councils are fulfilling their statutory requirements to provide an efficient and comprehensive library service", Brennan said. "Labour is calling on the Government to release the rest of the Libraries Taskforce data, including opening and staffing hours, as soon as possible.”
In a blog post, Kathy Settle, c.e.o. of the Libraries Taskforce, said that publication of the basic dataset is "important in providing a definitive list of open libraries that everyone can point to and use", but emphasised that it is "only the first step".
She said: “The feedback during the consultation on Libraries Deliver: Ambition and in our recent Sector Forum workshops clearly showed the benefits of establishing a wider core dataset. This is why we created the data action in Libraries Deliver: Ambition, to define and publish a core dataset creating a transparent and automated (where possible) process to gather and share it.
“We now want to build on this initial exercise, looking at how we widen existing data collection beyond inputs and outputs to capture outcomes and impacts - moving beyond a focus on book lending data to encompass the wider variety of activities libraries undertake. As part of this, we are seeking views [...] on what a core dataset for libraries should include."
Interested parties are invited to contribute to a survey which will close on Friday 28th April.