"Efficient" library service means change, says Vaizey

"Efficient" library service means change, says Vaizey

<p>The statutory requirement to provide a &quot;comprehensive and efficient&quot; library service does not preclude library closures, culture minister Ed Vaizey has said. </p><p>In a letter to author and campaigner Alan Gibbons, Vaizey placed a new emphasis on the second adjective in the key phrase from the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act which has protected the service hitherto.</p><p>The minister said that while local authorities were legally required to provide a &quot;comprehensive&quot; library service, it must also be an &quot;efficient&quot; one. &quot;When the funding available decreases it is inevitable that to stay efficient authorities will need to make changes to their library service,&quot;<br />he stated. </p><p>Vaizey&#39;s interpretation came in a response to the open letter sent by Gibbons on December 5th to both Vaizey and culture secretary Jeremy Hunt. The letter expressed concern that over 250 library closures had been announced since the government&#39;s spending review and called on the ministers to act in the spirit of the 1964 act and prevent the closures. </p><p>It was signed by a roster of high-profile authors including Philip Pullman, Kate Mosse,<br />Michael Holroyd, Lee Child and Carol Ann Duffy.</p><p>Library campaigners have hit out at Vaizey&#39;s comments. Desmond Clarke said: &quot;He seems to be suggesting that you can achieve efficiency with closures! His assumption that efficiency leads to enhanced provision is a chimera. The DCMS and MLA seem to have lost control as the public library service moves into crisis. Ed Vaizey needs to take a lead from Eric Pickles and tell his officials and local government that disproportionate cuts are unacceptable. They should look to the back-offices and central service charges first to find the savings.&quot;</p> <p>While campaigner Tim Coates added: &quot;It&#39;s clear from the different statements that have come in the past few days from Ed Vaizey and Eric Pickles that it is the Department of Local Government<br />that has a better grasp of these serious issues. That is not really surprising and it shows how important it is that the two departments work together much more closely than they have been doing.&quot; </p> <p>Vaizey&#39;s letter also suggested Gibbons accentuate &quot;the positive value of library services, rather than depicting them as a service in crisis&quot;, saying: &quot;While I have admiration for the tireless campaigning you and others are doing I do worry that this difficult situation could be turned into a crisis as media coverage often stresses a disintegration of the library service rather than celebrating its many successes.&quot;</p><p>There are now daily reports of local authorities planning to sever their library services, with many seeing the service as a soft-target. These cuts have been widely interpreted as a &#39;crisis&#39; by library campaigners. </p>