Kent 'ignores' National Libraries Day

The Society of Chief Librarians has been forced to defend itself following claims that members of its national executive have failed to support National Libraries Day (4th February) in their own authorities.

Blogposts and tweets have highlighted a shortage of planned events to mark and celebrate the day posted on the NLD website in some areas where authorities have SCL executive committee members in charge of libraries. They include Kent, where SCL secretary Cath Anley runs the service.

A briefing document to Kent library staff said: "We will mark National Libraries Day in the best way possible - by continuing to deliver the best quality service to our very many satisfied customers."

In a statement, SCL said: "SCL is a supporting partner of National Libraries Day and is actively involved in planning for events and celebrations. The Society of Chief Librarians welcomes the support from customers and the library community that has been galvanized for National Libraries Day. Celebrating what libraries do for their customers, and what customers do for one another in libraries is important because it reinforces the uniqueness and value of the public library service." 

Elizabeth Elford, SCL communications manager, said: "The SCL national executive from the beginning has put its full support behind National Libraries Day. But when it goes to local authority level, they have no control over take-up if for whatever reason their council has decided not to participate as fully." She also said that not every library had uploaded its events onto the NLD site.

A briefing to Kent library staff on how to respond to any queries from the public about National Libraries Day states: "This is the approach we are taking: As NLD is a Saturday, the busiest day of the week for us, all our staff will be fully engaged in helping people to use our wide range of services. We already have planned events and promotions across the County throughout 2012... There is much to celebrate about libraries in Kent, and we will mark National Libraries Day in the best way possible - by continuing to deliver the best quality service to our very many satisfied customers."

The briefing asks staff approached about holding an NLD event in their library to contact their district manager for guidance. "You can of course tell them about the planned activities already scheduled to take place in your library and invite them to become a library volunteer if they wish to play an active role in the year ahead," it says.  

Kent county council is currently reviewing its library service, with a "far reaching shake-up" of services anticipated, according to local media.

Cath Anley is on leave and could not be reached for comment. Kent county council cabinet member for customer and communities Mike Hill said: "National Libraries Day is a good opportunity to look at what is on offer in your local area. We are very proud of the Kent library service, one of the largest in the country which currently has around 236,000 active borrowers. There are more than 14,500 events throughout the county being held every year in local libraries, from children's reading sessions and coffee mornings to computer training sessions from our Web Wizards. We would encourage people to find out what is available all the year round at their local library by going to www.kent.gov.uk/libraries."

Other SCL executive committee members confirmed that they were supporting the day with activities in their local area. David Ruse, triborough director of libraries for Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham, said special events and activities were being organised across the three boroughs for National Libraries Day, including author talks, and the launch of The Library Book (Profile), but that they had not been uploaded onto the main NLD site. Ayub Khan of Warwickshire libraries also said his borough had special activities planned, including giving away free DVDs.