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04.10.09 | Benedicte Page
The public library service is "woefully" lacking in leadership and a new Library Development Agency for England is needed to articulate a national vision, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Libraries has said in a report published today (2nd October).
The report, on governance and leadership in England's public library service begun last year under the chairmanship of Labour MP Lyn Brown and co-funded by CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), recommends a bringing together of government funding and functional responsibility within a single government department, the creation of the new agency to provide leadership and advocacy, and adjusting the "role, function and funding of the MLA (Museums, Libraries and Archive Council) . . . accordingly".
The report states: "We acknowledge that the MLA is confident that it can improve its performance in relation to libraries despite its financial constraints and there is a view that it should be given time to allow its new approaches to be tested. However, others told us that its split responsibilities make focused library advocacy impossible."
The library report says that a series of "relatively simple and small central policy changes" could create a "dramatic" improvement in the quality of services delivered by public libraries, which show a "deep chasm" between the best and the worst. The report also recommends changes to the Advisory Council for Libraries, suggesting that its role, membership and business programme be reviewed.
Lynda Waltho MP, Chair of the APPG on Libraries, said: "The responses to our survey identify a public library service that is woefully lacking in leadership . . . Libraries desperately need a strategic vision to ensure that they are a future-facing service, rather than one that is struggling to keep up in a digital age."
Bob McKee, chief executive of CILIP, adde: "The government needs to act promptly on the report's recommendations so that the library service gets the clarity of leadership it deserves and local people get the quality of service they have a right to expect."
The All Party report is the first of three much-anticipated library reviews due this month, with news of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Library Service Modernisation Review and the report into Wirral libraries expected at the Public Library Authorities' conference in Bristol next week.