Vaizey rebuffs library inquiry call

Vaizey rebuffs library inquiry call

<p>Minister for culture Ed Vaizey has said he will &quot;consider the use of statutory powers&quot; in support of public libraries, but only on a &quot;case-by-case basis&quot;, appearing to rule out the growing calls for a national inquiry into the service as it faces what library campaigners have said are disproportionate cuts.</p><p>The issue surged into the headlines this week with intense national press and broadcast scrutiny of the threatened closures. Campaigners seized the moment to publicise their protests and hailed a growing popular movement to stop the decimation of the library service, with authors, well-known names and thousands of ordinary library users, often connecting through social networking. The Bookseller launched its <a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fight-For-Libraries-campaign-from-The-Book... target="_blank" title="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fight-For-Libraries-campaign-from-The-Book... for Libraries Facebook campaign</a> to mobilise book trade opposition to the closures.</p><p>BBC2&#39;s &quot;Newsnight&quot;, BBC &quot;Breakfast&quot; and BBC Radio 4&#39;s &quot;You and Yours&quot; all tackled the issue, with local radio programmes buzzing over stories of their area&#39;s closures. Stony Stratford Library supporters&#39; camera-friendly tactic&mdash;getting everyone to take out their top quota of loans and empty the entire library of books &mdash;grabbed their campaign particularly high media attention. Somerset campaigner Steve Ross called for a national&shy; public library inquiry, with the aim of gathering 100,000 signatures via Facebook, the number previously needed to call for a debate in parliament.</p><p>But in a statement released to <em>The Bookseller</em>, Vaizey stopped short of supporting this kind of inquiry. He said: &quot;People have every right to campaign for their local libraries, and to let local councils who deliver the service know how much they care about them. </p><p>The best councils know who uses their services, how they use them, what books they borrow and what &shy;benefits these services bring to them. Consultation should take place at local level first; that&#39;s how local councils can make the best choices on behalf of local residents.&quot; And he added: &quot;I am monitoring very closely what&#39;s happening across England. I will consider the use of statutory powers&shy; on a case-by-case basis. Local authorities have clear legal obligations, but library services must be looked at as a whole, including provision beyond the walls of library buildings.&quot;</p><p>Library campaigner Desmond Clarke said that Vaizey was failing to &quot;get the message&quot; and had not understood the &quot;anger and frustration&quot; among library users throughout the country. Clarke added that he could not understand Vaizey&#39;s desire to have a &quot;series of inquiries&quot; when one national inquiry would be much cheaper.</p><p>Ross responded: &quot;The minister has broken his silence to say nothing. His finally commenting publically on the outcry of campaigners around the UK evidences that he is hearing the noise, but he isn&#39;t listening or understanding. UK local library campaigns are being picked up all around the world yet the minister responsible is ignoring them.&quot;</p><p>Meanwhile, author Alan Gibbons, organiser of Campaign for the Book, called for a &quot;robust, cordial and rigorous&quot; public debate between campaigners from what he described as &quot;the growing Save Our Libraries movement&quot; and Roy Clare, chief executive of the Museums, Libraries &amp; Archives Council and Vaizey, in the wake of a row over a<em> Daily Mail</em> article&mdash;since removed from its web&shy;site &ndash; which last weekend slammed the quango chief</p>