Library service

<p>Publishers should invest in the British Public Library service and save it.&nbsp;It is in their commercial interest to lead the restoration. At present public libraries buy &pound;90m of books each year, making them the fourth &shy;largest public-facing customer of UK publishers (behind <br />
W H Smith's, Waterstone's and Amazon). If the library service were working properly it would purchase &pound;200m annually. That is why Random House, Pearson, Hachette, HarperCollins and Macmillan should act.</p>
<p>The supply chain needs radical surgery: there is no need any longer for library suppliers; there should be one national standard process which turns a printed book into a library book; there should be one national standard &shy;supply contract (with a space for negotiated prices) useable by all publishers, distributors, wholesalers and libraries. Deliveries should be direct from distributor or wholesaler to individual libraries (not council library depots). Orders, invoices and transfers of information should all be by standard EDI process. </p>
<p>There should be less movement of stock between libraries&mdash;it is more economic to purchase new or replacements. Standards should be held and maintained by BIC. Public libraries should use Nielsen Book Data standard catalogues. There should be one standard specification of Library Management Systems. CIPFA, the library performance reporting mechanism, needs to be replaced with a simple web-based system for individual libraries. Publishers' promotion programmes should include libraries.</p>
<p>But at the heart of the restoration publishers must persuade those local councillors who are responsible for allocating funds that books are important, useful to the public and fulfil a vital role in their legal obligation to provide a library service. Most councillors and council officers have been told that this is no longer true&mdash;they believe books are an out-of-date medium. Publishers have to learn to sell to the unconverted, and must also persuade councillors to double the proportion of library budgets that is spent on books (in any format). There is huge wasted money spent on administration and supply work, all of which add nothing to the value of the library. By leading the supply chain improvements, publishers will be able to explain that libraries do not need to cost more to improve.&nbsp;Councillors and individual libraries are the new customers.&nbsp;Publishers should stop trying to sell to library suppliers.</p>
<p>The public library service is like an old Victorian house; neglected, and then ruined by attempts at modernisation. When it is taken back to its original state and the designs are restored, it will be a truly wonderful, valuable thing.<br />