Saving Public Libraries

<p>Things are moving fast on the different issues of local libraries around the country - people are variously considering legal action, protest and events have taken place (for example Unison's People's Inquiry last year). <br />
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There is confusion around the country and lots of noise from all involved, from older One Nation Conservatives where I live (who cannot understand why the party that held itself as champion of rural communities now wields axes over something that whole communities rely on as the essence of community viability); to the pieces in the<i> Guardian</i>.</p>
<p>We had our public meeting on Friday and I am getting over one hundred emails a day from action all over the country. The fear is we are on a short term dash towards cultural oblivion that will place a straight jacket on innovation and lifelong learning in many communities, at a time when the country needs to prepare to face up to the bigger challenges the world faces towards 2050.<br />
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Concerns are being raised that nationally DCMS policy is to support the closure of hundreds of small community libraries which was not what people voted for nationally last year. I don't know if this is the policy.<br />
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Many groups are seeking to make challenges under the 1964 Act once decisions have been made to close libraries. Each inquiry, if allowed would have to be held on it's own facts. We know the Act is vague and this will cause issues around the country. Some findings would however be common to all areas.The trauma of the Government ignoring calls for inquiry in local areas would pull the country apart.<br />
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Should we now call for a national public library service inquiry in the following terms.<br />
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First the Government (PM) should be invited to sort the 'mess' out by setting up such an urgent independent inquiry into a comprehensive and efficient library service in the face of other cuts to services nationally and prosposed library closures suspended. <br />
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If Government does not respond within seven days, under the rules that are available in the Act let us set up the first genuine public led inquiry the country has seen, for the public, from the public, by the public&nbsp; - exactly as an official one would be set up with an independent chair; on the basis that as this is now a matter of such national concern it must be dealt with independent of government. <br />
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The opportunity is to take localism national to fairly and reasonably assess library issues of national significance raised by local campaigns to provide societal guidance for Government as to what they are required to deliver.<br />
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We could invite Government, unions, academics,&nbsp; all local campaigns etc to give evidence. <br />
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The independent chair could be asked to set out full terms of reference, universities around the country asked to provide facilities free of charge for any hearings.<br />
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I suggest this given time is of the essence - in Somerset the axe is likely to fall on 2nd February.<br />
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When the axe falls and legal challenges follow, and this is replicated around the country millions of pounds will be wasted on an issue which requires leadership, reflection and clarity now. <br />
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If this is not being done yet I propose it as a cost effective way forward which would establish credibility and establish it's own representative legitimacy by it's scope and inclusiveness. <br />
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How it will be done must be left to the chair - facilitating and funding the means to do it (facilities etc) would be down to us, our innovation and imagination. <br />
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At this stage please let me know if you think this is something that groups around the country would work to support, now. If so we could start tomorrow.<br />
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If you or your group would support this please reply to <a href="mailto:publiclibraryserviceinquiry@live.co.uk">publiclibraryserviceinquiry@live.co.uk</a>.<br />
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