Phil Bradley, president of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), has said councils are looking at libraries "really just as glorified book swaps".
Interviewed by Michael Rosen for his two-part BBC Radio 4 exploration of the future of libraries, "Our Libraries: The Next Chapter", broadcast yesterday (4th September), Bradley was asked if a community library full of books but without a librarian met the statutory definition of a library.
Bradley replied: "I would say that it doesn’t. Books are to libraries what beds are to hospitals. They are an absolute requirement but they do not define what it is that we do. So one of the issues that is facing the country at the moment is really trying to define what libraries are and what role that they have and one of the large issues that we have I think is that the councils are looking at libraries really just as glorified book swaps."
Meanwhile Brian Ashley, libraries director of Arts Council England, interviewed about library closures, said: "There are many different circumstances in which a library closes. I think it’s important to understand that there are times when it is the right and appropriate thing. There are undoubtedly circumstance where what you describe is the case, that a community does lose its library. There’s a sense of loss, of grief, of bereavement about that that arouses strong feelings.
"But there are other circumstances where communities move on."
Rosen told listeners: "The library system is in turmoil, facing upheaval of a kind we haven’t seen since the Public Libraries Act was passed in 1850."
The second part of Rosen's programme, to be broadcast next Wednesday 11th September at 11a.m., will visit the new Library of Birmingham.