Nick Poole, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP), has written an open letter to Birmingham City Council, urging it to keep its libraries open and professionally staffed.
Following the city council’s decision to temporarily put a stop to its book fund, Poole has written to chief executive Mark Rogers, saying he has concerns about the “ongoing quality of library services available to the communities and citizens of Birmingham”.
Poole said he understands that the council needs to cut costs but suggested libraries can help generate money by “supporting small businesses and employment, improving health and well being and providing everyone with opportunities for learning and developing new skills”.
“The national network of Business and Intellectual Property Centres, including the Library of Birmingham, helped to create 1,692 new businesses and 4,178 jobs between 2013 and 2015,” he said. “The network created £38m GVA [gross value added], a payback of £4.50 for every £1 spent.”
He added: “Arts Council England value the health, wellbeing and quality of life benefits of libraries at £748.1m per annum combining the value to the individual with reduced health spending.”
In the letter Poole urged the council to maintain its professional staff in libraries and offered CILIP’s help in transforming the service.
“We would be happy to assist with information about best practice and retaining professional staff and resources at the heart of provision while delivering more cost effective solutions. Please let me know if it would helpful for me to meet with your team.”
Earlier this week, Birmingham council said it was temporarily stopping its book fund because it needs to make “huge savings”.
City councillor Penny Holbrook said: “Councils across the country are having to make hard choices about what can be afforded, and we simply cannot continue to do everything and fund everything we historically have. We are continuing to look at how we secure the future of all our community libraries but whilst that work is underway we need to make tough choices to save money. One of those choices is a pause on the book fund."
The decision led some libraries in the area to ask for book donations from the public.
This morning former Waterstones’ boss Tim Coates called for Ed Vaizey to be replaced as culture minister on "BBC Breakfast", saying his replacement to “get a really tight grip on what’s happening” with libraries across the UK and help councils.
Coates said that in London there were approximately 300 libraries that cost around £200m a year to operate. He suggested bringing control for those libraries into one body, instead of separate local authorities, which he estimated would save £80m a year - £40m of which could be invested back into the service, and £40m which could go to the government. He suggested a similar plan for Birmingham and the surrounding areas.