Cleeves: 'Libraries need qualified staff'

Cleeves: 'Libraries need qualified staff'

Crime writer Ann Cleeves has spoken out about the growing use of volunteers in public libraries, saying: "Much has been spoken about library closures… now I'm becoming concerned with the de-skilling of our service."

The author, whose Vera Stanhope novels, published by Pan Mac, are currently being dramatised on ITV, wrote in The Guardian: "Librarians are qualified to degree level, yet we think it's acceptable to replace the with well-meaning volunteers… We need the people who run our libraries to understand the potential of books to inspire, inform and change lives. They should have the confidence to display the new and the quirky: books in translation, short fiction, graphic novels. If there's no guaranteed market for these books, they won't be published and we'll all be the poorer."

Cleeves also defended the economic basis for libraries, and said: "When the creative industries bring £8m an hour into the UK and account for 5.6% of all jobs, surely it's madness to deny access to the ideas that will provide the springboard to creative endeavour. It's a bit like saying: 'Hey, of course we want to encourage manufacturing, but it's expensive to teach maths and physics, so let's get volunteers in to do it instead.'"

The writer called for people to promote their local libraries and encourage more people to use them, to change the image of public libraries from one of "gloomy shelving" to "vibrant places we can share ideas".

She added: "If everyone who reads this becomes a library member, borrows books, takes along a friend to a reading group, the government will have to take us seriously. Libraries aren't for the elite or for the deprived. They're for everyone."

Yesterday (12th May), the Local Government Association released a report titled "Under Pressure", which showed that three out of five councils would be forced to cut frontline services such as libraries by 2016 as a way of reducing their costs.