Critics pounce on Library Review

The newly-published Library Modernisation Review has attracted criticism from shadow culture minister Ed Vaizey as well as from library campaigner Tim Coates, despite being welcomed by the Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

The review, published today by culture minister Margaret Hodge, calls for a new strategic body for libraries, bringing together the functions of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), the Advisory Council on Libraries, and the Registrar of Public Lending Right.

The body "should be an improvement and development agency and should have vested in it greater authority than is afforded to the MLA in its current form," the review states. It would also run an accreditation programme which could be linked to funding opportunities" and would undertake other activities such as exploring the opportunities for developing philanthropic giving to the public library service.

The review also recommends a "national core offer" on libraries from all local authorities, including membership from birth, to be complemented by a "local offer" to include commitments on book stock and events programmes. It proposes a ban on library authorities charging for e-books.

But both Coates and Vaizey have criticised the review for a lack of substance. "Like every one of 30 national reports that have preceeded it in the past decade, it is vague, unspecific and full of waffle," Coates said. "It says nothing that hasn't been said 100 times or is not totally obvious. We needed a timetable and specific actions whereby the enormous funding the service receives was reallocated to clear priorities."

On the subject of the new strategic body, Coates commented: "If we just create a new body without understanding the painful lessons of why all the old bodies failed to improve libraries, then we will go nowhere."

Vaizey said library users would be "sorely disappointed" by the work, commenting: "The library review has been delayed for more than two years. Now it has come out, it says very little. What good ideas it has have been copied form our announcements, which we made last year, namely a national library card and a strategic agency for libraries, as well as clearer guidance on what
constitutes a good library service.

"The tragedy is if they had bothered to think hard about what libraries need, they could have had all this up and running by now."

However CILIP president Biddy Fisher said: "I welcome the government's commitment to delivering a first-rate free service to everyone; they now need to deliver on their recommendations and provide appropriate investment in the public library service."

MLA chair Andrew Motion said: "Today's review reinforces the vision of a service providing free access to a wide range of books, information and knowledge, within welcoming buildings in
convenient locations."

The full report can be read here.