Library campaigners have called on MP Ed Vaizey to ensure libraries are run more efficiently rather than closing them down, ahead of his appearance at the Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing tomorrow (13th March).
Data from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy over the last ten years, analysed by Tim Coates, founder of online e-lender and e-bookseller Bilbary, has found that while spending on public libraries has risen from £680m in 2001 to £870m in 2011, the portion of library expenditure on books has dropped from 10.6% to 6.6% (£57.42m) while council overhead costs have jumped 8.6% to 14.6% (£127.02m).
Vaizey, government minister for culture, communications and creative industries, is the final person to be called to give evidence to the inquiry into library closures tomorrow. His sitting at 10.30 a.m. coincides with a national rally at Methodist Central Hall, London, where hundreds of campaigners from across the country, representing UNISON, the Women’s Institute and local library campaign groups are expected to gather, along with authors Kate Mosse, Philip Ardagh and shadow culture, media and sport minister Dan Jarvis MP.
Campaigners will be able to watch Vaizey give evidence on a live screen and afterwards will visit their MPs to represent their views on local library closures.
Coates, who is due to appear on BBC Breakfast television tomorrow to speak about the library spend figures, told The Bookseller: “This has been the trend year-on-year over the last ten years. Money has been spent on the wrong things and it is senior management in local council who should be held responsible. They need to roll up their sleeves and get themselves immersed in the job of budgeting better.”
When asked what he would like to hear Vaizey say, Coates said: “What he should do is think constructively about how to improve the library service. It is not about cutting money from the budget, it is about improving things with the money that is available. It is shockingly shameful that these people coming to demonstrate tomorrow, who believe that a society and children should have libraries and access to books, are forced to come from miles [away] to make this point to parliament.”
Library campaigner Desmond Clarke added: “Public libraries are being squeezed hard not just by disproportionate cuts to the service in many authorities but also by the escalating corporate charges imposed by councils on their libraries. Are we surprised that authors, librarians and library users will descend upon Parliament to protest?"
The Bookseller has contacted the DCMS and is awaiting comment.