'Eighteen months to implement Sieghart', says library task force chair

'Eighteen months to implement Sieghart', says library task force chair

The task force set up to implement the recommendations of the Sieghart Report will have failed if it does not deliver changes in the next 18 months, according to its chair.

Paul Blantern, chief executive of Northamptonshire County Council and chair of the task force made the assertion at a panel discussion held at the Houses of Parliament yesterday (14th)  by the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group.

Describing himself as "a delivery person", Blantern said he was already assembling members of the task force, which will draw on Arts Council England, the British Library, the Local Government Association and the Reading Agency, and was close to delivering an initial report to libraries minister Ed Vaizey which would lay out the initial scope of the task force and money required.

He said: "What I want to do with all the work that's already been done is say, this is what's been done, now this is what the task force is going to do to drive it forwards." He added that he was interested in practical solutions, and how to present them  to decision-makers. "How does it add value? Sometimes the decision-makers are the people who don't use libraries. We have to make decision-makers understand the value their decisions have, whether that's part of social agenda, or an austerity agenda."

The Sieghart Report into the public library service was published in December last year, and laid out a number of recommendations. William Sieghart urged the government to fund digital resources for libraries, including free wi-fi as standard, as well as workforce training, a new system of bringing graduates into the service, and a national network which would include national library cards.

Speaking at the discussion, Sieghart [pictured] himself alluded to discussions on moving forwards with the digital recommendations. He said: "I can't make any announcements yet, but I know that there are one or two corporate breakthroughs in terms of digital which will deliver new kit and new technology."

Meanwhile, referring to national coverage of the release of the report, which focused on the suggestions that libraries should offer comfortable social spaces with hot drinks and sofas, Sieghart said: "I did recommend those things because people told me again and again how needed it was… but one thing that got overlooked was books. Most of the libraries I visited, I was disappointed in the books. Most haven't learned from the booksellers how to present and display their books. Some have so much cellophane around them you can barely see what's inside. But the book isn't going away. In all of our conversations about digital, let's not forget about the book."