Hodge asks: should library authorities merge?

<p>Culture minister Margaret Hodge has questioned the affordability of having 151 separate library authorities, in a debate on libraries held on last night&#39;s &quot;Newsnight&quot; (BBC2). Hodge, who said that the long-awaited DCMS Library Review would be published next week, confirmed there were no plans to change the statutory status of libraries.</p><p>But she said that innovation in the service was the answer to local government financial pressures, asking: &quot;We have 151 library authorities - can we afford that or should they merge and work together?&quot; Hodge also reiterated her support for partnerships between libraries and other services, and with private companies such as Starbucks.</p><p>Library campaigner Alan Gibbons, also part of the &quot;Newsnight&quot; debate, said the service had suffered from poor leadership. He said good book stock, as well as ICT, was needed, together with professional librarians and a focus on staff who deal with the public rather than back-office positions.<br /></p>