Jarvis calls for “deeds not words” on libraries

Jarvis calls for “deeds not words” on libraries

Shadow culture minister Dan Jarvis has insisted that “deeds, not more words” are what libraries need to help them survive.

He urges the government to step in and offer clearer advice to councils, as well as raising their monitoring standards. He also advocates combining the some aspects of library services across local authority borders to make savings.

In his piece on website Labour List he said: “There is much the government could be doing, and are not. They could be offering advice to councils considering major cuts, to help find ways to make savings while minimising closures. They could put in place a clearer system for monitoring standards; that strikes a balance between avoiding bureaucratic constraint and the current approach that effectively makes a mockery of the government’s legal duty to oversee the service.”

He added: “They could be leading the effort to create unified systems for IT, purchasing and loans – rather than relying on the fantasy that the 151 disparate library authorities will spontaneously do this on their own. And they could be actively facilitating the amalgamation of back-office services across authorities – a potentially major source of savings.”

Jarvis also warned against focussing on large, central libraries at the cost of branch libraries and relying on community groups to take over facilities: “The branches that are being lost are largely the small, local libraries that are located deep within their communities, and which are especially important in the poorest areas. The idea that they can be replaced by one mega-library three bus journeys away is fanciful. So does the idea that the poorest communities can take over these services as volunteers as easily as richer neighbourhoods can.”

He concludes that the government’s current attitude is “appalling, short-sighted and pathetically devoid of ambition.” He said: “Libraries may have to adapt to survive and to realise their potential. But we need a government that actively tries to make that happen. Instead, all we have are words.”

At the end of May, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said it would not review controversial closures in Bolton and the Isle of Wight.