Leaving volunteers to run local libraries “risks a decline in service quality”, Labour’s shadow culture minister has said.
A letter from Helen Goodman was published by librarian Leon Bolton on his website, after he wrote to the MP following a speech she made to Lincolnshire library campaigners.
Libraries should remain free, and there “should not be a postcode lottery for quality”, Goodman said.
She added that the definition of a core professional service still needed to be discussed with “all relevant stakeholders”, but that it “must include paid fully qualified librarians, alongside other trained library staff”.
Goodman said it was “not only unfair to expect volunteers to run whole libraries, but also risks a decline in service quality as volunteers have not been properly trained to manage a library or deal with issues such as health and safety; child protection; and data protection”.
However, Goodman did say she did not object to volunteers running “a small library for a few hours a week”.
Volunteers working in libraries should have a role that is “properly specified and appropriate (i.e. they must not be asked to undertake work they are not trained for or work that should properly be done by trained staff)”.
Goodman said she would be continuing talks with librarians, campaigners, trade unions and professional bodies in the coming months.