Libraries 'must think big'

<p>New Museums, Libraries and Archives Council c.e.o. Roy Clare urged libraries to &quot;think big&quot; and use the National Year of Reading to widen their community outreach at a high level libraries conference last week.</p><p>Speaking at Community Engagement Through Reading, a joint Local Government Association and The Reading Agency conference held last Friday, Clare said: &quot;The Year of Reading must be a launch pad to something sustainable. There is an inclination in the public library service to think too small. I would urge it to think big.&quot;</p><p>He added that the MLA must encourage librarians to meet new agendas: &quot;It&#39;s not to suggest that we need to throw out our professional origins. That&#39;s not the point. What we need to do is build on other skill sets, including to those purely related to customer services or learning.&quot;</p><p>Clare dismissed concerns that volunteers could be a threat to librarians. He acknowledged that volunteers are &quot;not cheap&quot; as they &quot;still have to be managed in a sensible way&quot;. But he added: &quot;We need to get out of the mentality of asking whether volunteers are a threat. Each volunteer you recruit is can be ambassador to the community.&quot;</p><p>In the keynote address, Alison Seabrooke, c.e.o., of the Community Development Foundation, argued that to stimulate education, libraries need to move away from being just about reading. She said librarians need to be &quot;liberated&quot; from the role of just issuing books to become &quot;leaders in information and knowledge exchanges&quot;.</p><p>Janene Cox, assistant director of culture and library services at Staffordshire County Council, highlighted improvements made at Staffordshire&#39;s libraries through reading initiatives. In four years the service, which has 44 libraries and a budget of &pound;11.1m, has revamped its &quot;failing&quot; schools libraries and boosted children&#39;s satisfaction to 92%.</p><p>For Cox, the key was clearly defining the library service&#39;s aims, for both the community and councillors. She said: &quot;We are now seen as a &#39;can-do&#39; service. We don&#39;t have to ride on the coat-tails of any of the council&#39;s other services.&quot;</p><p>Chris White, chair of the LGA Culture, Tourism and Sport board, began the conference by decrying the government&#39;s cultural funding priorities. He said: &quot;We see the spending increasing on large sport events but what most people actually do is visit museums and go to libraries.&quot;</p>