The Libraries Taskforce has received funding for a further four years, its c.e.o Kathy Settle has revealed, as it delivered its six-month progress report.
In the report, which covers the Taskforce's activity from April to September 2015, Settle announced the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) would provide funding for the Taskforce for the next four years if required. The report also recommended that the government and Taskforce should set out out a document of shared vision for public libraries in England.
Minister for culture and the digital economy, Ed Vaizey, said: “I strongly support this recommendation and I can confirm today that the government has agreed to publish such a document setting out best practice by summer 2016.”
The dossier is intended to “provide a shared direction and purpose, highlighting existing good practice and provide a focus for collaborative action to address the challenges libraries currently face… all the while, recognising the need for local democratic accountability.”
Settle (pictured) also announced that the Taskforce was producing a "toolkit for local authorities" which will include examples of "good practice and exploring opportunities for smarter ways of working". The Taskforce intends to "continue [its] efforts on communications to ensure the many positive benefits of the modern library service are widely understood and supported by national and local government, in addition to the public who use libraries on a daily basis," Settle said.
The six-month report also provided an update of the Taskforce’s achievements to date, including highlights such as securing £7.4m of funding to enable “universal” wi-fi coverage in libraries in England by March 2016, funding of £100,000 to pilot new approaches to building digital skills in socially excluded groups through libraries in partnership with the Tinder Foundation and helping to secure £400,000 funding for Enterprising Libraries.
Library campaigner, Desmond Clarke, told The Bookseller: “The Taskforce has made a very encouraging start and I am pleased that its remit has been extended for at least four years. However, it does have to be radical in its approach if it is to address the complex structural, technological, resource and user issues faced by the service. Ultimately its success will be measured by whether library usage and borrowing starts to increase."
The Taskforce's next official progress report will be published in March 2016.