Margaret Hodge defends late review at library launch

<p>Culture minister Margaret Hodge faced sceptical press questioning at the launch this morning (1st December) of the consultation paper, &quot;Empower, Inform, Enrich&quot;, the latest phase of the Libraries Modernisation Review which has now been in progress since October last year. Speaking to <em>The Bookseller</em> at the event shadow culture minister Ed Vaizey branded the consultation document &quot;a complete and utter waste of time&quot;.</p><p>Launching the paper at the John Harvard library in Southwark, Hodge described it as &quot;the very last phase of what has been a long consultation&quot; and said she hoped readers would find the essays it contained, in which senior figures in the library world, publishers and authors offer their vision for libraries, &quot;stimulating&quot;. She said: &quot;I wanted to take a really radical look at what we want 21st century libraries to be&quot; and asked respondents to come back to her quickly &quot;as we will be delivering [a policy document] in very early spring.&quot;</p><p>Asked whether the late arrival of the review would make it a &quot;damp squib&quot;, Hodge offered her &quot;apologies&quot; for the delay, saying: &quot;I wasn&#39;t in post for a year. I want to stamp my personality on it,&quot; and declaring that the Review would be out &quot;well before the election.&quot; On the lack of any consultation with library users, she said: &quot;We had to think carefully who we targeted the exercise at and it is primarily the professionals. We do recognise the limitations of that.&quot;</p><p>Speaking after the launch, shadow culture minister Ed Vaizey commented: &quot;This is obviously a complete and utter waste of time. Quite obviously everyone in the world of libraries wants government to get on with it and show the line of travel. This [consultation paper] is just a collection of essays - that&#39;s all the government has done.&quot;<br /><br />Vaizey also branded some of the consultation questions offered in the paper &quot;meaningless&quot;, singling out one which asked: &quot;Is it important that libraries remain a statutory obligation for local authorities?&quot;<br /><br />Vaizey said: &quot;Either the government is putting it on the table that it would remove the statutory obligation - which is news - or it&#39;s an utterly pointless question used to fill up space.&quot;</p>