More library services could be delivered in local pubs and shops according to the chair of a panel investigating the future of libraries in the UK.
William Sieghart, who is currently undertaking a review of public libraries in the UK, has also suggested library cards could be valid in libraries across the entire country and advocated a new graduate scheme to encourage people to become librarians as ways to improve the national library service.
Sieghart laid out an early sample of his thoughts in First magazine, a publication produced by the Local Government Association (LGA), where he also asks for more contributions from librarians before the report is finalised.
In the piece, Seighart said he has "undertaken an extensive tour of England and met with librarians, library users and councillors, I am convinced that public libraries are vital now and in the future – as community hubs, especially where they are part of shared services and/or co-location arrangements."
He added: "They could be the solution to some of the changes that local authorities are facing, rather than being seen as part of the problem."
Identifying ways in which the service could be bolstered, he said his "strong view" is that the service could be strengthened nationally without losing a regional approach by introducing a new digital network for libraries "which could include a single management system, one library card valid in all libraries in England, and a new Teach First-style programme to attract new graduates to the profession."
He said this system would improve leadership, help share best practice, and could be expanded to allow library services to be delivered in buildings such as local pubs and shops. "It could also allow library services to be delivered in non-traditional library buildings such as the local pub and shop. Such provision already exists through organisations such as Pub is The Hub, and this could be extended even further to give greater provision to rural communities," Sieghart said.
However, he said he is not considering changing how library authorities are currently structured, with each of the 151 local authorities in the UK responsible for maintaining its own service. Sieghart said: "I am not considering changing the existing library authority structures. One size does not fit all and although there are some very good models already out there, such as Suffolk's, I know that their approach would not be appropriate or desirable for every authority."
The new independent report on public libraries was commissioned by culture minister Ed Vaizey and local government minister Brandon Lewis in February 2014. The panel, chaired by Sieghart, is made up of Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page, Peters, Fraser and Dunlop chief executive Caroline Michel and author Joanna Trollope, as well as British Library chief executive Roly Keating and former Society of Chief Librarians president Janene Cox. Public policy consultant Sue Charteris and former Channel 4 Chairman Luke Johnson also join the new panel, which last year investigated e-book lending in public libraries.
Sieghart will speak at the LGA annual conference at a 'Future Libraries' workshop on 8th July. The panel is due to report at the end of the year.
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