Select committee hears of librarian job loss toll

Select committee hears of librarian job loss toll

Research by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has indicated that as many as 700 of 3,500 professionally qualified librarians have lost their jobs in the current financial year, chief executive Annie Mauger told the culture select committee at its second oral evidence session, given this morning (21st February).

Meanwhile Arts Council England chief executive Alan Davey announced a new programme of research and consultation, Envisioning the Library of the Future, beginning today.

Mauger also told the cross-party select committee of MPs investigating the issue of library closures that the CILIP research, based on responses from 55% of local authorities, had also indicated that when a library is closed in a community, 44% of children don't travel to use a different library instead. We therefore need a "distributed network" of local libraries, she said.

She told the committee: "We recommend that the secretary of state set out a framework for what a local authority should be delivering and how local needs should be assessed." She added: "My concern is that where the secretary of state has not seen fit to intervene at the moment, local authorities have seen fit to introduce unacceptable reductions. I am concerned the longer the secretary of state doesn't intervene . . . that gives license to other authorities to say, 'We are not going to get scrutiny and we can do what we like.'"

The Envisioning The Library of the Future programme is to begin with an assessment of trends in society which may affect the delivery of library services in the future, followed by a programme of consultation with library experts, plus an online consultation open to all, to be held in mid-March.

Davey told the culture select committee the consultation would be "quick, detailed and based on research", and would "get to the bottom of what the public value of libraries is". The consultation will help provide some of the tools which will help people argue the case for libraries within local government, he said.

Asked by panel member Damian Collins MP whether the consultation was not coming "a year or two too late" because a lot of local authorities are far advanced in their library plans, Davey replied: "We are where we are. I want us to motor."

Davey also stressed that Arts Council England did not have a superintending role on libraries, and in that respect was different from its predecessor, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, from which it took over library responsibility in autumn 2011. "We made it clear when we took it on that we are not an inspectorate," he said.