An independent report on the public library service in England has been commissioned by culture minister Ed Vaizey and local government minister Brandon Lewis, from the same team who produced last year's report into library e-lending.
As before, Forward Prizes founder William Sieghart will chair. Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page, Peters, Fraser and Dunlop chief executive Caroline Michel and author Joanna Trollope will again be on the panel, as will British Library chief executive Roly Keating and Society of Chief Librarians president Janene Cox. Public policy consultant Sue Charteris and former Channel 4 Chairman Luke Johnson also join the new panel.
The announcement was made on National Libraries Day (8th February).
The panel will take evidence, and is calling for submissions by 21st March. It will then report by the end of the year. Questions addressed will include the core principles of the service and the role of community libraries.
However news of yet a further report into the library service did not impress campaigners. Laura Swaffield, chair of The Library Campaign, commented: "Oh no - another report on public libraries! There are piles of them already, all saying much the same thing. What is needed is urgent action. The stream of public libraries being cut to pieces, or dumped on to volunteers to run, is becoming a flood. When local councils set their budgets later this month, it will become a torrent.
"The situation is out of control. The buck stops with the DCMS - or should. Library users have been begging the minister to do something for years. Setting up an inquiry is not the answer we want. It's noticeable, too, that library experts are a very small proportion of the expert panel. And library users are not getting a look-in at all. As the minister is actively encouraging as many volunteers as possible to 'run a library' - after all, any fool can do it - that's not very funny."
Vaizey commented: "The public library service in England has served us extremely well for more than a century and continues to play a vital role in communities. Reports of its demise appear with weary predictability,but are entirely unfounded.
"The English language and its literature are this country's greatest contribution to world culture, and public libraries celebrate that fact. I look forward to seeing this expert panel's report to ensure the service continues to flourish for generations to come."
The most recent of the many government-commissioned reviews on libraries, the Library Modernisation Review, was published in March 2010 after a two-year delay. At the time it was condemned by Vaizey, then an opposition MP, as "a classic ministerial excuse for not acting."