Threat to 1964 Act’s protection of libraries

Threat to 1964 Act’s protection of libraries

The legal obligation for councils to provide a public library service could be under threat, after the government launched a review into local government statutory duties.

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) is urging "everyone who cares about libraries" to respond to the review, which has been launched by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Three of the 1,294 duties the DCLG has identified for review apply to the library service under the crucial 1964 Public Libraries Act. These include the statutory requirement on local authorities to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service to all their residents, and the right of the secretary of state to gather information about and inspect the service.

The DCLG asks respondents to the review, which is focused on local authorities themselves but open to anyone to participate in, to “comment on the duties and challenge government on those which you feel are burdensome or no longer needed".

CILIP president Brian Hall said: “We are calling on everyone who cares about public libraries to explain to the Department of Communities and Local Government, loud and clear, why these statutory duties are so vital . . . Without them, it will be incredibly difficult to hold local authorities to account and local people will be much less likely to receive a quality public library service that is consistent across the country.”

Meanwhile, CILIP chief executive Annie Mauger has written an open letter to culture minister Ed Vaizey, urging him to “make it clear to your colleagues in the Department of Communities and Local Government that there is a continuing need for these duties". Mauger told Vaizey: “I am sure you realise the dangers of giving way on this point when libraries are the subject of so much public concern,” adding that she would “welcome the assurance that the coalition government will remain true to the [1964 Public Libraries] Act".

Respondents have until 25th April to comment on the DCLG’s review.