Libraries minister Ed Vaizey has said he is “keen” on the idea of creating a national libraries framework, and urged senior librarians to contribute to discussions on how it can be achieved.
The framework could set out guidelines on how public libraries are structured and what they offer.
Referring to the Leadership for Libraries task force, set up following the Sieghart Report into the library service, Vaizey said In a speech at today’s (4th June) Society of Chief Librarians annual conference: "The task force has discussed the value of having a national library strategy or framework in the future, as England does not currently have one; I am keen on the idea of a framework. However I really value your views on whether there is a genuine appetite for this and what it should look like."
Vaizey devoted much of his speech to the digital future for libraries, urging libraries to "embrace and encourage this". He said: "As more services become available online then increasingly libraries will be the place to go for people who don’t have the access or the confidence to use digital services. The presence of a member of staff or volunteer to help people navigate this digital space is invaluable.
He said the funding of wi-fi was a "no-brainer", but admitted: "We do recognise that libraries have not had the resources to meet the growing demand and changes in technology.” He added that he had fought "long and hard" to secure £7.4m in the recent budget, "just a small part of what is needed for libraries to embrace the digital arena".
Vaizey did not directly address library closures, but referred to "challenging" circumstances that the service faced. He said: "The people who work in our libraries are still the heart and soul of this fantastic service. They are the people who we look to to help shape and influence the future direction of libraries – a future that is exciting – but also challenging, not just because of funding but also because of the changing expectations and needs of the people who use the service."
He emphasised that decisions for libraries was the responsibility of local authorities, but said that with leadership and funding from Arts Council England, steps had been made to make progress on e-lending, maintaining PLR, expanding wi-fi and setting up the task force. He said that he was actively working on delivering the recommendations of the Sieghart Report, securing cross-government support for libraries and expanding PLR for remote e-loans.