Wales should seek to develop a nationally coordinated library service as a longterm goal, according to a new report into Welsh libraries.
The Welsh Public Libraries Review was commissioned at the end of last year by the culture minister John Griffiths and carried out over the first half of 2014 by a panel led by Claire Creaser of Loughborough University.
The report emphasises the "importance of the public library service", and reaffirms that it will "continue to make a positive impact to the life of individuals and their communities in the future. Libraries will play a vital role in the ongoing delivery of local and national priorities such as social inclusion, lifelong learning, literacy, digital inclusion, health and wellbeing and community cohesion."
However, in its recommendations, it makes clear the urgent need for greater collaboration between authorities, listing "extensive" collaboration as an immediate priority. In the next three to five years, according to the report, Wales should look to build a "regional or national consortium approach" to delivering libraries, backed by "a suitably funded organisation supported by the Welsh Government", and aim towards an "ultimate goal" of a "nationally coordinated library service".
In response to the report, deputy culture minister Ken Skates said that the current management model for Welsh libraries was not sustainable.
"As a result of financial strains currently beings faced by all our public services it is clear that the current model of small library services is unlikely to survive the challenges ahead," he said. "We have already seen what can be accomplished through joint-working with the Welsh Government, with schemes to modernise and co-locate local services to create community hubs… Welsh libraries have been at the forefront of UK developments in library services. There are other examples of best practice of collaboration in Wales that we need to roll-out on a wider basis."
The report also concluded that community managed libraries should be counted as part of a council's statutory provision.
An independent report into the library service in England carried out by William Sieghart is due to be delivered by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Communities and Local Government. Speaking at the a.g.m. of CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, in September, he said that the library service was facing "a Beeching moment".
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