THE STRUCTURE OF THE PUBLIC LIBRARY
SERVICE IN ENGLAND AND WALES
On Thursday 27 October 2011, Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport gave evidence to the CMS Select Committee. As part of this, he was questioned about public library services in England and Wales (from 1hr 34 min in video recording: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=9262&wfl=true ). During his answers, he referred to “The Roberts Report” as the document which gave illumination on some aspects of the “Public Libraries and Museums Act, 1964”. This document has proved difficult for library user groups to find and, because of this, LLL has archived it (go to archive).
AT Dec 2011
Literate or Unemployed – Local Government is Making the Wrong Choice for the Population.
“In 2005, 1 in 10 of the children and young people we surveyed said they did not have a book of their own at home; while in 2011 the figure stands at a startling 1 child in 3. With one in six people in the UK having the literacy level expected of an eleven year old, this is of great concern.”
So says a report published at the beginning of December by the Literacy Society. It is a concern which must be echoed by any reasonable person. In this situation, how is it possible to justify the attack on public libraries that is occurring in some boroughs in London?
LLL believes that it is impossible to justify a reduction in library services, when the need for them is rapidly increasing. In difficult economic times, the country needs to maximize the skills of its workforce. This is an impossible task, if a large proportion of the population has difficulty reading and writing.
There is already a large pool of illiterate people in the population and, in modern society; they have little opportunity for gainful employment. This pool is growing and will grow at a faster rate as public libraries close and are run down. These libraries traditionally offer a way of escaping the literacy trap too many school leavers find themselves in.
The irony is that a borough’s library service costs a tiny fraction of its total income and, if the will exists, they can easily be saved. Because decision makers have little understanding of what public libraries do, that will does not exist. It seems that ignorance is breeding ignorance.
AT, Dec 2011