Monday, 21 June 2010

Government scraps promised library measures and campaign to support libraries begins

The new culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has decided not to implement £2m (per annum) of library spending commitments set out in his predecessor Margaret Hodge's Public Library Modernisation Review policy statement in March.

Hunt is scrapping the measures as part of a £73m saving being made by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Free internet access in all libraries and the promotion of library membership as an entitlement from birth have been abandoned. Meanwhile the extension of the Public Lending Right to non-print format books (estimated at £300,000) has been suspended and is to be considered instead at the spending review in the autumn.

Meanwhile a “substantial” coalition of library users and campaigners from across the country is set to launch a joint campaign to support and improve the public library service in the face of these and more anticipated spending cuts.

Tim Coates, who leads the umbrella campaign group Libraries for Life for Londoners (LLL), said the coalition was already at work preparing the new campaign, which will launch in July. The campaign is aimed at lobbying councillors in support of frontline library services, encouraging them to give priority to services, libraries and books despite inevitable spending cuts.

“We have engaged media and marketing specialists and lobbyists and are formalising our structure,” Coates said. “We will call for all groups to join us, and we have written a charter, jointly with the MLA [Museums, Libraries and Archives Council], which will be the basis of the campaign,and which describes what library users want from public libraries.”

Coates promised to publish the campaign charter within weeks, saying: “We shall seek the public libraries that people deserve.”

BookTrust director Viv Ward and Society of Authors Mark Le Fanu responded quickly to express their support for the campaign, which followed a call by Booksellers Association chief executive Tim Godfray earlier this week for a cross-industry initiative to save library services in the face of the spending cuts.

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