Future challenges

What is on the horizon with regards to the future of public library services? We’ve mentioned a couple of issues elsewhere on the site which we’ll sum up here.

Libraries as a statutory service

The first is the question of whether councils will remain legally obliged to provide a public library service. The government recently ran a review of councils’ statutory duties in which members of the public were invited to nominate legislation that could profitably be done away with. Unfortunately, that included the duty to provide library services. Campaigners did, however, make sure that as many library supporters as possible submitted objections.

When the review closed on June 30 2011 the government said: “A summary of the responses and the latest revised list of duties were published. This exercise has successfully enabled a clearer picture of the requirements on local authorities, and created a valuable record that had previously not existed. The review has now closed.”

The key paragraph comes at the end: “Any future consideration of whether to remove specific duties or associated guidance will be a separate exercise, and we will consult further as appropriate.” It is this future action that we must now be prepared for. Get more information here and see the librarians’ perspective here.

E-books and licensing agreements

The basis on which publishers are prepared to provide e-books for lending is producing a dreadful headache for libraries. There are lots of issues – from agreeing on a format to deciding whether a copy should be able to ‘self-destruct’ after a specified number of loans have been made, meaning a new copy must be bought.

As we mentioned in our what you can do section Gerald Leitner, president of European librarians’ association EBLIDA, believes that the uncertain legal basis for lending electronic materials will prove to be one of the most serious threats faced by public libraries in coming years – even more serious than funding problems.

To find out more, and to learn what you can do to help, click here.

The Future Libraries Report

What should the 21st-century library look like? As you may have worked out by now, there is considerable disagreement about what form libraries might take in the future. A recent development has been the first phase of a report from The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and the Local Government Association, supported by Ed Vaizey, the Minister with responsibility for libraries. Learn more here.

Unfortunately, this report has suggested all kinds of things that library campaigners see as very worrying developments. Voices for the Library, for example, has issued the following statement: “Unfortunately, at a time when real leadership and vision is required to outline a truly 21st century library service, the government is found lacking in imagination, short-sighted in its approach and blinkered by ideology.

“These proposals do not outline a positive future for libraries and will only further their decline. We strongly urge the government to tear up these proposals and truly listen to the needs and demands of local communities across the country.”

To find out more about what the report proposes, and what you can do in response, visit its website here.