All councils’ responsibilities to provide for library services come from the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964. This makes the service a statutory duty, meaning local authorities are legally obliged to provide it. Here are the things the law states they must do:
- Provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons in the area that want to make use of it. Promote the service, and lend books and other printed material free of charge for those who live, work or study in the area.
- Additionally, the government has a duty to oversee councils’ provision, as well as promoting the public library service, and taking action where local authorities are failing to perform their duties.
The government is currently reviewing this and campaigners have recently been working hard to ensure this statutory duty remains on the books. Another issue is whether having services run by volunteers or private companies always complies with the statutory duty, and this forms the basis of some legal challenges currently in progress. Some campaigners also feel the government is not currently meeting its obligation to oversee councils’ provision and to take action if services are insufficient.