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Literacy news

Libraries could face privatisation

18 Aug 2010

Hundreds of libraries could face privatisation according to recently published proposals in the new library support initiative called “Future Libraries Programme” championed by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey to "help the service during the challenging financial situation". However, campaigners fear it could lead up to 1,000 libraries closing in the next 18 months.

Lewisham, which is proposing the closure of five libraries, is among three dozen local authorities which will participate in the Culture Minister’s new library initiative. The authorities are grouped into 10 areas led by Northumberland, Bolton, Bradford, Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Oxfordshire, Herefordshire, Cornwall, Lewisham and Kensington & Chelsea.

The areas were chosen "for their individual strengths, type of project, geographical spread and rural and urban mix," said the Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS). The DCMS added that the authorities would "have the chance to test drive an ambitious change programme" to "achieve cost savings, new partnerships and governance models, and to take advantage of digital opportunities."  

The projects being explored also include a plan to develop community libraries in Suffolk, run by local groups supported by an online service, and another in Bradford to redevelop existing library sites with a retail partner to include shops alongside the library facilities. In Northumberland and Durham they are considering turning libraries into mini banks and job centres where people are able to "make transactions and access employment opportunities".

But Tim Coates, chair of campaign group Libraries for Life for Londoners, expressed "frustration and profound disappointment" at the announcement. He says:

"The huge fear is that 1,000 libraries could be lost in the budget cuts and this programme has done nothing to reduce that risk. The plans are full of vague government agendas and wishlists. What is needed is for each project to be interrogated against the basic requirements: when will the book stock improve? When will the opening hours increase? When will budgets be presented clearly so that economies can be made from those activities which do not affect the quality of service?"

The Museums Libraries and Archive Council (MLA) and the Local Government Association Group (LGA Group) are to begin work immediately with "packages of support and advice" for each of the projects. Planning for the second phase of the programme is said to be already underway, set to share the experiences of the 10 initial projects with library authorities across the country.

Coates however warned that the bold proposal could mark the beginning of spending cuts which could potentially harm the future of the network.

Read more on the Bookseller website

Read more at the Daily Mirror website.

Tags: Adults, England, Families, Libraries, Local Authorities, Volunteering & community, Young People

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