Culture, Media and Sport CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Alice Lock

The emphasis on library closures is over shadowing other changes—in particular changes to staffing.

The introduction of self service issuing has reduced overall levels of staffing.

The position of specialist, experienced and professional staff has been eroded.

The role of knowledgeable staff cannot be overestimated. No matter how good the cataloguing an intermediary who knows the collection, can use online material properly and can guide users from all walks of life makes the difference between a static collection of books in a building and a library service.

Staff are educators, teaching research skills to users as much as finding information.

Staff are the human interface between information and users in a two way process which allows them to adapt the service to the requirements of users.

They are particularly important in fields such as local studies as they are dealing with locally produced material, for which they may create the definitive catalogue record, or nationally produced material, for which they create finding aids adapted for specific local use. Local studies collections are very varied, not just books, so the creation of finding aids is an important part of their work, otherwise large collections are being stored but are not accessible to users. This kind of back room work is increasingly being regarded as a luxury not a necessity. New ways of making material accessible such as retrospective electronic cataloguing and digitisation of local history materials also requires staff input.

Submitted as a private individual.

December 2011

Prepared 5th November 2012