Culture, Media and Sport CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Sarah McClennan

I am writing to you after reading an article in the bookseller asking for submissions on what constitutes a comprehensible and efficient library service for the 21st century, the extent to which planned closures are compatible with the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964, the impact closures have on communities and the effectiveness of the secretary of state’s powers of intervention under the 1964 Act.

As I work as a Senior Library Assistant you will be unsurprised when I assert that libraries are the lifeblood of the community providing services for every age group and cater for all regardless of ethnicity, faith, wealth or lifestyle choice. It is rare that any one place can assist such a wide range of people, but also bring them together with common interest. We are an essential service as we help people find what they need for learning, financial support and employment—we help them to help themselves. We also provide a safe place to do these things without fear of fees or slanted advice.

Regardless of this basic provision there is need of change, not just to save money but more importantly to move with the times and adapt to what the community needs. Instead of cutting back services, which would surely start with the places most in need of them, we should be adapting the service to serve the area more effectively. My own library service has been quite innovative, they have moved other council departments into library buildings, not only saving huge amounts on running costs but also providing a better service for the public. This concept could be developed on a national scale—instead of a libraries and school libraries being two spate entities they could work together. Nurseries could move into libraries, or libraries go into community centers. Both professions would gain from the specialist knowledge the other has, which would ultimately benefit the community.

In conclusion a comprehensible and efficient library service should be one that has adapted to suit the needs of the community. It should work with other professionals so they help each other to give the most to the public. Closing any library hurts a community, but enhancing it benefits all and saves money. The secretary of state should have the power to intervene and facilitate in finding an alternative to closures. There should be an enquiry each time a branch closure is proposed to ensure that every other possible alternative has been seriously considered. It should be part of any law or amendment that a set procedure is followed in looking at these alternatives and that if it is proved in law that no alternative could be found only then should a library close.

Thank you for taking the time to read my comments.

January 2012

Prepared 5th November 2012