Culture, Media and Sport CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Pam Jakeman

My name is Pam Jakeman, I am a lifelong library user and a qualified librarian. I held a professional post for 25 year, in an inner London borough, before taking voluntary redundancy and moving to one of the most rural counties in the country. I have been employed as a library assistant in a County Library for two years. I am making this submission as an individual, all opinions are my own not those of my employer.

What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century?

A service which is FREE at the point of use.

A service which consists of a network of libraries which are easily accessible by all who live within the library authority’s catchment area.

Professional, knowledgeable, well trained staff.

A service which is well stocked with a wide selection and variety of good quality, up to date, books, housed in buildings which are fit for purpose.

A service which is welcoming to everyone, regardless of age, personal circumstances, social and economic background or abilities.

A service which provides activities that support, literacy and reading development, and education, with access to up to date ICT facilities and training if required.

A service which embraces technology in all its manifestations whilst retaining book lending as its core business. The book is not dead yet, many people still want to read and borrow traditional books, as evidenced by the popularity of the recently opened Canada Water library.

A service which interacts with, and supports the work of other service providers eg education, health, job seeking agencies, social services and tourist information. Examples of existing partnerships which can be built on are; “Books on Prescription”, “Homework Help Clubs”, “Bookstart”, “First Click’’.

The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report

Present closures cannot possibly be compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report. Library closures have resulted in many council tax payers no longer having access to a local library service.

Experience tells me that many library users, especially the old and the young, are unwilling or unable to travel long distances, in order to use a library.

In my own county, following the closure of the Mobile Library Service, ex library users have told me that they are no longer able to access the service because their trips in to town are infrequent, bus services have been cut and parking close to the library is nigh on impossible.

The impact library closures have on local communities.

Many people, all ages and from all backgrounds, are adversely affected when a local library is closed, especially when the next nearest library is inaccessible.

The following are just a few examples of what is lost to the community:

As well as a place from which to borrow books, the local library provides information and free ICT. It’s a place to meet friends and join social activities such as, reading groups, bounce & rhyme sessions, storytelling sessions etc.

Pre-school children need libraries to support their literacy development; school age children need libraries to support their reading development. The library also provides a place to study with staff who are able to help children and young people with their homework.

There are many people, especially the elderly, living alone, who value the opportunity offered by the library and its staff, for conversation and companionship.

The local library is a place where vulnerable members of the community feel safe and receive support.

There are very few indoor, public spaces which are warm and welcoming, where one can linger without spending money.

People visit the local library if they need help, for example with form filling, letter writing, using ICT etc, or when they need a vital piece of information which they are unable to find elsewhere. There are still large numbers of people not yet connected to the World Wide Web.

Job seekers, make use of the library’s ICT to both look for and apply for jobs; they are able borrow books on job seeking techniques, writing CVs, interview skills etc., and books to help them improve their work based skills. An economic downturn is the worst time to close libraries.

The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964

So far the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 have been totally ineffective. It is wrong to rely on ordinary members of the public taking their local authority to court. This is an expensive and time consuming activity. Had the Secretary of State intervened when, for example, Gloucestershire County Council proposed closing many of their libraries, a lot of time, effort and public money could have been saved.

January 2012

Prepared 5th November 2012