It has certainly been an interesting few days. In our corner of the world there has been a lot of reaction to the Governments announcements on mining and benefits, topics I am not going to touch on. In the US the Obama administration finally passed its health reforms, and Bill Gates starts planning a new type of nuclear reactor, and Google skirts Chinese censorship by redirecting via Hong Kong. Over in England there has been a flurry of activity around public libraries, starting with the UK governments release of “The Modernisation Review of Public Libraries – a Policy Statement” and followed by “Society of Chief Librarians’ Manifesto for Public Libraries 2010”.
The Guardian reports:
Key to saving libraries: free internet access and Sunday opening. Government reviews suggests measures to counter spending cuts and declining popularity.
“Britain’s public libraries, fighting declining use and an inevitable wave of spending cuts by local councils, can still flourish if they offer free internet access, Sunday opening and a promise to provide any book in the national book collection, a review on the future of libraries concludes today.
It also insists that councils must retain a statutory duty to provide a universal library service.
In a foreword to the review the culture minister, Margaret Hodge, warns that “the context in which libraries operate is changing starkly and at speed”.
The government review, which has taken nearly two years, proposes library membership entitlement from birth and a suggestion that membership of one public library provide access to other libraries.
It suggests that commercial companies such as Starbucks should be allowed to set up outlets in libraries to make them more welcoming places.
The government will impose a statutory ban on libraries charging for ebooks, including remotely, the review states. It will, however, extend the public lending right to non-print books. Free access to the internet in all Britain’s libraries should be provided by 2011, it says.
The review, overseen by Hodge, also proposes that users should be able to access social networking sites such as Facebook in libraries. The review argues that they are “valuable communication tools and part of our cultural infrastructure “
There are a number of good positive statements there, especially after what seemed to be coming out a few weeks ago. It is especially nice to see such a strong reaffirmation of role of the Public Library in the centre of communities. The Society of Chief Librarians manifesto has the following as bold upfront statement, which is one I can really get behind!
Core Purpose of the Public Library
Libraries are a place where you can share the experience of reading and learning; where knowledge is free; and where you know that the advice and support available to help you is expert, and independent of any vested interest.
The most successful library services work in close partnership with local councils and local people to tailor their services to meet local needs. The range and variety of services offered by libraries across the UK varies to reflect local community priorities, but all public libraries are focussed around a common purpose.