Ed Vaizey
Incredibly, the libraries minister has found a whole new way to do nothing.

As protests erupt nationwide, as hundreds of libraries are cut to pieces, or dumped on to reluctant ‘volunteers’ to run, Ed Vaizey announces – an inquiry into public libraries.

To report… er, by the end of the year.

Another report is the last thing we need. We are knee-deep in reports already, and they all say much the same thing.

What we need is urgent action.

For years, library users have begged the minister to take a bit of interest in what’s happening. The Library Campaign sent him a list of 23 urgent problems confronting ‘volunteer’ libraries – last May. His response? Nothing.

Library users don’t feature in the panel set to conduct the inquiry. As the minister is actively encouraging as many ‘volunteers’ as possible to ‘run a library’ – after all, any fool can do it – that’s not very funny.

A total of 470 libraries (393 buildings and 77 mobiles) are currently reported as likely to be closed or passed to ‘volunteers’ – or have already been closed/left council control just since April 1, 2013 (out
of c.4265 in the UK).

Local councils will set their budgets later this month.

Plans for further mass cuts, closures or dumping are a certainty.

In 2010, when the (former) government’s review was published, Ed Vaizey (then shadow minister) said,

“The Library Modernisation Review was a classic ministerial excuse for not acting. My view is to get down to it and get stuck in.”

Since 2010, the libraries situation has become near-catastrophic.

The Library Campaign urges all who care about libraries to contact the inquiry. And to tell the minister we are sick of his inaction.

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  1. Mike Chaney 10 years ago

    We who run or support ‘community libraries’ are in the classic ‘catch 22′ situation. A year ago my village library was faced with this ultimatum: either run your library yourselves of we’ll close it.
    Naturally the pensioners of the village buckled to and kept the show on the road. We weren’t brilliant at it compared to the dedicated soul who for the last 20 years had looked after the quirky needs of the halt and the lame but we made a go of it.
    Our very success is now the excuse the library authority (Dorset County Council) needs to tell its citizens that community libraries are such a success that we must have more of them.
    Thus through our efforts more library professionals will be shown the door and the library users of Dorset will be offered a cheap alternative to a proper, necessary service. Should we have let our library close? It is difficult in such an under-populated area with such poor public transport to accept that we were wrong. But it is galling to realise that our efforts will now inevitably lead to more communities being offered the same shotgun choice.
    It seems equally inevitable that William Sieghart’s panel of worthies can come to any other conclusion than that library authorities must cut their coat according to the totally inadequate cloth they are being offered. The public library service will be diminished – and the evasive Vaizey will have a report that he can wave at us to justify his and Pickles’s departments’ parsimony.
    The inquiry will enable us to ventilate our frustration but it will change nothing.

  2. I have total sympathy with Mike’s situation. We are a library support group who have vowed to do anything we can except replace the staff …. but we have a relatively large library which couldn’t be run effectively by volunteers. There is already one very small volunteer library in the county and we know that it gives the county library staff far more work behind the scenes than it would as a professionally run branch …. and now there is talk of more of our libraries going that way. It is crazy and cynical and as Mike says, pure Catch 22.

  3. http://www.rootpress.org/article/1342440388/ … – Ed Vaizey responds to Newcastle Library Service report. Respond by 21st February 2014.

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