William Eichler 17 December 2015

Local councils have a ‘statutory duty’ to protect libraries

Local councils have a ‘statutory duty’ to protect libraries image

Library services are being put at risk through a combination of neglect, short-term thinking and the failure of the Government to carry out their legal duty, according to the My Library By Right (MLBR) campaign.

Under English law, the campaign group argues, everyone has a right to quality public library services provided by local authorities acting under the guidance of the secretary of state for culture, media and sport.

‘Public libraries are not a luxury’ says Nick Poole, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

‘Their provision is not discretionary - local councils have a statutory duty. For millions of people every year library services are a lifeline. That is why the statutory right to a quality public library service was established under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.’

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) released a report earlier this month that found funding for council-run libraries was slashed by £50m over the last year.

MLBR campaigners argue 443 libraries have closed since 2010 and over 100 of these were shut down last year.

The MLBR campaign calls for:

• The public’s rights to libraries to be recognised and respected.
• Public libraries to be treated as the statutory services they are.
• The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to carry out their legal duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.
• Statutory guidance for local authorities on their duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act from DCMS, with support from CILIP and the library and information profession.

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