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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Public Libraries Task Force formed

Libraries should be more like coffee shops, claims a new report commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport - the report which  likely cost a fortune to carry out, came up with findings that are as expected pure tripe. Libraries should, the report claims, deliver Wi-Fi in a comfortable setting when in reality many libraries do this already. It was also claimed that libraries should be more like retail outlets with the usual amenities of toilets, sofa and special offers. Though I can't help feeling that making libraries more like retail outlets goes against the entire philosophy of what a public library should be.

Libraries across the country have been closed down over recent years by local authorities in a brutal program of cost cutting exercises and once these libraries have gone it is unlikely that we will ever see them again. William Sieghart, author of the report told the Independent newspaper that he found it astonishing that one third of England's libraries don't yet offer Wi-Fi. He said that while libraries remained a vital part of the community there need to be a reinvigoration of the library system in this country. A task force will be created designed to work with local authorities to improve and revitalise libraries. The first meeting of the task force will take place in February 2015.

That's all very well but local authorities should cease closing public libraries at once - it is shameful the way councils up and down the country continue to waste money and yet make severe cuts to vital public services. I like to think that this task force will do some good, but the realist tells me that it is all a smoke screen to close yet more libraries.

This month writers across the country will feel one of the very real effects of library closures when their annual statement for PLR payment (Public Lending Rights) arrive in inboxes. I took a drop in my own PLR payments this year, despite having more titles available than the previous year. I may have more books out but there are less libraries supplying my books. For most professional writers PLR payments are essential, after all most of us don't earn big money from our work, and we are acutely feeling the effects of the brutal program of library closures across the country.

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