Posted on 17 October 2013

CILIP call for ministerial clarification over community-managed library ‘advice’ on gov.uk

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), the leading voice for the profession, today expresses deep concern that the official government website, gov.uk, is being used to promote volunteer-managed community libraries ahead of those delivered by local authorities, staffed by professionals.

CILIP also reminds Ed Vaizey, Minister with responsibility for libraries, that the provision of public libraries is statutory under the 1964 Public Libraries Act and seeks urgent clarification of the government’s position.

Phil Bradley, CILIP President said: “We are very concerned that gov.uk gives the impression that creating a community library is a preferred method of service delivery for government.  Setting up library services requires professional knowledge and expertise.  Libraries play a key role in delivering literacy and information services to the community, supporting those who are seeking work, providing resources for families and children, and access and guidance to the online world. These services are planned and delivered by people with a high level of training and skill. 

Libraries are part of local authorities to ensure that the best possible services are provided.  Community ownership does not and must not, mean the end of paid expert staff to lead and deliver services.  Volunteers have always been a valuable part of library services but they cannot replace the skills of paid staff.  Giving communities a say in their services is a good thing and libraries have always welcomed this but it does not mean that we should impose the running of the services on the community as the only way to sustain them. That is emotional blackmail, with a culture of ‘Run it or lose it’ becoming commonplace.  Not every community will be able to do so, and some of those communities might be the very places that most need a library.  

We seek Ministerial clarification of the statement on the gov.uk web page that ‘community library services offer a way to manage local resources and support the public library service, not to replace it’ and a clear reiteration of this government's commitment to statutory public library services.”

For full details of CILIP’s policy on the use of volunteers in public libraries visit: http://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/advocacy-awards-and-projects/advocacy-and-campaigns/public-libraries/policy-statements/use

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Media Contact:
Aaron Hussey, Communication & Campaigns Manager, CILIP
Email: aaron.hussey@cilip.org.uk
Direct line: 020 7255 0653, Mobile: 07867 455 070

Notes to editor:

  1. CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is the leading professional body for librarians, information specialists and knowledge managers. CILIP’s vision is a fair and economically prosperous society underpinned by literacy, access to information and the transfer of knowledge. CILIP is a registered charity, no. 313014. Visit www.cilip.org.uk for more information.
  2.  ‘Create a community library’ can be found on gov.uk at https://www.gov.uk/government/get-involved/take-part/create-a-community-library#how-can-i-get-involved

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