Posted on 21 March 2014

Librarians tell Sieghart Panel: it’s time for a new road map for libraries

CILIP (The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) has submitted its evidence to the Independent Panel reviewing the state of the public library service in England.

Representing the voice of more than 3,000 public library practitioners, the professional body has confirmed its view that the current service is in England is becoming a ‘postcode lottery’ and a patchwork of provision is evolving depending on where you live.

CILIP’s evidence reinforced the core values of the public service and the profession’s firm belief that freedom of access to reading, information and learning are still essential in a digital world. Libraries potentially have an even more important role in learning and in access to digital technology.

CILIP’s view is that the lack of a clear definition of what is a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ service has led to local interpretation of what can be delivered. Agencies should work together to define some core entitlements that everyone should be able to access from their library service, both physically and virtually.

Condemning the substitution of paid jobs with volunteers, CILIP also made clear its view about community libraries that are separated from local authority support have problems with ‘a lack of connectivity in terms of legal duties, breadth of services, professional expertise and quality that risks impacting on the public.’

Martyn Wade, Chair of CILIP Council said:

"The government must identify a roadmap for the future of public libraries in England. Library Services are needed as much as ever, but their purpose is changing. Library practitioners are passionate about what they do and understand that the world is changing. We need to establish the role of libraries in society afresh through meaningful national debate. 

The growth of community managed libraries risks a two tier service being developed. We believe there should be an honest discussion about what is happening with the use of volunteers in the delivery of library services and research into the impact on communities."

Setting out a number of key proposals for the Panel to consider, CILIP asked for a fresh look at public library services that need to be led by committed practitioners who have the right skills to design and develop new services for the future. CILIP proposed that a key set of entitlements for communities and individuals is identified, with an outcome based evaluation model. Welcoming the strong leadership from the Society of Chief Librarians and the steps forward with their Universal Offers, CILIP proposed an outcome based evaluation of impact and a greater focus on learning.

CILIP called for research into the current and potential social and economic role of libraries and a national debate with leading thinkers and economists sharing views to inform the future.

More about the Sieghart Independent Panel

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Press contact:

Mark Taylor, Director of External Relations
020 7255 0654
mark.taylor@cilip.org.uk    

Notes to editors:

1. CILIP's evidence in full (PDF)

2. 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.