A key campaigner for Lincolnshire Libraries, Maurice Nauta was a senior manager in the library service and several other frontline services in the county, from 1988 to 2002. Here are his initial thoughts on the report. You can read the full report here:
“INDEPENDENT LIBRARY REPORT for ENGLAND” ( The SIEGHART REVIEW)
Some notes and initial thoughts.
Page 4. “Not enough decision makers at national or local level appear sufficiently aware of the remarkable and vital value that a good library service can offer modern communities…”
This has been remarked upon throughout the 40 years I have worked in libraries. Let’s hope something happens about it this time. However, it is a good positive starting point and needs hammering home to our elected representatives.
Page 5. Very eloquent passages, including the “golden thread throughout our lives” quote. These pages describe the present state of library services and are very positive about them.
Pages 6 and 7. Continues the eulogy for libraries before going on to map out the future. This will include Wi-fi in all libraries; community hubs; digital literacy; economic coherence to make things work; economies of scale; better use of taxpayers’ money; sharing in budgets from other Govt departments and helping them to meet their aims through libraries. This page ends with notes that “this vital service” needs to adapt to changing environments and technologies, which you cannot argue with, but what does it mean in practice for Lincolnshire where 30 libraries have been declared non-statutory?
Page 9/10.This starts the list of Actions. The thought of a task force “ led by councils” fills me with dread when I look at the appalling and thoughtless cuts these same councils are currently pushing forward with. However, there is a glimmer of hope, perhaps on Page 10. The third bullet point here states “Through the taskforce to consider all available options for the delivery of their service”. This might, of course, mean LCC’s timescale is stretched even further!
Page 11. Digital Library Network. This is mostly beyond me, so I have asked others to comment on these pages. However, it does point to central government providing the funding for the Digital Library network. There is a paragraph ( p 13) on literacy and then more positive vibes about giving users access to “reference, special collections and local archives” as their material comes on line. But I’m not really any wiser as to what a National Digital Network is. Haven’t we got one already?
Page 14. This is about creating a “Library Taskforce” to “provide leadership” and” help reinvigorate the public library service in England.” Isn’t this what the DCMS and Arts Council should be doing now? More meeting and debate, I fear. The taskforce will be led by local government. Oh dear.
Page 15. Extols the positive contribution of the Arts Council to libraries. Tell me again what this contribution consists of? I cannot think of any major funding streams which the section refers to, but I am out of date.
Page 16. The taskforce has to set out its “ key deliverables” and will run for 3 to 4 years! It will report to Ministers and the Local Government Association” . Someone help us! I can’t see consultation with local ratepayers anywhere, can anyone else.?
Page 17. Wider Government initiatives. “There should be greater cross government recognition and support for libraries.” Yippee! Education is mentioned here ( but with no detail as how libraries already play a fundamental role within education.)
On the next page, Vaizey tries to pass on the future of libraries to as many other ministers as possible: “The future of libraries should be seen as all of Government’s responsibility not just (DCMS)….) He says he has spoken to others and they are all pleased to get help from libraries. There is an interesting sentence in the last paragraph on P.18 “(local authorities) need to be aware that potential funding streams may be tied to certainty of service provision across all of England /the UK.” Sounds like a bit of a threat.
Page 19. E-lending. I look to others for help with this section.
Page 21, “professional development” section. Who in their right mind would want to be in this profession right now, or want to start in it? I find all this very “wishy-washy”. There is a not at the bottom of the page about including volunteers in workforce training.
Page 22. “Volunteers and community led libraries” section. I think this is a bit mixed up, in that the statements do not make clear this is about voluntary libraries such as proposed by LCC or volunteers adding value to the service, or something entirely new. It raises my hackles because of this odd approach, though on Page 23 it does state clearly that “there are still questions over their long term viability” and this is clearly about “volunteer only” libraries, as it says so in the same sentence.
Page 24. Role of local government. It reminds us that “councillors are accountable to local taxpayers” for the service they deliver, It goes along with local authorities continuing to have the statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient” service. However, ours has denounced 30 libraries as not statutory.
Page 25. “Libraries are among the most valued of civic spaces”. True. “Libraries are most likely to be viable when they can demonstrate their value to the widest possible group of users.” Opening hours are crucial in achieving this, and ours are hardly open at all. It goes on to say there are “encouraging signs” from such practices as community co-ops, mutuals, and social enterprises”.
Page 26. Here is a major statement “ Greater collaboration and sharing of resources between authorities can create efficiencies”. Hooray! Been saying this for ages. It also allows users greater access to wider services. But hold on “ Political support, leadership and commitment to change will be needed at all levels for this to succeed and it is right that local government leads this.” Turkeys voting for Christmas. Naive. Dead . Local government must not lead this. Heads will need to be knocked together at the very least.
Maybe there is more hope in these words:”A thorough options analysis is required in proper consultation with the local community looking at the strategic approach and levels of provision assessed across the network as a whole, including the other services that the local authority provides.” LCC would claim they did all this.
There is planned a “Mutuals Support Programme” which I would guess LCC would be interested in.
Pages 27 to33 are case studies. No comment on these.
OTHER RESOURCES ON THIS REPORT
A detailed analysis with links to other commentary on the report can be found at Public Libraries News here:
The Library Campaign’s response