Councils must take library duties seriously in difficult times

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From: Biddy Fisher, former president of Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, Denby Dale, Huddersfield.

I ENJOYED reading Linda Riordan’s contribution (Yorkshire Post, January 30), and also the item about the Green Moor book lending kiosk.

The story behind the “to be or not to be” new Halifax Public library indicates the wide gulf that exists between local and national government on the vexed issues of our once proud National Public Library provision.

So many local authorities are straining to meet their statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and effective library service.

Our national government appears reluctant in the extreme to use their Ministerial powers to investigate cases where High Court judges have ruled library strategies fail to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in society.

Is it at all surprising that Ministers and councillors cannot keep up?

Modern libraries are the result of professional management and development; the application of new technological developments; high professional standards in the education of librarians and information service providers and an ongoing commitment to provide information that supports local democracy.

I have said before in your newspaper that when it comes to libraries everyone is an expert; decision makers believe that any community based volunteer can run a library and that community led initiatives build a strong commitment to the provision of local services.

What cannot be proven is the impact of the removal of the professional and the attendant security that is thus provided to society. If running and managing a library service is handed to those who should never be expected to take the statutory responsibility for it who will pay the price to society when it is all too much for our band of volunteers?

It is time for our local authorities to take seriously the need to review all of their services and be as imaginative and creative about shared and co-located services as librarians have been throughout the past technologically challenging 20 years.

Listen to our communities by all means, but take seriously your responsibility and take the lead.