Thursday, 21 November 2013
Concerns over threats to library services in Wales raised in open letter to Minister for Culture & Sport
The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, Wales (CILIP Cymru Wales) has written an open letter to the Minister for Culture and Sport, John Griffiths AM, expressing concerns over the impact local authority budget cuts could have on public library services across Wales.
In the bilingual letter the Executive Committee of CILIP Cymru Wales have outlined what a powerful and important resource public library services are in meeting the Welsh Government’s objectives.
The Welsh Local Government Association announced in October 2013 that local authorities are facing reductions in core funding of £175m in 2014/15, with a further £65m in 2015/16. CILIP Cymru Wales are deeply concerned that public library services could suffer disproportionate cuts.
Phil Bradley, CILIP President, said,
“Libraries are an essential part of any community. Good libraries – that are well stocked and run by professional librarians – transform people’s lives through access to information, reading and learning. They provide access to the internet to people who cannot afford their own connection. A library can help people back into work, it gives them a safe space to research and educate themselves and it's a cornerstone in children's literacy. A library is a place that people who need support and guidance can turn to, and a librarian can help them find information they need. Cutting resources to a library hits those in the community who are most in need, most in trouble, who most deserve our support.”
The open letter reads:
John Griffiths AM
Minister for Culture and Sport
The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals Wales (CILIP Cymru Wales) wish to express our serious concern at the impact budget cuts to local authorities will have on library and information services across Wales. Although we understand that tough decisions have to be made as the funding available for all public services in Wales decreases, we are keen to ensure that public libraries are not expected to bear heavier cuts than other services.
Public libraries are a powerful resource and important in addressing a number of the priorities set out in the Welsh Government’s “Programme for Government”, including promoting growth and tackling poverty which the First Minister describes as his top priority. They play an important role in advancing knowledge by providing access to information, supporting entrepreneurial activity, and inspiring life-long learning and reading for enjoyment. They foster social mobility and strengthen our communities, catering, as they do, for the needs of all parts of society from toddlers and their parents, to students (of all ages) and researchers, from local activists to small businesses, and from the frail and elderly and their carers to hobbyists and creators.
Welsh public libraries address poverty by tackling the digital divide, providing access to the internet with trained staff delivering advice and guidance, and helping people develop vital information literacy skills. They will also become an important community resource in helping people claim Universal Benefit and enabling them to take advantage of a broad range of statutory and voluntary support available in their local community. These and other aspects of the service are planned, shaped and delivered by skilled and knowledgeable professional library staff.
Welsh public libraries are a national resource delivered locally and must be seen from a national perspective. The Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 requires local councils to provide a local library service which is comprehensive and efficient and that is available to all who wish to use it. We have welcomed the support that you and previous Ministers have accorded to the public library service in the past and your recognition of its statutory status and importance to Wales. We trust that you will continue to provide this support and take a leadership role in promoting proper public library provision across Wales with your colleagues in local government. We understand the pressures faced by all councils in Wales at this time, but would urge you to work with them to ensure that a sustainable, innovative and professionally run service is still available across Wales and, should it be necessary, that you will intervene to uphold the provision of the statutory service within a local authority.
We would be happy to assist you in this work and look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.
The Executive Committee, CILIP Cymru Wales
The letter was mentioned by BBC Cymru
CILIP Policy Officer, Wales