libraries should have a secondary status to all other local council services
in the scoring system for efficiency in service delivery. Its chief
executive Bob McKee has described the move as an 'unexpected and
The proposals are contained in the Audit Commission consultation document
Comprehensive Performance Assessment Framework for Single Tier and County
Councils. It proposes giving efficiency scores for libraries and other
cultural services only half the weighting given to those for other council
activities such as social services or education, on the grounds that
libraries are 'not national priorities'.
In a joint response with the Society of Chief Librarians, CILIP has said
that it is 'extremely angry' at the proposal, which it describes as
'insulting'. Libraries and leisure are the only service area to be singled
out for such treatment, as the existing rules are regarded as being
sufficient to take care of all other services. 'The proposal is based on a
false premise that the services are not national priorities and the level of
service is subject to choice,' adds CILIP's principal policy adviser Guy
Daines. 'Neither of the above statements are true - public library
authorities are under a statutory obligation to provide a service that is
comprehensive and efficient.'
Dr McKee has also written to culture secretary Tessa Jowell, expressing
great concern at the proposals. 'Public libraries are subject to minimum
standards, specified by the government, and the arts minister Baroness
Blackstone is currently undertaking a wide-ranging review of the public
library service and will be producing a strategic framework for consultation
in the autumn,' he comments.
Compelling evidence of the importance of public libraries can be seen in:
the role of the People's Network in delivering e-government; early years
provision and reader development work to support the literacy and learning
agendas; and the recent Beacon Council awards, acknowledging the ways in
which library services contribute to sustainable communities.
Dr McKee concludes: 'The Audit Commission has almost wilfully ignored
libraries' contribution to lifelong learning, to neighbourhood regeneration,
to raising school standards - to most of the cross-cutting national
priorities recently agreed by the government and the Local Government
Association, in fact.'
CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is
the leading professional body for librarians, information specialists and
knowledge managers, with around 23,000 members working in all sectors,
including business and industry, science and technology, further and higher
education, schools, local and central government departments and agencies,
the health service, the voluntary sector, national and public libraries.
CILIP's goals are to: position the profession at the heart of the
information revolution; develop and enhance the role and skills of all its
members; present and champion those skills, together with new ones which
will be acquired through continuing professional development; and ensure
that individuals, enterprises and not for profit organisations have ready
and timely access to the information they need.
CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals was
formed in April 2002 following the unification of the Institute of
Information Scientists and the Library Association. Further information is
available on CILIP's website - www.cilip.org.uk