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Library services should be available as widely as possible, COSLA's new standards for public library service say in...
Library services should be available as widely as possible, COSLA's new standards for public library service say in a major report updating the standards first published in 1986.

The 1995 standards make more than 70 recommendations covering a variety of services provided by libraries.

Moving the libraries forward into the 21st century is a priority, and the report recommends that libraries' collection policies should encompass not just printed materials but also include electronic publishing items, CD-ROMs and remote databases.

At yesterday's launch of the new standards, COSLA vice-president Peter Peacock, who chaired the working group that compiled the document, said he hoped that they would point the way forward for library authorities across the country.

'Libraries are probably the most heavily used of all local authority services,' Cllr Peacock said, 'and we believe that they should provide as wide a range of services to as many people as possible. We are not, however, complacent about the level of service which is provided.

'Our recommendations encompass a whole host of issues affecting libraries, including extended opening hours, Sunday opening, the variety of materials available in libraries, the use of libraries as information centres, the role of libraries in education, staff training and the standard of library accommodation.'

The report defines the purpose of the library service being 'to provide, for everyone in the area which it serves, a service which contributes to the education, cultural, information and leisure needs of individuals, groups, industrial and commercial concerns and any other agencies requiring information.'

Within this definition, the standards define five key activities - culture, information, education, leisure and economic development - and makes 72 recommendations for the future standards of public libraries.

These recommendations include:

- additions to lending stock of 280 items per 1000 population and 100 items per 1000 population for children's and teenage materials;

- every effort to be made to serve ethnic communities with a variety of languages and formats;

- a collection policy for libraries should identify the range of stock to be provided, encompassing printed materials, electronic publishing items, CD-ROMs and remote databases;

- giving consideration to the establishment of the library service as a council's information service;

- staffing levels for both urban and rural areas in the range of 1:1800 to 1:2000 per head of population, with professional staff comprising 25-30% of total staff;

- minimum standards for library opening hours should be between 45 and 60 hours per week for a full-time service; at least 30 hours per week for part-time libraries serving a population of more than 4000; and 10-12 hours a week for service points dealing with fewer than 4000 people.

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