The Society of Chief Librarians welcomed proposals for a 'People's Network' unveiled by Tony Blair who stressed the value of libraries in continuing to educate and inform the public.
Many libraries have already added the internet, E-mail, video conferencing and other information bases to the more traditional services they offer. But the 'New Library' blueprint aims to develop and enhance this role, taking libraries into the 21st century.
Targets will build existing services which include:
- A team of over 27,000 public library staff across the country to help people track down the information they need.
- An information services currently handling over 50 million enquiries each year.
The SCL is the voice for public library managers across England and Wales. Its members are chief librarians at all kinds of local authorities - from small unitary councils to the largest shire countries - and they will be responsible for delivering the 'People's Network' plans. SCL president Gwyn Williams said: 'I'm delighted that the Prime Minister has reaffirmed the importance of public libraries for all - both now and in the future.
'Today's announcement is a major step forward to creating an information society in which everyone can benefit, learn and prosper.
'Libraries are not just places to pick up a good novel. They are centres at the heart of communities offering a vital range of services and, in many cases, the very latest in high-tech information networking.
'Large questions marks still hang over the funding arrangements and its is important that every library in the UK will be able to take part fully in the People's Network.'