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The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) today ...
The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) today publishes proposals with the potential for local authorities to save£20million a year which could be re-invested to improve library services.

Better Stock, Better Libraries outlines a national library purchasing model which maintains local accountability for stock selection. Currently 149 library authorities across England (around 3,500 libraries) buy 80 to 90% of the same type of books and other material.

The new procurement arrangements would mean better availability and more efficient management of stock, more flexibility to meet local needs and reduced unit costs of stock. Local authorities would have more money and resources to reinvest in refreshed book stocks, improved information and communications technology, longer opening hours and more staff helping customers.

Culture minister David Lammy said: 'The opportunity offered by this report is a significant one. MLA and the DCMS are creating a way libraries can work together, in a period of challenge and change, to modernise their core activity and save money to reinvest for the good of their communities. In all our work to improve public libraries we aim to bring them closer to the people who use them, and to help them understand the needs of those who don't. This report offers the chance for money to be freed up to be spent in these areas.'

Chris White, chairman of the stock procurement steering group, said: 'Through these initiatives local authorities have a key role to play in leading sustained and substantial improvements to library services. These proposals have the potential to mean better library stock, better library services and better value for money.'

The proposed model consists of four components, with the local library at the centre, driving the service and controlling quality:

- An e-marketplace of suppliers

- A small national strategic commissioning function running the e-marketplace and assisting with quality management

- Clusters of library authorities working to achieve back office efficiencies through processing and stock selection

- Individual library authorities responsible for meeting local demand

John Dolan, head of library policy at the MLA said: 'Public library improvement is based on libraries getting closer to the people who use them, as well as understanding the needs of the whole community. Improving stock purchasing creates opportunities for libraries to buy more books for their money as well as reform how libraries work. The report shows how libraries should work collaboratively to reduce costs - a 40% overhead in buying stock is unacceptable by any measure of efficiency - and help us achieve our ambitions for a better library service.'

Tim Byles, chief executive of Norfolk CC and Chair of the chief executives' task

force, said: 'The efficiency agenda continues apace. I welcome this initiative to work with local authorities to both improve frontline customer services in libraries and achieve significant efficiency improvements through modernising how local authorities procure stock and manage support functions.'

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