Free Libraries

July 01, 2010 4:11 PM

Today an alliance of library interest groups including Libraries for Life for Londoners (LLL), The Library Campaign and the Campaign for the Book have released a national Charter for Change that outlines how councils could improve the library service currently offered and save over £200 million.

The alliance point out that two thirds of the British population read in their spare time yet only one third of the population visit libraries. To fix this disparity the alliance are calling for libraries to operate independently from central bureaucracy so that local libraries can be tailored to local needs.

If libraries can operate independently, local needs can dictate how the library is run. For example when the library opens and closes should be based on when the local population want them open. How the library is stocked, local events and activities can be tailored to the preferences of the local population.

The alliance also suggests that the progress of how free libraries are performing in offering a service that is valued by the local community can be measured by monthly reports to the local council. There reports would be available to the public.

Crucially the measures outlined in the Charter have been tried by London’s Hillingdon Council in 2007 and resulted in savings of 20% and tripled usage. Delivering more for less in this current fiscal situation is absolutely imperative.

This kind of localism will not only offer better public services but is key to tackling the fiscal crisis. And if you want more on this issue there is a chapter on decentralisation in the TPA’s book ‘How to cut spending (and still win an election).’

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