Under the Public Libraries and Museums Act, Northamptonshire County Council has a legal responsibility to provide “a comprehensive and efficient public library service”.
None of the council’s proposals arecompatible with this legal requirement.
The proposal to abolish the mobile library service is appalling, and along with the abolition of bus subsidies will add to the isolation of some of the most vulnerable people in the county.
Should any of the “community groups” that Northamptonshire County Council is to contact to invite to take over the running of the smaller libraries in the county be tempted to take the bait, I would urge them to read a piece on the subject by Laura Swaffield, chairman of the Library Campaign, published in The Guardian on October 19.
She makes the point that most “community-run” libraries lurch from one financial crisis to another and that the library service in the UK, which was once envied the world over, has become fragmented and its quality has declined to a huge extent as trained and experienced staff have been sacked and replaced with untrained and unqualified volunteers.
No doubt many of the friends of libraries groups will be called upon to take over running their libraries.
These groups do an excellent job in raising funds for special events, children’s activities and such like, but they are not suited to running the complex services that are now on offer in every library – which is everything from processing bus pass applications to helping job seekers to apply for posts online.
We must avoid the temptation to respond to the threat to the library service in a parochial “my library is more important that the one down the road” fashion.
Instead all library users and supporters must unite to defend a service that is not only essential but is the hallmark of any civilised society.