At The Reading Agency we're very glad to see this balanced report published at such an important time for libraries and their users.
I gave oral evidence as a witness in the process, and agree wholeheartedly with its identification of the disparity around the country in how cuts to library budgets are being handled. It's not right that our statutory right to a "comprehensive and efficient" library service is subject to a postcode lottery. And it's important that MPs are indicating that library closures could be unlawful.
Continuation and cooperation
I'm very relieved that the report recommends the continuation of the service's statutory nature and safeguarding the expertise needed to deliver it. It has sensible recommendations about taking a modernised approach to the Secretary of State's existing powers, focusing that supervisory duty on developing and supporting the service, including through national, developmental work.
I also agree with the report's emphasis on the potential for greater inter-library co-operation. Our current work with the Society of Chief Librarians on piloting a new Books on Prescription scheme with GPs and other health partners is an example of vital collective national development work, co-ordinated with other service providers.
There is great potential for better national planning to improve local services, especially at a time of such rapid digital change. Our charity specialises in helping libraries work collectively to create efficiencies of scale and share best practice.
It's great that the report frequently references our Summer Reading Challenge - it's a powerful example of how literacy development can be supported and, in addition, the quality of the service to the public can be protected through national co-ordination. This year 98% of local authorities participated, and we anticipate they will have involved 750,000 children.
The report tackles the subject of library closures well, emphasising the importance of the services available to the community, which is much more than the library building. We're exploring new ways of measuring the impact of this contribution, believing that current approaches are not telling the whole story.
A force for social change
If libraries are to be a force for social change in their communities, and for social mobility, their ability to do outreach work is vital, and depends on having the right staff. We work with every UK library authority, and are noticing the deleterious effects of big staff losses, including in the area of support for reading and literacy.
Finally, I welcome the commitment of DCMS to producing a report on the cumulative effects of cuts in local authority provision. It's a great pity, though, that this is scheduled for 2014, not next year.
Read the report
You can find the full report on our library facts page or you can download it here.