- This story has been clarified; please see final paragraph
The president of a support group for librarians has criticised a report published last week by the local infrastructure body Locality because it could encourage a "headlong rush" to increase community management of libraries "without understanding the consequences".
Phil Bradley, president of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, was responding to a report published last week by Locality on behalf of the Local Government Association and Arts Council England, which showed that the proportion of community libraries in the UK either run or supported by volunteers is likely to rise from 5 per cent of the total number of libraries in July to almost 13 per cent in the near future.
Community Libraries – Learning From Experience: guiding principles for local authorities also said that many local authorities were still reviewing their library policies, so the number of community libraries could increase further.
Bradley said that an earlier report by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes found volunteers lacked support and had had very mixed experiences, and that using volunteers in place of paid staff "risks threatening the very foundation of library provision in the UK".
He said that volunteers often found themselves "in a difficult position of having to manage their library or lose it entirely" and that libraries required paid staff to function properly.
Bradley said he was "deeply concerned" that the Locality report "will be used to justify further library closures and our communities will suffer greater damage".
"Our public library service and our communities deserve better than this," he said.
- The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is a membership body for librarians, information specialists and knowledge managers.