CULTURE MEDIA AND SPORT COMMITTEE
REVIEW OF REPORTS, RECOMMENDATIONS AND
Sixth Report, Session 1999-2000
MEMORANDUM BY THE DEPARTMENT FOR CULTURE
MEDIA AND SPORT
1. When the Government responded to the Committee's
Report, the consultation on the public library standards had just
finished and a final version had not been published. Inevitably,
some of the responses were conditional on the final standards
and the Committee asked for a further response. There were also
some additional questions. Where requested, therefore, we set
out below our further response on the recommendations of the Sixth
Report. It should be read in conjunction with our earlier response.
2. The public library standards were published on
12 February 2001.
They came into effect from 1 April 2001, and DCMS will monitor
and assess performance against them through the Annual Library
Planning process. Detailed arrangements will be set out in the
guidance to authorities for preparing their next cycle of Annual
Library Plans, commencing in April 2001. This is in preparation
and will be published shortly, after consultation with the public
library sector. Through the Local Government Association and the
Library Association, as well as the Society of Chief Librarians,
the sector has been fully involved with developing the standards
and the Government intends to continue this partnership.
3. There will be a three year period for compliance
with the standards and we are prepared to sit down with any library
authority that is facing particular problems in order to agree
a strategy for development of their service. In the first instance,
we envisage that authorities should take the opportunity of their
Annual Library Plan 2001 to report on their position in relation
to the standards and their strategy for development.
4. The powers of the Secretary of State for Culture,
Media and Sport to intervene in a library authority are governed
by two pieces of legislation: the Public Libraries and Museums
Act 1964, and the Best Value provisions of the Local Government
Act 1999. The Government will issue shortly further guidance,
setting out how the two sets of intervention powers will be used
in the case of failure by a library authority over time to improve
their services, or deal with serious deterioration.
5. Library standards, backed by Annual Library Plans
and Best Value, reflect the Government's desire to strengthen
public libraries. They are a vital element in the public services
of this country. They are welcoming spaces held in great affection
by their communities. They provide a focus for individual learning
for people of all ages and access to vital information and community
networks for the socially excluded; they are a gateway to local
arts and cultural activity; and they are leading the drive to
increase the use of ICT among all sectors of society.
6. We have also published an analysis of the responses
to our wide and public consultation on draft library standards,
which took place in 2000.
7. We set out below our response to the remaining
additional questions of the Committee under the appropriate recommendations
of the Sixth Report.
(ii) The precise role of MLAC, or
"Resource" as it now prefers to call itself, within
the library sector remains shadowy. For example, there is no reference
to the role of the new body in the Government's recently published
document on library standards. We recommend that the Government
clarify the precise roles which it expects "Resource"
to perform in the library sector as a matter of urgency.
(iii) The roles for MLAC are, of course,
dependent to some extent upon the resources available to it. Lord
Evans said: "If we do not get extra resources it would have
been rather pointless forming this new organisation". We
agree. It is incumbent upon the Government to send the right signals
to the library sector by increasing its financial commitment to
the strategic body which it has chosen to create.
8. In July 2000, DCMS announced Resource's grant-in-aid
allocation for the period 2001-04. Discussions are continuing
between DCMS and Resource on the extent of Resource's future responsibilities
for public libraries. However, the Department has announced its
intention of transferring to Resource the advisory role currently
performed by the Advisory Council on Libraries (ACL). This is
dependent on progress with the Culture and Recreation Bill, which
provides for the abolition of the ACL and for Resource to be established
as a statutory corporation.
(v) The book stock is rightly seen
as central to the quality of a library service. The DCMS has recently
set out its proposed standards to monitor expenditure on books
and other materials and the quantity and quality of the book stock.
We welcome these standards in principle, although we have not
had an opportunity to examine them in detail. We note that the
Department canvasses the possibility of determining quality "as
a percentage of the titles nominated for the major literary prizes
in the year of the report combined with a selection of the top
500 bestselling titles". We are surprised that no reference
is made in the proposed criteria for determining quality to the
popularity of books as indicated by the Public Lending Right scheme.
9. In our earlier response, we emphasised the importance
of the written word and, in keeping with this, the public library
standards stress that "up-to-date and attractive bookstocks
are central to keeping public libraries alive". Further
work needs to be done to develop quality indices for public library
bookstocks during 2001-02. This will take account of existing
work by the Audit Commission in respect of fiction. Meanwhile,
library authorities will be asked to report in their Annual Library
Plans on relevant information from Best Value inspections carried
out within the immediate cycle of Best Value reviews.
(vii) Library authorities must try
to steer a course that satisfies the competing claims for ideal
opening times. We expect the published library standards to provide
local authorities with further guidance on minimal opening hours
for individual libraries and ensure that library authorities adopt
opening regimes that take account of the needs of the client population.
(viii) We recommend that any standard
for the location of libraries should be linked specifically to
modes of transport and in particular to measures of the quality
of public transport provision. We further recommend that the standards
as finally issued should require authorities to assess the community
value of individual libraries, a value which goes beyond internal
definitions of user satisfaction, even if this community value
is not readily susceptible to statistical analysis.
10. There are four public library standards covering
location and access which library authorities will have to address.
They cover the location of libraries in relation to households
living within a fixed distance, unscheduled closures, and opening
hours. In addition, library authorities will be asked to report
in their Annual Library Plans on: their policy for opening hours
outside 9.00 am-5.00 pm on weekdays and on the proportion of their
aggregate opening hours outside that core; and the merits of opening
their "first choice" libraries for resident populations
in excess of 150,000 for more than 60 hours per week. When assessing
the proportion of households served by static service points,
DCMS will accept as a contextual indicator the authority's own
estimate of the proportion of households served by mobile libraries
on scheduled routes; a similar approach will be taken in relation
to ease of travelling to a library.
(x) This Committee is concerned that
the relevant authorities recognise that different disabled groups
have specific and distinctive requirements for access to libraries
and that funding allocations reflect this fact. We endorse the
Library Association's suggestion and recommend that the Government
seek to expand the Share the Vision model to all disabled groups.
11. In 2000-01, a grant of £200,000 from DCMS
for the Share the Vision/Resource programme was used to complete,
publish and distribute Library Services for Visually Impaired
People: A Manual of Best Practiceand
to continue work on the Reveal project. This is a web-based
national database of accessible formats and its completion will
form the major part of the work programme for 2001-02 (supported
by a further grant from DCMS). In addition, Resource has allocated
funding to begin to roll out the programme to museums and archives
and to cover other disabilities in libraries. The first step is
to conduct a survey of services and facilities for all disabled
users of libraries, museums and archives. This is due to be completed
in May and will be used to identify priorities for development
and best practice in this area. Resource plan to develop a methodology
for measuring access as part of an action plan based on this research.
Resource has also published The Disability Directory for
museums and galleries.
They aim to make future work cross sectoral and cross disability.
As part of the development of their web site they are planning
a new Access and Inclusion Zone containing up-to-date guidance
on current issues and demonstrating accessibility in action.
(xi) We welcome the commitment that
mobile libraries will provide access to information and communication
technology and urge the Government and local authorities to make
urgent efforts to overcome the barriers to such access.
12. The Government is committed to providing Internet
access to all who want it by 2005 and a range of measures are
in place to achieve this.
13. As noted in our earlier response, the New Opportunities
Fund (NOF) is running the Community Access to Lifelong Learning
Programme (CALL) which will enable all static public libraries
to offer public Internet access by the end of 2002. NOF has set
aside up to £5 million from the CALL programme as a challenge
fund to encourage innovative solutions, including mobile library
connectivity. Library authorities can also use funds from their
NOF allocation for mobile libraries provided all their static
libraries are also connected.
14. However, for some locations provision of ICT
through a mobile library is not the best solution. As noted above,
by the end of 2002 all 4,300 static public libraries in the UK
will provide public Internet access. In addition the Department
for Education and Employment (DfEE) is running a £252 million
programme to establish learning centres in areas where people
might otherwise be socially excluded. DCMS is also exploring with
the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) the role which the
post office network might play in delivery of library services
in rural areas.
15. DfEE and the Office of the e-Envoy have jointly
commissioned a study that aims to map and collate information
on all points of access to the Internet that are open to the public,
and will include facilities offered by the public and private
sectors and voluntary organisations. This will help assess progress
towards achieving the 2005 public Internet access target.
(xii) This Committee is pleased to
note that the Annual Library Plans include an emphasis on social
exclusion issues, and trusts that that emphasis will lead to continued
improvements in this aspect of library provision. We recommend
that the implemented national library standards provide more specific
guidance on the promotion of social inclusion. We further recommend
that the Government ensure the collection and publication of comprehensive
statistics on library use by all socially excluded groups.
16. The public library standards contain a number
of specific references to the promotion of social inclusion. In
particular, they stress that a library authority should conduct
a community profiling exercise, identify the different segments
of library needs and adapt or develop existing services better
to meet them. In addition, to help auditors and inspectors judge
whether a library authority is planning to provide effective,
relevant and improved services, Annual Library Plans will have
to include in future local targets for services to socially excluded
people, ethnic minority communities and people with disabilities,
as well as for children.
17. Statistics on social inclusion, including the
use of museums, libraries and archives by excluded groups, is
one of the key themes in Resource's ongoing review of statistical
needs. In particular, Resource are currently discussing with the
Office of National Statistics and the Audit Commission ways in
which they might develop outcome-based performance data, covering
users of all kinds, including excluded groups.
(xiii) We recommend that the Government
and the higher education funding councils support the continued
establishment and development of collaborative, crosssectoral
initiatives between public libraries and libraries of all institutions
of higher education, based on the principle of open access.
18. Since October 2000, an Inter-Departmental Steering
Group comprising officials of DfEE and DCMS has been considering
the recommendations of the Education and Libraries Task Group
of the Library and Information Commission in the report Empowering
the Learning Community.
They have been advised on this by an External Group comprising
organisations from the library and education sectors. The Government's
response to Empowering the Learning Community was launched
at a conference in London on 28 March 2001.
(xiv) It is a matter for regret that
the potentially invaluable role of public libraries was neglected
during the development of the National Grid for Learning and the
University of Industry. If there is to be continuity in the delivery
of information and communication technology, it is essential that,
even at this late stage, libraries are seen to be at the centre
and not at the periphery of the delivery of these new services.
However, the role now envisaged for public libraries in Lifelong
Learning by MLAC and Ministers appears to be in line with the
best traditions of the public library service. We recommend that
the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department
for Education and Employment work together with library authorities
to ensure that libraries can play an integral role within the
wider delivery of Lifelong Learning and that funding arrangements
19. In our earlier response, we stressed that the
role of public libraries had not been neglected in the development
of the National Grid for Learning and the University for Industry
and we set out in full the various actions taken to ensure that
libraries can play an integral role within the wider delivery
of Lifelong Learning. The next key step will be the Government's
response to Empowering the Learning Community, which we
have already mentioned at paragraph 18 above.
(xvi) We strongly support the British
Library in its endeavours to continue its digitalisation of internationally
important books and manuscripts. We recommend that, wherever possible,
those images should be freely available on the Internet. We consider
that support for this process should be considered a high priority
for Lottery or Government funding as appropriate. It should be
the Government's avowed aim to establish the British Library as
a hub for the United Kingdom and the international library network.
This will enable the British Library to become a universal resource
rather than the preserve of a relatively small number of users
on the sitea library for the many not just for the few.
The expansion of the British Library's role should not be at the
expense of and should in no way compromise the performance of
the British Library's core statutory functions.
20. The digital infrastructure of the British Library
(BL) is being critically enhanced by an agreement concluded with
IBM during autumn 2000. This provides for a digital store which
will form the technical platform to support the Library's acquisition
and preservation of collection materials in digital form, together
with digitised elements of its own historical collections. The
digital store will be designed using the Open Archival Information
System (OAIS) reference model and will build on the work of the
CEDARS digital preservation project, within which the BL is acting
as a test site. The Dutch national library, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek
(KB), has embarked simultaneously on a similar project with IBM,
and the BL envisages working in close collaboration with the KB
as both move into uncharted digital territories. The British Library
hopes to contribute to, and share findings from, the international
digital preservation research agenda, not least by providing an
excellent test-bed for such work.
21. The Library has also established a Digitisation
Policy Group, bringing together staff from a wide range of areas
with an involvement in digitisation, including collections areas,
preservation, reading rooms, information systems and publishing.
The Group will determine priorities for digitisation of BL materials
and develop standards which will be applied to all future projects.
22. The Library has made a number of bids for funding
to support particular digitisation projects and is also taking
forward a number of other projects. These include two applications
to the New Opportunities Fund Digitisation of Learning Materials
Programme, in which the Library has succeeded in reaching the
second round of applications, and the establishment of a new web
site, following collaboration with Keio University and NTT Inc,
which will enable scholars to explore in detail the British Library's
copies of the Gutenberg Bible. The Library is also a founding
partner of Fathom.com, which aims to establish itself as 'the
premier site for interactive and authenticated knowledge and education
on the Web'.
23. The BL is also engaged in a range of international
digital cultural projects, including the International Dunhuang
Project (IDP), which is re-assembling, in a virtual environment,
a dispersed, fragile and relatively inaccessible collection of
5th-10th century Buddhist manuscripts held in China, France, Russia
and the Library itself. During 2000, the Higher Education Funding
Council (England) agreed to provide funding over five years as
a contribution to the BL work on the Dunhuang material. A grant
was also received from the Mellon Foundation for five years' work
including the digitisation of material at the National Library
24. The Library was also successful in its bid to
the 'Invest to Save' budget for funding a joint proposal with
the Public Record Office and the Office for National Statistics
to create an online resource for the teaching of citizenship,
a compulsory National Curriculum subject in secondary schools
from September 2002.
25. In looking ahead to 2001-02, the Digitisation
Policy Group will determine priorities for the digitisation of
the Library's materials to agreed criteria; compile and maintain
an up-to-date digitisation project register of all BL projects;
develop and promote adherence to standards for all Library digitisation
projects for imaging, metadata and service delivery; and monitor
the provision of funding, staff and IS resources for digitisation
26. Other BL plans for 2001-02 include engagement
in a number of ongoing and prospective digitisation initiatives,
including the two NOF bids mentioned at paragraph 21 above, the
Dunhuang Project, and further work in partnership with a number
of organisations such as Keio University, Octavo and Bell &
Howell. Meanwhile, the BL Picture Library is working on two major
projects with the objective of making British Library images more
widely available via the Internet. Both are commercial initiatives
but the images can be re-purposed for other commercial and non-commercial
(xviii) We recommend that the Government
encourages local authorities to pursue vigorously the scope for
support for public libraries from the private sector through sponsorship
or other means.
27. We indicated in our earlier response that we
would look for information on the introduction of new services
funded by new sources of income in our analysis of Annual Library
Plans 2000, which was subsequently published in January 2001.
The evidence is that some authorities are developing services
through partnerships and/or with private sector income. However,
this is an area which needs further development, although the
evidence also shows some imaginative initiatives being undertaken,
such as a reader development scheme in partnership with a local
(xix) We recommend that the review
of local authority funding should specifically examine the funding
of regional cultural facilities, including libraries, and consider
whether adjustments to the Revenue Support Grant formula should
encompass the additional cost burden of such facilities that serve
a wide population. We further recommend that local authorities
be permitted to charge for library services provided to businesses
located outside the geographical area of the funding local authority.
28. The Government is considering the many responses
made to its Green Paper on Local Government Finance and will be
publishing its proposals later this year. The funding of regional
facilities is one of a number of issues which will be considered
within the context of the Government's aims for local government
finance set out in the Green Paper. Those aims particularly relevant
to the funding of regional facilities are being fair to those
who use and pay for local authority services, being intelligible
and transparent to all stakeholders, and making partnership working
easier. However there are tensions between some of the aims, and
many competing issues within local government finance. These will
need to be balanced out in the final proposals.
(xx) Library authorities are at present
entitled to charge for networked and multimedia services. However,
while it is true that charging for networked services may regulate
demand for a popular service we believe that networked and multimedia
services must now be regarded as core services of public libraries
together with books. Present policy separates them through charging
whereas they should all be regarded as staple services. That being
so, although Mr Howarth doubted that charging would exclude some
users, we consider it is now time to assert that Internet and
multimedia services are as much core library services as books.
Therefore, we recommend that there should be no charges placed
on networked and multimedia services.
(xxi) We recommend that the Department
for Culture, Media and Sport seeks to develop further standards
relating to charges and fine income before implementing its library
29. The charging powers of library authorities, originally
set out in Section 8 of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums
Act, were clarified by the Library Charges (England and Wales)
Regulations 1991, which came into force in January 1992.
Each library authority has the power to provide facilities for
the borrowing of books and other materials by any individual,
but the duty to lend free of charge extends only to written material
in eye-readable form lent to individuals who live, work or study
full-time in the library authority area. Each authority also has
a duty to provide access to reference services free of charge
and this duty is not limited to persons within the authority's
30. It is for each library authority to decide whether
or not to charge for any library facility for which charging is
authorised by the Regulations. Library authorities are able to
decide the point at which any charge is made, and whether concessions
are applicable, taking into account local needs and circumstances.
Library authorities must have regard also to their statutory duty
to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service when
setting charges. Charges must be reasonable and can be subject
to judicial review. They should not be a barrier to access. The
Secretary of State is empowered by Section 154 of the Local Government
and Housing Act 1989 to impose a maximum limit to any charge and,
if necessary, is able to seek revision of the Regulations to set
a ceiling on any charging provision where appropriate.
31. As noted in our initial response to the Select
Committee, guidance issued to library authorities by NOF for funding
for infrastructure under the CALL programme stipulates that Internet
access should normally be offered free of charge. Where charges
are made, the authority is required to explain how it intends
to meet the needs of people at risk of social exclusion. The public
library standards note that every static service point is required
to offer public Internet access by December 2002, and set a standard
for the ratio of workstations to users per thousand population
as equal or more than 6 per 10,000 population. Currently, 36 per
cent of public libraries in the UK offer free public Internet
access, but funding from the CALL programme only began to flow
in January 2001 and the effect of this funding is not yet reflected
in the statistics.
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Analysis of the Consultation on Draft Public Library Standards,
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Practice, (Library and Information Commission Research Report
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in alternative formats-Braille, Audio Cassette, and Computer Disc-and
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and Information Commission, 2000, www.lic.gov.uk. Back
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The Library Charges (England and Wales) Regulations 1991, S.I.,
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