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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 1815-ii
House of commons
TAKEN BEFORE THE
Culture, Media and Sport Committee
Tuesday 21 February 2012
Alan Davey and ANNIE MAUGER
David Pugh, Nigel Thomas and Elizabeth Campbell
Evidence heard in Public Questions 62 - 160
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee
on Tuesday 21 February 2012
Mr John Whittingdale (Chair)
Dr Thérèse Coffey
Mr Adrian Sanders
Mr Gerry Sutcliffe
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, and Annie Mauger, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), gave evidence.
Q62 Chair: Good morning. This is the second session of the Committee’s inquiry into library closures. I welcome the Chief Executive of the Arts Council, Alan Davey, and Annie Mauger, the Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, and I will start with a general question. The usage of libraries and the number of book loans has been in decline for some time. Therefore, to what extent is it perhaps unsurprising that local authorities should look at libraries as being an area where savings could be made?
Annie Mauger: To give you a little bit of the statistical background to the usage figures at the moment, last year there were 314 million visits to libraries, which is a 2.3% decline, and there were 300 million loans, which is a 2.9% decline. That is holding up against the context of a 6.3% cut in library budgets and also a 14% reduction in stock acquisitions. Around that, there is obviously still usage of a certain level despite the fact that the cuts are greater than the level of decline. On top of that, there is a slight increase in children’s loans by libraries; 81.4 million children’s books have been loaned from libraries. So I think there is a little bit of a methodology issue about the level of decline in libraries. There is changed usage. We can’t deny that there is a decline but it is not of a scale at the moment that would suggest that this is a service that is utterly in decline, and there is a correlation with reduction in budget. I believe those two things fit together, and that you can’t separate them.
Where there is evidence in local authorities that there is support and development-I would not say investment, but reuse of funds in more creative ways that are supporting libraries to develop and grow-there is evidence of increased usage. So there is a direct correlation between usage and investment, or usage and clever use of resources.
Alan Davey: I would agree with Annie there. 40% of the adult population are using libraries, and borrowing books from libraries, and 80% of the population think libraries are important. I was at a library at Sevenoaks on Friday where they could demonstrate that, having looked at the service they were offering and reorienting that service and making it more attractive and getting the footfall in the library increased, usage was up. In that particular incidence, they have combined the library service with the registration of births and deaths. That is proving to have some further advantages for them in terms of increasing the usage of the building and also the convenience of the service. It shows that in various creative ways-and there are many creative ways one could look at-if you improve the library service and improve footfall they do become used more.
It is a complex issue and it is a chicken-and-egg situation. If you cut library services and, say, cut the opening hours, so you never quite know whether the library is open or not, I think that is probably going to have an effect on library usage. But where libraries do talk to service users and adapt their services in new ways, perhaps co-locating library services, perhaps offering other services within library buildings, you can improve the footfall and improve usage.
Q63 Chair: How many people do you have in the Arts Council who are tasked with libraries?
Alan Davey: Twelve-one person in each region and two at head office.
Q64 Chair: How does that compare with the MLA?
Alan Davey: It is difficult to make a direct comparison because the MLA staff tended to be generic, so they were never labelled "staff" as such. We have a similar number applying to museums, with new responsibilities, so we are doing our best to carve out the right degree of resource. Having one person in each region is really important. Those relationship managers can make relationships with library authorities, can know what is going on and can help spread good practice. One of the things that has been said to us is having people on the ground is very important.
I have to say we do make the staff work hard, particularly our head office colleagues, because it is a very broad span. It is a locally delivered service and I think that is entirely right, our job being to advocate for libraries, to spread best practice and encourage development and having some small investment. Our grant-in-aid that we have to spend on library projects is £230,000, which I think is £76 a library. So we have to use that very carefully for looking at ways in which libraries can develop.
I am interested in getting increasing access to lottery funds for libraries. So, for example, we have an open grant for the arts programme. What we are finding is that all library services are not applying to that because they never knew that they could. This is particularly for activities that might increase libraries’ attractiveness and draw in other users. I want to look at how we can improve libraries’ application rates and success rates for those funds, and also the other funds that we have. We have just announced a touring fund, which could get touring exhibitions or touring activities of some kind into library buildings. Libraries could apply to that. There is also Creative People and Places, which is looking at areas of low engagement and that is another fund open to libraries. So I think we have to do some work in educating libraries on what is possible for them to apply to us for and help them to get some more money out of us from-
Q65 Chair: The support that you give libraries you would argue is just as good as was available when the MLA had responsibility?
Alan Davey: I think it is different. The MLA had a semi-superintendent role. We do not have that for the Act. When we made our settlement with the Department we were very clear that the Act was for the Secretary of State. We had a development role, i.e. encouraging and spreading best practice, but we were not an inspectorate. I think it was important that we set out very, very clearly that we were there to work with library authorities to bring about improvement, but our role is not to superintend the Act on behalf of the Secretary of State. We give him facts and he asks us for data, and we supply him with that and intelligence but the Act is for the Secretary of State.
Q66 Chair: We will come on to the role of the Secretary of State. But you are clear that you do not have a superintendent role and, therefore, are you suggesting that nobody does now with the demise of the MLA?
Alan Davey: The MLA’s superintendent role was not terribly well-defined, I don’t think. It is for the Department to better work out how they fulfil their responsibilities under the Act. I have to say that the whole relationship with the Arts Council, with the Department, is very early and I think everyone is working out exactly what the split means. The Department are clearly doing some thinking on how Ministers can best fulfil their duties under the Act and I am sure Annie will be talking about that.
Chair: We will come on to that shortly.
Q67 Dr Coffey: First of all, I probably should declare my sister Clare Coffey has a qualification in library management and I think she is still a member of CILIP.
What is your prediction of the long-term impact of a reduction in professional librarians? I am thinking a few years ago Hampshire significantly reduced the number of professional librarians but it put a lot of investment into the Discovery Centres, as they called it, and I understand it had a huge increase in footfall in people accessing it, but I understand why people feel professional librarians are important. Do you want to start, Mrs Mauger?
Annie Mauger: Yes certainly. Obviously, I am not going to comment on any specific local authority changes, but the librarians are the people who build the services around people and around communities. In a recent survey we have done, we estimate that in this financial year we are losing possibly as many as 700 librarians out of 3,500 who work in public libraries. That is a serious number, and the librarians are the planners, the managers, the technical experts and their main skills are really in the people work as well, in connecting people up in the local community.
They have to understand an enormous range of things that go on: the curriculum, the needs of the elderly, young people and children’s reading, families, the other services that are being delivered locally that they have to plug into and work with, and they are out discussing and working with the other professionals in the community who are delivering those services, so that libraries can be complementary and tailor services to fit in that local community.
Alongside that, they have to understand literacy and understand how they can best support an impact on literacy, which is the biggest issue for this country in terms of skills and development of ability to work. That is not only reading literacy but also digital now, and understanding the information age and that everything you get on Google is not exactly going to be true. Somebody said that a librarian is what Google wants to be when it grows up, and that understanding of how people react and work with information is absolutely vital.
Every local authority has to change and develop their services in the way they think fit, but the point of libraries being a professionally delivered service is that they need to be. Professional librarians need to be there to advise the local authority and support them in tailoring and shaping a real library service that can deliver more than purely a book lending service but a range of things that meet the needs of the community.
Q68 Dr Coffey: Do you think policymakers and local authorities do not understand the role of the librarian?
Annie Mauger: No. I really don’t think many of them do.
Q69 Dr Coffey: What is CILIP doing about that? Isn’t that part of your role?
Annie Mauger: We are working very hard on that indeed. It is absolutely part of our role. We will be talking about that in many different ways and part of the reason we are here is because we already have. It is very important that people and local authorities understand that just as any other service has to be professional, so do libraries. It is complex. There are legal issues. There is making safe environments for people to be in and complying with all sorts of law, copyright, freedom of information, data protection, child protection, all those things. You walk into a building that is open to the whole of the public and you have to know that it is a safe place to be. You also have to know that the collections of material are not only right for the community but they are true. That all the factual books are true and that we are not giving out-of-date information to people, that we are assisting them with building the knowledge in that community. One campaigner said to me, "I have a knowledge manager in the heart of my community and I don’t want to lose that", and that is how people feel about their librarians.
Q70 Dr Coffey: So it is not about libraries anymore, it is about knowledge centres?
Annie Mauger: Libraries have always been knowledge centres because the information you get from a library turns you into a knowledgeable person, and what you do with that knowledge is what this is society is now based on. We hear that more and more, it is a skills-based, knowledge-based society and it would be very strange if that society did not value its knowledge professionals.
Alan Davey: I would agree with CILIP on the importance of trained staff. In terms of good practice, we would say that having the right level of professional expertise in the right place in a library service-if there is a community facility it has the right access to professional or trained advice-is important. As Annie said, libraries are the original knowledge centre, the original world wide web, and a skilled librarian can help customers navigate their way around knowledge possibilities and help them find things that they never knew existed. So in terms of good practice, we would clearly say that the right kind of professional expertise, in the right place, at the right level, is important.
Q71 Louise Mensch: Can I just ask a supplemental? Mrs Mauger, at the beginning you said you did not want to comment on individual local authority practice but I would just be interested in the specific response to what Dr Coffey raised in her first question, which is if Hampshire has tried a scheme where they have cut down on the number of professional librarians and invested money in some other-
Dr Coffey: Extra resources, Discovery Centres.
Louise Mensch: Discovery Centres-although I am not sure exactly what a Discovery Centre is.
Dr Coffey: It is a fancy name for it.
Louise Mensch: Fine. Perfect. They invested money in Discovery Centres and they cut down on librarians but at the same time they massively increased footfall traffic. That is a specific issue that I think advocates for librarians ought to address. While nobody would wish to decry the role of the librarian and what they bring to it, perhaps if there is a situation where too much of the budget is being spent on staff and then is spent in another way that can increase footfall traffic I would like to hear your response. Did you look at that situation? Did you say there had been fewer librarians and more footfall? One does not want to reflexively fight one’s own corner, but looking at the library service as a whole, if Hampshire has tried something that has increased footfall, while reducing librarians, what is the response of your organisation to that?
Annie Mauger: The first thing to say is, it is a specific situation and I would have to see exactly what was done, and that is some time ago. Without seeing all the paperwork and also understanding what those posts that are no longer there were and what they did, I can’t comment on it specifically. It would not be fair. In the current round of things that are happening across libraries and the reductions that are happening at the moment-from our evidence gathering that we have been doing-I know of one central library in a local authority that is stopping its information service completely because it can’t staff it anymore with professional librarians. I know of another local authority that is stopping doing Summer Reading Challenge because it has no one to promote and support it. I know those things are happening as well, and I think the point about it, really, is to assess in a local situation what is the best outcome for that population.
I can’t believe that removing professional support from the service will improve it. I don’t believe that and I am absolutely sure that is not what happened in any local authority situation. How those services were modelled I can’t tell you, because I haven’t read that report and I don’t know what was done.
Q72 Louise Mensch: In a situation as posited, where money was removed from staffing and placed into other methods of getting people through the door and it worked, isn’t that something that providers of libraries should be looking at?
Annie Mauger: I think that every local authority has a duty to look at what is best for their local area. But I don’t believe that a service that isn’t professionally delivered is best for anybody’s local area.
Louise Mensch: Do you know of this situation, Mr Davey? Do you have any comments on it?
Alan Davey: We are in a time of austerity in local government grants and it is inevitable that there are going to be job cuts. That is a fact of the time we are living in. But when you reconfigure services you should always think about where the professional expertise lies, that there is something there that might be done differently from how it has been done in the past. It might involve fewer staff but you need to make sure that the right expertise is available in the right way and there are many ways of doing this. For example, with the Society of Chief Librarians, we are funding a project called Enquire, which has a 24-hour professional librarian-sometimes from the United States-there if you need it. That is one very small but imaginative way of making sure that professional expertise is available. But there are lots of other ways. We need to look at the whole library service and how it is configured to make sure the right thing is there.
Q73 Steve Rotheram: Before I ask my first question would you like to explain to Members of the Committee how you pronounce your surname?
Annie Mauger: I thought someone would remember actually. It is pronounced "major".
Q74 Steve Rotheram: As you are probably aware, there are certainly a few local authorities that have already started to establish community-run libraries. What role, if any, do you think that community-run projects should play in public library service provision?
Annie Mauger: I think we have been very clear in our evidence that we don’t believe that what you will get if you offer a library to the community to take over, without professional support and being part of the local authority service, will be a library service in the way we understand it. I can give you an anecdotal example that I heard just this week of a librarian who has been approached to help a community library that is being run and set up. This person was asked for guidance because what is happening is the local authority that have been responsible for that library are coming in and taking away everything that is used to support that service. They are leaving a terminal for book issue, that is a self-service terminal, but they are removing all of the computers and all of the access to the broader library service.
What happens there is-because my colleague was asking them questions and saying, "Well, how do you join the library? There is no computer"-you have to go to one of the libraries that is run by the council to do that. You can’t do it at that library. How do you look up a book and find out if that book is in the library system? How do you request a book? There is no connectivity to the network, to the distributed network of library services. That may be a difficult case scenario, but I believe that that is one we are going to see replicated because the resource has been removed. I believe that many communities are being put in a difficult situation because it is either, "You run this library or it is going to close". But it does not mean they are being given the tools, the skills and the support required to make that a successful library. There are anecdotes about telephone boxes with piles of books in. That is not a library. There are places that you can have libraries where people can borrow books, but that does not make it a library with all the other things that go with a professionally delivered service.
If you are going to disconnect libraries and devolve them in that way, then I think you are not looking at a library service. Immediately, those volunteers who are taking over the running of that specific library are saying, "How do we do this because we are not connected or supported?" and that is a real live current example. Those things would need to be worked out in some great detail, but I don’t believe without the support of the local authority that any library can be successfully run and deliver a range of services that you would expect from a library from a building that has been abandoned by its local authority.
Alan Davey: It is early days in seeing how community libraries pan out and that covers a wide range of possible models, I have to say. There are some models that do have a connection with the library service, and a community aspect of a wider library service that has access to the right tools, skills and support that Annie talked about. That model seems to work well.
I would worry about a community-based model that had no connection with the possibility of trained staff and was completely set adrift. They could come to us and apply for money for various projects, I suppose, and we would be willing to give them advice. But that does not sound to me like an ideal situation that describes a proper community connection to a library service.
Q75 Steve Rotheram: You have both touched on volunteers and the use of volunteers in libraries. To what extent is there a risk that volunteers in libraries will undermine the role of the professional librarian, and do you both believe that the volunteers should be regarded as part of the statutory provision under the Public Libraries Act?
Annie Mauger: Libraries have always used volunteers very successfully. If you look at specific services that libraries have delivered, like housebound services to people who can’t come to the library themselves, most of the library services-and certainly all of the ones I have been working in, in my past career-have used volunteers extensively to deliver services into people’s homes through the WRVS or local volunteers. Other projects that go on in libraries very often have volunteers involved, so that is not new.
What is new is volunteers doing the job of library practitioners, and the jobs that people do in libraries take a long time to learn, certainly librarians obviously go and study at university and do post-graduate qualifications and they are professional posts. But all of the people who work in libraries understand those principles, which I outlined before, about the right information, that when you ask someone they know the answer because they know where to find it and that it is true; that when you ask someone for advice about a book and what is the best book for your child to read, they know because they have been trained and they know the answers and they can recommend things; that when you ask them to come and talk to children in your school about what is going on in the library and how they can connect with those things, you know that that person understands what they are saying. There are skilled and articulate and very enthusiastic volunteers, but they cannot replace trained library staff who will support people in all of their information needs.
Alan Davey: I would just add that there are many good examples where volunteers are part of the library service and they free up the trained staff to do those added value things to a greater extent. I think that is a very good use of volunteers.
Steve Rotheram: The point I was trying to get to is should community-run libraries and volunteers be included as part of the comprehensive and efficient aspect of the Act?
Annie Mauger: It is at this point that you would say that, unless they have that professional support, it would be very difficult to say that they could be because they won’t be able to deliver a comprehensive library service, in terms of all of the information needs and support to communities that libraries give. It would be very difficult without knowing-I am going back to my previous point-that they were part of the network of delivery of that local authority, that they weren’t disconnected from it but were supported by it, and I think that would be the question.
Alan Davey: You have to look at the library service as a whole and whether these community libraries are part of the wider service. That is the focus that you should have: the service.
Q76 Mr Sutcliffe: We move then to this vexed question of what is the determination of a comprehensive and efficient library service? The Local Government Association tell us that they don’t see the need for a national definition. I understand the Arts Council wrote a lengthy description of what their vision would be but ultimately said that is a matter for the Secretary of State. How do we get some consistency, in terms of how local authorities provide these services, if we are not sure that there needs to be a definition, if we are not sure what the definition is, and what would you like to see happen?
Annie Mauger: I think there needs to be greater definition personally. There are parallels with other services. The library service is not unique in being a national service that is delivered locally. If you look at public health, for example, there are certain things that every person in every local community would expect to find around health-a maternity ward and an A&E. Maybe those aren’t so certain these days, but you would hope that there are certain things that people would understand make up their health service. Libraries are not dissimilar in that model but they are less well defined. I think there is the opportunity for flexibility about local provision and delivery, while understanding what the Open Public Services White Paper was saying-and we responded to-about core entitlements and floor standards, about what a service should look like and what should be there. This is no different to many of those other services that the Government wants to say, "This is how it should look, now do that in the way that best suits your local community within your local resources".
Q77 Mr Sutcliffe: So you think the answer is there ought to be more Government guidance, and detailed guidance?
Annie Mauger: I think, and we recommend, that the Secretary of State sets out a framework for what a public library service should be delivering and how the needs of the local community should be assessed.
Alan Davey: We have adapted the Future Libraries Programme recommendations about how you do a needs analysis and the things you should be taking into account when you look at your service to see if what you propose is still a comprehensive service. I do think it is important that library services are locally delivered and continue to be locally delivered. A national library service would not provide the right things for all parts of the country.
I think we do have to have a debate about what the elements of a comprehensive library service are. I would say it would need to be a kind of framework of things to take into account rather than a detailed attempt to describe, because anything you try to do to describe would not be right for all cases and local conditions, the mix of rural and urban and all that is very important. This is part of working out how the Secretary of State fulfils his responsibility in future.
Q78 Mr Sutcliffe: How has your recent document gone down? What reaction have you had to the document that the Arts Council produced?
Alan Davey: It was the MLA that produced it, just before we took it over. Annie, you might be better able to say about it because you know what people think.
Annie Mauger: The MLA did some research the year before they stopped and passed the function across, and it was very clear from that research that what people want from their libraries is more access and more books; a lot of those things that are still there. But the reality is that we don’t have enough intelligence about the broader impacts of libraries on the community. That is why I very much welcome the research that Alan is now commissioning on that subject, and I think it is a very pertinent time to be doing this.
It is difficult until we also know about those broader impacts. So we have asked if the Secretary of State-and we are recommending that here-could say, "Before we go ahead with decisions that we might not be able to reverse in the future, can we just be clear about what we might be losing" and have a strategy for where libraries fit in the picture of local solutions to local issues, and a national service that is delivered locally means the two can go together.
Alan Davey: Can I just follow up on that? What Annie is referring to is we have announced today a consultation called Envisioning the Library of the Future, which we want to be quick, detailed, based on research and a consultation into what the public value about libraries, looking at societal trends and all the data that we can get our hands on as to the role of libraries in society going forwards. Really getting to the bottom of what the public value of libraries is, down to a contingent value analysis. So that, by the end of the process-and there will be three stages up until the autumn-we will come out with a very clear view as to why people value library services and some of the tools to help those who are delivering library services argue their case within local government. It is a pity we don’t have this research now but we don’t and we need to go and get it.
Q79 Louise Mensch: In our last session we had Sue Charteris talk about the legal challenges that have been given to local authorities when they have closed councils, and we have seen a lot of campaigners taking councils to court. We also heard in our last session from librarians saying that, in some cases, they don’t believe that the consultation process that local authorities have instituted has been a genuine consultation process, and they have challenged it on that basis. Do you think at the moment there is a risk that library policy is dictated in the courts because of a lack of clear standards, that local authorities will go ahead, they will close it, have a review, campaigners will inevitably campaign against it, and it will wind up in the courts. To what extent at the moment do you think that library policy, in a vacuum of standards, is being decided by judicial review?
Annie Mauger: I absolutely think that is a risk and I don’t think it is one that anyone wants. I really don’t believe that is where we want library policy to be decided, through a court process. When you look at the outcomes of those, the judges constantly refer back to the Secretary of State, and I think that is the reality. It would not be good for anyone in the country if library policy was being made and public money spent going through this process time and again, when in fact the courts and the judges are referring back to the Secretary of State.
Alan Davey: This is one of the things that we want to get out of this exercise I have announced today, to get some granularity as to why libraries matter and, therefore, what our policy on libraries should be as a nation going forward. To be honest, the judicial cases all focus on process and no one is talking about policy, about innovation, about where libraries could be going, about why libraries do matter to people, how they could matter to people more. I think there are these really granular arguments that we have to develop and use.
Q80 Louise Mensch: That is a very important point, although it is not in my brief. We talked briefly at the last evidence session about super-libraries and how they may attract people, and community libraries or travelling libraries supplementing those and how to get more footfall. Could you expand a little on that? Do you think there is a risk that library policy is completely reactive, that campaigners react to cuts, challenge on process and, as a result, local authorities are fighting fires without a comprehensive vision going forward of what libraries could be? It is always negative and it is always goalkeeping and there is never any positive putting the ball in the back of the net.
Annie Mauger: Yes. I think you have just said it. I do agree with that, and I think that is the danger, yes.
Alan Davey: The danger also is that there is no breathing space for any of us to be able to articulate what the possibilities are. That is why we are doing this as quickly as we can because we know we need to.
Q81 Louise Mensch: It goes back to the whole comprehensive and efficient issue, and the need to establish that on a nationwide basis. Respectively, are your organisations involved in giving advice to local authorities about navigating their way through the legislation and what they minimally have to do in order to meet the requirements of the legislation? Do local authorities come to your respective bodies and ask for that kind of help, or are you providing it after the fact in this febrile atmosphere where library decisions are so regularly challenged in the courts?
Alan Davey: The simple answer is no. They don’t come to us for advice on the legality and nor would we be qualified to give that advice, but what we do have conversations with people about is, what are the ideas for innovation, how can we do things better, how might we combine things with other services. They will come to us and say, "We have a museum and theatre, how can we make the services work better together and get more value out of them? Do you have any ideas and thoughts?" It is that role for us rather than, as I said, that superintendent role.
Q82 Louise Mensch: These are local authorities coming to you and asking for such advice?
Alan Davey: Yes, and, as our relationship managers in each region settle in, those conversations are happening more and more.
Q83 Louise Mensch: Do you find yourself in the default position of providing the vision that we just talked about? Are you trying to give local authorities a vision of how they could do it better?
Alan Davey: We are encouraging people to have vision and ambition and, hopefully, as we get into our job much more, providing the material for people to weave those ambitions.
Louise Mensch: Is that the same for you, Mrs Mauger? Do people come to you and ask for advice?
Annie Mauger: We get different kinds of approaches. Many local authorities out of courtesy tell us what their proposals are and share them with us, and it is very good of them to do that. But we represent the individuals who work in local authorities, so we have a different role as an independent charity. More than a year ago we produced a leaflet called What makes a good public library service? which we distributed to all local authorities and elected members. We have our views about what that is, but we want to collaborate and work with Alan and colleagues and the Secretary of State about what that should be, and obviously we are the champions of why that needs to be professionally delivered.
The most contacts we have are with individual people who are losing their jobs, so obviously that is a very big area that we try to provide support for and they are our members. That is the role we play.
Q84 Damian Collins: Annie Mauger, the best way to guarantee the jobs for your members is to have libraries that are popular. What lessons have you drawn from some of the initiatives that the different local authorities around the country have pursued to improve the popularity and performance of their libraries?
Annie Mauger: There is absolutely no doubt that there is an enormous amount of positive work going on. The recent survey that we have done of local authorities, which for England had a 55% response rate, so we have some good-quality data-and I am going to send the full report to John as soon as possible after this inquiry-showed that there are areas of investment and innovation. I am sure the Local Government Association was producing information this week about some of those great initiatives as well, and where those are happening then library usage is increasing.
I talked earlier about the correlation between the reduction in investment and the reduction in take up of services, but I don’t believe that is the end of the picture at all. There are routes that we can follow, and we said in our response to the inquiry about looking at innovative ways of saving money with shared services that can be reinvested in frontline activity and things that support people and their usage of community libraries. There is an enormous amount of good practice, collaboration, new builds, all sorts of things that are going on that will develop for people a better library service and there will be greater take-up.
Our issue is about some proportionality issues, because where we see that development and growth the spectrum of the reduction in services is from 1% to 35%, and I just cannot see how, if you reduce library service investment by 35%, you can improve services and the range within that. However I think there are enough examples-and Alan has talked about the library development work that they are doing and the £230,000 that is available to look at innovation this year-and I have to comment at this point that I think obviously we should all be aware that museums have over £40 million, and those are locally run museums as well. So there is a bit of a difference in the dowry from MLA in terms of investment in development of services.
Library services are an enormous part of local delivery and with the right approach I do think there are ways that we can better deliver, and I think some of those are about sharing and collaboration, saving money on the national offer and the national brokerage of services.
Q85 Damian Collins: Do you think librarians should be being proactively talking to local authorities about the way library services should be shaped and changed?
Annie Mauger: That librarians should?
Damian Collins: Yes.
Annie Mauger: I am hoping that they are the expert advisors that are being worked with in local authorities; they all have a senior member of staff who is working in each local authority to advise and support local councillors to make those decisions.
Q86 Damian Collins: Why collectively have we failed as a country in this, because there are examples of library services being transformed? We have seen that in written evidence from different local authorities. But then the trend in terms of usage and lending is down, and often when library services are under threat it is because the usage of that service had dropped dramatically. If librarians are at the frontline assessing what local need is and designing the service around the community, where have we failed in the past?
Annie Mauger: Sometimes, and I think there is a lot of focus on buildings at the moment as well, and library closures of buildings, and in actual fact our survey-and again I will refer to it because it is the most fresh data-shows that it is actually people and opening hours that are being reduced significantly at the moment in this current financial year, but we are in the eye of the storm with these things. Libraries are not always in the best place and buildings do have to change, and usage of a building over time may decline because it is just not where the population is anymore. We have always recognised that, and when I was a chief librarian I closed a library. But there is a process by which you do that and there is a way that you do that, and it involves planning and it involves a great deal of consultation with the local community, and it involves demonstrating what you are going to put in its place.
Q87 Damian Collins: Do you think there has been too much focus on saving buildings in library campaigns, rather than thinking about what the best future of the local service is?
Annie Mauger: Buildings are what people care about very much and get passionate about. I am concerned sometimes when I hear the discussion about one sort of über-library for a local authority. Libraries are a distributed network and people very passionately care about their local service. We have evidence that when you close a library in a local community about 44% of the children don’t go and use another library elsewhere. We have evidence that shows that when you stop having that distributed network you can’t deliver some of the national things that are delivered. If you think about the Summer Reading Challenge-the example I gave earlier-where a local authority can no longer support that, and a lot of the core offers. The recent one, the Society of Chief Librarians talking about their digital promise about allowing people access to the internet and online, now those are through a distributed network, so you can understand that people want those services locally because that is where they go to access those services. One of the issues particularly that is not quite understood is that by measuring book issues, for example, you don’t get parity of picture across the country, and some of the libraries that have been closed in the most disadvantaged areas may not, in quantitative terms, have the biggest book issues, but in fact may be having a greater impact by the way they work as part of the community and the way they are working with people.
Q88 Damian Collins: That is true, but then I suppose 20 or 30 years ago we did not have Sure Start centres in some of the most deprived places in the country-
Annie Mauger: Indeed.
Damian Collins: -and therefore there are probably services that don’t need to be uniquely delivered within a library but can come from another format.
If I could just ask Alan Davey briefly, what is the methodology for the research you are conducting at the moment in terms of what people value from libraries?
Alan Davey: We are doing some desk research and some interviews now for the first phase, which is about the next month. Then we are going to have some seminars, workshops and interviews with the professionals and also members of the public, and an online consultation in the months following that. Then we will go into a more detailed qualitative research with people, really investigating that public value aspect of the question. So there will be three phases, each with publications in, I think, March, May, and the autumn, and that is what we are planning.
Q89 Damian Collins: How many people do you think you will be interviewing as part of that first qualitative phase?
Alan Davey: In the first phase, I don’t have that number off the top of my head, but quite a few.
Damian Collins: A few? I mean, what, three?
Alan Davey: 200 or so. Yes.
Q90 Damian Collins: You put a lot of store on this and I am trying to work out how robust is this and how reflective is this going to be of libraries across the country.
Alan Davey: There will be the online access for people to express an opinion, but we will be carefully targeting and getting the right kind of sample of people, yes, and there will be 220 interviews in the first phase.
Q91 Damian Collins: Those interviews, will they be among library professionals and local bodies?
Alan Davey: Professionals and others, and users.
Q92 Damian Collins: In terms of the responses and the consultation, will you weight those responses to see where they are coming from?
Alan Davey: The whole exercise is carefully weighted and professionally done.
Q93 Damian Collins: We can probably all guess what the response will be, in terms of what people value about library services, and I am sure Annie Mauger could tell you what that would be from her research. But I suppose the interesting thing is, in terms of the strategy for libraries-which is presumably why you are doing the research, the advice you can give-is what focus are you going to put on successes in turnarounds as part of the research? In our evidence we have received examples of successes where library services have been turned around, are you going to focus on those to draw lessons that can be applied in other areas of the country or is this just going to be a general review of what people value?
Alan Davey: We will partly focus on successes and innovations that have happened, but also try to get from people the innovations that have not yet happened and get some sense of why they have not yet happened and what is the blockage to more co-location, for example, or more cross-authority work even, and better, more efficient purchasing; all these things that might lead to a better service and certainly lead to money being used more efficiently.
Q94 Damian Collins: Do you think this piece of work is taking place a year or two too late, because a lot of local authorities are already very advanced in their consultations on how they are going to change their library services?
Alan Davey: As I said earlier, it would have been useful to have had this research in place now, but we are where we are, and we took over six months ago, so I want us to really motor and get going on this so that we are in a good position to better tell the story.
If I can just briefly loop back to a question you asked Annie about librarians advocating their services and innovations, and all that. Just before Christmas I talked to a librarian and said, "What do you want from a body like the Arts Council?" and this senior librarian said, "Don’t patronise us, we know about innovation. We are practising innovation every day all over the country, tell the story of that innovation, spread the good practice, tell the whole story of the library sector in this country so that we can better make the arguments within our authorities for what we need to do, going forwards". I think that is a very powerful expression of what the Arts Council’s role could and should be.
Q95 Dr Coffey: Living in a mainly rural constituency, I am fortunate enough to have seven library buildings and a hugely valued part of the library service is the mobile library, which doesn’t perhaps have the all-singing, all-dancing service. Can you tell us what CILIP and the Arts Council has been doing about the impact on rural areas?
Annie Mauger: There are about 3,300 static libraries but 350 mobile libraries in the UK, so mobile libraries are a significant, important and valued part of services, particularly in rural communities. We are concerned that in many places those services are being removed and there are economic arguments that are being made about the cost per person of taking a mobile library to a rural community comparative to asking those people to drive to a static library. You can understand that those are difficult decisions, but it is about access and it is about those people who just would not get a service unless it was brought to them. It is also about the things that people are able to do in their own small communities and what they can find there and what they can do with their children, or whatever it might be, or if they don’t have great mobility how far they can go and being able to do that locally.
I have worked and spent time on mobile libraries, which I have done a great deal over my career as I have looked after them, and the uniqueness and sense of ownership that people have about their mobile library service is completely different to any other aspect of the service. People have tough decisions to make and local politicians have tough decisions to make, and I think that aspect that I discussed about a distributed service then being drawn into the centre and making people have to go and access those services in a car or on a bus, we know the evidence is less of that will happen. People will stop using services if they can’t get to them easily.
Alan Davey: We acknowledge that mobile libraries are part of the mix that makes a good service where appropriate. Looking forward, I am sure this is something that will come out of our consultation, the importance and the use of mobile libraries and their continuing importance in the mix. But also, as part of the Libraries Development Initiative-this is an urban example rather than a rural example-we are working with Hackney, Camden and Islington on new ways of getting books to people who don’t easily have access to static libraries. This whole issue about how you get access to books nearer to people is going to be live and will continue to be so.
Q96 Dr Coffey: Community volunteer services already do that. It just so happens in Suffolk they are moving probably from fortnightly to monthly. I have no problem with that, if I am honest, if you can have more books out at any one time. There are libraries all around the country that perhaps don’t have CILIP members in but they are school libraries. I think we are going on a visit to Pimlico and some other places. Is there a reason why you think more authorities have not taken the leap of integrating library services with schools because, frankly, some of our schools have fairly inadequate libraries and yet you are trying to push the whole children loan stuff, is that not the role of the school?
Annie Mauger: There are some very successful examples of mergers of school and community libraries and I think that is going to happen more, and we welcome it where it works well. One of the issues that I had when I looked at that, when I ran library services myself, is the sense that libraries are very welcoming to people who aren’t very good at institutions, and a lot of people who feel less comfortable about going into a school will come to a library. So now I think it is very much about how you design that and what it looks like and obviously you will see examples of that.
We have to look at ways that buildings and services are shared. I think that has to happen, and where there is a new build coming up-and certainly in the library authority I was in charge of we did that, we built a library with a school-it is absolutely vital that we look at those kind of things because it also gives that professional input. Most secondary schools-hopefully, many of them-have a librarian and many of them are CILIP members, so being able to work with the community, as well as with the school, is something they are already doing. But I think bringing those services closer together can only be a good thing.
Alan Davey: There is great potential in it, and not only schools. There is an example in Southend where a new library is being built that has the public library and the HE Institution Library in the same place, as well as an arts organisation. I think these co-locations, an amount of mixes, are all worth looking at.
Annie Mauger: Can I just supplement that a little? Just to say that there is strong evidence from research done by the National Literacy Trust that children who are high achievers at school are three times more likely to be library users, and that children who are low achievers are twice as likely not to be library users. We all know about our PISA statistics, and obviously attainment levels at GCSE clearly show that children who read for pleasure and use libraries are much higher attainers, and at the top of PISA are South Korea, who are building 180 libraries, and I believe we are 25th at the moment.
Q97 Paul Farrelly: I just wanted to come on briefly to the law and the Secretary of State. Annie, you said in your written submission that you were concerned that the lack of intervention by the Secretary of State, and I will quote you, "may have made the position worse". What exactly did you mean by that?
Annie Mauger: The best clarity I can give at the moment is we are obviously in a situation where there are judicial reviews happening, there are major campaigns going on. My concern is that, where the Secretary of State has not seen fit to intervene at the moment, local authorities continue to believe that they can introduce a level of unacceptable reductions. I think that is the issue. Obviously, we know years ago, with the Wirral case, that the intervention in that particular area helped a great deal to set some guidelines for needs assessment for what should be done when there is major restructure and change to local authority library services now. I am concerned that the longer the Secretary of State doesn’t intervene, where there are cases that look as though that might be in breach, that then gives licence to other local authorities to say, "We are not going to get any scrutiny or superintending on this issue and, therefore, we can do exactly what we like", and that is not the case, because the Act exists.
Paul Farrelly: It takes a lot of organisation and sheer guts to organise applications for judicial reviews.
Annie Mauger: Indeed.
Q98 Paul Farrelly: Would you recommend then that any group of campaigners, objecting on good grounds to wholesale closures, might bring the Secretary of State into the fray in any judicial review application for having failed to use his statutory powers?
Annie Mauger: There are two things; one is that the Secretary of State is responsible for overview. I know he regularly reviews and he said that he does, to this Committee I believe, with DCMS cases in different local authorities. He has all the tools that he needs in terms of information. As he said, Alan has a network of people who work in each library region, in each local authority area, who can talk about what is going on in the different regions of the country. There should be enough information there.
The campaigners feel strong enough to take these cases up, to fund them and to raise money to be able to do that. That means that they feel that they are not being heard. I know obviously there is that issue about what relationship the Secretary of State should have with those campaigners, but I am not aware of any conversations with campaigners. There could be avoidance of a lot of unnecessary spending, of people and public money, if the Secretary of State engaged in some of those conversations.
Q99 Paul Farrelly: But you did not answer the question. I am saying, to give the Secretary of State a kick up the legislation, do you think campaigners should be encouraged to give him an incentive to use his powers by involving him directly in judicial reviews of his failure to use his powers?
Annie Mauger: I think that is what the campaigners are trying to do. I think that is what they have been trying to do. The outcomes and the judges’ words that I have been reading so far say, "Refer to the Secretary of State", and I think he needs to take action.
Paul Farrelly: Sharpen his Act, you think?
Annie Mauger: I think the Act could do with greater definition, yes.
Q100 Paul Farrelly: Just regarding the Act, it was not designed to cater for a situation where a Secretary of State, who is very busy with everything from press regulation to telecoms, to all the other activities, is actually in a situation where local government budget cuts are effectively forcing wholesale closures up and down the country. Isn’t it the case that the law, if properly applied in this situation, would simply overwhelm the Secretary of State and, therefore, you can understand why he is reluctant to intervene?
Annie Mauger: The Secretary of State has two duties under the Act. One is to superintend and the other is to promote improvement. Those are the duties he has to fulfil. As far as I can tell, there is a risk to those things happening and to a comprehensive and efficient service being delivered locally and he can’t avoid that that is the law.
Q101 Paul Farrelly: Alan, can I just briefly explore whether you have role in advising the Secretary of State about intervention in specific cases?
Alan Davey: We don’t have a role in advising the Secretary of State as to whether or not to intervene. We do have a role, in terms of providing the Secretary of State with information that might form part of the basis on which he may or may not intervene. Then with the second part of the Act on improvement, that is clearly our role about developing libraries and spreading good practice.
Paul Farrelly: In how many instances have you given the Secretary of State advice over these actual programmes of closures?
Alan Davey: We have been providing him with quarterly information. Sorry, we have just provided our first quarter of information, which is a kind of snapshot of what is going on because we mentioned earlier that the data here was quite difficult, in terms of knowing what is going on globally. But we haven’t been asked to provide information in any case yet, in the first six months.
Paul Farrelly: So no firm instance of your-
Alan Davey: We have not been asked to.
Q102 Paul Farrelly: Just finally. You are a very big organisation, a busy organisation and one facing your own challenges in terms of cuts and reorganisation. How far up the list of your priorities are libraries?
Alan Davey: They are central to everything we are about. Yes, we have bigger budgets to spend on the arts, smaller budgets to spend on regional museums and tiny amounts of money to spend on libraries, but I think we have a big responsibility in terms of the role that libraries could play in the future. Every time we have a conversation with local government about what might be going on locally, bringing all the different interests together is very, very powerful. It is powerful in terms of getting a possible bigger impact on the role of culture in those particular communities and areas. So I do regard it as important. It was not an easy add-on that we just took over in the course of something else. It was something we thought about very carefully, and thought, "Libraries are places where things happen". They are places that people like and that people trust. They are one of our most trusted public institutions, and if we are to encourage people to engage with culture more, libraries can be a very powerful place for that to happen. I mentioned our Creative People and Places initiative, which is about those areas of the country with low engagement where historically we haven’t invested very much but quite often there are strong library networks there where things can happen. So I think it really is important to us.
Q103 Paul Farrelly: Final question, Annie. A very simple question: would you prefer Jeremy Hunt to have the statutory responsibility or Eric Pickles?
Annie Mauger: I was asked by a senior Minister where responsibility for a particular service-not this one-should go, and I said, "Give it to the person who will love it the most". My answer is I would like to see several Secretaries of State fighting for the right to this portfolio, because I believe libraries can work across every Department in Whitehall, and do; Education, Business, there is a contribution in them all, and I would like to see them fighting for it, personally.
Q104 Dr Coffey: Sue Charteris’ report seems to increasingly be used as the default when assessing closure programmes. Can each of you give me your opinion on the report?
Annie Mauger: I have referred to the fact already that it laid down some really good guidelines about a proper needs analysis before wholesale changes to library services are put into place, and it turned around the situation in the Wirral. As an observer of what has happened since then, I believe there is a sort of Charteris test that local authorities have tended to apply to their library services, or library practitioners have, in re-scoping services. As Paul has pointed out, we are in an enormously different time in terms of the scale of reductions that have to be found, but the principle of needs analysis is still a good one. But I think we still need to develop how that should be done.
Q105 Dr Coffey: So you think it is a fair basis on which the Secretary of State should or should not intervene?
Annie Mauger: It is one of the elements that contribute to those kinds of judgments, yes.
Alan Davey: It is a good report that is full of common sense and it does form a good basis, yes.
Q106 Damian Collins: I wonder if you could just update on the Libraries Development Initiative.
Alan Davey: Yes. It is the £230,000 fund I referred to earlier, and we announced a number of projects last week. These range from different ways of providing services-I mentioned the Hackney, Islington example-to work with the Publishers Association about digital materials being made available and digital marketing for libraries, to different kinds of activities going on in the libraries, such as cinema in Kirklees for example. There is a whole range of stuff there.
Q107 Damian Collins: Finally the role of your 12 regional representatives, do you want them to be proactively going out to local authorities and challenging them about the way they run their services, highlighting examples of good practice from that region or maybe elsewhere in the country that perhaps they should follow?
Alan Davey: I want them to be actively going out and having conversations with local authorities, as part of our wider conversations with local authorities. Their role is not superintending; the word "challenging" sounds like it is part of the superintending role, so I think it is more about challenging towards a better ambition.
Chair: Thank you both very much.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: David Pugh, Leader, Isle of Wight Council, Nigel Thomas, Service Delivery Manager, Leicestershire Library Services, and Elizabeth Campbell, Local Government Association (LGA), gave evidence.
Q108 Chair: For the second session this morning, can I welcome Councillor David Pugh, the Leader of the Isle of Wight Council; Nigel Thomas, the Service Delivery Manager for Leicestershire Libraries; and Elizabeth Campbell who is speaking for the LGA.
Mr Sutcliffe: Given all the cuts that local authorities have to face and all the problems, whether it is education or social services, to what extent do you think that libraries are an easy target for local authorities to make savings, perhaps easier than some of the others? Perhaps the LGA might kick that off.
Elizabeth Campbell: Anyone who thinks closing libraries or libraries are an easy target has another think coming, as we have seen from all the campaigners. Redesigning services isn’t a decision that anyone can take easily. It is extremely difficult, but at the same time as local councils we are suffering cuts of 28% over the next four years and libraries have to take their share of that, but redesigning services doesn’t necessarily mean closing libraries. I would just like to speak from my point of view, as a councillor in Kensington and Chelsea where we are merging services with Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham, where we will be taking £1 million of savings out but we won’t actually be closing any libraries.
Nigel Thomas: Yes. I agree with that. Very much again, in terms of my experience in Leicestershire, there is tremendous support for the library service politically and locally and-as Elizabeth has pointed out-decisions are not taken lightly. Every aspect of local authority services are having to make really, really difficult decisions, and in terms of trying to mitigate some of that, similarly Leicestershire is looking at that shared service in a slightly different aspect, where we are looking at sharing cultural services and aligning libraries in a shared management structure with museums, heritage, arts and adult learning.
David Pugh: Thank you. I think it is fair to say no local authority would approach any library closure lightly. The scale of the savings that have already been referred to-the scale we have had to make, some £20 million in one year-leads us to a situation where, once we have taken out back-office efficiencies and a whole range of things that could be seen as excessive, we are left in a situation where some frontline services cannot be left unaffected. The savings we made in our library service, which have led to some closures of Isle of Wight Council-run libraries that are now run by the community, were less than 2% of the overall savings we agreed. It is fair to say that, with the scale of what we had to do, there was no part of the local authority, including the library service, which could be immune from being considered as part of that.
Q109 Mr Sutcliffe: I had to ask the question. The remodelling of the service-and we have heard about innovation in the evidence sessions that we have had, but we have also heard from campaigners who want to keep every library open, every building open-what do you think you can do as local authorities to help sort that out and get the community to understand the need for remodelling of services, which does not necessarily mean a cut in service but the service has to change. How do you go about that?
David Pugh: We have done a huge amount of consultation with the public, which did actually shape our final proposals. It is fair to say the vast majority of the public do accept that it is very much the national picture that local authorities, along with the rest of the public sector, have to face some significant reductions in funding and have to look at decisions such as this. If a local authority, such as mine, can develop final proposals that are clearly seen to have taken into account some of the points expressed by the public, I think some of that anxiety will go. Some of the campaigners, rightly, feel very strongly and they have taken action that we have seen referred to earlier. Other people who feel passionate about the libraries have decided to get involved as volunteers and make a contribution that way. Clearly people will approach it in a different manner. But I don’t think we can dismiss the strength of feeling among many of these campaigners, and we can do all we can to try to explain the scale of what we are trying to do but there will be a starting point for some of them that nothing must ever change. What we are trying to demonstrate is that even if local authority-run libraries close, it doesn’t necessarily lead to the reduction in the quality of the service being provided.
Nigel Thomas: Certainly consultation in the Charteris Report is full of good sense. I think it is really important, as well, to ensure that library services are strategically positioned correctly to enable them to demonstrate their value to other wider agendas. In Leicestershire, for example, we are aligning services very much with health and wellbeing because there is a real positive role that the combined libraries, museums and arts offer can make, particularly on things like mental health and wellbeing. I think it is very important to ensure that you are telling the story when we are going out to communities and engaging in that conversation with them about the future of the library service, to make sure that we can tell a story about the value the library service has.
Q110 Mr Sutcliffe: How do the LGA help in terms of advising authorities that have problems and what is the-
Elizabeth Campbell: The LGA has taken quite a strong role with peer-to-peer mentoring, with seminars, with things on the internet, with talking to people, because we believe that each authority will find its own solution to its own problems, but it can still learn from what other authorities are doing and, therefore, tailor it specifically to what they are doing. For example, what David is doing in the Isle of Wight is completely different from what we are doing in inner London. We will both be producing services that are better for our own communities but they won’t look exactly the same.
Q111 Steve Rotheram: In the earlier session Annie Mauger said she would welcome a clearer definition of what was meant by "comprehensive and efficient", while the LGA have argued it would not be appropriate. Given that there are different approaches adopted by local authorities to library services and library closures, would a more detailed definition help local authorities when they are making difficult decisions to redesign services?
Elizabeth Campbell: No, absolutely not. At the moment, I think with library services what the LGA feel is that we have to be as innovative and as flexible as possible, and having one definition across the whole country would not help us at all. As we said, again what David is doing with his libraries, what his library service is doing is completely different from ours. In a city centre, libraries are terribly important for the young, for people to come and do homework in, for the old who are isolated, you know the actual buildings themselves as sort of indoor parks are terribly important, for example. They may not necessarily be in a rural area. That is one point.
The second point is things are changing so fast now. The 1964 Act talks about gramophone records. Five years ago we were looking at redesigning Kensington Library; we were looking at plugs to stick computers in. That is all gone now. If we are really looking at the future and we are really looking at Kindles, and everything else that brings, and how we are going to redesign services to make them efficient, the last thing that local government needs is a straitjacket of prescribed things from the top down.
Nigel Thomas: The risk is that, once you begin to really define all of that, you almost immediately build in obsolesce. I think there has to be flexibility, and each local authority-certainly from our perspective-needs to be able to say, "We are approaching it in a slightly different way. We are looking at a joint cultural offer, which very much involves libraries as the greater part of that". But if that then conflicts with a statement, that makes it very difficult for the local authority to respond to local need.
David Pugh: Ultimately, it is a matter of local determination. Councils such as mine will make decisions that will not be universally popular, but the accountability for that sits at the ballot box come election time. We know that if we have taken decisions that the public object to, they will make their opinion clear as part of that process. So that is where the local accountability comes in. I don’t think having a national prescription on what that should be reflects the fact that communities, such as mine on the Isle of Wight, are very different to Kensington and Chelsea and many other parts of the country. So we are happy to make those decisions locally to redefine our service and to be accountable for that. I think that fits in with the spirit of localism this Government places particular emphasis on. That may reflect why the Secretary of State has operated generally a light touch. If I could perhaps add, I think that the Secretary of State should continue to operate a light touch, and only really look to intervene in the most extreme of circumstances where it appears that a local authority will be in flagrant breach of that duty. Unless there is clear evidence for that he should continue to allow local determination on these matters.
Q112 Steve Rotheram: Mr Pugh, you spoke about local accountability, which leads onto the second question I have, which is that we heard in the last session that some library campaigners believe that local authorities do not understand their library service. What is your response to that?
David Pugh: Our decisions on the library service have been very much informed by the professionals that run our library service. They were not necessarily in full agreement with the approach we have taken, as have many library users not been either. But as part of the council as a whole, they have recognised that difficult decisions have had to be made and they have offered up proposals that have been based on an evidence base, looking at the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, where the usage figures are, and what the general need is across our wider community as to how we take this forward. We wouldn’t have developed any proposals, unless it was informed by that feedback from the library professionals and those qualified librarians who head up our service. It has not been an easy process for them, and we have worked closely alongside them taking their feedback on board. But I think it is fair to say no elected member, certainly not in our local authority, would take decisions like this lightly, and certainly not without the professional input of those librarians.
Nigel Thomas: Speaking as a professional heading up a library, part of my role is to make sure that members are fully apprised of all of the information so that they can make the right decisions based on the evidence they pick up.
Elizabeth Campbell: I would say the LGA are asking for the updating of the 1964 Act, precisely because we believe that our local communities do understand their library service and they do understand the changing needs of their community better than anyone else. We were talking about consultation. Again, with my tri-borough hat on, our findings on sharing three services across the three boroughs highlighted that we had very positive feedback for residents. We had 67% of our residents feeling that sharing services was a good thing. With our stakeholders we had three-quarters of respondents feeling that our councils should support shared services. So we had very, very strong feedback. That is exactly why the LGA are saying it is up to councils to find out, through their needs assessment, what their local communities want.
Q113 Steve Rotheram: Would you say that lack of clarification in regard to the definition of "comprehensive and efficient" offers local authorities an excuse when they are closing down library services?
Elizabeth Campbell: I don’t think it is an excuse. They have to prove that it fits into their overall strategy and that they are looking at it as a whole, and they have to do a proper needs analysis and if they are don’t then they will have a problem.
David Pugh: The needs analysis is a vital point. No decisions on potential closures should be taken unless the local authorities have looked at the responses from the public and looked at the areas of deprivation, as we did. We made the decision that the libraries we would continue on the Isle of Wight were in those areas of greatest need, and that reflected both usage and the characteristics of the population in those areas. So the ultimate decision should be evidence-based. That should be reflected in the necessary equality impact assessments, which authorities like mine have had to do, and when our decision was judicially challenged that was recognised as being a sound process. That is a very thorough thing we have to undertake.
Nigel Thomas: Yes, and again the Charteris Report has laid out the framework in terms of representing good practice and what you need to do in order to make those decisions. So I think the points have been covered.
Q114 Mr Sanders: Accepting that you cannot have a national definition of "comprehensive and efficient" because each local area is different and will approach this in a different way, shouldn’t local authorities publish their views of what a comprehensive and efficient library service means to their area so that the public can judge whether you have fulfilled that?
Nigel Thomas: Yes, very much so. That is about being transparent to people that are using us in terms of the information that they have. In Leicestershire, for example, we are involved with the local account that Adult Social Care are producing, because we are part of that directorate, and the library service is very much moving towards spelling out what the library service would do, but also what our commitments are year on year and at the end of each year whether we have met them or not, so that they can make the decisions and then become engaged in a conversation about how that develops.
David Pugh: Yes. Local authorities should be clear on what they consider to be a comprehensive and efficient service. We have done that. We have said six core local authority-run libraries, supported by a mobile service, is a comprehensive and efficient service. We have been very clear that our five community libraries now in place are not part of that service-that picks up on some of the points from earlier-that is over and above what the local authority provides but it is still supported by the local authority. We have reached a view on meeting the requirement and that the public will be the judge, no doubt.
Q115 Mr Sanders: Would you say that in some way that may have contributed to you successfully resisting judicial review?
David Pugh: It did. If you look at the judgment, it was thrown out before it went to a full hearing but the judgment was clear that we had undertaken a consultation, we had approached the decision with an open mind and we had taken into account the feedback from the public, and particularly we had done the equality impact assessment. So the judge was not minded to take the case forward because, having done an initial review of those points, he did not feel there was an arguable case.
Q116 Dr Coffey: In my view, Judge McKenna did make a controversial ruling about Gloucestershire and Somerset in November last year. In oral evidence last week, Sue Charteris suggested the current situation whereby local authorities have been taken to judicial review is starting to become a legal minefield. So can I ask Elizabeth Campbell, the LGA said in its written submission, "Understandably, councils are making difficult decisions-I fully get that-to close libraries based on robust consultation", so why is it that judicial reviews are turning over some local authority decisions?
Elizabeth Campbell: In the case of Gloucester County Council and Somerset Council, you will find they were held unlawful because the councils failed to comply with the public sector equality impact, not because they hadn’t done the other assessments, so I think that is a slightly different point.
Q117 Dr Coffey: The LGA thinks that those two councils failed?
Elizabeth Campbell: I am not going to comment on particular cases. What I am saying is that they were turned down not because they failed to consult properly, or that their plans would fail to produce a comprehensive and official library service, but because they did not do their equalities impact assessment.
Dr Coffey: The stuff on the equality was not done, yes okay.
Elizabeth Campbell: So that is slightly-
Nigel Thomas: It goes back to that duty of making sure that you have done a full assessment of your local community, which includes things like equalities impact assessments.
Dr Coffey: Okay and we have just heard from Councillor Pugh on that particular thing. Thank you.
Q118 Paul Farrelly: For Councillor Pugh, first of all. Could we just be quite clear: you would not have done this without the 26% cut to local authority budgets from the Comprehensive Spending Review, is that the case?
David Pugh: It is fair to say that this came on to our radar because of the scale of the spending reductions we faced and the front loading nature of them now. I am not going to get into an argument today about the merits of that approach, but I think we all know that the Government have taken the decision they have to significantly reduce funding to local authorities. Our decisions were made in that context.
Q119 Paul Farrelly: In your review in 2010, according to your evidence you were looking to save £400,000 rising to £500,000 a year out of a £2 million budget, so effectively the libraries were taking their similar percentage cut. Can I ask you, did you conduct a needs and impact assessment before producing those target budget savings?
David Pugh: The initial level of potential budget savings was built into some early draft proposals for the budget following a public consultation. There was a more detailed equality impact and needs assessment that took place before the final decisions were made, which took into account the feedback from the public. Part of the problem-and this has been a learning curve for all local authorities-is that when a needs assessment and the EIA is undertaken there are actually various stages of that. There were some initial aspects of that done prior to the development of the proposals, but-
Paul Farrelly: My question was more specific, was any of that done in any proper form before producing target budget savings for the library service?
David Pugh: Yes it was. In fact, we did a very comprehensive public consultation exercise throughout the summer of 2010.
Paul Farrelly:Before producing those target savings?
David Pugh: Yes. Once the coalition Government was elected and it became clear that they were looking to undertake significant funding reductions to local authorities, we started an exercise in the summer of 2010 preparing for that. There were various stages of that before the final decision, but the initial budget savings target was based on an initial assessment and that feedback from the public.
Q120 Paul Farrelly: You then went on, from what evidence says, "Into an island-wide consultation, based on a set of draft proposals", which you say was to stimulate debate. It certainly did because they overwhelmingly rejected your plans to close nine out of 11 libraries, did they not? I have been inundated with library volunteers actually from the Isle of Wight, writing to me. Can I just quote one of them? They say that IWC failed to carry out an effective impact statement and tried without success to get volunteer groups to carry these out on their behalf. "Far from being an innovative approach, as summarised by David Pugh in his presentation, the survival of the libraries was achieved by various campaigns in spite of IWC’s original attempts to close nine of 11 libraries on the island. It is disingenuous and misleading for David Pugh to claim otherwise". That is what one library volunteer has written to me.
David Pugh: The library campaigners and some of those volunteers feel particularly strongly. What I can say, based on my own experience as a volunteer in Shanklin-the library in my own ward has closed as a result of the decision, but it is now a community-run library-is that the vast majority of volunteers have rolled up their sleeves and got on with assisting those community libraries, and that success is very much down to them. That isn’t something we as a local authority can take credit for, and I don’t come here today to seek to do that. It has been a difficult process, and many of the people who got involved have disagreed with some of those decisions we have made. But the issues around the equality impact assessment and the process were firmly dismissed by the judge. That is ultimately where the decision had to be made.
Q121 Paul Farrelly: I just want to move on briefly to the issue of judicial review. You said clearly it was unsuccessful. In your press release from the council before coming here, which seems to have ruffled a few feathers, you also talk about an appearance at the LGA in these terms, "The LGA has asked Councillor Pugh to share with other local authorities how the Isle of Wight approached its library closures, particularly in terms of steps that ensured that a judicial review challenge to the decision was unsuccessful". You are going to the LGA to demonstrate to them how people can learn from the way you have approached it, is that correct?
David Pugh: To be clear, we as a local authority approached some difficult decisions. We saw those decisions through. I am not saying it is a model that works everywhere, but clearly the whole process of undertaking equality impact assessments, and the delicate nature of that, is something we are keen to share best practice with other local authorities. We are not saying it is a model they may wish to undertake, but I think anything that can help local authorities make sound, legally binding decisions is a good thing.
Q122 Paul Farrelly: This is a question from one of your library volunteers who writes, "Why has Councillor Pugh stated several times to the press that IWC won the case against the campaigners and that the High Court Judge said that they had done nothing wrong? In actual fact, the case was dismissed because it was outside the time limit and the judge in his summing up specifically stated that ‘he was worried by the obvious lack of any equality impact assessment’?"
David Pugh: I am not quite sure where they are quoting that from but I have a full copy of the judgment and we have not seen a statement along those lines. We need to be clear, it was dismissed because it was out of time; the judge then went on to say that, even if he had granted an extension, he would have refused the application for a judicial review anyway. He went on to say there were difficult circumstances affecting the defendant but that they had listened to the consultation and altered their proposals accordingly. He went on to say that the decision made by the Cabinet on 1 March was made with an open mind, equality issues had given him cause for reflection but in the end he decided they were not valid.
Paul Farrelly: I think we should have a copy of that judgment to see who is writing history accurately.
Dr Coffey: Do you want it completely on the record?
David Pugh: I have a copy here.
Paul Farrelly: Absolutely, we will get the copy.
David Pugh: It is worth saying that, because it did not go to a full hearing, there wasn’t actually a full written statement but we have a transcript of what he said at that initial hearing.
Paul Farrelly: If you could provide that to us that would be very useful.
David Pugh: Yes.
Q123 Paul Farrelly: In terms of needs assessment, this is a question that again has been posed to me. We will get on to professional librarians in a moment; this is my final question for the moment for you, Mr Pugh. I understand you don’t have professional librarians in your community libraries and the question here is-and I will read it verbatim-"Users can have learning difficulties, mental health problems and suffer from loneliness, professional librarians build up relationships with the library users, especially in rural areas. To have that taken away could have a serious effect on users". Was this something that the council considered in its needs assessment?
David Pugh: We did. We looked at particular user groups, and that is reflected in our full equality impact assessment document. The first thing to be clear on is that volunteers have not replaced professional librarians. It is a different type of service in those community libraries. That is why I emphasised that those community libraries are not part of our statutory service because it is linked in with that point. The volunteers in our libraries are providing a service but one of a very different nature. We are continuing to provide the confidence of an efficient service through our core libraries.
I would like to just touch on the issue of professional librarians. We have some very dedicated staff in our local authority-run libraries and they work very well with the volunteers in support of their development across the island. The professionally qualified librarians we have in our library service principally work in our library HQ. I think there has occasionally been a myth that all people who work within libraries are professionally qualified at being a librarian. While there are some very highly qualified people in terms of library qualifications, certainly in the case of our library service, they principally work within the management supporting the development of people who actually work in the library. So there are various levels and distinctions and we have some very dedicated people who work in our libraries.
I must just give an example from my own community library in Shanklin, where a gentleman recently approached us wishing support with reading and some of the challenges to which you refer. Our library volunteer co-ordinator-which is a paid part-time post supported by the town council, of which I am a member-is currently in discussions to make sure we can identify someone to support that individual. We need to be clear, just because community libraries may be supported and run principally by volunteers, the opportunity for them to draw on particular members of staff and skills to support members of the public who have particular needs has not gone away.
Q124 Paul Farrelly: I am sure we will want to come on to volunteers and professionals again later, but I just wanted to give Mr Thomas a chance to make some comments. Mr Thomas, in Leicestershire your approach seems to be worlds apart from the Isle of Wight. How do you explain that?
Nigel Thomas: In Leicestershire a decision was made to undertake a strategic review of the libraries, heritage and art services collectively, and shared intelligence with Sue Charteris and BOP were involved in producing that strategic review. What that review did was to outline a broad framework for us to move forward in our redesign of the library service, accepting the fact that one of the key drivers was the need to look at the financial situation. What it produced was clearly a decision that there was no simple quick way-it was very complicated, obviously-to look at the savings that we were required to make. It outlined some options for us to explore over the period of the next medium-term financial strategy, which were a mixture of redesign, joined-up services, and also some service reductions. We did make a decision to reduce some library opening hours after a period of consultation. One of the immediate things that we did do was to undertake-on the basis of that report that was approved by Cabinet last year-a restructuring of libraries, heritage and arts services to consolidate a cultural offer, so that we could be strategically placed to deliver on wider objectives.
Q125 Paul Farrelly: Could you tell us which political party leads Leicestershire?
Nigel Thomas: Conservative.
Paul Farrelly: Conservative, so just like Staffordshire, which is not closing any libraries; just taking the politics out of this issue then.
With respect, your long answer did not answer my question. My question is: how do you principally account for your approach being so different from the Isle of Wight, which originally proposed to close nine out of 11 of its libraries?
Nigel Thomas: I can’t comment on the Isle of Wight’s approach but in terms of Leicestershire, in terms of our financial forecasting, we knew that there was going to be a particular issue in terms of the public consultation on the medium-term financial strategy. Libraries, heritage and arts services were one of those areas where residents felt that less money could be spent, and accepting that the decision was made to take a long-term strategic view of how that might be achieved.
Q126 Paul Farrelly: You were very careful in your evidence to say that you are going to explore community involvement in the libraries over the next two years.
Nigel Thomas: Yes.
Paul Farrelly: Compared, for instance, with the Isle of Wight, is your caution explicable, in terms of looking carefully at sustainability, the financing of any different models of community involvement? You just want to proceed delicately so you can make sure, as part of your strategic review, that what might replace existing provision is sustainable?
Nigel Thomas: Leicestershire’s approach is Leicestershire’s, and I think what we wanted to do was to give us a period of a medium-term financial strategy, where there is a commitment not to close any libraries or museums, to enable us to have that conversation and to present some options for local residents and to begin that conversation.
Q127 Louise Mensch: Mr Thomas, you were saying that you started with your financial review or consultation on the medium-term financial review for your authority and that arts, heritage and libraries are one of the areas that your residents said or you thought you could fruitfully make some savings on. This question goes to everybody on the panel, would it be fair to say that local authorities are starting from a position of "We need to make these savings, how do we make them?" and looking at it and saying, "How many libraries would we need to cut out of the budget in order to achieve a target figure?" or do they start instead from a position of, "What do we need in a library service and how can we deliver a comprehensive and efficient service?" In other words, are you looking at what is required from a library service as your first port of call when you make these judgments, or are you looking at the amount of budget that you need to save in order to be able to run your local authority? Could I start with you, Mr Pugh, since you took a strong line?
David Pugh: Yes. Our starting position was recognising it is in the context of the fact that we needed to deliver savings across the local authority and what we also felt in this area was: how do we best, within a reduced budget envelope, provide the best comprehensive and efficient service we can? That is why the consultation, which took place before we identified the potential level of savings, did a comprehensive survey of our users of libraries and we identified this as the best model. So I think it would be a bit crude to jump to the conclusion-although I appreciate some of the campaigners may do-that we just felt that was the level of savings we needed and that was the reduction in libraries to match that, because there would have been an even cruder or more simplistic way to do that if that was our approach.
The needs assessment behind the final decision we made, and looking at those areas of deprivation, very much informed the fact that we do want a comprehensive and efficient service, how do we best achieve that and what budget envelope can that be achieved in as well, which ultimately led to an adjustment of the savings we were going to make.
Nigel Thomas: As I say, we have the length of the medium-term financial strategy but what we are doing at the moment is looking at what the criteria might be for the delivery of a library service, given the fact that we now have conjoined services with colleagues, museum, heritage and arts. What we are doing is looking at the criteria for that, looking at what the options of delivery might be, and then going through a period where we do a needs assessment. It might be, for example, that we look at an area where there might be a library that in the present format we may wish to relocate or think of another way of operating it. In order to make that final decision, I think we have to have a very clear idea of what the nature of that locality is, what its transport links are, what the levels of literacy and employment are and so on, and then we are better informed to make a strategic and informed decision.
Q128 Louise Mensch: Again, you assert that you start with the needs of library provision, and you work back from there as to how you can make savings?
Nigel Thomas: Yes.
Louise Mensch: Is that your experience across the LGA? Is that what your members report?
Elizabeth Campbell: Yes. That is what most authorities are doing, but you can’t take the libraries out of the whole budget cuts. They are both happening at the same time, and if I can just give you our experience in London across the tri-borough. We had a look in the same way and saw cuts were coming, and thought, "How do we not only safeguard what we have, how do we keep our 21 libraries across three boroughs open, maintain the number of hours, but at the end of the day produce a better library service for our customers?" I suppose that is what has galvanised all our thinking; how are we going to be more resourceful, more ready to modernise at the end of it, at the same time as taking £1 million out of the service? We feel that we will have done that. We will have taken £1 million out over the next couple of years, but we will have one library card serving all our customers. We will have a million books that they can take out. We hope our footfall of 5 million over the three boroughs, coming forward, will mean that we are probably more open to sponsorship or other deals. We may say that this is the first step. We will merge first, make our library service efficient and then think, "What now? What other things can we do?"
Q129 Louise Mensch: When local authorities are making decisions, do they have robust enough data on which to make decisions? For example, do you have enough information about library usage and also local needs in order that your decisions are informed? I am particularly interested in the difference between hard and soft metrics. Usage is a hard fact. You can get usage, footfall figures, they are not debatable. In some of our evidence sessions we have heard from various librarians and librarian groups about metrics that are harder to measure, what librarians bring to local communities, social involvement, that kind of thing. Speaking for myself, it is not an argument I find massively convincing because those things could be delivered elsewhere, whereas to my mind libraries have a very specific focus on education, books and delivery of related services. So you are you content that there is enough hard data available to you when you are making these difficult decisions, and do you attempt to measure these soft metrics and, if so, how?
Elizabeth Campbell: You start.
Nigel Thomas: Yes. There is a wealth of information out there. We have heard of joint strategic needs assessments, there is information within Leicestershire, which tells the story of some of the key demographic and social aspects that affect Leicestershire, and from that data that informs our joint strategic needs assessment. There is a lot of other information that goes down to very detailed aspects of how people use our library service. We have had a marketing approach to the way that we deliver our service so that we can say things like, "If you join the library for the first time and you take four books out, the chances are that you are going to be a regular member. If you take one book out, the chances are that you are not and you are going to lapse". So that has raised issues about: what is the offer to those different people? It is two different things, and where does the resource go?
To look at the point about hard and soft data, soft data is a challenge and it is very difficult to get hold of. There is an interesting question there about, what is performance for the library service? Is it volume and footfall or is much more focused work on vulnerable adults, which is much more resource intensive, and how do you capture that?
Louise Mensch: Indeed-whether or not that needs to be delivered via a library service or to do it through other community organisations or buildings or services.
Nigel Thomas: Yes.
David Pugh: Just to add to that, there is some very hard data on which we can make these decisions and that is partly evidence-based, which led to the approach we finally took. One of the reasons for doing the comprehensive consultation was the written feedback from library users, which set out some of their concerns. My submissions to the Committee-in paragraph 27- set out some of the main issues that were raised that related to inaccessibility, transport, removal of access to ICT for job seekers. So there are some other things that cannot be quantified in hard stance, but we were able to take into account. Ultimately, local councillors representing those particular areas were able to raise those type of points, which the hard data alone could not offer, and that informed the process.
Elizabeth Campbell: That reinforces the point, which the LGA always wants to make, that the people who really understand their local libraries, their local communities and what they want, are local councils and it can’t be done top-down. You know what your local communities want, whether it is hard data or soft data.
Q130 Damian Collins: I want to ask Elizabeth Campbell first. You touched on the tri-borough initiative, that is a collaboration of a number of different services across those three London boroughs, was libraries always part of the plan or was it-
Elizabeth Campbell: Yes. Libraries were always part of the plan because in some ways it is the simplest place to start, because you have pretty much mirrored organisations across the three. For example, with our library services where we would have four heads of service, we will now have one. Down the next structure of the senior management team is going to take quite a lot out, a lot of back office staff will come out, so we can maintain the frontline services absolutely as is and yet take a lot of money out.
Q131 Damian Collins: How many residents are there across the three boroughs? What population does this united service serve?
Elizabeth Campbell: Half a million, I suppose. That is quite small if you compare it to other areas like Kent or somewhere.
Q132 Damian Collins: Yes. How easy do you think it would be to replicate that across other parts of the country?
Elizabeth Campbell: If I am really honest I think it really helps if you have a political alignment, because quite a lot has to be done on trust. Certainly, from our point of view when we started it helped that our three leaders of the council, the three chief execs, could get together and the three Cabinet members in each borough and we just said, "We really want to do this. We accept that sometimes the figures won’t quite add up or you will get a bit more or will get a bit less, but as we go forward with staff harmonisation or other services there will always be winners and losers at different stages". So that really helped. I think it would be difficult to do it without that atmosphere.
David Pugh: It would be difficult-
Elizabeth Campbell: Yes. It would be very difficult.
Damian Collins: You could go with Hampshire, couldn’t you?
David Pugh: We could, yes. As a local authority, we do some joint work with Southampton, but a library is a bit difficult, even though we are part of the wider south-east grouping of libraries.
Nigel Thomas: Leicestershire’s model is different. It is about shared management. It is the same principle, but looking at it across cultural services, libraries, heritage, arts and adult learning, so that we were able to deliver £1.3 million in savings principally through a staff reorganisation, but retaining librarians in localities along with other professionals, curators, keepers, who now will work as a team in terms of being consultants in terms of what services are delivered through the work that they do with their local communities.
Q133 Damian Collins: Would there be the scope in Leicestershire to consider a cross-county initiative?
Nigel Thomas: We are looking at that as part of the review that we undertook. Part of that was a wider look at shared services and we have taken a lead in bringing together heads across the East Midlands to have some discussions about that. For example, one of the things that we are committed to doing is looking at how we can explore bibliographical services with the City of Leicester, and that is a conversation that we will be having later on in the year.
Q134 Damian Collins: Ms Campbell, to what extent can the LGA advocate certain models of efficiency, like the tri-borough initiative?
Elizabeth Campbell: What the LGA is doing, through its successor to the Future Libraries Programme, is exactly that. Highlighting various cases, telling people to come along to seminars, disseminating information, sending in like a friendly Ofsted with peer reviews going in, and then it is for each council to look at what is happening and the examples and see what suits them. Some councils might look at what David has done in the Isle of Wight and say, actually, that is the way they need to go, community libraries, volunteers; some in metropolitan areas might look at what we have done in London and say, "Actually, that looks like the model that is closest to what we could achieve"; or others might look at Leicestershire. That is exactly the point that the LGA is trying to make: it is for each area to figure out what will suit them best so that they can produce the best service.
Q135 Damian Collins: Could I ask a slightly different question, to what extent does the LGA feel that the Arts Council’s involvement has been helpful? You have a national body taking a national view and conducting national research, yet you are advocating a very localised approach to delivering.
Elizabeth Campbell: We are very happy to have the research for people to use. It is very helpful to have numbers and it is very helpful to have an overall body advising, as long as it is someone who is disseminating information, advising you, showing you good practice-great.
Damian Collins: As long as they do not get in the way.
Elizabeth Campbell: As long as they are not telling people what to do, they are merely showing them what are good examples and advising, I think that is all to the good.
Q136 Damian Collins: A final question I wanted to ask-Elizabeth Campbell first, but I would be grateful for any comments. We have received written evidence from London Borough of Hillingdon about their initiative involving private organisations-particularly coffee shops in their case-into libraries, so that is has not only provided more money for the service but increased visitors. Do you think this is a model that more councils should look at?
Elizabeth Campbell: Again, it depends on the area. I have been to Hillingdon to have a look at their cafes. Cafes will work in Hillingdon, they won’t work in Kensington and Chelsea because you just pop out around the corner. So it is horses for courses. I think they are doing a great job and their footfall is up. Fantastic, but it wouldn’t necessarily work for us.
To go back to what Mrs Mauger was saying about, for example, libraries in schools, we were looking at putting a library into a school. We were building a new school for £8 million and we thought, "Great-we’ll just pop a library in there, tick all the boxes, community, volunteers, schools can pay for half, and we will share with Westminster", but when it came down to the needs analysis, and we looked at the footfall in the area we were serving it didn’t work. So it works in Pimlico, it doesn’t work in North Kensington. That is exactly what the LGA is always saying. You have to go back to the local communities, local democracy and let them provide what works in their local community.
David Pugh: If I could add, that type of approach isn’t being planned in our local authority libraries, but our community libraries are looking at other ways to generate income and support those libraries. Certainly from my one in Shanklin, we are looking at the rest of the footprint to the library site to see what else could go along in that building to support the library. So one of the benefits for community libraries, which I think hasn’t been highlighted yet, is the more flexible nature they have in what they do. They are not a core part of the statutory service, but we are now looking to shape that library in response to some of the points the community are raising with us, whether they want evening openings, whether they want other activities to take place in the library space and in other parts of the building. So I think the type of suggestions you are making we won’t necessarily see in core library services but in the community ones, and anything like that can help sustain them.
Q137 Damian Collins: It begs the question, though, if a community library is reshaping its service around what the community wants and that is successful, why wouldn’t the core libraries learn from that?
David Pugh: They can perhaps learn from us once we have developed it. One thing we are looking at as well-and this is perhaps in line with what Leicestershire and other places may do-is the volunteers that are getting involved in our community libraries we may start to see replicated in some of our core libraries alongside the staff, because they can see the benefits of what is happening in some of the other libraries perhaps being brought across to them. So we may get more of a mixed economy in time as it develops.
Nigel Thomas: There is an interesting point here about coffee shops in libraries, the commercial aspects of it. A feature of Leicestershire’s restructuring is to set up a small enterprise unit that will look at how using the experience that our museums and art services have, how we can learn from that because we have this now shared managerial approach to really capitalise on some of the more commercial aspects of the service. A simple example within Leicestershire is just the use of the library as a place to hire as a venue by local community groups or any other group. By just realigning some of that, it is a small amount, but we have actually doubled our income from being clever about how we market our venues. It is about £20,000, but nevertheless £20,000 is £20,000.
Q138 Mr Sanders: Just to Councillor Pugh, in terms of volunteering, how do you recruit people, how do you get people to volunteer or is there no need as there is a willing pool of people who come forward?
David Pugh: There is no magic bullet for how to do it and I think all the libraries have done it differently. Again, I will speak from the experience of mine because I did the initial lead initiative to recruit volunteers for our community library. We held an open day. We publicised it in the press. We invited people along and we were overwhelmed with the response, the initial response was some 25 people, which may sound small but that is a lot of people to volunteer to work in a small community library. The way it started off was that we had a waiting list to get those volunteers trained to be in the library, and there is a steady team of them working in there. I have another session coming up myself within the next fortnight. So it has not really been an issue. It goes back to the point Elizabeth was making earlier about different communities and different needs. On the Isle of Wight we have a very distinct community with a very vibrant community spirit. People are very enthusiastic to get involved in things like this, and it has been reflected in what we have done.
Q139 Mr Sanders: Do you have a written policy on volunteering?
David Pugh: We are currently looking across the local authority, where we are seeing volunteers coming in to support a range of different services, to make a more consistent approach to that. There are some basic principles we have applied, but we have generally left the community libraries to develop their own approach. There are things we ask all volunteers to sign up to, such as data protection because they are dealing with sensitive information and so forth. But generally, it has been each community developing it on a model that best seems fit.
Q140 Mr Sanders: How accountable are community-run libraries to the local authorities in terms of the quality of the service?
David Pugh: They are not accountable to the local authorities. That is the beauty. They are accountable to their communities. They are accountable to the local authority in terms of having strong support from the local authority. But I think that actually works more the other way in terms of what the local authority can offer them, rather than the library back to the council, because it is not part of our core service and we are not setting service standards on them. What we are doing is making books available to them, access to the whole infrastructure and the wider library database, but there is no formal accountability because they are not part of our service.
Q141 Mr Sanders: How do you ensure that these community libraries do not undermine professional librarianship?
David Pugh: Going back to something I said earlier, we very much recognise the volunteers are not replacing professional librarians, they provide a different type of service. I have to say the library staff who we have worked alongside have been very helpful. They have trained me and other volunteers in what we have been doing, and they have been very supportive of that particular initiative. There hasn’t really been any conflict there at all. But it is an evolving model, and I am sure from time to time there will be issues, but it is a partnership more than anything else.
Q142 Mr Sanders: How hands-off is the local authority, in the sense that the premises will have bills, it will have taxes to pay, heat and rent, security issues, and there has to be some accountability to the local authority for some of those costs and activities?
David Pugh: Yes. There are different models for our five community libraries. All the buildings that are in the ownership of the Isle of Wight Council have been made available on a peppercorn rent. Utility costs are generally met by those community libraries but we still have some transitional funding in place to support some of them, and our rural community council is getting involved in two of those libraries. But ultimately, the libraries operate under their own steam. Some of them want to move into different places to co-locate with other services, but we will support them to whatever extent they need within reason. The main support they get is training, the access to the books and the infrastructure, and we have also installed new software and a broadband connection to ensure that they have the ICT connections they need. It is that type of thing from the centre that is enabling them to be as effective as the other libraries and not seen as a second class service.
Q143 Paul Farrelly: It is very important to drill into the detail to make sure that the model you have is sustainable. Just on professional librarians, you said earlier on that volunteers have not replaced professional librarians. So could I ask you, just from your own experience, who ran Shanklin library before it became a community library.
David Pugh: The Isle of Wight Council did. Just to be clear and to expand on that point, the reason I say volunteers will not replace professional staff is we are not trying to say that they are doing a similar type of job. It is a different type of service in terms of what is provided. These people are not in the paid employment of the local authority. In some ways there is some greater flexibility in terms of what they can do and the support to people visiting the library, but it is a different service in the same location.
Q144 Paul Farrelly: I don’t want to get into a debate on the definition of "replacement"; I just wondered who ran Shanklin library before the community volunteers took it over?
David Pugh: The local authority.
Paul Farrelly: No, who ran it; individuals?
David Pugh: Those are individuals who are still in the library service working in other libraries. We have a pool of staff who work across different libraries in the library service, so those staff are working elsewhere but there were individuals, yes.
Q145 Paul Farrelly: Do you have any professional librarians in Shanklin library now?
David Pugh: There weren’t professional librarians before. There were paid staff who had a huge amount of experience and a lot to contribute to that service. But we do not have Isle of Wight Council-paid staff in there. We have a part-time paid member of staff, paid by the town council, who is our library volunteer co-ordinator.
Q146 Paul Farrelly: Just to be clear, you did not consider the staff running Shanklin library beforehand to be professional librarians?
David Pugh: They weren’t professionally qualified in the terms of the library qualifications. That is in no way meant to dilute their contribution because the experience and the professional approach they took to the library service was considerable, and is considerable, but I think there is a distinction that should be made between professionally qualified librarians and library staff.
Q147 Paul Farrelly: We are debating nuances here now again. I just wanted to quote one of your library volunteers locally-because they have taken the trouble to write to me-who says about professional librarians, or however you wish to define the professional service that they give, "Getting rid of the professionals, i.e. the librarians, has damaged the service the library service offers on the island. All the volunteers are undoubtedly doing their best but we do not have the professional knowledge that we have now lost". How would you react to that?
David Pugh: I don’t know which library that comes from. It is certainly not a comment I recognise from the community library I am involved with. There is no doubt that the new community libraries are different, and the professional paid members of staff that were previously in those libraries are no longer there. What we do have for our community libraries is access to-as I have previously said-the infrastructure of the service, and continuing support and visits from the management of the library service to assist us in developing those facilities. Let us be clear, as I said earlier, the community libraries are not part of our statutory service, they are over and above that and, therefore, they are not part of what we are defining as the local authority offer.
Q148 Paul Farrelly: Okay. You mentioned IT and infrastructure; do you in the Shanklin library have full access to the council’s library IT infrastructure, full access to, I think, your Spydus system. You have full access, not partial access?
David Pugh: Full access.
Q149 Paul Farrelly: Is that the case for all the libraries on the-
David Pugh: In my understanding, the Spydus system, which is the type of library software we use, allows us access to the users of principally Shanklin library but other people can drop off books there. Also, most importantly, it allows access to the full database of books that can be reserved, taken out, returned and so forth, through our community library. The actual customer experience in that respect is unchanged.
Q150 Paul Farrelly: Your experience of Shanklin is rather different from one volunteer who described only partial access to the Spydus IT system as "The all-time bugbear".
David Pugh: It may be partial access, in the sense that if someone from another library comes in we cannot look up all their details because of data protection, but the partial access is minimal in terms of the impact of that. The main thing for library users-if you take my community in Shanklin-is being able to access the full range of books on the library system. That is unchanged.
Q151 Paul Farrelly: How many times in Shanklin has the stock been rotated in the last four months?
David Pugh: There was some stock rotation before Christmas; we have some more coming up. But that is principally the issue of our library co-ordinator. The stock rotation in the community libraries, as far as I am concerned, will be no less than what takes place in the main libraries, albeit the community libraries tend to be smaller.
Paul Farrelly: I am told by people who have written to me that it used to be monthly but it has only happened twice since October.
David Pugh: You have various statements there, and I have seen many of them on blogs and other sites. I can’t verify the finer detail of all of those, but certainly I can speak for my own experience in Shanklin that we do not see a dilution in our service. It is different. It is not part of our core service, and I fully accept that some of those people feel very strongly and are not going to agree with the approach we have taken. As I said earlier, we had some very difficult decisions to be made, we have seen them through and I am confident that those 11 libraries will remain in place on an ongoing basis.
Paul Farrelly: Mr Pugh, you will be glad that this is my last question about Shanklin library.
David Pugh: Shanklin library has never had so much exposure.
Chair: You are going to move on to another library.
Q152 Paul Farrelly: There will be another library, absolutely right, Chair. I am a glutton for punishment, because people will no doubt write to me from Shanklin en masse after this.
But new stock, how does Shanklin library go about buying new books when it decides that it wants to have some new books in stock?
David Pugh: Actually, it is a very positive situation. What we have set up is a library management steering committee, of which I was very briefly the chair but, thankfully, I have managed to pass that over. That committee oversees the feedback that we get from the public on what books they wish to receive. We feed that into the Isle of Wight Council’s library service and say, "Shanklin wants these books and can we order them?" Like any request from the public, clearly, if it is some obscure thirty-first volume of an encyclopaedia we may not be able to order it in, but if it is something that is seen to be of sufficient demand we will ask the Isle of Wight Council Library Service to get that in for us, or we could top it up with funds of our own. But there is no barrier to getting new stock in at all.
Q153 Paul Farrelly: So you are dependent on new books coming from the reduced number of six libraries?
David Pugh: No. They are not coming from the six libraries. They are coming from the Isle of Wight Council’s library stock, which serves all 11 libraries. Those books aren’t self-contained in those six libraries. The books serve all 11 libraries together.
Q154 Paul Farrelly: The Shanklin library-sorry to mention it again-will be able to get new books as easily as it did before?
David Pugh: Yes.
Q155 Paul Farrelly: The final area is sustainability of the model and, Chair, as you predicted, I want to move on to another library, Bembridge library. People who have been volunteering at Bembridge library complained that when the council offered them a lease the council legal department asked who their solicitor was. Are they expected to bear the costs of a solicitor to negotiate the lease?
David Pugh: It is fairly commonplace when any local authority is negotiating a lease with a third party organisation or business that the process of conveyance takes place on both sides. What I can say in the case of Bembridge is that the Rural Community Council, who are overseeing that, which is partly a council-funded organisation, have ensured that the necessary resources are in place to enable that.
Paul Farrelly: They seem to be quite concerned in Bembridge that they don’t have a full budget yet, so-
David Pugh: I must invite you down to the Isle of Wight, if you are this interested, because I can only really explain the detail of some of this if you can see it firsthand.
Paul Farrelly: I will definitely come, and perhaps pop a regatta in there at the same time.
David Pugh: We have brilliant regattas.
Q156 Paul Farrelly: The detail is important, though, because the people who have written from Bembridge to me are a bit concerned that the utility costs, and the other costs that you talk about, are going to cost £12,000 a year and how they are going to sustain that raising it themselves over-
David Pugh: That is actually part of a discussion we are due to have with all community libraries in the coming weeks. None of these libraries have been left to wither. There is some ongoing financial support from the centre and we want to make them a success. We are not setting them up to fail. The types of discussions we will be having with them are on the very issues you have raised, and if you want to come along then please do.
Q157 Paul Farrelly: Okay. I am going to be very brief on the final questions on the details, Chair, because they are important. There are five parish councils that have had to increase their precepts because of your plans. Am I right in saying East Cowes Town Council raised its precept for 2011-2012 by 21%, and it was stated publicly that this was solely to fund the local volunteer library service. So aren’t you just passing the cost on?
David Pugh: I have seen that particular point raised and I know, from speaking to my colleagues on the East Cowes Town Council, that that precept rise was not just to do with that. The issue here is parish councils have taken decisions of their own volition to raise their precepts for things that they consider to be a priority for the town. There are other things they may or may not have chosen to do. They chose in that particular case to raise the precept to support that community library taking place. These community libraries are not part of our core service. Therefore, it is a matter of local discretion whether they choose-which they did in this case-to raise their precept to support it, and I know they felt it was something that their community wanted and needed and they chose to do it.
Q158 Paul Farrelly: Can I quote the final of the five people who have commented to me? As a general verdict, reacting to your press release before your appearance here, I must say, the general verdict is, "How can the Isle of Wight Council, who we had to fight every single step of the way to stop them closing Bembridge library, claim-in such self-congratulatory terms-that the success of the community libraries and the fact that no libraries have closed is down to them? What we have done is to work against the council to prevent our local library closing and to support our local community. It was not to give the Isle of Wight Council a medal".
David Pugh: Firstly, to be clear, I come here today not to claim success, but to note what has been achieved on the Island, and I must pay tribute to the community groups who have largely achieved that of their own initiative. That isn’t an Isle of Wight Council plan and nor am I suggesting it was. We have helped enable it by making resources available and-as I have said-by putting the infrastructure in place. But this is not anything but acknowledging the huge and considerable input of the communities in making this a success.
Paul Farrelly: Thank you. I am sure I will have more emails than I care to receive over your Spydus IT system.
Q159 Chair: Perhaps you could conduct it through correspondence.
Just before we finish, contrary to the impression given, this Committee doesn’t actually want to run every single library on the Isle of Wight or anywhere else, but there is the general principle obviously of localism. So this is a more general question, particularly, I think, to the LGA, does it not seem a bit strange that in this particular function of local authorities, the provision of library services, you have this backstop power of intervention to set up an inquiry by the Secretary of State and ultimately to take over the running of it?
Elizabeth Campbell: Yes.
Chair: That doesn’t exist in other local authority areas. Do you think that this is an anachronism and it would be better in the spirit of localism to do away with it?
Elizabeth Campbell: Yes.
Chair: That is a very easy answer. Would the other two of you take the same view?
Nigel Thomas: Leicestershire’s point would be that local authorities need to devise their own local solutions.
David Pugh: I think it just builds on what I said earlier, local determination. We welcome the Secretary of State’s interest in terms of him having that power but it should be a light touch and one that he implements at his own discretion.
Q160 Chair: He has made it pretty clear that he will only use it as a last resort; he believes in localism, so certainly the LGA view essentially would be that it would be simpler and more transparent to say, "This is a matter for local authorities to determine"?
Elizabeth Campbell: Exactly. That is exactly the case.
Chair: Thank you very much.