More to libraries than just buildings

The following letter was published in today’s edition of The Barnet Press:

 

I agree with much of the sentiment of your editorial of October 27, “we cannot allow our libraries to go easily” but disagree with a central tenet of your piece – that the only way of measuring the success of a library service is by the number of buildings.

We have been clear that the heart of our library service has to be promoting reading and literacy, even if the means by which we promote these has changed.

With this in mind our library service review has invested in more adult literacy support, has committed the council to providing every primary school pupil in the borough with library membership and has increased the book-buying budget.

With less money available for public service, if we simply provide less of the same we will be dooming services like libraries to a general spiral of decline.

All of the public sector faces the unavoidable challenge of working with less money, library services will have to deal with a reduced budget. But the approach we have taken in this borough leaves the service well prepared to meet its priorities over the coming decade. While reducing the library service budget by more than 20 per cent, in line with other council budgets, we have avoided the wholesale building closures seen in other boroughs.

In Barnet we see the need to provide a range of buildings to meet local needs. Some of these will be major landmark libraries, others will be smaller link libraries specialising in outreach and adult literacy.

And as our newly published budget proposal shows, we are also hoping that positive community proposals also come forward.

The council’s new library strategy shows that by being clear about what we are trying to achieve, we can produce a service that is better for the great majority of its users, meets the changing needs of residents and is fit to prosper in the coming decades.

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