Library strategy agreed by cabinet

Last night, the strategic library review was agreed by Cabinet. You can read the Cabinet papers on the Barnet website.

The strategy is a good example of the council’s One Barnet objectives. It shows a commitment to sharing opportunities in the borough and it shows that a reduction in budget doesn’t just mean less of the same. The principles underpinning this strategy would be the principles of a new library strategy if we had twice the budget.

The strategy also represents a commitment by the council to support the literacy of Barnet residents – young and old. Extensive consultation made it clear that residents want a service that promotes literacy. We can do this best, by making reading for pleasure second nature for every Barnet child, and supporting people for whom full time education was not a success.

The strategy proposes that every primary school child receives membership of their local library. We all know that a child’s education continues outside of school hours and I want to our library service to support that.

During our consultation, parents asked that we have libraries open earlier so that they can bring pre-school children to the service after they have dropped older siblings off at school. We will be doing just that. Under this strategy every building will open at 9.30 at the latest.

Our commitment to literacy extends beyond children. In the 21st Century literacy, and almost as important, information literacy, is the key to successful employment. Our corporate plan makes it clear that this is a council that supports sharing opportunities and sharing responsibilities. Literacy has to be at the heart of all of that.

We will be piloting a new service with The Reader Organisation working with people who have a low level of literacy. This is an agency that has used literature and literacy to open the minds and raise the ambitions of many people – from those with learning difficulties to ex-offenders. I hope this pilot will turn into a lasting relationship.

It is gratifying that there has been widespread support for the strategy in the media. I believe we have delivered the best possible library strategy for the current and future readers of Barnet.

The strategy plans will now go through a second public consultation.