Ben Bailey Smith, Gill Furniss MP and Chris Riddell (left to right)
Credit Rolf Marriott Photography and CILIP
Actor Ben Bailey Smith and Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell joined politicians in a packed committee room at the House of Lords last night to launch the new All Parliamentary Group for Libraries.
Rob Wilson, Civil Society Minister, whose responsibilities include public libraries in England told the audience that he will use the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act against local authorities that can’t justify library closures.
Addressing a room full of MPs and Peers he said he aimed to take a strategic view of the problems facing the public library sector, “The challenge is to think strategically about reform and service delivery and not to tinker with the service piecemeal.”
The Minister made his strongest statement yet about policing library closures, “Councils really need to make these decisions based on robust evidence rather than being ad hoc and reactive. They should gather the evidence on local needs and actively consult local people and local professionals on the options to meet these needs. I also expect councils to consider a full range of funding and delivery options before making significant cuts. If we receive complaints at DCMS and where councils do not appear to be meeting their statutory duties, we will investigate and where needed we will take action under the 1964 act.”
CILIP, the library and information association has been campaigning for the public’s right to quality public library services. My Library By Right holds central and local Government to account for their legal duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act to provide ‘comprehensive and efficient’ public library services.
At the event the new Chair of the APPG, Gill Furniss MP said, “I was brought up on a council estate in Sheffield and my dad was a reader. When I was four he took me with him to the public library and it was like walking into an Aladdin’s cave.”
She added, “If my dad hadn’t taken me to that library I do not think I would be stood here as a Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough. I’ve got my career and the knowledge it gave me which drove me on to go and get a degree and eventually become a Councillor.”
Commenting on her role she said, “What I have to say in response to the Minister is that many challenges have been placed on the libraries sector in the last few years, some of them becoming increasingly difficult. And as chair of the APPG I don’t mind falling out with the minister. If there’s a cause to be fought for I’ll go and tell him about it. So I’m just putting him on warning there.”
At the event Ben Bailey Smith, actor, rapper, comedian and children’s author gave an exclusive reading of a new work by best-selling author Ben Aaronovitch who is a trustee of Cityread London, the capital's library development charity which boosts library attendance and has generated £1.5m for library programmes since its launch in 2012.
Before the reading Ben said, “I’m not here by coincidence. I was raised on a council estate in North West London and shared a bedroom with my sister who was very annoying and used to read constantly through the night and keep me up and force me to read the books she read so I grew up reading Judy Bloom and Little Women that brought me to tears … but as much as she bugged me she got me into the library culture.” His sister is the acclaimed author Zadie Smith.
The All Parliamentary Group will promote the role of libraries across society and the economy. Libraries in communities, businesses, schools and Universities provide everyone with opportunities to ensure the UK benefits from a high-skilled economy and equal society.
CILIP supported the launch of the APPG and will provide its secretariat. Nick Poole, Chief Executive of CILIP reminded the audience of the wider community of 30-40,000 libraries staffed by, “an army of 90,000 librarians adding value making a profound contribution to the social and economic fabric of our great nation.”
CILIP and Health Education England have recently launched a new campaign, A Million Decisions, to remind health service leaders in England of their responsibility to ensure evidence-based practice under the Health and Social Care Act. The campaign highlights the beneficial outcomes when healthcare services are planned and delivered with input from dedicated health librarians and knowledge services. The campaign hashtag #amilliondecisions has received over one million impressions in twenty-four hours.
Mark Taylor Director of External Relations, CILIP
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Credit image Rolf Marriott Photography and CILIP
Notes for editors
1. CILIP, the library and information association is the leading voice for the information, knowledge management and library profession. Our goal is to put information and library skills and professional values at the heart of a democratic, equal and prosperous society .CILIP is a registered charity, no. 313014.
2. Cityread London is a registered charity that promotes the key ideas of reading for pleasure, engaging new library users, enhancing the experience of existing readers, and encouraging people to explore and celebrate London’s culture, landscape and history. Cityread London represents culture for all, with library services in London, Reading and Slough developing a programme of reading, activities and events using a variety of formats including ebooks, audiobooks, large print, and in translation where possible, aimed at encouraging readers at all levels.
Founded in 2012 it has featured: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (Penguin), 2012; A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks (Vintage), 2013; My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young (Borough Press), 2014; Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz) 2015; Ten Days by Gillian Slovo (Canongate) 2016.