Gloucestershire County Council are due to implement a new library strategy which will see 7 of the county’s libraries fall outside of the statutory provision and into the hands of volunteers. Over the last two years we have repeatedly warned of the dangers of this and raised concerns about how this would work in practice. Sadly, we were ignored and answers were not forthcoming. We begged Gloucestershire County Council that if they insisted on volunteer run libraries they at least consider them as part of the statutory provision so that they would be accountable to tax payers and library users. Gloucestershire County Council refused and made it very clear that they wanted to wash their hands of these libraries and to be in no way responsible for them.
It has been bought to our attention today that this may mean that these volunteer run libraries may not be able to lend out books to their library users as they are not covered by the public library lending licence, as explained here.
Gloucestershire County Council have already found themselves to be in breach of the law over their library cuts once…and now it would seem that they have made volunteer run libraries vulnerable to legal wranglings also.
We have contacted Gloucestershire County Council to ask :
can you tell us whether or not you were aware of this issue and whether or not you notified the communities set to take on the running of their library before they submitted business plans so they knew this may be a problem for them?
What guidance did you give them? What guidance did you seek/receive from the DCMS on this matter?
We await their response with interest.
It is of little wonder that these issues are not being thought through when the Culture Minister, who is supposed to oversee library provision, and the Department of Culture Media and Sport are sitting on their hands and failing in their duty to superintend the provision of public library services in a time of unprecedented cuts.
The PLR issue it is yet more proof that these volunteer libraries, which are being pushed onto communities, with no guidance from DCMS and the Culture Minister are little more than a risky, reckless and ill-thought out experiment.
UPDATE 29/06/12 : Gloucestershire County Council have issued a statement to the press saying that the situation is unclear and they are investigating further.