Over the last two years, Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries have repeatedly called on the Department of Culture Media and Sport and Culture Minister Ed Vaizey to superintend Gloucestershire County Council in it’s review of our public library services. We have been consistently ignored. We were vindicated in November 2011 when Gloucestershire County Council lost a court case in which their library plans were ruled to be unlawful, yet DCMS still did nothing. To our dismay, over the last fortnight we have found ourselves once again having to take on the duties of the DCMS and superintend GCC
Therefore, we welcome the following statement from Dan Jarvis MP, Shadow Culture Minister. Prompted by our experience, he has called on Ed Vaizey and DCMS to act and show some urgently needed leadership. His full statement can be read below
Dan Jarvis Accuses Government of Incompetence on Library Lending
Dan Jarvis MP, Labour’s Shadow Culture Minister, today accused the Government of ‘incompetence’ for failing to provide clear and timely guidance to councils on setting up community libraries, after confusion over concerns that volunteer branches may be breaking the law by lending books without making payments to authors.
Dan Jarvis said:
“This out of touch Government encouraged councils to shuffle libraries off to community groups, without thinking through the implications or potential pitfalls of doing so.
“Dozens of volunteer libraries have already been set up, but there has been real confusion over whether they could be found in breach of copyright legislation. DCMS now say volunteer libraries can lend but it is still unclear whether, and how, they will pay anything to authors. It’s a shambles and symptomatic of a lack of interest in the future of the service that threatens to undermine library provision even more than it already has been.”
In response to inquiries from campaign groups in Lewisham and Gloucestershire the Public Lending Right (PLR) Registrar, the office which administers the system of payments which lets libraries lend books without breaching copyright, has stated that volunteer libraries outside a council’s statutory provision would not pay the PLR. The Society of Authors has also raised the alarm on the issue.
Dan Jarvis said:
“This is only one of a number of issues around volunteer libraries, which also face questions about everything from training to data protection. We strongly welcome community engagement in libraries, but it needs to be handled carefully and cannot dilute the responsibility of local authorities, or the Government, to provide a decent and accessible service. But there has been very little advice or oversight from DCMS as councils rush to increase the use of volunteers.
“Ministers need to do their job and provide some clear guidance and leadership on this issue as a matter of urgency – it is astounding they have not done so already. They claim to believe that libraries matter, but when it comes to their duty to oversee the service, they are making it up as they go along.
“Ministers have a track record of leaving it up to under-funded campaigners to challenge councils in the courts. That is simply not good enough. I want Ed Vaizey to assure us that he will get on and act.”
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