HC Deb 11 November 1991 vol 198 c776
30. Mr. Andrew Mitchell

To ask the Minister for the Arts if he will make a statement about the future of the public library service; and what steps he is taking to assist its development.

Mr. Renton

I have recently ordered a review of the public library service in order to set out options on how it may operate into the next century. That will be a major follow-up to the last Government review, "The Libraries' Choice", which set the way for change in the 1980s, and will be completed by 1993.

Mr. Mitchell

In paying tribute to the six public libraries in my constituency, especially Arnold library where I hold one of my regular monthly surgeries——

Mr. Tony Banks

Only one a month?

Mr. Mitchell

Just one of my monthly surgeries. May I say that my right hon. Friend's review will be a great success if it succeeds in spreading library services ever wider to a larger number of people in a modern and effective manner?

Mr. Renton

I agree with my hon. Friend. The important thing is for libraries to look ahead over the next five to 10 years and to decide what nature of library services will be required, how local authorities can ensure that libraries are built in the most suitable places and what they can do to get the balance right between the lending of books and of tapes and records. I am delighted to hear that my hon. Friend regularly holds an advice surgery in a library, and I am sure that it is extremely well attended.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Is the Minister aware that during the past decade changes in relation to the library service have been almost entirely negative and that it is far more difficult for people on shift work or with small children to obtain access to libraries? There are far fewer library budgets capable of replacing and expanding the numbers of books. Far from the libraries needing to look forward to changes, they need some straightforward financial support and an understanding of the role of women librarians who form the majority of library workers at the lower echelons of the service if not in the Minister's Department.

Mr. Renton

The Library Association has made it abundantly plain that the problem for libraries over the next few years is not money but choice. It is making the service available to the average family which may not necessarily have the library habit. Parents and children must be attracted to libraries. At the heart of the review that I have asked to be undertaken is how to make certain that the libraries continue to provide the service that the community needs.

Back to