Written Statement – Public Libraries in Wales

John Griffiths, Minister for Culture and Sport

Our public libraries are vital to Welsh Government strategies, policy and delivery for knowledge and skills, education and community development.  On 3 December, I announced an expert review of current and future plans by local authorities to deliver public library services. I would like to update members on progress to establish the expert review panel which will produce a report by July 2014. In supporting the review, my officials in CyMAL will work closely with local authorities through the Welsh Local Government Association. The panel will also consider the work  of the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee’s short inquiry into public libraries in Wales.

The review will be undertaken by a small reference panel chaired by Claire Creaser, Director LISU, Loughborough University. Claire is an authority on library performance measures and led the development of the latest Welsh Public Library Standards Framework. The other panel members are Prof Hywel Roberts, a respected authority on libraries in Wales, Dr Steve Davies, Cardiff University who has a particular interest in the management of community libraries, and Peter Gomer, a Policy Officer at the Welsh Local Government Association, who has extensive experience in managing local authority cultural and leisure services. The panel will be tasked to produce a report by July 2014. I am grateful to the Chair and the members of the review panel for agreeing to complete this important work.

The panel will be initially tasked to review the current situation relating to local authorities’ delivery plans for public library services. Information will be sought from each local authority and further research commissioned on the likely impact of proposed changes on the performance of library services in meeting the current Welsh Public Library Standards Framework. A comparative benchmarking of the position in Wales against other national public library services outside Wales will also be available to the panel. The panel’s conclusions will be included in their report which will outline the position on an all Wales basis, highlighting best practice and any areas of concern.

In considering the position on a Wales-wide basis, the panel will be further tasked to consider whether alternative service delivery models would provide more efficient and effective library services, based on collaboration and joint procurement.

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National Assembly for Wales Inquiry re Public Libraries (in Wales)

In late November 2013, the National Assembly for Wales commenced an “Inquiry into Public Libraries” when it posted online a letter stating “The National Assembly for Wales’ Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee is to undertake a short inquiry into public libraries in Wales“, and went on to say “To assist with its inquiry, the Committee would welcome your views on the following matters:

  • The extent to which progress has been made by the Welsh Government towards achieving its Programme for Government commitments relating to libraries, and how sustainable any progress is in the current climate;
  • The extent to which the current legislative and policy frameworks are suitable to meet the challenges facing local authorities delivering library services in Wales;
  • How well-prepared the Welsh Government and local authorities are to mitigate the impact of public sector cuts on library services;
  • Options for improving the financial sustainability of library services, including alternative models of provision;
  • The contemporary and community role of public libraries in Wales.

Invitation to contribute to the inquiry
The Committee welcomes responses in English or Welsh from both individuals and organisations and will hold oral evidence sessions in due course.”

N.B.  To read the National Assembly for Wales’ original letter in full, please see http://www.senedd.assemblywales.org/documents/s21921/Consultation%20letter.pdf

Pennard Library

Pennard Library

Unfortunately, the Pennard Library Working Group only found out about the said ‘Inquiry’ in early January 2014, and as all replies had to be submitted to the ‘Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee [at the] National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff’ by 17 January 2014 latest, a reply was quickly formulated and sent.