We welcome this thorough, wide-ranging review and thank Baroness Sanderson for engaging so warmly with the sector. Baroness Sanderson’s passion for libraries was evident throughout this process - our staff and members are grateful for the enthusiasm and openness with which she approached this challenging task.
The review’s recognition of the cross-cutting impact of public libraries – on digital inclusion, health, literacy, loneliness and much more – will be especially appreciated by our members. As Baroness Sanderson notes, national and local politicians often misunderstand and underestimate the work that libraries do.
We particularly welcome the recommendations for a national data hub, automatic enrollment for children and the creation of a Libraries Minister in recognition of the cross-departmental nature of library services. We are pleased that Lord Parkinson has committed to taking these forward in next year’s libraries strategy.
The underlying issue for the sector, however, is underinvestment in the public library network, the result of successive cuts to council budgets, inflation and rising demand for other statutory services such as social care. For libraries to truly prosper and fulfill the potential outlined in Baroness Sanderson’s review, councils need a fairer, long-term funding solution. Without this, it is difficult to see how these recommendations can be fully implemented and resourced.