The following research briefing was published earlier today by the UK House of Commons Library.
The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 requires local authorities in England to “provide a comprehensive and efficient library service”.
“Comprehensive and efficient” are not defined. It is the responsibility of each library authority to determine how to deliver public library services in the context of local need. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport can order an inquiry where there is concern that a local authority is not fulfilling its duties under the Act. This has not happened since 2009 when an inquiry looked at the library services provided by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.
Concerns about the impact of funding cuts on library services are ongoing and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals has launched a “My Library By Right” campaign. This is calling for the public’s “rights to libraries to be recognised and respected” and for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to carry out its duties under the 1964 Act.
The issue of library closures has also been contentious. The DCMS has said that it does not “commission specific information” on how many have closed. However, it has estimated that 110 static public libraries closed in England between January 2010 and January 2016 while at least 77 new public libraries had opened.