Reader Letter: Library dismay

The old Norwich Library. PHOTO: Archant

The old Norwich Library. PHOTO: Archant - Credit: Archant

One reader thinks the council must think carefully before taking away any public library services. What do you think?

As retired professional librarians with more than 59 years' service between us and each with membership of our professional association of over 50 years, my wife and I are appalled at the general state of the public library service in the UK.

The free public library service was established by an Act of 1870. In 1964 the Libraries and Museums Act placed a legal duty on library authorities to provide 'a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons'. This Act of Parliament has never been repealed but government spending has led to the erosion of the excellent services created.

We at one time had a public library service to be proud of but now our young people especially are being denied the full access to a comprehensive range of literature and information as was once the case.

A number of local authorities have been challenged, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport having responsibility under the 1964 Act to ensure that services meet its quite specific standards and to investigate complaints.

In Norfolk, we have been fortunate to be spared the severe cuts experienced by other local authorities.

Long may this continue to be the case and we urge Norfolk CC to think very carefully about the possibility of withdrawing the mobile library service on which many depend.

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Pre-1870 those who could, paid for their library services. Others relied on charitable institutions where the book stock was, for the most part, donated, poor and dilapidated.

Pre-1964, book boxes in community centres and in village halls were commonplace and a poor substitute for a proper branch or mobile library.

It seems that we are destined to return to this situation unless the 1964 Act is adhered to, those authorities flouting it brought to account and local government services properly funded.

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