CILIP, the UK’s Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, has launched a public campaign, My Library By Right, to pressure the UK government to honor its legal obligations to provide a proper British library service. As CILIP’s explanation says, “under English law, everyone has a right to quality public library services provided by Local Authorities using statutory guidance that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport should provide. However, these rights are not widely understood and for too long the statutory nature of library services has been ignored. This has allowed the withdrawal of financial and political support for public libraries in England to go unchecked, resulting in the loss or ‘hollowing out’ of services.”
My Library By Right is only the latest in CILIP’s many efforts to stem that decline. The campaign consists of a petition open to public signature, and other social and physical media (including a Twitter hashtag, #MyLibraryByRight, for supporters to tweet). The campaign aims for: “The public’s rights to libraries to be recognised and respected; Public libraries to be treated as the statutory services they are; The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to carry out their legal duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act; [and] Statutory guidance for local authorities on their duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act from DCMS, with support from CILIP and the library and information profession.”
Nick Poole, CILIP Chief Executive, said, “We urge all Authorities currently considering or implementing changes to their library services without statutory guidance to put these plans on hold pending the outcome of these discussions with DCMS. Changes made to library services without reference to an appropriate statutory guideline may not be lawful, not only under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, but also in respect of the requirements of the 2010 Equality Act. As a community, we want to work with you to deliver the quality library service that the public demands and has a right to expect.”
As to how successful the campaign will be, that remains to be seen. But the whole exercise underlines publicly that UK central and local government are breaking UK law by not providing suitable library services.