Thursday, March 10, 2005

Library funding

I am delighted to see that a committee of MPs have raised the issue of library capital funding.

At present we have bene given the usual pile of Government targets that we are supposed to try and meet, along with recommended size of library floorspace for any given population, but the Government allocated no capital funding to expand libraries. Nope, not a dime.

In Oxfordshire nearly all our main town libraries are way below the size they should be, because of decades of housing growth.

Despite these constraints I am glad to say that we have ben bucking the national trend of decline and actually getting more people into our libraries, buying more books and lending more out.

We have been able to do some redevelopments by some pretty clever schemes thought up by our staff.

We have just been able to commit funding for a new library in Thame as well, which i am delighted about.

BUT - we are only scratching the surface. With some real cash we could transform out town libraries and turn them into local centres offering traditional library services and much, much more. Libraries should be the base for the delivery of range of council and infromation services. They should have faciltities for every age group - parent and toddler sessions, child and teen sections, homework areas, book clubs, pensioner clubs, IT access and the rest.

Libraries can play a serious role in supporting learning for children and adults, for expanding aspirations and informing and engaging people.

And it wouldn't cost that much to act as a catalyst for real and rapid progress.

The Government claims to want to see all this happen, but they haven't so far put their money where their mouth is.

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