FOI Request - Library Closures
Re Moray Libraries: I would like to know what information and recommendations were given by The Moray Library and Information Service to Moray Council prior to the library closure announcements in February 2013. I would also like to know what advice and recommendations were received by Moray Council from SLIC prior to the library closure announcements in February 2013.
At the full council meeting on 27 March the elected members were presented with the equality impact assessments on the budget proposals. With regards to the proposed library closures the recommendation given was that the decision could not go ahead without a consultation with groups protected under the Equality Act 2010 in the areas affected by the proposed closures. The council decided not to proceed with the decision while the consultation was under way. The consultation is expected to be completed by end of June after which a full analysis will be presented to the elected members.
In preparing this appraisal information and advice has been sought from the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) which is the advisory body to the Scottish Government for library services.
The Council has a statutory duty under the s163(2) of the Local Government (Scotland Act 1973 and supplementary library and local government legislation to secure the provision of adequate library facilities for all persons resident in their area. Legislation also requires local authorities to “manage, regulate and control” those public libraries that comprise the Council’s statutory library service.
In 2006 Scottish Government through the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) as advisory body to Scottish Ministers, Scottish Government and SLIC members ( including local authorities), agreed The Public Library Quality Improvement Matrix for Scotland (PLQIM). The purpose is to assist in the definition of adequacy under the legislation and the PLQIM will help inform the Council as to any future library closures. The PLQIM helps define the key obligations in relation to: access to information; personal and community participation; meeting readers’ needs; and providing positive learners’ experiences. The Local Government Act 2003 also means that any breach of the Council’s duty to ensure best value, or any breach of its exercise of its power of wellbeing under that Act in relation to library services would be investigated by Audit Scotland.
Clarity as to what constitutes an adequate library service is further embedded by standards being set through benchmarking against current widespread practice via PLQIM. In a modern context this translates to the following minimum requirements:
- a strategic network of libraries, easily accessed within reasonable travelling distance for all in the community and open at times communities can easily access them
- Provision of reading material for all
- Information services including information and heritage through physical collections and online services.
- Access to a range of learning opportunities, in particular those to get people on-line and using government services
- Properly trained and supported staff to support activities
Public Library Quality Improvement Matrix recommends that Councils ensure that libraries are “sited where the public can access them easily as part of their daily life.”
There is no statutory duty to provide a static library in every community. To ensure that the Council remains within its statutory remit, they should ensure that where there is no static provision, library services can be equitably accessed by all.
Libraries run by communities or volunteers would not be part of the statutory provision.
The Council would not be meeting its statutory obligations by providing just one public library in Moray.
This information from the SLIC was considered by the Council and will be reconsidered by the Council once the results of the Equalities Impact Assessment have been made available.