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Dan Jarvis accuses Government of incompetence on library lending

Archived news: 18 July 2012

Dan Jarvis MP, Labour’s Shadow Culture Minster, yesterday accused the Government of ‘incompetence’ for failing to provide clear and timely guidance to councils on setting up community libraries, after confusion over concerns that volunteer branches may be breaking the law by lending books without making payments to authors.

Dan JarvisDan Jarvis said:

"This out of touch Government encouraged councils to shuffle libraries off to community groups, without thinking through the implications or potential pitfalls of doing so.
"Dozens of volunteer libraries have already been set up, but there has been real confusion over whether they could be found in breach of copyright legislation. DCMS now say volunteer libraries can lend but it is still unclear whether, and how, they will pay anything to authors. It’s a shambles and symptomatic of a lack of interest in the future of the service that threatens to undermine library provision even more than it already has been."

In response to inquiries from campaign groups in Lewisham and Gloucestershire the Public Lending Right (PLR) Registrar, the office which administers the system of payments which lets libraries lend books without breaching copyright, has stated that volunteer libraries outside a council’s statutory provision would not pay the PLR. 
Dan Jarvis said:

"This is only one of a number of issues around volunteer libraries, which also face questions about everything from training to data protection. We strongly welcome community engagement in libraries, but it needs to be handled carefully and cannot dilute the responsibility of local authorities, or the Government, to provide a decent and accessible service. But there has been very little advice or oversight from DCMS as councils rush to increase the use of volunteers.
"Ministers need to do their job and provide some clear guidance and leadership on this issue as a matter of urgency – it is astounding they have not done so already. They claim to believe that libraries matter, but when it comes to their duty to oversee the service, they are making it up as they go along.
"Ministers have a track record of leaving it up to under-funded campaigners to challenge councils in the courts. That is simply not good enough. I want Ed Vaizey to assure us that he will get on and act."


Jarvis calls for e-book lending report

On 04 July Dan Jarvis also called for an e-lending report and an extension of the PLR scheme in a letter to Ed Vaizey.

In response to this letter, chairman of the All-party Parliamentary Committee on Libraries, Justin Tomlinson, set out his thoughts for how e-lending in libraries should work, suggesting borrowers should be charged to borrow e-books. Read the open email to library campaigners.

Tomlinson's proposal was criticised by CILIP president Phil Bradley as:

“an amazingly short-sighted view of the future of the library and the provision of books"

Bradley commented:

“Possession of an e-reader should not be indicative of the ability to pay for books loans... Once the concept of charging for books is in place, it will be impossible to change it, and the idea of the free library will have gone for good..."

Read Phil Bradley's comments in full.

We are pleased that our concerns are being recognised and that serious steps are being taken to resolve these.

Related articles

PLR and volunteer-run libraries:

PLR and volunteer-run libraries - the SoA position

Is Gloucestershire County Council giving unlawful advice to Community Libraries? - Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries

DCMS accused of ‘incompetence’ over PLR confusion - The Bookseller


E-book lending and libraries:

E-book lending and libraries - the SoA position

Library E-Book Lending Fears - Myth or Reality? - the Society of Chief Librarians' view

Labour calls for an Independent Taskforce on E-book Lending - Labour website

Should Library e-books be charged for? - Public Library News



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