Library users get right to order any book

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The Independent Culture

Library-goers should have the right to order any book – including out-of-print editions – and free access to e-books under a new plan for the future of the library service.

Free internet use and membership of all libraries in England are also recommended under proposals outlined by Culture Minister Margaret Hodge.

The public library modernisation review policy statement sets out a series of "core" features which would ensure the service meets the challenges of the 21st century.

It says that the right to borrow books free of charge must remain at the heart of the library service. And the paper sets out ways in which libraries tackle a decline in use of current services while grasping the opportunities of the digital world.

The statement says all libraries should be "digitally inclusive" with easier, free access to the internet.

And the document proposes local authorities set out their own "local offer" including commitments on their stock of books, events and extra services such as CD and DVD loans. The Government wants library authorities to have these in place by the end of this year.

It also suggests exploring partnerships with other services and businesses such as post offices and coffee shops.

The statement proposes a new strategic body be considered to lead and develop the library sector and the power to advise the Government.

Ms Hodge said today: "Public libraries at their best are the heartbeat of communities, providing knowledge, pleasure, services and support to all at every stage of their lives.

"I want the library service to grow and prosper, continuing to offer a first-rate free service to everyone, literally from birth onwards, with free access to printed books, the internet and e-books as the market grows, and to do so with the added strength and authority that a confident new strategic body can bring."

The Government will review the new arrangements after two years, and consider whether to incorporate them into legislation.