Letter: Libraries in decline

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Dr Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute rightly draws attention to the decline in the standard of the services offered by most public libraries (letter, 23 April). He speaks of libraries as "part of the leisure industry". Here is the cause of part of the problem.

Once, libraries were always a separate department of local government, with the Chief Librarian enjoying the status of a chief officer. With reorganisations of local government, libraries are now lumped together in unsuitable groupings, usually part of a leisure department. What do libraries have in common with parks, swimming baths, leisure centres, and, in some instances, cemeteries? If libraries can no longer stand alone in the local government hierarchy, a link with education would be more appropriate.

While libraries are statistics-led, and librarians prefer to spend money on 10 copies of a paperback edition of a romantic novel rather than on one copy of a serious biography, standards will continue to fall.

MICHAEL WALPOLE

Birmingham

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