Parliament: Libraries may open on Sunday

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The Independent Online
LIBRARIES COULD be forced to open on Sundays in an effort to halt the widespread decline in their services, ministers indicated yesterday.

Alan Howarth, the junior Culture minister, said the extension of opening hours toweekends and evenings was one possible proposal to ensure greater access to libraries. He told MPs, it was "some- thing we are looking into".

A source from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, later said the opening of libraries on Sundays was a key consideration because of the way that people's working lives had changed since the Libraries and Museums Act was passed in 1964.

Chris Smith, the Secretary, of State for Culture, Media and Sport, announced plans to set new minimum standards for public libraries last month. The list of requirements would apply to the amount of new books to be bought annually, along with opening hours, access to new technology, request services and provision of staff, he said.

The Government aims to publish the requirements next spring after consulting the Library Association and the Local Government Association.

Under the review, England's 149 library authorities will have to show whether their services meet these standards when they produce their annual plans.

Mr Smith has the power to direct them to comply but he has made clear he prefers the power of persuasion.

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