MLA's Andrew Motion says reform library services, but uphold the right to books for all

By Culture24 Staff Published: 11 June 2010

a photo of a man in an open shirt and jacket

Andrew Motion, Chair of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

Responding to comments in the media suggesting public libraries might be put into the melting pot as the government continues its debate about deficit reduction, Museums, Libraries and Archives Chair, Andrew Motion has said the government must uphold the right to books for all.

Making the point that libraries help people access books and information, the former poet laureate said the nation's libraries "play a life-changing role, empowering individuals, liberating thinking and enabling communities to weather the effects of economic setbacks.”

Mr Motion backed the idea of a review of libraries that looked into what they offer and how they are funded, but warned that the poor and disadvantaged should not be deprived of access to books.

“There is no harm in society periodically asking itself which services should be publicly funded, and how they should be run,” he added, “but it is a foolhardy notion that a modern economy would wantonly abandon resources that support learning and help build our potential as human beings.”

a photo of a smiling child next to a board display

Local children helped celebrate a successful first year for the shiny new Newcastle City Library.

In a reference to a recent report into public sector funding that advocated the increased use of community volunteers to run public libraries, the MLA Chair also warned the government against taking on board the “outlandish suggestions” of consultants.

“I am confident that government won’t waste too much time debating them, when there is a very challenging task ahead to deliver relevant, quality library services with less money.

“In tackling reform within local services there are certainly new options for delivery in a mixed economy; costs can be cut, but professional expertise remains essential and public value must be upheld.

“We are at a critical time. A time for big thinking, not big mistakes that would set the country back and harm the most disadvantaged who need the best possible libraries and free access to books.”

MLA’s prospectus, Sharper Investment for Changing Times, calls for more creative planning to ensure that the public get the most out of the £2bn-plus that national and local government invest in museums, libraries and archives. Read the report on the MLA website: