Wednesday, March 19, 2014

29: Public Library Scenario in UK P- 13. Public Libraries * By :C P Vashishth,Paper Coordinator Content Writer:- Dr. Arvind Kumar Sharma

इस ब्लॉग्स को सृजन करने में आप सभी से सादर सुझाव आमंत्रित हैं , कृपया अपने सुझाव और प्रविष्टियाँ प्रेषित करे , इसका संपूर्ण कार्य क्षेत्र विश्व ज्ञान समुदाय हैं , जो सभी प्रतियोगियों के कॅरिअर निर्माण महत्त्वपूर्ण योगदान देगा ,आप अपने सुझाव इस मेल पत्ते पर भेज सकते हैं -

29: Public Library Scenario in UK

P- 13. Public Libraries *

By :C P Vashishth,Paper Coordinator
Content Writer:- Dr. Arvind Kumar Sharma  

1. Introduction

In the present module an attempt has been made to describe the public library scenario in the UK. Public Libraries are the common place for gaining knowledge, social interaction, and intellectual stimulation. As socio-economic developments matured in human history, it was felt that knowledge, especially public knowledge is the common resource, and hence it should be made available to all the members of society without any consideration of caste, creed, or economic status. Knowledge is considered basic resource for any kind of development. In the UK too the idea of free access to knowledge strengthened with the enactment of Public Library Act 1850. This act officially introduced public libraries in the UK.  During 162 years of its history this Public Library Act has underwent several amendments. The British Public Library Act 1972, the Public Lending Right Act 1979, Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003, and Legal Deposit Libraries (Non Print Works) Regulations 2013 are the latest among them.

The Act provides the legal framework for the public libraries in the country. The Department of Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) took further initiatives for the development of public libraries in the UK. Now several questions are being raised on public libraries and these questions are coming from all quarters of society. Some say books may disappear as a result of being substituted by ICT enabled devices. Similar questions had been raised even when microforms had appeared. This is unlikely that books would be out of use in future. They shall remain in use, though at fairly reduced scale, and libraries with their books as authentic sources will serve the knowledge seekers even in the new ICT driven environment.

2. Public Libraries in the UK

The public libraries have been in existence in the UK for centuries and people there have been enjoying and enriching themselves with these public institutions. It was in the 17th century that many notable public libraries were founded in the kingdom such as Francis Trigge Chained Library of St. Wulfram’s Church, Grantham Lincolnshire (founded in 1558), Norwich City Library (in 1608), Bodleian Library, Chetham’s  Library (opened in 1653), Ipswich (1612), Bristol (established in 1613). Earlier however most of these libraries were not open for common people but the concept of public libraries had taken place.

It was also in the 17th century that the nature of public libraries changed from closed parochial libraries to lending libraries. Earlier libraries were closed libraries and limited users were allowed to use the libraries and books were chained to desks. Even national library was not open to the public. There was no concept of open and free access. Only a few libraries were providing free access to public, such as Chetham’s Library in Manchester. Numbers kept on increasing with the passage of time. In 1790, Steven Fischer had noted, there were about six hundred libraries in the UK.

At present the number has increased manifold providing services to the citizens of UK. Some prominent among them are : Barrow–in-Furness Main Public Library, Cumbria, Birmingham Central Library, England, London Library, Reading Central Library, the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, Birmingham Central Library, etc. According to Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) Annual survey the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library and Birmingham Central Library are the most visited libraries in the UK (2010-11).

3. Development of Public Library Acts in the UK

Public libraries are the great resources of information and knowledge. The UK, a leading power and pioneering intellectual centre of the world was naturally a patron of public libraries too. In the UK, public libraries have been part of the civic life for a long time. UK was the first country, which introduced the legal system for the establishment and development of public libraries. They were also the first to conceptualize free access to the public libraries.

Acts construct a legal framework for a given phenomenon. The UK Public Library Act 1850 is a landmark in the field of public library legislation. With the enactment of this Act, a legal framework was created for establishing and governing public libraries in the UK. This Act covered England and Wales and was extended to Scotland in 1853. This Act was further amended in 1866 and 1867.  Public library Act 1892 consolidated legal framework for England and Wales. This Act was also amended in 1893. The first quarter of the 20th century witnessed two more enactments, Public Libraries Act 1908 and Public Libraries Act 1919. Later, Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 replaced all previous Acts in England and Wales. The Act assigns local authorities the duty to provide library services. This was followed by British Public Library Act 1972. The Public Lending Right Act 1979 provides for authors’ right to payment, when their books are issued or borrowed from public libraries. The payment is made from the central fund. According to the “Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003”, every publisher has to submit a copy of its publications printed in the UK to the British Library and, on request to five other legal deposit libraries.  The legal deposit system further extended by the “Legal Deposit Libraries (Non Print Works) Regulations 2013” to incorporate non print works: websites, e-books, and CD ROMs. ><.
These legal deposit libraries are:
  • British Library,
  • Bodleian Library, Oxford,
  • University Library, Cambridge,
  • Library of Trinity College, Dublin,
  • National Library of Wales, and
  • National Library of Scotland.
 (Source: Guidance on the Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013.Department for Culture, Media & Sport)

Chronology of acts and regulations related to public libraries in UK:
Public Library Act
Extended to Scotland
1866 and 1867
Replaced all previous acts
Public Library Act
Public Library Act
Public Library Act
Public Libraries and Museums Act
British Public Library Act
The Public Lending Right Act
Legal Deposit Libraries Act
Legal Deposit Libraries (Non Print Works) Regulations

4. Library Associations and Public Libraries

Library associations have a significant role in the development and promotion of public libraries system in the UK. Some library associations are:

4.1 Library Association (LA)

LA is an important and oldest library association in the UK. The Association was founded in 1877 with headquarter in London. In April 2002 the association got merged with the Institute of Information Scientists (IIS) to form the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). Prior to its merger the Association had the memberships of more than 25000 library professionals.

4.2 Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) &amp;gt;;lt;

CILIP was formed in April 2002 by the Union of the Institute of Information Scientists (IIS) and the Library Association (UK). It has more than 15000 members (in May 2012 as recorded at ><). CILIP works with the help of numerous groups, which cover almost all fields of the society. These Special Interest Groups are Academic and Research Libraries Group, Aerospace and Defence Librarians Group, Career Development Group, Cataloguing and Indexing Group, Commercial, Legal and Scientific Information Group, Community, Diversity and Equality Group, Government Information Group, Health Libraries Group, Information literacy Group, Information Service Group, International Library and Information Group, Library and Information History Group, Library and Information Research Group, Local Studies Group, Multimedia Information and Technology Group, Patent and Trademark Group, Personnel, Training and Education Group, Prison Libraries Group, Public and Mobile Libraries Group, Publicity and Public Relations Group, Rare Books and Special Collections Group, Retired Members Guild,  School Libraries Group, UK e Information  Group, Youth Libraries Group.
Among above groups the Public and Mobile Libraries Group provides information, training, etc. to the staff working in public and mobile libraries. It gives a national award “Mobile Library Champion of the Year” to professionals.

5. Role of Department of Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS), &amp;gt;;lt;

DCMS is a ministerial department and works with 44 agencies and public bodies. It protects and promotes cultural and artistic heritages of the country.

In 1997 Department of National Heritage, as DCMS was known earlier, had issued a report, “Reading for Future: A review of Public Libraries in England,’’ This report recommended for funding of public libraries for providing internet services.  A scheme was enunciated following this that each public library authority would submit an annual plan to the Department of Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) from 1998. This report should incorporate various performance indicators, such as efficiency, access, and usage.

DCMS appoints senior public librarians as statutory advisors in Advisory Council on Libraries. The Council was re-constituted in 2003. The council issues an annual report on libraries. The Council plays an important role in moving forward the DCMS plan and strategy.

Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) provides funds to “Arts Council England” >< which provides support to local library services in the UK. Apart from this DCMS monitors and supports local authorities and libraries and sponsors Public Lending Right (PLR), British Library and special development funds.

5.1 The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA)

It was established in 2000 by absorbing the Library and Information services Council. It is funded by the DCMS. MLA is a non-departmental public body. As per the policy statement of DCMS 2010, £120 million National Lottery Fund were invested in the people’s Network in the last ten years. The fund was delivered by the  MLA to provide Broadband access, staff training in the UK. ><. MLA has now been abolished and its functions  have been transferred to the Arts Council England

6. British Library


British Library is the national deposit library of UK. The Library was established in 1973 on the recommendations of Dainton Report and passing of the British Public Library Act 1972. This National Library formed with amalgamating the former British Museum Library, National Lending Library for Science and Technology, National Central Library and the British National Bibliography. This national library is funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sports, Government of UK. This is the national deposit library   and has benefitted under Copyrights Acts. The library is organized into six directorates under a Chief Executive. These are directorates of Human Resources, Operations and Services, Finance and Corporate Resources, Strategic Marketing and Communications, Scholarships and Collections and Electronic Information Services. In this library, a reader can search for 57 million records. It provides various types of services. This is one of the largest libraries in the world. The library possesses more than 150 million items in 400 languages. Three million items are added every year.

7. Finance and Management of Public Libraries in the UK

In the UK, local authorities manage and supervise public libraries. All these authorities are empowered by Public Libraries and Museum Act 1964. Central Government, UK gives support and guidance to public libraries. Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) provides funds to “Arts Council England” ><, which provides support to local library services in the UK. There are 151 library authorities in England. .>< .

In 2011 Arts Council launched “the Libraries Development Initiative” for public libraries.  In 2012/13 Arts Council undertook a major research project, “Envisioning the library of the future”. This project will help to understand the future of libraries. Arts Council also provides extra grants to public libraries. ><

Public libraries get financial assistance from various sources:
  • Government
  • Private
  • Big Lottery Communities Libraries Fund

Public Libraries nowadays generally have these additional facilities:
  • Galleries
  • Cafes
  • Performance spaces
  • Wi Fi connectivity
  • Customized support to users

8. Recent Trends:

Data released by Library and Information Statistics Unit at Loughborough University (, accesed  on 21.01.2013) show that the number of public libraries is declining year after year. At the same time total funding remains stagnant despite growing population and price hike. The memebership has seen a slight rise but the self generated income, number of inquiries and books issued have witnessed steady decline over the years.

In fact decline in library visits is related to web visits which people have increasingly been using to gain kowledge and get informed and entertained.  

In this information age when libraries compete with ICT enabled services with its hasslefree accessibiilty from anywhere and anytime, the publid library system is lagging in reinventing itself. It will have to cater to the Gennext with reprovisioning itslef. Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has released public library statistics (2010/11), which reveals that number of visits to public libraries and book borrowing is   also decreasing in England ( between 2009/10 and 2010/2011)(>< visited on October 30, 2013.)

9. Suggestions

Books are and shall remain the authentic media of information and knowledge and societal resoures and public libraries shall remain an important place for social interaction, harmony, intellectual stimulation and knowledge sharing. In order to check the declining trend of library visits a number of measures are requiered to be undertaken in order to convert the present crisis into an opportunity. Some suggestions for reviving the library system are as follows –
  • Libraries are in low profile in government functioning.
  • All stakeholders should think in logical way to overcome the present condition and determine practical and feasible solutions.
  • “Cost-benefit analysis “ should be applied in the management and functioning of public library.
  • We need smart marketing of public libraries .
  • Library professionals should be innovative and realistic

10. Conclusion

Amidst the fast paced changes in every walk of life, the publc library system will have to reinvent itself. To cope up with the present multidimensional growth, public libraries in the UK have to change themselves to serve the next generation in a better way. In the UK some people think that public libraries are in drab condition and others say that books may disappear or may be gone by 2030 or 2040 or 2050 and so on. Such types of statements that books would disappear had appeared earlier also when miicroforms had come. Books are not going to disappear. People love reading books and their physicality makes them indispensable. They shall remain is shelves of individuals and public libraries. Books are still userfriendly, easy to read and not so expensive and in case of being borrowed from public libraries they are quite inexpensive. All these issues are being debated in public domain in UK and one should not forget that he public library system in the UK is one of the best public library system in the world, which provides library services to all its citizens and fulfils the informational, recreational,educational and cultural needs of the society.

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