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Librarians to lobby MPs on funding

The Library Association is stepping up its campaign to save public libraries from the ravages of local government spending cuts before the Chancellor's autumn statement.

It is holding a rally and will lobby MPs on October 18 to persuade the Government to allow local authorities to invest in their libraries. Chief executive Ross Shimmon pointed to the possible future gap between the "information rich and information poor" if libraries failed to be wired up to deliver the new technology.

Last week National Heritage Minister Iain Sproat told the Public Library Authorities conference in Torquay that the development of information technology was a key area for the future of public libraries.

"Electronic and optical media, and networked communications, are leading to an information revolution that will be as profound in its effects as the industrial revolution. To meet this challenge, and to ensure equitable access to information, those who run public libraries will require vigour and enthusiasm and a willingness to innovate." He said they would need to work in partnerships with other libraries, with the private, voluntary and other parts of the public sector.

However, Mr Shimmon said there was a wide gap between the Government's vision and reality. Local authorities had been forced to cut hours and staff; provision was patchy and some libraries had even been forced to close.

His association had been encouraged by the interest shown by the Department of National Heritage in libraries earlier this year when they published four reports including the first major review of the service for 50 years.

"But we are now concerned that these will simply gather dust and the chance to put libraries on a healthier footing will not be grasped."

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