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Libraries to stay open longer

The TES campaign called for:

a library in each local authority to stay open 60 hours a week

other libraries to stay open at least 45 hours a week

minimum standards of book-buying of pound;2.26 per person

What ministers propose

one library per council to open 60 hours a week

many other libraries to open 45 hours a week

library authorities should buy 216 booksCD-Roms etc per 1,000 population

loan periods to be extended

PUBLIC libraries will be expected to open longer hours, under new plans drawn up by Culture Secretary Chris Smith.

Every local authority will be expected to have one library open at least 60 hours a week, including evenings and weekends, and many branch libraries should

be open more than 45 hours, under national standards proposed in a government consultation paper.

The proposals follow a TES campaign to reverse a steep deline in library opening hours and book-buying.

The consultation paper proposes that people should have to travel no longer than 20 minutes to reach their local library and that councils should buy at least 216 books, CD-Roms or other items per 1,000 residents each year.

Mr Smith said he would intervene directly if councils failed to meet the standards which are due to come into force in 2004.

A TES investigation last summer revealed that the number of libraries open at least 60 hours a week had fallen dramatically from 173 in 1976 to just six.

The investigation also showed that spending on books had fallen by more than a fifth since the late 1980s.

A poll conducted for The TES by the University of Lancaster, showed that more than a quarter of the public would use libraries more if opening hours were extended.

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