PUBLIC LIBRARIES need to reform their management to meet the challenges of new technology and changing public demand, says an Audit Commission report published this week.
Greg Birdseye, one of the authors, said libraries are valued and well-used, but in a steady decline. Book issues have fallen by 19 per cent over the past decade, opening hours have been reduced and expenditure on books has fallen by 10 per cent.
But developments in information and communication technology could make traditional tasks, such as issuing books and searching catalogues, more efficient as well as enabling libraries to offer new services.
The report claims that Pounds 14 million a year could be saved by better management of library stock and partnerships with other local authority departments.
For example, in West Sussex the school library service is staffed and paid for by the education department while based in libraries; the economic development group funds a business information officer; and the chief executive's office finances three staff for its corporate information help points.
Due for renewal: a report on the library service, Audit Commission, Audit Commission Publications, Bookpoint Ltd, 39 Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4TD, Pounds 20