Crisis averted?

19th May 2000 at 01:00
LAST summer The TES reported that one of our greatest institutions - the public library - was in crisis, with decades of under-investment leading to opening hours and spending on books being slashed.

So concerned were we that we launched our Open All Hours campaign to persuade the Government to reverse the cuts. We wanted to ensure these much-loved places could once again become hubs of their communities, well-resourced and open when people needed them most - especially in the evenings and on Sundays.

This week Culture Secretary Chris Smith responded by outlining, for the first time clear national standards for England's 149 library authorities. Each authority will be required to keep at least one library open for 60 hours a week and all but the smallest branches open for 45 hours - exactly as we proposed. They will also have to make a minimum number of book purchases each year.

These requirements are very good news. Also essential, however, is the necessary financial means to secure these laudable ends. If our public libraries are to become the envy of the world once more then Whitehall and local government must together find the cash to make it happen.

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