National library taskforce to be headed by council chief

18 December 2014

A national task force launched to breathe new life into library services across the country will be chaired by Northamptonshire County Council Chief Executive Dr Paul Blantern it has been announced today (Thursday).

The new task-force - set up by the government in response to the findings published today of the Sieghart Review of library services across the UK - will work with local councils across the country and will report to government ministers to help develop library services to make sure they are fit for the 21st century.

Recognition

Today’s announcement has been hailed as fitting recognition of the library model adopted in Northamptonshire which has resulted in a wider range of services being made available in libraries despite growing financial pressures.

Dr Blantern said: “We can see that in other areas of the country libraries have been closed and services have been scaled back but I’m extremely proud that in Northamptonshire we have reinvented our libraries to offer an ever widening range of public services. Using our LibraryPlus model we have involved and engaged local people to not only ensure all of our libraries remain open, but also extend their opening hours, expand how they are utilised in the community and make sure they are fit for the digital age.

“I think this task force is a real opportunity to show how national and local government can work hand in hand to secure a very real step change in the offering of a highly regarded service. I firmly believe that just as libraries have been key over recent history in driving up literacy rates they now are at the forefront of improving what we call digital fluency through their increasing IT offer as well as some of the more traditional services they offer.

“Being appointed to this position I believe is a significant testament to the journey we have already embarked on in Northamptonshire. I am looking forward to understanding how we can get momentum for all libraries to be positioned as key assets locally and deliver the Sieghart review in an action centred way.

Objectives

The task force has been set up by the government to:

  • Support the creation of a national digital library network, including the option of a national library card and catalogue
  • Learn from the current e-lending pilot project looking at the impact of e-book lending at libraries
  • Encourage and develop the library workforce, especially new recruits and graduates
  • Develop best practice guidelines to help local authorities when working with volunteers and community-led libraries

The announcement of Dr Blantern’s appointment builds on the Northamptonshire’s growing reputation for its library services. Just three months ago Northamptonshire’s LibraryPlus service won the nationally coveted Municipal Journal Best Council Services Team Award.

The Judging Panel said: “Northamptonshire set out to achieve substantial savings while keeping libraries open and improving through a ‘LibraryPLus’ model that is proactive, involves and engages the community and has service integration at its heart. In an environment where huge financial pressures pose colossal challenges for local authorities this traditional library service has managed to reinvent itself in a modern customer focused context, while achieving target savings and improving customer satisfaction. Its transformation journey shows a route map for others to follow.”

Dr Blantern will be supported by a number of national technical experts in implementing the findings of the Sieghart Review. The taskforce will hold its first meeting in Spring 2015.


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