The letter follows announcements about the impact of budget reductions across the Council, including a widely reported pause on the libraries book fund, which has led to some local libraries asking customers to donate books. The letter clearly states the library services’ past benefits to the community and the economy and how that is now in danger.

In the letter Nick Poole, CILIP Chief Executive, urges the Council to “carefully consider the impact of budget cuts on library services and how in turn communities and the local economy will be affected,” and recommends “maintaining as much professional expertise in the library service as possible so that Birmingham’s libraries continue to innovate and meet the changing needs of the city.”

Nick Poole acknowledges the significant savings Birmingham City Council have to make and argues that “properly resourced and staffed library services [should] be part of the solution,” outlining their role “providing access to information and knowledge, supporting small businesses and employment, improving health and well-being and providing everyone with opportunities for learning and developing new skills.”

Full text of letter 

Birmingham City Libraries supporting communities, citizens & the economy Open letter

Dear Mark

As Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals I have a close and ongoing interest in Birmingham’s public libraries. While the re-extension of the Library of Birmingham’s opening hours and partnerships with Google, the British Library and relocation of the Brasshouse Language Service are very welcome we have concerns about the ongoing quality of library services available to the communities and citizens of Birmingham.

I understand that Birmingham City Council has to make significant savings but in doing so, I would make the case for properly resourced and staffed library services to be part of the solution. They play a crucial role providing access to information and knowledge, supporting small businesses and employment, improving health and well being and providing everyone with opportunities for learning and developing new skills.

The national network of Business and Intellectual Property Centres, including the Library of Birmingham, helped to create 1,692 new businesses and 4,178 jobs between 2013 and 2015.  The network created £38 million GVA, a payback of £4.50 for every £1 spent.

Arts Council England value the health, wellbeing and quality of life benefits of libraries at £748.1 million per annum combining the value to the individual with reduced health spending.

We are very keen to see the successes of Library of Birmingham continue. The people of Birmingham are right to be proud of their library, and 2.7 million visitors in its first year is a clear demonstration of the library’s popularity. We would like to see the best quality library services delivered through the fabulous building, services developed and managed by skilled and expert staff.

Library staff provide safe and impartial access to services. They have a unique code of professional practice and ethical values at their core. They bring expertise in reading, learning and working with communities.

I would urge Birmingham City Council to carefully consider the impact of budget cuts on library services and how in turn communities and the local economy will be affected. We recommend maintaining as much professional expertise in the library service as possible so that Birmingham’s libraries continue to innovate and meet the changing needs of the city.

I am aware that you are in the early stages of thinking around a transformation of library services across the city and I would be interested to meet your team to discuss. We would be happy to assist with information about best practice and retaining professional staff and resources at the heart of provision while delivering more cost effective solutions. Please let me know if it would helpful for me to meet with your team.

Yours sincerely

Nick Poole
Chief Executive
Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals

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