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archive 2004

21 June 2004 

Tessa Jowell Tells Libraries To 'Lend It Like Peckham'

Extra £2 million for library improvements announced
Local libraries must put themselves at the heart of the Government’s public service reform programme by delivering a service that local people want, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said today.
Speaking at a Public Libraries Seminar in London, Tessa Jowell said:
“A successful public service depends upon trust, public confidence and first-class customer care.  Public Libraries are no exception.  What they offer needs to be what people want, at a time and place that is useful to them, and in a way that makes them want to come back again and again.
“Our public library service should be a test-bed for the public sector reform and modernisation which is at the centre of our wider government policy.  We need to look at libraries as potentially good candidates for change. 
“They are ideally placed to become again central points in local communities.  But they can only take back this role if they consult local people and put them in the driving seat.  Not just once, but as a continuous dialogue.
“The best libraries do this.  They involve, engage and inspire their customers.  We want the others to follow suit.  Forgive me if – today of all days – I give this initiative the nickname 'Lend it like Peckham'.”
The DCMS sponsored Seminar – with a focus on ways to improve services to the public – was chaired by Heritage Minister Andrew McIntosh who highlighted a five million increase in library visits in 2002-03.  He also announced £2 million to help improve services and build on this success.
Andrew McIntosh said:
“This is an exciting time for our public libraries, as they steadily re-position themselves to be at the heart of the communities they serve.
“New statistics show that the number of annual visits to public libraries has increased for the first time in over 10 years.  That suggests to me that the need for library services is increasing.
“I want the quality of library services to improve still more, and that is why DCMS is providing an extra £2m over the next two years to help. The extra £2 million will focus on helping less-successful library services by direct targeting of those areas where they are weakest. There will be leadership training for all library services.
“There will also be additional work on helping libraries better understand the needs of local people, so that they can provide what is important to people locally.”

Notes to Editors
Framework for the Future, the first ever national public libraries strategy was published in February 2003.  It drew on a wide range of expertise both from those in the libraries sector and other stakeholders.
The new strategy document acknowledged that there were already some excellent library authorities but, across England, that there was significant variance in the range and quality of the services on offer.   The document identified informal learning, digital skills, community building as areas where public libraries had great potential to improve the everyday lives of the people they serve but it also recognised there was a need to modernise many library services to realist these potential fully.
DCMS commissioned the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council to draw up a 3 year action plan to address some of these modernisation issues, with £3million over three years. The Action plan was published in September 2003.
The People’s Network is a £120m programme that was funded by the National Lottery’s New Opportunities Fund to place connected computers into all of the United Kingdom’s public libraries.  
A new MORI survey by the National Audit Office shows some 16% of the population over 16 years old used the People’s Network in its first year.

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