Children’s librarians fear cuts lie ahead
20.05.10 | Caroline Horn

Children’s library services could face cuts to their budgets before the end of the financial year, despite the fact that budgets are set annually, according to the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL).

This comes in the face of year-on_year rises in children’s borrowing, as indicated by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA) survey into library usage for 2008–09. The report, published last week, indicated a 6.1% rise in children’s fiction lending over the year, with 80.1m issues. The number of children’s fiction books bought by libraries was also up by 8.8% to 3.62m.

According to Helen Boothroyd, chair of ASCEL, these cuts are likely to fall within children’s services, as they are still seen as an easier target for cuts than “frontline, life or death services”.

She said: “The government wants £6bn of immediate savings and next week we will find out where those cuts will fall.”

The newly-elected government will also lay out an emergency budget on 22nd June.

Librarians will rely more on local activity than the national statistics to protect their services, said Boothroyd. “The national figures are good and those in charge of children’s services will use that information but local feedback from children and families can often be more powerful than national statistics.”

Library campaigner Tim Coates said libraries should be promoting their services. “Around the country 100 new councils, which have no experience and are being told to cut their budgets by 25%, are looking after our library services. Library services need to be speaking to them now,” he explained.

Miranda McKearney of reading charity The Reading Agency added: “The canny library services will play their cards of both upwards trends in borrowing and on how they are delivering on local authority priorities.”

The effects of the recession, which are not reflected in the latest CIPFA figures, are also likely to have increased current library usage, she added.

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