March 25, 2010 1 Comment
Most of you will be aware that DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport) published their Modernisation Review of Public libraries on 22 March. I expect fewer will be aware that there are fifty-four proposals in the report, including a number bearing on research. It was heartening to read an acknowledgement of the need for proper data for management purposes as well as the need for broader evidence of impact for advocacy purposes. “If we are to convince local and national leaders and partner organisations of the value of public libraries” the report notes, “we must produce evidence which connects library use to local and national priorities”.
There are eight proposals relating to research (recommendations 46-54). They include extending the DCMS “Taking Part Survey” to include a wider range of questions on public library use and correlating data from that survey and the CIPFA public library statistics with the Local Government Place Survey (that forms part of the Audit Commission’s comprehensive area assessments) – can any relationship between public library use and the satisfaction of local residents be shown? But even better, it is proposed that a consortium of interested parties is brought together to develop a cross-sectoral approach to research on the impact of public libraries. Another proposal recommends using the Understanding Society Panel study – which explores the socio-economic circumstances and attitudes of 100,000 individuals in 40,000 British households – alongside a longitudinal study of respondents from the Taking Part survey to gain a better understanding of the long-term impact of public libraries. Perhaps at last there is a serious commitment to developing the evidence base needed for public libraries.
All good stuff no doubt. But what if a Labour Government is not re-elected? We can only hope that the seeds of understanding have been sown within the DCMS secretariat and that they will be able to convince a future Minister of the importance of research. Comfort perhaps might be taken from the fact that it is not an area of party political contention.
You can find the DCMS report at: http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/consultations/6752.aspx