Page last updated at 12:41 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Libraries 'must modernise' to secure future

Phone box library in Somerset
This phone box in a Somerset village was changed into a library holding 100 books

Radical modernisation is required for English libraries if they are to remain relevant, Culture Minister Margaret Hodge has said.

Ms Hodge said free access to books was still the cornerstone of the library.

But library customers were looking for something more than previous generations were, she said in a consultation paper.

"Sweeping advances in technology... mean they must move with the times to stay part of the times," she said.

"Sleepwalking into the era of the iPhone, the eBook and the Xbox, without a strategy, runs the risk of turning the library service into a curiosity of history like telex machines or typewriters," she added.

'Soft target'

The consultation paper included 30 essays offering different views from people including authors Tracy Chevalier and Michael Rosen and Starbucks managing director Darcy Willson-Rymer.

Ms Hodge said libraries were at risk.

"Local authorities spend around £1 billion a year on libraries and councils sometimes see them as a soft target for budget cuts.

"The secret of securing a bright future for the service lies in offering a modern, relevant and popular service they will defend," she said.

"We need to think radically, and nothing should be out of bounds."

Ms Hodge recently spoke about the possibility of using a system where the public can order books online and have them delivered to their homes, as well as a loyalty card scheme.



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