Unless decisive action is taken now, the decline of our public libraries could become terminal by the end of the decade. If that happened Britain would be writing off vital social and cultural assets.
Public libraries used to be central to the life of many communities but they are increasingly marginalised. People now get books and information from other sources. Libraries need to respond by making themselves more attractive, while building on their traditional strengths.
This report recommends the creation of a new national library development agency (NLDA) which would bring together all library stakeholders from national and local government. A crucial job of the new agency would be to create a libraries network to tackle the fragmentation of the existing service.
The report goes on to describe a 10-year strategy for transforming libraries. It recommends the creation of library 'hubs', based in shopping centres, which learned the lessons of more attractive retail environments by blending learning and leisure.
Charles Leadbeater is an writer and consultant. He acted as a lead advisor to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport during the writing of the DCMS libraries strategy published in February 2003.