County Hall chief charged with turning round England’s libraries

Paul Blantern
Paul Blantern

A taskforce to breathe new life into libraries across the country is being headed up by the chief executive of Northamptonshire County Council, despite criticsm of services here.

Set up by the Government it will work with councils across the country and will report to ministers to make sure they are fit for the 21st Century.

Chief executive at County Hall Paul Blantern said it was a fitting recognition of the library model adopted in Northamptonshire, which, he saidm which has resulted in a wider range of services being made available in libraries despite austerity.

But the revamp has been criticised by mums who used to attend the county’s Sure Start Centres, which have passed many of their general services onto libraries, because they feel inhibited when approaching library staff about sensitive issues.

The latest report on the issue also showed that numbers of people through the doors of the 36 libraries dropped by 62,000 over the course of two years.

But Dr Blantern said: “Using our LibraryPlus model we have involved and engaged local people to not only ensure all of our libraries remain open, but also extend their opening hours, expand how they are utilised in the community and make sure they are fit for the digital age.

He added: “I think this taskforce is a real opportunity to show how national and local government can work hand-in-hand to secure a very real step change in the offering of a highly-regarded service.

“I firmly believe that just as libraries have been key over recent history in driving up literacy rates they now are at the forefront of improving what we call digital fluency through their increasing IT offer as well as some of the more traditional services they offer.

“Being appointed to this position I believe is a significant testament to the journey we have already embarked on in Northamptonshire.”