On 24th January this year the new and long‐promised legislation for public libraries in England and Wales made its bow in the shape of the Public Libraries and Museums Bill. Its first reading took place in the House of Commons on that day, and the unopposed second reading was on 5th February. As we write, future timing is uncertain, and it may be that by the time our readers are perusing these pages that the Bill will hare been passed in all its stages. The 23 clauses of the Bill occupy only 12½ pages. Briefly, the Bill will place the development of the public library service under the superintendence of the Minister of Education, and will set up two advisory councils as well as regional councils for interlibrary co‐operation. Non‐county boroughs and urban districts of less than 40,000 population which are existing library authorities will have to apply to the Minister for approval to continue as such. Clause 7 states that every library authority has a duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service, while the succeeding clause provides that, apart from certain exceptions, no charges shall be made by public library authorities. The Bill places considerable powers upon the Minister. Like most Bills, there is much in it which is open to interpretation. Does, for instance, clause 8, subsection (1) mean that those library authorities which are at present charging for the issue of gramophone records will have to cease doing so? This would seem to be the case, and we hope it is the case. On the other hand, which precise facilities are meant in subsection (4) of the same clause? Librarians will be disappointed that there is no reference to the need for library authorities to appoint separate library committees, nor is there a duty placed upon them to appoint suitably qualified persons as chief librarians. The Minister is given the power of inspection, and few library authorities or librarians will fear this. On the other hand no state financial assistance to library authorities is mentioned. In the 1930s and 19405 many wanted state aid but feared the consequential inspection. Now we have got the inspection without the money! When the Bill appeared, The Library World asked several librarians for their brief first impressions and in the following symposium will be found the views of a city librarian, a county librarian, two London librarians, a Welsh librarian, the librarian of a smaller town, and a member of the younger generation whose professional future may well be shaped by this new legislation.
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