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Volume 406: debated on Wednesday 4 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many libraries have closed since 1997; what improvements have been made to libraries in this period; what internet and computer provisions have been made available at library sites; and if she will make a statement on her assessment of library services. [115168]

The number of libraries closed since 1997 is not held centrally. However, the number of Total Service Points open 10 hours or more per week is contained in column 18 of the annual Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Public Library Statistics for each of those years, copies of which are available in the House of Commons Library.The Government has encouraged improvements in planning, accountability and performance by English public library services through the introduction of Annual Library Plans (ALPs) in 1998, now superseded by Position Statements, and Public Library Standards on 1 April 2001.All but fewer than 1 per cent. of English Public Libraries are now connected to the internet through the £100 million lottery funded People's Network programme which has enabled library authorities to improve their ICT infrastructure and staff skills and to create innovative digital content.In February we launched Framework for the Future which sets out the Government's 10 year vision aimed at encouraging public library services in England fit for the needs of 21st century users. The document cites many exciting and innovative examples of how modern public libraries are developing new ways of meeting the needs of the communities they serve. A copy of this document is available in the House Library and may also be found at: Public library provision in Scotland is the responsibility of the Scottish Executive.