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The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 requires local authorities in England and Wales to “provide a comprehensive and efficient library service”.

“Comprehensive and efficient” are not defined. It is the responsibility of each local authority to determine how to deliver public library services in the context of local need.

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport can order an inquiry where there is concern that a local authority is not fulfilling its duties under the Act. This has not happened since 2009 when an inquiry looked at the library services provided by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.

Concerns about the future of library services are ongoing. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has a “My Library By Right” campaign.

For further information, see the Library Briefing Paper, Public libraries (CBP 05875, 20 June 2019). This focuses on libraries in England but has links to sources on public libraries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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