The recent good news from the Comprehensive Spending Review that Renaissance, the programme to make major regional museums fit for the 21st Century, will continue to receive funding in line with inflation tends to overshadow other important work of MLA Yorkshire.
Just a few weeks ago the Big Lottery Community Programme for Libraries funding was announced. This programme was developed jointly by MLA, SCL and Big Lottery. In this region over £8.3m was awarded to successful library services. This compares to the £3.5 million that Yorkshire museums got from Renaissance in this financial year. Yet Renaissance hogs the headlines.
So why is there this seeming imbalance between museums and libraries? Is it because of the Political clout of major national museums, is it because museums offer better visual images for the media or is it a result of libraries being part of a local government structure whilst museums are run in a variety of weird and wonderful ways.
Maybe most importantly for us, how do libraries move up the political agenda alongside museums?
If we are to engage with politicians we must talk their language and their priorities. We know politicians from all parties are interested in getting greater use from the network of local libraries. This is the territory where we can engage them.
At this point there is always a debate about whether we should follow political agendas or lead public debate. At MLA Yorkshire we take the view that this argument is missing the point, the main fact is that to justify public expenditure we must be delivering what the public values – as reflected by politicians.
We use the politician’s interest to engage them in our work on libraries & business and libraries & health. We can then move them into other areas where libraries are delivering value such as skills and literacy. The Year of Reading is another major opportunity for us to show politicians the value of libraries.
All of this will also help with another major piece of work MLA Yorkshire are engaged in, by raising libraries profile we put ourselves in a stronger position to get libraries properly recognised in Local Area Agreements.
Head of External relations, MLA Yorkshire