Reflections 2014: The future of libraries and Lincoln Castle revealed

For me, much of the last year has been taken up by the proposed changes to library services. Since the judicial review in the summer, work has been ongoing to cover all the points raised in the ruling.

This included additional consultation and further discussions with Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), a not-for-profit organisation that is interested in running local library services.

Earlier this month, I accepted GLL’s revised expression of interest as a valid challenge under the Localism Act. That means services are now likely to be put out to tender, which could result in the libraries being outsourced.

However, before that happens, the Executive will need to decide what model of library service it wants to achieve. We expect that to happen in February. That decision will take into account all the feedback received during the consultation.

Throughout the autumn, we have spent a lot of time keeping voluntary groups in the loop, answering their questions and providing training and support as requested. Once we know the future shape of the library service, we’ll be able to give these groups greater clarity on how they might become involved with future services.

Lincoln's new Magna Carta vault will be ready in time for the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the document. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Lincoln’s new Magna Carta vault will be ready in time for the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the document. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Another area that has taken up a lot of time is the completion of the £22m Lincoln Castle Revealed project. Work remains on target to be finished in time for next year’s 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, which we will be celebrating in style.

Once the new-look site re-opens in April, it will be the only place in the world with a permanent exhibition on Magna Carta, making it of international importance.

We have created an impressive new home for the document in the David P J Ross Magna Carta Vault, featuring a 180-degree cinema screen telling the story leading up to Magna Carta being sealed and how it relates to legislation and the freedoms we all enjoy today.

Visitors will also be able to make a complete circuit of the castle walls (which now have disabled access) and visit the newly revamped Victorian Prison, which includes exciting interactive elements.

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

And everyone will be able to walk through the castle grounds free of charge for the first time.

There will be joint ticketing with the cathedral to enable visitors to enjoy the very best of Lincoln’s heritage, encouraging them to stay longer in the city, bringing benefits to both the city and county economies.

Meanwhile, the Historic Lincoln Trust, of which I am a trustee, is working hard on the Great Lincolnshire Exhibition. Opening in July, the event will showcase the county’s greatest art, sculpture and manuscripts, along with paintings of our most famous people.

The show will include internationally renowned exhibits from national collections and country houses and will be displayed at The Collection, Usher Gallery, the cathedral’s Wren Library and in the castle’s new vault.

This will be just one highlight in what will be a spectacular year for the county.