Press release

New strategy to help public library service prosper in the 21st century

'Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021' will help create a sustainable sector

Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson
  • £4m library fund to help disadvantaged communities and promote new projects including literacy, reading and digital access schemes
  • Strategy encourages new models of delivery for libraries
  • Ambition underlines Government commitment to the library sector
  • Councils urged to consider using libraries when delivering other public services

Local authorities are being urged to consider how they can best use libraries when delivering vital public services as part of a new vision to reinvigorate the sector, Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson announced today.

Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021 calls on local authorities to make use of the buildings, staff and services, and think innovatively to help increase reading, literacy and digital access in communities.

The report says library buildings should be used to provide access to a range of public services such as employment, health and learning opportunities to make sure libraries have a sustainable future.

The strategy, produced by the Libraries Taskforce, gives local authorities practical and innovative options to improve and develop services across the country, to help it thrive in the 21st century.

This includes a new £4 million ‘Opportunities for Everyone Innovation Fund’ that will deliver new initiatives for disadvantaged communities across the country.

The fund, to be managed by Arts Council England, will finance new projects such as literacy schemes, improving access to technology or increasing the number of children visiting libraries. The Government is encouraging libraries to work with partners on joint bids and show match-funding as part of the application.

Rob Wilson, Minister for Civil Society and responsible for libraries, said:

If we are going to build a country that works for everyone then we need to recognise that libraries are among our most valuable community assets and they remain hugely popular. More people went to a library in England last year than visited the cinema, Premier League football games and the top 10 UK tourist attractions combined.

But standing still is not an option if libraries are to thrive and work best for communities in the 21st century. Libraries can flourish and prosper but this will take change and new thinking about our service.

This strategy provides a blueprint for how libraries can be better utilised, to make them more resilient while still delivering vital public services to the communities that need them.

The Taskforce will also provide additional support and encourage public libraries in England that want to explore becoming public service mutuals. This will build on the experience of trailblazing library services in Suffolk, York, Devon, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire.

The Taskforce is also piloting new ways for libraries to generate income from government initiatives. From January 2017, it will explore how libraries can be used as part of the National Citizen Service programme to support the participation of young people.

The Taskforce, established in March 2015, reports to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Local Government Association.

Dr Paul Blantern, Chair of the Libraries Taskforce and Chief Executive of Northamptonshire County Council, said:

Libraries are vital community hubs - bringing people together, and giving them access to the services and support they need to help them live better. I’m delighted that our vision for public libraries in England is endorsed and supported by central government and by the Local Government Association on behalf of local government. We want this report to reform through action. We already have some of the best libraries in the world; if we learn from them and deliver the shared ambitions we set out, then we will have a vibrant, thriving and world-class public library network in England.

Brian Ashley, Director of Libraries, Arts Council England said:

Libraries are there for everyone, but their special role in helping people overcome disadvantage is second to none. They are the gateway to opportunity. So it’s great to have an additional £4m coming into the sector to fund new activities in libraries. I look forward to seeing a new wave of innovative projects making these opportunities real in their communities.

Notes to editors:

Libraries Deliver: Ambition for public libraries in England 2016-2021 can be found here

More information about the Opportunities for Everyone Innovation Fund and how to apply can be found here

Funding awards for the Opportunities for Everyone Innovation Fund will be announced by 31 March 2017. The programme will complete by March 2018.

There are 3,000 public libraries in England.

More information on the Libraries Taskforce can be found here

Published 1 December 2016