Library services, which are run by local authorities, provide free services that empower people with access to resources. Libraries still fulfil their traditional role of lending books, but also improve people’s lives through a whole range of activities and services.
The way people use libraries is changing. We want to make it easier for libraries to innovate and adapt, so they can meet the needs of their local communities.
We also want to make sure that the centuries-old ‘legal deposit’ system, which creates a national collection of all published material, continues to be fit for the modern age.
Libraries are run by local authorities, but central government provides some support and guidance, as well as overseeing their services.
We fund Arts Council England, which provides support to local library services, including:
- helping libraries carry out central government initiatives, such as automatic enrolment for school children
- giving local authorities access to special development funds and support for libraries
- monitor and support local authorities to help improve library services
- set the policy for the legal deposit system, which gives a legal duty to publishers to provide copies of published material to major libraries, creating a national collection for research
- sponsor the British Library, one of the UK’s national deposit libraries
- sponsor Public Lending Right (PLR), the organisation in charge of paying authors for copies of their books lent by public libraries
Local authorities are responsible for providing a comprehensive and efficient library service. Public library services are delivered by 151 library authorities in England, and the Culture Secretary has a legal duty to ‘superintend’ or oversee the library services they provide.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey’s speech to The Future of Library Services conference on 28 June 2012 explains the government’s plan to support libraries.
Since 2011, specialist guidance for archives has been provided by The National Archives, an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice.
The legal deposit system can be traced back to the 17th century, and has helped to make sure we have a national collection of printed material. In 2003, the Legal Deposit Libraries Act gave the Culture Secretary the power to increase the scope of the legal deposit system to include digital materials.
The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 gives local authorities the duty to provide services and gives the Culture Secretary the duty to oversee the services they provide.
The The Public Lending Right Act 1979 gives authors the right to payment from a central fund when their books are borrowed from public libraries.
The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 confirmed publishers’ legal duty to give one copy of every printed publication that is published in the UK to the British Library and, on request, to each of the five other legal deposit libraries.
The Legal Deposit Libraries (Non Print Works) Regulations 2013 extends the legal deposit system to non-print works, like websites, e-books and CD Roms.