Corporate report

Minutes of the ninth meeting of the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce

Published 8 August 2016

Meeting date: Wednesday 20 July: 13.00 to 16.00

Location: Manchester Central Library, St Peter’s Square, Manchester, M2 5PD


  • Dr Paul Blantern (Chair) – Chief Executive: Northamptonshire County Council
  • Kathy Settle – Chief Executive: Libraries Taskforce
  • Paul Bristow - Director, Strategic Partnerships: Arts Council England
  • Laura Caton – Senior Adviser: Local Government Association (LGA)
  • Neil MacInnes – President: Society of Chief Librarians, Strategic Lead – Libraries, Galleries and Culture, Manchester
  • Nick Poole – Chief Executive: Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals (CILIP)
  • Simon Richardson – Head of Libraries: Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
  • Sue Wilkinson – Chief Executive: The Reading Agency
  • Liz White – Head of Strategy Development: British Library
  • Julia Chandler – Communications Lead: Libraries Taskforce
  • Charlotte Lane – Programme and Project Manager: Libraries Taskforce
  • Foluke Oshin – Business Support: Libraries Taskforce


  • Nick Partridge - Taskforce Team Secondee: Sheffield
  • Steven Heywood - Taskforce Team Secondee


  • Brian Ashley – Director, Libraries: Arts Council England
  • Mike Cooke – Chief Executive: London Borough of Camden
  • Rebecca Cox - Principal Policy Adviser: LGA
  • Jane Ellison – Head of Creative Partnerships: BBC
  • Felix Greaves – Deputy Director of Science: Public Health England
  • Roly Keating – Chief Executive: British Library
  • Dominic Lake – Deputy Director of Arts, Libraries & Cultural Property: DCMS
  • Pat Ritchie – Chief Executive: Newcastle upon Tyne City Council
  • Iain Varah – Chief Executive: Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure and Immediate Past Chair: Chief Cultural & Leisure Officers Association
  • Sheila Bennett – Policy and Secretariat Manager: Libraries Taskforce

Reminder of Taskforce priorities to July 2016

Digital enablement – including the provision of universal WiFi access, e-lending, digital shared network and quality content.

Libraries adding value – making stronger, strategic links between libraries and other policies such as health and wellbeing and business and economic growth.

Best practice – helping local authorities and library services through sharing and linking to existing/new best practice. Building sustainable long-term models for libraries/community hubs.

Workforce development – building the skills needed to help the library workforce deliver these priorities and to take on new roles as part of wider service provision.

Communications – promoting the value of libraries, highlighting innovation and good ideas.

1. Introduction

The chair thanked Neil MacInnes and Manchester Central Library for hosting the meeting and for the very interesting tour beforehand.

The Taskforce noted the recent Whitehall ministerial moves. Karen Bradley is the new DCMS Secretary of State (replacing John Whittingdale); and Ed Vaizey has been replaced by Matt Hancock. The public libraries portfolio has moved to new DCMS Minister Rob Wilson (previously in Cabinet Office) to add to his existing role as Minister for Civil Society. The Taskforce thanked Ed Vaizey for his support of the Taskforce since its inception.

ACTION: Secretariat to send a note of thanks to Ed Vaizey

The chair welcomed Steven Heywood who is helping the Taskforce with data work.

2. Libraries Deliver: Ambition - launch and post-launch communications

The chief executive explained how the recent ministerial changes will impact on the publication of Ambition as new ministers will want to review the document and discuss it with new ministerial colleagues in other departments prior to providing their formal endorsement. The Taskforce will look to publish Ambition as soon as possible once this has happened.

The communications lead informed the Taskforce that communications leads from Taskforce organisations were aware of the change from the original proposed date and said she will continue to liaise with them over the summer.

The Taskforce noted the activities underway and planned for the communication of Ambition once published, in particular recognising when their organisations have a part in supporting delivery.

The Taskforce discussed the implications of the delayed publication of Ambition. This included:

  • providing guidance in the interim to councils who are making decisions over the summer
  • continuing promotion of best practice with the publication of blogs and case studies which show the outcomes libraries deliver
  • the need to inform everyone as soon as possible about the delay to Ambition

The Taskforce also noted the urgent need to ensure library services were communicating the value of libraries to the people at local level leading on the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans as these are in the process of being developed.


  • Taskforce Team to arrange for a communication to be sent to local authority chief executives and councillors providing an update on Ambition and reminding them of the existing toolkits from the Taskforce
  • Taskforce Team to post a blog explaining the implication of the ministerial changes on the publication of Ambition
  • Communications lead to recirculate lines to take once the new publication date for Ambition is known

3. Libraries Deliver: Ambition - retrospective

The Taskforce held a retrospective on the production process for Ambition with Taskforce members providing their reflections. The collated feedback will be used to inform the process for the annual reviews of Ambition and the action plan.

The Taskforce also agreed to conduct a wider retrospective on its work to date at a future meeting.


  • Secretariat to send out notes of the retrospective to the Taskforce in case they wish to add anything, particularly members who were unable to make the meeting
  • Taskforce to conduct a retrospective at a future meeting reflecting on the last 18 months

4. Libraries Deliver: Ambition - taking forward the action plan

The Taskforce discussed each of the priority actions in the action plan. Lead organisation(s) for each action provided a short oral update to introduce the action and say what is planned to happen next. The Taskforce agreed the next steps for the priority actions; next steps for the non-priority actions will be agreed at the next Taskforce meeting.

ACTION: Programme and project manager will circulate an updated action plan reflecting the agreed next steps on the priority actions.

The Taskforce confirmed that they wished to continue with the roadmap to monitor existing activity not covered in the action plan. They were content it included all relevant projects and will feed in any information or updates via email to the Programme Officer.

5. Communications update

The communications lead provided an update, including how the Communications Sub-Group is developing its remit and programme of work, and current communications activity.

The Taskforce noted the intention of the Communications Sub-Group to update the communications strategy.

Nick Poole provided an update on the future strategy for National Libraries Day. He outlined how CILIP were:

  • looking to reposition National Libraries Day, and outlined options including moving towards a week long celebration and promotion which would provide greater flexibility for libraries when planning their activities, and moving to a different date
  • going to tighten up governance and planning, working more with the library community and reaching out to the wider public
  • currently drafting the scope of this which may include focussing the event on one or two Ambition outcomes each year, using it as an opportunity to show something different about libraries

The Taskforce discussed the different communications channels of the Taskforce.

ACTION: The revised strategy will be reviewed at the next Taskforce meeting

6. Libraries data - getting a definitive list of libraries

The Taskforce discussed how there is not an agreed list of libraries in the public domain that everyone can use / point to. This has led to confusion, public disagreements and much time and effort being wasted at a national and local level dealing with media and other queries. DCMS and the Taskforce Team intend to publish a definitive basic data set that will be useful for Taskforce members, councils, the public and the media.

The paper proposed how this will be done. The chief executive noted how this list will form part of the core data set identified in Ambition during the consultation.

The Taskforce agreed:

  • the definitions in the paper which will be used to draw up the draft list
  • the data to be gathered / validated for each library
  • the process for the initial validation of the data and how to keep the list updated
  • that it was important to put the data set out as open data for all to access and use
  • that once there is a validated list of this data, all members will use it or point to it if approached


  • DCMS will send each library service its draft data asking for validation of the data
  • DCMS will publish the validated data
  • Libraries Taskforce team / DCMS will connect with the LGA’s Research Team during this process

7. Oral updates

7.1 Life Chances

The chief executive and DCMS provided an update on the ongoing discussions as to how public libraries role in supporting the life chances agenda can be further enhanced.

7.2 Living Knowledge Network

The British Library gave an update on proposals for a Living Knowledge Network, drawing on its 2023 vision and building on its successful partnerships with city libraries through the Business and IP Centre Network and the Knowledge Quarter in St Pancras.

The Taskforce discussed how local government could be made more aware of the libraries involved in the Living Knowledge Network.

ACTION: British Library to send communication to local authorities who have a library in the Living Knowledge Network

8. Arts Council England update report on WiFi and investment plans

The chair praised the fantastic achievement of Arts Council England and local authorities in ensuring free WiFi is now available in 99% of public libraries in England. The Taskforce noted:

  • the successful delivery of the WiFi in libraries project, including the ‘Making the Most of WiFi’ report as a useful sharing of best practice to support library services in using the WiFi infrastructure
  • the Arts Council’s plans for its Investment Strategy 2018-22 and reflected that this could be seen as a positive opportunity for the libraries sector to secure investment and develop its practice in arts and cultural programming

9. Ongoing changes by library authorities

The Taskforce discussed the paper covering current proposals under consideration by library authorities.

ACTION: All to note the current position

10. Taskforce meetings and governance

10.1 Taskforce minutes

The Taskforce noted that the minutes from the last Taskforce meeting (26 May) were cleared by correspondence and have been published on GOV.UK.

11. Action log

The only outstanding actions were:

  • having a presentation on libraries and health and well-being issues (this is now scheduled for the 30 September meeting hosted by PHE)
  • securing funding for library secondees to the Taskforce; although it was noted that 4 unpaid secondees had volunteered to support Taskforce activity, their time is limited
  • Libraries Unlimited providing an item to go out via the Taskforce blog, distilling the learning they shared with the Taskforce at its meeting in May

12. Forward programme

The forward programme lists the proposed dates and venues for future Taskforce meetings.

The Taskforce noted that the next 3 meetings will be held on:

  • 30 September (at the Public Health England offices in Waterloo)
  • 1 December (at the Hive in Worcestershire)
  • 9 February 2017 (at Redbridge’s South Woodford venue)

The lists of agenda items in the forward plan are based on:

  • key dates for Taskforce sign-off on various Ambition actions
  • undertaking a systematic series of presentations/updates on the 7 Outcomes

13. AOB

The Taskforce discussed the possible implications of the Brexit decision on the library sector. Comments included:

  • how the UK could be seen as an exporter of information and skills with the possibility of future opportunities
  • the potential implication on Arts Council match funded programmes and the possibility of a further fiscal squeeze on local government
  • the storing of data outside the UK - relationships may need to be renegotiated

It was noted that the next Taking Part survey is published on 21 July. This is the annual adult and child report (both run April 2015 to March 2016).

ACTION: Programme and project manager to send round the link to the Taking Part Survey findings once published

Summary of key messages from 9th meeting

The Taskforce:

  • noted the recent Whitehall ministerial moves; thanked Ed Vaizey for his support for the Taskforce over the last 15 months; welcomed Rob Wilson as the new Minister covering public libraries in DCMS and Karen Bradley as DCMS Secretary of State
  • confirmed it would continue to take opportunities to push the ‘Libraries First’ message with new ministers
  • noted the ministerial moves had impacted on the publication date for the Ambition document; the date would be confirmed once endorsement for the document was finalised with new ministers
  • the Taskforce would be communicating with key stakeholders to warm them up to the impending arrival of Ambition
  • noted the proposed communications activity at the time of and post-publication, and also the Communications Sub-Group work on longer-term development of messages and channels
  • noted the urgent need to ensure library services were communicating the value of libraries to the people at local level leading on the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans as these are in the process of being developed
  • discussed how they could start work on the priority actions flagged in the Ambition action plan
  • agreed definitions and processes required for DCMS and the Taskforce Team to publish and maintain a definitive list of public libraries in England
  • noted the oral updates on the Life Chances agenda and the Living Knowledge Network, plus the changes to Arts Council England’s investment plans for 2018-2022
  • noted the ongoing changes by library authorities
  • noted the forward programme of Taskforce meetings