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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sixteenth-meeting-of-the-libraries-taskforce/minutes-of-the-sixteenth-meeting-of-the-libraries-taskforce
Meeting date: Wednesday 4 October 2017: 13.00 to 16.00
Location: Canning Town library, 18 Rathbone Market, Barking Road, E16 1EH
- Dr Paul Blantern (Chair) - Chief Executive: Northamptonshire County Council
- Kathy Settle - Chief Executive: Libraries Taskforce
- Paul Bristow - Director, Strategic Partnerships: Arts Council England
- Councillor Mike Bell - Member: Local Government Association (LGA) Culture, Tourism and Sport Board
- Kim Bromley-Derry - Chief Executive: London Borough of Newham
- Neil Churchill - Director of Participation and Experience: NHS England
- Rebecca Cox - Principal Policy Adviser: LGA
- Jane Ellison - Head of Creative Partnerships: BBC
- Roly Keating - Chief Executive: British Library
- Ian Leete – Senior Policy Adviser: LGA
- Neil MacInnes - President: Society of Chief Librarians (SCL), Strategic Lead – Libraries, Galleries and Culture, Manchester
- Kate McGavin - Deputy Director, Arts, Libraries and Digital Culture: Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) (job share)
- Nick Poole – Chief Executive: The UK library and information association (CILIP)
- Simon Richardson – Head of Libraries: DCMS
- Iain Varah - Chief Executive: Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure and Immediate Past Chair: Chief Cultural & Leisure Officers Association (cCLOA)
- Liz White - Head of Strategy Development: British Library
- Sheila Bennett - Policy and Secretariat Manager: Libraries Taskforce
- Julia Chandler - Communications Lead: Libraries Taskforce
- Charlotte Lane - Programme and Project Manager: Libraries Taskforce
- Foluke Oshin - Business Support: Libraries Taskforce
- Felix Greaves - Deputy Director Science and Strategic Information: Public Health England
- Sue Wilkinson - Chief Executive: The Reading Agency
- Polly Hamilton - Assistant Director, Culture, Sport and Tourism: Rotherham Council and Vice-Chair: cCLOA
- Helen Williams - Deputy Director, Arts, Libraries and Digital Culture: DCMS (job share)
- Jeff James - Chief Executive and Keeper: The National Archives
- Isobel Hunter - Head of Archives Sector Development: The National Archives
- Penny Hobman - Deputy Director, Integration Strategy: Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)
- Henry Parrin - Integration Strategy Team: DCLG
During its visit to Canning Town library, run by the London Borough of Newham, the Taskforce received a tour of the library that had been newly opened on 11 September 2017. They also received a presentation by Cllr Ken Clark (Deputy Mayor of Newham and portfolio holder for Regeneration and Planning, Public Affairs and Building Communities), and Caroline Rae, the Head of Library Service. This covered:
- their vision and priorities
- the services they offer and the events and activities programmes they run from their libraries
- how they engage with residents, and the impact their services have had on residents
The discussion focussed on Newham’s approach of library based community development, using the physical assets of libraries to act as a hub for delivery of a range of services, and to help develop and support hyper-localised community networks, involving communities in defining the right services for each locality. They employed staff with a remit to link with the local community to help with this. Libraries were used as a valuable place and trusted to bring different elements of the community together through shared activities, linking to a wide range of outcomes; social care, health and wellbeing and culture. Libraries were increasingly co-located with other services, and opening hours were being extended to allow access by people working during normal core hours, and to students before or after school; with community meeting rooms open regularly late into the evening.
In addition to this new library Newham planned to open 2 more community hubs incorporating libraries, in Plaistow and West Ham. The council had been active in gaining investment in community infrastructure from developers in the area. Although the facilities were valued and trusted, they were not heavily library branded since many of the incoming communities within the borough were not familiar with the concept of libraries, and the ‘community hubs’ description resonated locally. This did not mean that the traditional role of books and reading was in any way downplayed as part of the Newham offer.
Amongst other things, the Taskforce heard about the way in which Newham was using libraries to support literacy, joining with schools in a reading mentoring scheme. The investment is showing benefits already: at Key stage 2, nearly 7 in every 10 children met the expected standards in reading, writing and mathematics (67%) in 2017. In 2016 Newham was ranked 3rd in England on this measure for writing up from 132 in 2006. They also strongly promoted the Summer Reading Challenge (with more than 18,000 children subscribed locally) and were holding their first book festival in November.
The chair thanked Newham on behalf of the Taskforce for hosting the meeting and for the very stimulating discussion over lunch.
2. The National Archives - future strategy
Jeff James, Chief Executive of The National Archives (TNA) attended to share the work TNA had done to develop Archives Unlocked, a vision and strategy for archives launched in March 2017, and to share his thoughts on areas where both sectors can learn from each other and work more closely together for the future.
Archives Unlocked focuses on 3 ambitions: inspiring trust, enriching lives, and being open to all. In order to achieve these ambitions, the action plan focuses on areas of particular need in the sector at present; areas which are potential barriers to the success of the vision:
- increasing digital capacity
- building resilience
- demonstrating impact
The Taskforce was interested in areas where the 2 sectors were facing similar challenges; for example:
- developing and disseminating good practice (TNA saw this as equipping the sector with tools to help it become self-reliant, and then encouraging archives to work in partnership)
- the challenges faced in maintaining momentum in advocacy for the sector
- the challenges of attracting and retaining high quality recruits despite strong competition from elsewhere
It also discussed the positioning of archives at the heart of communities, reinforcing a sense of place and noted the similarities between Libraries Week and the Archives Uncovered activities. This discussion led to certain areas being identified as possibilities for closer working; for example, exploring where they had similar users, workforce recruitment and development, and closer liaison on promotional opportunities.
The chair thanked Jeff for his presentation and the insights within it. The Taskforce looked forward to closer working alongside TNA on their very similar agendas for the future.
3. Libraries Deliver: Ambition - overview of the action plan
The Taskforce noted the action plan, roadmap and risk assessment documents which had been circulated. Since the last meeting, the Taskforce had published a number of substantial pieces of work designed to help and influence different parts of the sector and its partners. These included:
- the research on community managed libraries undertaken by SERIO and the Taskforce response to it
- the beta version of its longer-term, evidence-based sustainable planning toolkit
- a beta version of its benchmarking framework for library services
The chair and chief executive had written out to council chief executives to ensure that they are aware of, and encouraged to use, all these tools. LGA is also promoting these to councillors. There was encouraging feedback that councils were finding the planning toolkit useful and were beginning to refer to it in considering their future approaches to integrating libraries into wider strategic thinking.
The Taskforce congratulated all those involved in working on these publications.
The Taskforce agreed to feed in any further comments on the next steps for the actions to the Taskforce team Project Manager
4. Libraries Deliver: Ambition - Outcome 7: Stronger, more resilient communities
The Taskforce has decided to focus each meeting on one or more of the 7 Outcomes. The seventh of these sessions, led by Ian Leete, LGA, focussed on Outcome 7: Stronger, more resilient communities.
The aim of these sessions is for the Taskforce to:
- gain a shared understanding of what each Outcome covers, and the opportunities and challenges involved in meeting the ambitions set out for 2021
- learn about some of the different facets of work involved in taking the Outcome forward
- consider how members could contribute to and support this work over the coming year
Ian introduced this Outcome as being dependent on the impact of the other Outcomes, as shown by Newham’s experience where activities related to health, culture, literacy and learning all helped to build community cohesion. Councillor Mike Bell provided specific examples from North Somerset, where co-location with other community facing facilities, such as children’s centres, unlocked wider, library-led, access to public services. This was based on a focus on community cohesion, encouraging people to connect and maximise these opportunities.
DCLG, which was working on producing a Green Paper on social integration during the autumn, presented on their current thinking. They were working on a number of themes pulled out from the Casey Review focussed on combatting social exclusion, particularly in deprived areas. As a result of contacts developed with the Taskforce Team they had been taking an interest in the work already underway in a number of library services across the country to support and develop social mixing and trust between different communities. For example, work in Suffolk on their Chat and Chill sessions, and East Sussex’s work on Rhymetimes, bringing people from different communities together. The Taskforce discussed the critical issue of balancing tailored service provision to meet the needs of specific communities with creating universal access to core services; balancing a more segregated and segmented approach with cohesion.
The Taskforce agreed that library services were fundamentally committed to supporting strong communities, with the Ethics of Librarianship explicitly supporting equity, impartiality, and respect for diversity, equal opportunities and human rights. They agreed that there were positive examples of library projects which had proven impacts in achieving these outcomes, but discussed how these approaches could be embedded more consistently across library services, and what resources might be needed or available to achieve this. DCLG was considering setting up some area-based pilots to help develop good practice approaches which could be robustly evaluated, with a view to wider sharing and dissemination.
The importance of recognising local variations within this policy agenda was strongly emphasised. For example, acknowledging areas where white working class groups were falling behind other communities and experiencing perceived social isolation and disadvantage as a result, as well as areas where migrants or ethnic minority groups were most in need of support. The role of libraries in building and reinforcing a sense of place was discussed, often as part of broader place-making partnerships, with the unifying benefits that this could lead to. The power of bringing people together physically through libraries was also highlighted. This was possibly more important in building trust and understanding between diverse groups when contrasted to the perceived divisions created through hostile use of digital channels, such as social media, which could exaggerate or exacerbate divisions.
The Taskforce was keen to see the Green Paper help to align government policy priorities more cohesively, so that library service resources could be planned and targeted more accurately to maximise impact. It was glad to see DCLG’s current thinking about the importance and relevance of libraries to achieving strong and cohesive communities, and welcomed this being articulated strongly in any policy paper to boost recognition of the role libraries could play in supporting this outcome. In turn, the Taskforce supported this issue being a focus for development of this Outcome’s actions over the coming period; gathering and assessing good practice case studies and evidence; and starting to put this issue more firmly on the agenda for all library services.
The Taskforce offered any further assistance to DCLG that they might require in developing their work on the Green Paper further.
Ian undertook to use the feedback and ideas gathered during the session to frame specific proposals for further action which would be considered by the Taskforce at their February meeting.
The Taskforce thanked Henry and Penny from the DCLG Social Integration Team for their contribution to a stimulating and valuable session, and Ian for stepping forward to lead the Taskforce’s debate on this Outcome.
The Taskforce agreed that :
- the Taskforce Team should continue to work with the DCLG Social Integration Strategy team as they continued to develop their Green Paper
- Ian should draw together the ideas that emerged during the discussion and propose the top 3-4 priority follow-up actions (together with thoughts on how actions and consequent impacts can be tracked), to be put to the Taskforce for sign-off at its February meeting
5. Libraries Deliver: Ambition - Follow-up discussion on Outcome 1: Cultural and creative enrichment
At its previous meeting, the Taskforce discussed Outcome 1: Cultural and creative enrichment. Based on that discussion, Paul Bristow had brought forward proposals for further action.
The Taskforce agreed that the following action areas should be pursued over the coming 12-18 months:
- helping libraries staff acquire skills so they can better respond to, and compete for, funding and development opportunities
- developing capacity and skills in partnership building and programme development, to help libraries forge strong relationships with both delivery partners and investors
- defining and promoting clearer contact paths for partners interested in working with library sector, to assist in faster and more agile responses to opportunities
- finding ways to identify and disseminate good practice in the design of libraries to assist their use as cultural venues and creative spaces
- identifying how to extend the creative and cultural role for libraries beyond their physical spaces, into the community and across digital platforms
6. Communications update and priorities (Ambition Action 6)
The Taskforce noted the communications activity across all channels since its last meeting, and the potential to use planned activities in Libraries Week to help showcase libraries’ impact and value. It supported plans to develop a prototype of a good practice sharing platform that could be used across the libraries sector to provide streamlined access to all available guidance and good practice.
It also discussed its communication priorities, split between reaching senior decision makers with advocacy / good practice guidance messages, and the public with awareness raising messages (including through the media), and supported the analysis presented.
The Taskforce agreed that:
- all members would be active during Libraries Week in showcasing the contribution and impact of public libraries
- the Communications Sub-Group should hold a roundtable to discuss future communications work in more detail; particularly suggesting the common messages that the Taskforce should disseminate, and which partner organisations should lead on different elements of this work
- it would consider the Sub-Group’s thoughts and recommendations at a future meeting
7. Finance sub-group - proposed work programme
At its last meeting on 13 July, as part of a discussion covering post-election implications, the Taskforce considered a paper on the longer-term financial sustainability of libraries. It formed a finance sub-group (consisting of representatives from LGA, SCL, cCLOA, ACE, CILIP, DCMS and the Taskforce Team), which met on 11 September, to discuss what activities would be most valuable for the Taskforce to undertake over the next few months to support this agenda.
The Taskforce reinforced that the core funding for libraries was provided through local government, and it would continue to advocate for libraries to support this. However, it recogised that the Taskforce’s intervention on securing funding for specific programmes was an important addition to this. The Taskforce acknowledged it was important to be ready to respond with a strong and evidenced business case to potential funding opportunities that might present themselves. This has been effective to date in securing funding for the rollout of wifi and the Libraries: Opportunities for Everyone innovation fund.
Priority projects for funding had already been identified in a number of areas, including maintaining and expanding the business offer delivered throughout the library network, supporting the extension of makerspaces, and universal child membership of libraries. These would form the first wave of projects to be worked up into full business cases.
The Taskforce agreed that:
- as a first step, full business cases should be developed on maintaining and expanding the business offer delivered throughout the library network, supporting the extension of makerspaces, and universal child membership of libraries
8. Ongoing changes by library authorities
The Taskforce discussed the current proposals under consideration by library authorities. In particular, it noted that the minister and officials had met with Lancashire and Barnet since the last Taskforce meeting as part of the complaints consideration. Lancashire was in the process of reopening previously closed libraries and, in parallel to the complaint consideration, DCMS is encouraging them to plan strategically, in line with the recent Taskforce toolkit.
9. Draft six month progress report: April to September 2017 (Ambition Action 23)
A draft of this report was circulated to the Taskforce.
The Taskforce agreed that:
- suggestions for any comments or amendments should be provided to the Secretariat by 11 October
- the 6 month progress report should be published on GOV.UK, once agreed by the LGA Culture, Tourism and Sport Board and the Libraries Minister
10. Information items
The Taskforce noted progress on the following issues:
10.1 Single Library Digital Presence (Action 20)
In August, it was announced that The British Library was to lead an 18-month scoping project to establish the demand for, and possible shape of, a ‘single digital presence’ for UK public libraries.
Funded by £236,384 from Arts Council England and £30,000 from Carnegie UK Trust, the project will investigate user expectations and demand for what a national online platform for public libraries might deliver, and will explore the network of stakeholder groups and organisations best placed to make it a reality. It will undertake market analysis, stakeholder interviews, workshops and other research, leading to a draft set of options and emerging findings within the first year, as well as recommendations on how this might be taken forward. It will involve key stakeholders from across the home nations, assessing the potential and scope for a UK-wide platform providing access to local collections and services.
Emerging findings from the project would be shared in autumn 2018, with the final report published in 2019.
10.2 #cultureisdigital - online platform
The Culture is Digital project was set up in March 2017, but external stakeholder engagement had to be paused during the pre-election period. The project was officially re-launched post-election; it is championed at ministerial level by John Glen, with continuing support from Matt Hancock as Minister for Digital.
As part of the relaunch, the project team established an online discussion portal. It also posted a guest blog on the Taskforce blog pages in July, asking as many as possible from the public libraries sector to engage with it. The platform was open until early August for libraries to share ideas and examples of exciting work and developments that they’ve been taking forward linked to work on digital culture projects. Sue Williamson, from St Helens library service, attended a ministerial roundtable run as part of the consultation.
The discussion platform received a high-level of engagement overall, allowing the project to gather a lot of qualitative data from stakeholders. Themes emerging included:
- the potential for digital to find new audiences for cultural experiences
- the need for a longer-term strategy around digitisation of collections and improving their infrastructure
- the importance of collaboration between the cultural and tech sector
- the possibilities offered if cultural organisations could better collect and exploit the potential of data for understanding audiences and to improve their businesses,
- the need for digital upskilling within the culture sector
Policy proposals are now being developed for submission to ministers, and it is hoped that agreed actions will be published by the end of the year.
10.3 Support for community managed libraries (Action 11)
Action 11 of Ambition said the Taskforce would undertake research into the longer-term sustainability of community managed libraries. On 5 September, it published:
The Taskforce will use the information and insights from this research about the support needs of community libraries to pinpoint ways to improve and strengthen the advice and guidance provided through its toolkits.
The Taskforce also undertook to provide support to community managed libraries to share good practice, and help develop sustainable community managed library business models and approaches. It is working in partnership with SCL and Locality to support a new Community Managed Libraries Peer Network (supported financially by The Power to Change Trust). This network is being led by the Upper Norwood Library Trust, which is currently developing a programme of learning events and setting up ways to share information and support between community libraries. The partners will help to promote the network more widely, and publicise events run through the network and beyond.
10.4 CILIP membership 2018 launch
Between 6 November 2017 and the beginning of 2018, CILIP will be launching a new membership model for the library and information profession. The new membership is designed to be more open, inclusive and relevant to everyone working with libraries and information, whatever level they are working at and whichever sector they are in.
From January 2018, people will be able to join and manage their membership online. Membership will be open to everyone working in the library and information sector who shares CILIP’s mission and values, including professionals who do not intend to Charter.
10.5 Libraries All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG)
The Libraries APPG was re-registered following the 2017 General Election, and CILIP was now working with Chair Gill Furniss MP, and Deputy Chair Lord Graham Tope, to finalise its programme of activity for 2017/18.
A full programme for the APPG would be published once confirmed with the chair. Among other events and activities, it was proposing a round-table session with members of the Libraries Taskforce and other invitees focused on developing a shared vision of the role and activities of the ‘library of the future’. It was also proposing a schedule of visits to libraries, ideally in partnership with the London SCL group, and a summer event, which it hopes will be held in conjunction with a partner organisation.
The APPG would be contacting Parliamentarians with the aim of welcoming additional members and officers to the Group. In addition, once it had confirmed the programme, it would be seeking an opportunity for the minister, John Glen MP, to meet with the APPG and discuss matters relating to his libraries brief.
11. Taskforce meetings and governance
11.1 Taskforce minutes
The Taskforce noted that the minutes from the last Taskforce meeting (held in Cambridge central library on 13 July) had been cleared by correspondence and published on GOV.UK.
11.2 Action log
The Taskforce noted outstanding actions and work underway to address them.
11.3 Forward programme
The forward programme lists the proposed dates and venues for future Taskforce meetings. The Taskforce noted that the next meetings would be held on:
- 7 December in Storyhouse, Hunter Street, Chester CH1 2AR
- 7 February - LGA offices, Smith Square, Westminster, London SW1P 3HZ
- 21 March - Sheffield central library, Surrey Street, Sheffield S1 1XZ
The Taskforce agreed that members would send suggestions for potential venues for future meetings from May 2018 onwards, or any further items to be programmed for future meetings, to the Policy and Secretariat Manager.
11.4 Taskforce membership changes
The Taskforce welcomed a number of new members:
- Cllr Mike Bell, the new LGA representative on the Taskforce, who is a member of the Local Government Association’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board - the LGA Board that jointly (with DCMS) oversees the work of the Taskforce
- Dr Neil Churchill, Director for Participation and Experience at NHS England
- Helen Williams and Kate McGavin, who jointly cover the role of Deputy Director, Arts, Libraries and Digital Culture at DCMS (through a job share)
- Alex Thomson, who would be representing the LGA from the next meeting onwards
- Polly Hamilton, Assistant Director, Culture, Sport and Tourism, Rotherham Council, who would be joining the Taskforce as the representative for the Chief Culture and Leisure Officers Association
It also recorded thanks and appreciation for their valuable contribution to :
- Rebecca Cox, Principal Policy Advisor at the LGA, who was standing down from the Taskforce during her period of maternity leave
- Iain Varah who was stepping down as the cCLOA representative
The Taskforce recorded a special vote of thanks to Dr Paul Blantern, who was leaving Northamptonshire County Council, and hence resigning from the Taskforce and standing down as chair. It had valued his leadership and commitment to the work of the Taskforce, which had led to a number of considerable achievements on behalf of the libraries sector. For example, the extension of wifi to all public libraries in England, the publication of the first strategy for public libraries endorsed by both central and local government, and the subsequent work to successfully take forward so many of the Ambition actions. The chair, in turn, expressed his appreciation for the efforts and commitment shown by the Taskforce members and core team over the last couple of years, and the support they had given him as chair.
The Taskforce Terms of Reference require the chair to be a local government chief executive. Kim Bromley-Derry said that he would be willing to step up to this role, and the Taskforce supported his name being put forward to the Libraries Minister and the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board for their endorsement.
12. Date of next meeting
The Taskforce’s next meeting would be held on 7 December 2017 in Storyhouse, Chester. The Taskforce would use this meeting to focus on the annual refresh of the Ambition document and its associated action plan, and to reflect on progress to date and any improvements that could be made to its ways of working.