New strategy to help public library service productivity

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.

Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021, announced by Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson, encourages local authorities to make use of the buildings, staff and services, and work creatively to help increase reading, literacy and digital access in communities.

Produced by the Libraries Taskforce, the strategy includes a new £4 million ‘Opportunities for Everyone Innovation Fund’ that will deliver new initiatives for disadvantaged communities across the country.

Managed by Arts Council England, the fund will finance new projects such as literacy schemes, improving access to technology or increasing the number of children visiting libraries.

The Libraries Taskforce is also piloting new ways for libraries to generate income from government initiatives, with plans to explore how libraries can be used as part of the National Citizen Service programme to support the participation of young people starting in January.

Wilson said: “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.

“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.”

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.”

Cllr Ian Stephens, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said: "Councils support the proposals set out in Libraries Deliver, and the funding that the minister has made available to help libraries transform. Improving libraries’ digital presence, training library staff in the new skills they need, and increasing their support offer for local businesses will help our libraries continue to deliver. I encourage all councillors and officers to read this document and reflect on how their library services can benefit from these ideas."

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