Future of libraries

Published on Tuesday, 09 August 2011 10:53
Posted by Scott Buckler

Community groups running libraries, private sector funding and self-service book borrowing points in shops and village halls can play a vital role in delivering a library service fit for the 21st century, council leaders have said (August 9th)

The Local Government Group and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council today publish a joint report on the future of libraries.


The publication, 'Future Libraries: Change, options and how to get there', comes one year after the launch of an ambitious project to support 36 library authorities in developing innovative ways to modernise services.

Four options for helping to ensure the survival of libraries in the 21st century have been identified by the Future Libraries Programme pilots.

These are:

  • Running libraries in partnership with the private sector, charities and other councils.
  • Extending the reach and range of library services by integrating them with other community facilities like churches, shops and village halls and providing public services such as health centres and the police surgeries in existing libraries.
  • Sharing services like back offices and mobile libraries with neighbouring local authorities to make stretched resources go further.
  • Giving library users the ability to play a more active role in running library services themselves.

The findings of the Future Libraries Programme will now be shared among councils across the country.

It is hoped that innovative ideas developed by authorities taking part in the pilot can increase numbers using libraries while delivering millions of pounds of savings.

Cllr Chris White, Chair of the Local Government Association's Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said:

"Public libraries are among the most valued services provided by councils. We know that people of all ages and from all backgrounds are quite rightly very protective over their local library.

"By breaking down the barriers of tradition, councils are bringing libraries into the 21st century and meeting the needs of a new generation of library users.

"The best libraries are at the heart of councils' approaches to everything from lifelong learning to wellbeing, job seeking, volunteering, education and encouraging more people to get online."

The project has the backing of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

"There is a huge amount of expertise and ambition throughout England's local authorities to run brilliant, modern library services. Across England, councillors and managers are working to develop plans that will meet their community's changing needs while balancing budget pressures.

"The Future Libraries Programme has shone a spotlight on excellent examples of innovation and creative partnership working. It will be a hugely useful resource, inspiring local authorities to emulate the best ideas to provide a first rate library service."

Some of the innovative schemes run as part of the Future Libraries Programme include:

  • Bradford City Council is piloting the launch of book borrowing points in shops across the city, with self-service points installed at premises taking part.
  • Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Councils have drawn up proposals to combine library services, saving more than £1 million a year and ensuring all of their 21 public libraries remain safe from closure. Once fully implemented, it will mean residents will gain access to around 1 million books, hundreds of entertainment and cultural events and scores of weekly skills and education classes.
  • Suffolk County Council is looking to recruit members of the community to boards of governors which could run the county's libraries, giving residents more say on how services are delivered.
  • Northumberland and Durham County Councils have signed up Age UK and Sure Start Centres to their trial of e-book readers to evaluate how beneficial they can be for older people and children.
  • Hertfordshire County Council is looking to expand its home book delivery service in co-operation with adult social care, while opening libraries in children's centres.
  • Councils in south-east London – the London Boroughs of Lewisham with Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Greenwich, Lambeth and Southwark councils – estimate they could save up to £615,000 per year just by sharing a home library and mobile library service, with long term savings of up to ten times that if all seven councils fully integrated their library services.

Source: MLA

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