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Arts Council England announces commitment to library development

  • Date: 5 August 2011
  • Area: National

Arts Council England has signalled its commitment to the continuation of the Future Libraries programme, in partnership with the Local Government Group (LGG) and the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS).

The Arts Council will build on the achievements of the first phase of the Future Libraries programme, which has now concluded, and continue with the partnership approach for Future Libraries 2, a two-stage programme that will run from autumn 2011 to the end of March 2013.

The first stage of Future Libraries 2 will be delivered by the Local Government Group, and will share ideas, learning and best practice from the original programme through seminars and the development of expert guidance. The second stage of Future Libraries 2 will be delivered by the Arts Council and will focus on long-term goals, strengthening the sector and encouraging partnerships and innovation at a local level. Further details will be announced in September.

Responsibility for supporting and developing libraries

In October the Arts Council will take over responsibility for supporting and developing libraries as part of the functions it inherits from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).

While the Arts Council will not be responsible for providing or funding library services, it will play a significant role in supporting and developing the libraries sector. Continuing discussions with the libraries sector, new in-house expertise and a national overview will enable the Arts Council to draw an accurate picture of the challenges and opportunities for libraries, and be in a unique position to help drive national cultural policy.

The Arts Council will work with partners to promote reading, encouraging people of all ages to experience and enjoy it through festivals, reading challenges and groups, author events and other initiatives. Digital technology will be harnessed, enabling many more people and communities to access and appreciate reading and create the content themselves.

As well as supporting public libraries to develop their cultural offer, the Arts Council will use its wider remit to promote their information and learning role, and foster better long-term local relationships between libraries, museums and the arts.

Our Chief Executive Alan Davey said: 'We recognise this is a really challenging time for libraries, as it is for many different kinds of cultural institutions across the country. I believe that working more collaboratively with museums and arts organisations will open up exciting opportunities for libraries to develop the important role they play in our communities.

'While resources are limited, we're determined to focus our expertise where we can have the greatest possible impact, on research and supporting innovation and leadership within the library sector.

'We see our role as developing the cultural richness and potential of libraries. We want to help them form new partnerships and develop innovative approaches, so that they can provide a stronger 21st century library service for communities across the country.'

About the Future Libraries programme

The Future Libraries programme was set up in August 2010 to support library services across the country through the challenging financial climate and to ensure they continued to play a central role in communities. Local councils awarded funding to individual projects to explore new ways in which libraries could meet the challenges they faced. The first phase of the Future Libraries Programme has now concluded.

Find out more about the Arts Council's work with museums and libraries.