Click through these links to explore the key areas of our work with libraries across England.
Take a look at some of our recent research reports related to libraries using the links below.
In 2014, Arts Council England commissioned SImetrica to conduct a study to value the health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries. This study looks at the value of the health and wellbeing benefits of library engagement measured through economic value.
Report exploring the different ways in which communities are involved in library service delivery and management. The research, carried out in July 2012, provides a snapshot of the various ways in which communities are involved in library provision in England.
Created in May 2014, this research explores what the experience has been – and could be in future – for rural libraries specifically, following the huge amount of change public library services have undergone in recent years.
In a climate where local authorities face significant financial challenges, understanding the economic contribution of libraries is particularly important to the library sector. It is a complex question and this report summarises both the evidence available on the subject, and the ways in which others have approached the question, including the advantages and potential pitfalls of the different methodologies.
Exploring existing good practice and assessing the potential to further enable enterprise within library service providers.
Envisioning the library of the future
A major research project undertaken by the Arts Council in 2012–13 to help us understand the future for libraries, how we can enable them to develop, and provide the focus for our work in the futureFind out more
Children’s digital needs and libraries
Public libraries have a clear role to play both in supporting children to become digitally safe and aware but also to ensure that all children have the opportunity to explore, experience and become skilled technology users. This research, commissioned by the Association of Senior Children's and Education Librarians (ASCEL), working in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL), was funded by Arts Council England.
The public libraries universal offers
The Society of Chief Librarians and partners – including The Arts Council – are committed to keeping library services relevant and accessible. Together they have identified five key areas of service which today’s users regard as integral to public libraries and have developed a shared strategy for the future. Both the Information Offer and the Digital Offer cover the provision of digital information in libraries. Find out more.
Commissioned by The Arts Council this independent work from Common Futures aims to better understand the potential for library-hack-makerspaces. This initiative offers an exciting opportunity for libraries to support creativity, skills development and enterprise, including the potential to facilitate Science, Tecnology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills development, further details of which can be found in the project report.
Libraries development initiative
This funding programme was created to test new approaches to library service delivery to build vibrant, sustainable 21st century library services. Several of the projects in this programme looked at the use of digital technologies in libraries. Find out more.
Read about how we work to increase the quality, volume and reach of arts and culture content that is created or distributed digitallyFind out more
Working with children and young people is integral to the role of public libraries and is embedded in all our work. Additionally, one of our organisational goals is for every child and young person to have the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts, museums and libraries.
Children’s digital needs and libraries
The research, commissioned by the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) working in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL), was funded by Arts Council England. Public libraries have a clear role to play both in supporting children to become digitally safe and aware but also to ensure that all children have the opportunity to explore, experience and become skilled technology users.
We fund a network of 10 Bridge organisations (as part of the National Portfolio) that use their experience and expertise to connect children and young people, schools and communities with arts and culture. They connect schools and communities with other cultural organisations, including museums and libraries. Find out more.
Society of Chief Librarians and the Association of Senior Chidren's and Education Librarians
Arts Council England works with the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) on a range of projects, including Automatic Library Membership and the Reading Offer – part of the Public Library Universal Offers.
The Reading Agency
Children and young people
Find out more about our work to bring great art and culture to all children and young people across England.Find out more
The library of the future
Our research indicates that one of the major challenges facing public libraries in the future is ensuring that library staff have effective leadership and delivery skills for a rapidly evolving service. Equally, those responsible for the strategic planning and funding of library services need to be fully aware of current good practice and the contribution that libraries can make to achieving community goals.
What public libraries of the future will need, and what is needed now to create the public libraries of the future are:
- a collective vision, encompassing clarity of social purpose, stronger leadership locally, new and different business models, and leadership collaboration nationally
- bold action to communicate to the general public the many ways in which libraries are useful, especially targeting those who stand to benefit most
- evidenced arguments about added-value which are strong enough to have impact in an era of outcome-based funding
- local service models in which co-production is an organising principle which unlocks opportunities, rather than a short-term defensive response to reduce expenditure
For further information see Envisioning the library of the future Phases 1 and 2: full report.
Local Government Association leadership seminars
The Arts Council England and the Local Government Association run a series of Library Leadership seminars aimed at elected members with responsibility for library services. The aim of the seminars is to share innovative ideas and good practice on delivering sustainable library services which meet the needs of local communities.
Local Government Association peer reviews
The Arts Council funds the Local Government Association offers a limited number of mini peer reviews, enabling critical assessment of library services by a small team of peers.
The Arts Council’s long-term vision for workforce development in arts and cultural organisations can be found in our strategic framework. We work with our partner organisations to ensure that all library staff have effective leadership and delivery skills, e.g. the SCL Digital Leadership programme which is part of the Public Library Universal Offers. Our aim is to ensure that appropriate workforce development is integral to all the projects and initiatives that we fund and support.
Goal 4: diversity and skills
Find out how we encourage and promote a diverse and appropriate professional workforce in the arts and cultural sectorFind out more
The Libraries Development Initiative ran between March 2012 and March 2013. The successful libraries tested innovative, locally appropriate and enterprising ways of working, resulting in a resilient vision for future public library services as a whole.
Together the projects received £230,000 to test new approaches to library service delivery. You can download a list of the projects and amounts awarded below.