On 1 October 2011 we took over responsibility for supporting and developing libraries as part of the functions we inherit from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).

While are not responsible for providing or funding library services, we will play a significant role in supporting and developing the libraries sector. Continuing discussions with the libraries sector, in-house expertise and a national overview will enable us 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's vision for libraries is that they inspire and empower people to lead active lives, enriched through cultural experience. The Arts Council is working with libraries to explore a vision for arts and culture working together.

Rural library services in England

Defra and Arts Council England have published new research into the rural impacts of changes to library services.

The aim of this project is to help local communities and authorities to better understand the issues, challenges and opportunities for rural areas arising from changes to library services and what can be done to deliver a comprehensive, efficient and sustainable library service in rural areas that meets local need. Read the full report here and find the case studies here.

Evidence review of the economic contribution of libraries

Evidence review of the economic contribution of libraries marks an important first step in our understanding of the contribution public libraries can make at an economic level, whilst also assessing the scale of contribution a library can make to individuals and communities via the social and educational benefits they provide.

The library of the future

Envisioning the library of the future is a major research project undertaken by the Arts Council in 2012/13 that will help us to understand the future for libraries, and how we can enable them to develop.


Designation is currently closed for review. Designation identifies the pre-eminent collections of national and international importance held in England's non-national museums, libraries and archives, based on their quality and significance. 

Find out more about our support of museum collections.

Grants for the arts - £6 million fund for libraries now open

An extra £6 million in Grants for the arts funding for libraries opened to applications on Thursday 27 September 2012 and will be available until March 2015. The funding will support projects that stimulate ambitious and innovative partnerships between libraries and artists and/or arts organisations, encouraging communities to participate in cultural activities.

Public libraries can apply for grants of between £1,000 and £100,000 covering activities lasting up to three years. Find out how to apply.

To read about examples of successful Grants for the arts projects visit our pages on funded project case studies. The latest libraries case study is on Circuit Live, a spoken word project inspired by London 2012 and involving children not in education, employment or training (NEET) in workshops held in libraries across London in Camden, Lambeth, Lewisham, Waltham Forest and Westminster.

Libraries Development Initiative

On 1 November 2011 we launched the Libraries Development Initiative. The overarching aim of this initiative is to create vibrant, sustainable 21st century library services within the framework of Great art and culture for everyone

Community managed and community supported libraries research

On Tuesday 22 January, Arts Council England and the Local Government Association (LGA) published new research into the different ways in which communities are involved in library service delivery and management:  Community libraries - Learning from experience: guiding principles for local authorities.

Read the research.

Public Libraries Information Offer

The Public Libraries Information Offer was a pilot project developed in partnership by the Society of Chief Librarians and Arts Council England. The project set out to show how libraries, as trusted community spaces with frontline staff trained as digital champions, are one of the key partners in delivering government online services. This is demonstrated in their expertise in providing information and assisted digital support for people to build their digital skills to access services at a local level. The outcomes and findings from the project have been set out in a report, published in June 2012, which is available to read and download from the Society of Chief Librarians' website.

Automatic library membership

We have announced 22 projects that will share approximately £55,000 to test automatic library membership for children and young people. It is hoped these projects will lead to an increase in children, young people and families using their local libraries and stimulate more reading for pleasure. These projects are supported by the Department for Education and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Find out more

CMS Select Committee Inquiry into Library Closures

The Arts Council submitted evidence to the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee Inquiry into Library Closures. Download our submission. We have also responded to the final report published on 6 November 2012. Read our response.

CIPFA Public Library Statistics

This statistical statement provides an update of the key trends from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) Public Library Statistics 2010/11 (Actuals).

Download the statement

Sieghart Review of the public library service

The Arts Council have responded to the Sieghart Review into the UK’s public library service. You can download and read our response here (Word, PDF). More information about the consultation can be found here.

Common Libraries – Prototyping a Library-Hack-Makerspace Network

The Arts Council was pleased to commission and fund this independent work from Common Futures Ltd. As library services continue to evolve and respond to the ever changing digital landscape, this initiative aims to better understand the potential for library-hack-makerspaces, and affiliations between libraries and hack-makerspaces. This initiative offers an exciting opportunity for libraries to support creativity, skills development and enterprise, including the potential to facilitate STEM skills development (in keeping with libraries’ educational remit). Further details of which can be found in the project report available on the Common Libraries website.

By offering these spaces alongside existing knowledge and learning resources, libraries are doing what they have always done – opening up personal opportunities. We regard it as a very useful piece of work which we are pleased to have funded, and grateful to Common Futures Ltd for all of their work.