Enabling Enterprise in Libraries

Four development priorities were identified in the Arts Council’s response to the 'Envisioning the library of the future' programme:

  • Place the library as the hub of the community
  • Make the most of digital technology and creative media
  • Ensure that libraries are resilient and sustainable
  • Deliver the right skills for those who work for libraries

This piece of work contributes to the third of these development priorities.

Locality has worked with Arts Council England over a six month period to explore existing good practice and assess the potential to further enable income generation to support and enhance as well as to improve the overall resilience and sustainability of library services.

The aim of the project was to support library service commissioners and providers to intensify or widen their area of operations in an enterprising way - without losing or compromising their ethos and core objectives. This guidance note builds upon earlier research about ‘Enabling Enterprise in Libraries’ which identified a range of opportunities as well as challenges perceived to be limiting income generation in a public library context.

Read the Enabling Enterprise in Libraries report

A key finding emerging from the research was that there is considerable uncertainty about legal and technical issues relating to trading, charging and investment which is preventing further innovation in this regard. Drawing on legal and investment expertise as well as contributions from library service commissioners and providers themselves, Locality have now published a guide to clarify how library services can practically develop and implement income generating activities to benefit library services.

The Arts Council recognises that local authorities are responsible for the policy and delivery of their library service, and that they will seek specific advice regarding their own circumstances. This report is a positive contribution to support the sector but is not, in itself, a policy statement or a definitive position that covers all contexts.

Read Income Generation for Public Libraries, A Practical Guide for Library Service Commissioners and Providers in England