Envisioning the library of the future was 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.

Envisioning the library of the future and the work that came from it will help us and our partners in the library sector to set out the value, role and purpose of public libraries with more clarity, pointing out ways they can respond to change in order to remain at the heart of their communities. This will provide the focus for our work in the future.

The research began in January 2012, and comprised three phases during which researchers spoke with more than 800 people. The research included an online survey which had over 1,400 responses, and 10,000 people viewed the online conversation. Read more on the research methodology.

Download the Arts Council's response to Envisioning the library of the future

Envisioning the library of the future research documents

Phases 1 and 2:

Envisioning the library of the future Phase 1: a review of innovations in library services by Ipsos MORI and Shared Intelligence
Envisioning the library of the future Phase 1: Future trends review by Ipsos MORI
Envisioning the library of the future Phase 1: Delphi enquiry
by Ipsos MORI and Shared Intelligence
Envisioning the library of the future Phases 1 and 2: full report
by Ipsos MORI and Shared Intelligence

Phase 3:

Envisioning the library of the future Phase 3: understanding what people value about libraries by Dialogue by Design and Involve
Envisioning the library of the future Phase 3: online survey by Dialogue by Design
Envisioning the library of the future Phase 3: understanding what young people value about libraries by Dialogue by Design and Office for Public Management

What the research has told us

This research has found that public libraries are trusted spaces, open to all, in which people continue to explore and share the joys of reading, information, knowledge and culture. It is clear that people value the services that libraries provide and will continue to do so. Indeed, there is a clear message that there is a compelling and continuing need for a publicly funded library service.

The research also reminds us that public libraries face many challenges in the coming years, including: advances in technology, which affect the ways in which people want to connect to information and culture; reduced public expenditure; the increasing involvement of citizens in the design and delivery of public services; and the needs of an ageing population.

Four priority areas

In order to foster a successful, sustainable library service in light of these challenges, the Arts Council has set out four priority areas for development which have been tested and corroborated by stakeholders:

1     place the library as the hub of the community

2     make the most of digital technology and creative media

3     ensure that libraries are resilient and sustainable

4     deliver the right skills for those who work in libraries

Working with partners

The Arts Council is already working with key partners in the sector to use the research including: the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Local Government Association, Society of Chief Librarians, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and the British Library. We will focus our energy on these priorities in our work with these partners and others in the future.

Our work to date

We have already undertaken a lot of work to help libraries to develop in these four priority areas. This includes:

More information on the Arts Council's work in developing public libraries will be announced on our Supporting libraries page.