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Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021

Libraries change lives for the better. They not only provide access to books and other literature but also help people to help themselves and improve their opportunities, bring people together, and provide practical support and guidance. As a locally accountable service, they are well-placed to respond to local needs and issues.

Libraries can have a critical role in helping people to realise their potential, and especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. DCMS and the Taskforce are setting up a £4 million ‘Libraries: Opportunities for Everyone’ innovation fund to pilot library service projects that provide people with opportunities that they might not have otherwise. We will see from these pilots which approaches are most successful, then encourage wider adoption and investment in them.

These are challenging times for councils and the library services they run. The way people use libraries and their expectations of public services are changing. Financial and demographic challenges are increasing. Standing still is not an option.

Strong local leadership of libraries, focused on meeting community needs, is vital. We will support this through nationally co-ordinated initiatives where these add value, for example by exploring whether a shared national digital platform would improve library users’ online experience, and by coordinating work to make the case for libraries and publicise what they do to have more impact through working together and sharing resources.

This report challenges both central and local government to think and act differently to transform library services. Libraries should be integral to all public service strategies. They must demonstrate their value to service commissioners - promoting themselves as an asset not a cost. In turn, we are urging commissioners to consider a ‘Libraries First’ approach when planning services for their communities.

Protecting frontline library services requires radical thinking. Many councils are already working in new and different ways. DCMS will accelerate this - providing advice and support to councils that want to find more effective ways to run their library service - to complement existing sector-led transformation and improvement initiatives led by the LGA. However where DCMS receives complaints and where local authorities do not appear to be meeting their statutory duties, DCMS will investigate and, if necessary, take action under the 1964 Act.

We want libraries to be more resilient and better equipped to weather future challenges - to thrive, not just survive. This document provides a blueprint to do this, building on extensive consultation with the sector and beyond. We welcome this document and fully support and endorse what it proposes.