The department for Culture, Media and Sport has published a new five-year strategy, setting up a £4m fund to help disadvantaged communities and promote new projects.
Local libraries are hugely popular, the report said, securing more visits in 2014/15 than Premier League football games, the cinema and England’s top 10 UK tourist attractions combined.
But to continue, the Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson has warned, change is needed.
“If we are going to build a country that works for everyone then we need to recognise that libraries are among our most valuable community assets and they remain hugely popular,” he said. “But standing still is not an option if libraries are to thrive and work best for communities in the 21st century. This strategy provides a blueprint for how libraries can be better utilised, to make them more resilient while still delivering vital public services to the communities that need them.”
Councils are to be urged to consider using their library buildings when delivering other public services, such as access to employment, health and learning services. And new support is being set up to provide support for libraries to become “public service mutuals”, following in the footsteps of services such as York’s Explore project.
This project, launched in 2014, saw responsibility handed over to a ‘mutual society’ which operates independently of the council.
Part owned by staff and the community, the social enterprise-style model, because it’s a charity, has access to funding streams it wouldn’t have done as part of the council.