Parliamentary report calls for government to support and modernise libraries

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee report says libraries are ‘an important part of a community’s infrastructure’

A new report has recommended that the government support and modernise libraries because they are “an important part of a community’s infrastructure”, especially for those who “are digitally excluded or who live in deprived neighbourhoods”.

Libraries Connected, an independent charity representing public libraries, welcomed the report’s findings, with its chief executive Isobel Hunter saying the group was “pleased that the committee recognises the crucial role libraries can play in tackling place-based inequalities across the UK”.

The report, titled Reimagining where we live: cultural placemaking and the levelling up agenda put together by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, recommends that the government should “support the development of a network of hubs providing cultural spaces, workspaces and free, fast internet access in places most in need of levelling up in order to modernise library service provision”.

The report highlights that libraries could be “engines for entrepreneurship, economic growth and job creation through the services they offer”, citing the British Library’s Business and IP Centre (BPIC) Network. It also found that libraries provided “important services to people from a range of socioeconomic groups”, such as a physical study space and a venue in which to host community and cultural events and activities.

Libraries also contributed “to quality of life, alongside other infrastructure like heritage, museums, local media and so on”, said the committee, and gave people reasons to visit high streets and town centres, as around 25% of libraries in England are located on high streets and a further 65% are close to one.

Hunter said that it was “reassuring” to see libraries’ “many cross-cutting benefits for literacy, health, culture, digital inclusion and business … acknowledged at a time when many library services are facing the prospect of budget reductions”.

“The evidence heard by the committee makes a very strong case that public libraries have a central role in the levelling up agenda,” she added. “We welcome the committee’s call for greater investment in libraries and urge the government to implement the report’s recommendations.”

The committee’s library recommendations are included in the wider report on “cultural placemaking”, which it says “refers to the role of arts, culture and heritage in shaping the places where we live” and can support the government’s levelling up agenda.

However, the committee said that it found “pervasive and persistent barriers to cultural placemaking”, including geographical disparities in funding, and “long-term sustainability and accessibility”.

The latest annual figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa), covering the year to March 2021, found that the number of library branches in the UK increased to 3,842 in 2021, from 3,662, after years of decline. However, Cipfa admitted this was based on “provisional” data.

Dozens of libraries around the country are preparing to become “warm banks” or “warm spaces” this winter, to help vulnerable people as the price of electricity goes up and the cost of living crisis sets in.

The government has two months to respond to the committee’s report.


Sarah Shaffi

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Spending on British libraries falls 17% as in-person visits soar
Official figures show £9,982 was spent per 1,000 people on libraries by central and local government in England, Scotland and Wales last year, down from £11,970 the year before

Sarah Shaffi

02, Mar, 2023 @12:01 AM

Article image
Peterborough libraries offer amnesty on fines to recover 22,000 missing books
Service says the move is aimed at encourage the return of borrowers who stopped using the library during the Covid pandemic

Sarah Shaffi

25, Oct, 2022 @1:01 PM

Article image
Julia Donaldson ends James Patterson’s reign as UK libraries’ most borrowed author
Data shows that Patterson’s 14-year run as readers’ overall favourite has given way to the Gruffalo author

Sarah Shaffi

22, Feb, 2023 @1:00 PM

Article image
'Hugely disappointing' government response to libraries petition
Supporters including JK Rowling and Neil Gaiman add their names to a campaign calling for library funding to be ringfenced

Alison Flood

12, Nov, 2018 @1:23 PM

Article image
Green light given for huge British Library extension
Community-focused £500m scheme will build new galleries, a learning centre, green spaces and a home for the Alan Turing Institute of data science

Sarah Shaffi

03, Feb, 2023 @2:56 PM

Article image
Cost-of-living crisis: one in five parents spend less on books for their children
Survey of more than 3,000 parents across Great Britain found 40% are struggling financially, with parents increasingly relying on school libraries

Sarah Shaffi

27, Feb, 2023 @12:02 PM

Article image
Bradford libraries face further £2m cuts
Beleaguered service is facing fresh funding squeeze, with budget set to shrink by two-thirds and professional staff under threat

David Barnett

21, Jan, 2019 @1:59 PM

Article image
Major report on libraries' future slammed as over-optimistic
Carnegie Trust’s analysis ‘seriously avoids the truth of what is happening’, according to library campaigner Tim Coates

Danuta Kean

02, May, 2017 @2:46 PM

Article image
US libraries report spike in Islamophobic hate speech since election
As well as an attempt to remove a student’s hijab at the University of New Mexico, books across the country have been defaced

Danuta Kean

12, Dec, 2016 @12:18 PM

Article image
LGBTQ children’s books face record calls for bans in US libraries
Annual list of the most challenged books includes Alex Gino’s George, about a transgender girl, and John Oliver’s picture book about a gay rabbit, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo

Alison Flood

21, Apr, 2020 @2:23 PM