There are 3,618 public libraries in the UK, and they receive 233.1 million visits annually. 77% of people believe that libraries are either essential or very important to their community. Research by the Arts Council of England found that library attendance is positively associated with well-being, and has even been connected with NHS savings of up to £27.5 annually. Despite this, library visits decreased by over 10 million in 2018 according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), and many libraries struggle to afford to employ staff, instead relying on over 50,000 volunteers nationally to run them. Lockdowns due to Covid-19 has resulted in a vast majority of libraries being closed for several month.
The government have launched several initiatives to support libraries. In 2015, they established the Libraries Task Force to promote the value of libraries in the community. Additionally, between 2017 and 2018 the government developed an ‘Opportunities for Everyone’ fund to support libraries in disadvantaged areas to better educate their visitors, and also provide additional funds to aid libraries as they sought alternative methods for delivering their services.
Nevertheless, overall government funding of libraries has been slashed – in the 12 months up until April 2017, library funding decreased by £66 million. Since austerity started in 2012, 449 British libraries have been forced to close. The Government also rejected a 2018 petition calling for remaining funding of libraries to be ring-fenced. Libraries face numerous external challenges as well, such as the growth of e-books and people increasingly purchasing cheap books online.
The CIPFA data, however, does show that the downward trend in public library use is not homogenous, and that there are perhaps steps libraries can take to revitalise their service. Not only has the downward trend slowed in recent years, there are also significant variations across and within library services. Over one quarter of all library services are ‘trendbuckers’, meaning they have shown an increase in use over the past year and/or the past decade. And while no one variable distinguished the ‘high-performers’ from the rest, there are indications that forward-thinking leadership, alongside the political support and purchasing flexibility needed to innovate in response to structural changes, is crucial to rejuvenating the sector.
With this in mind, this symposium offers librarians, local and national authorities, community cohesion groups and other key stakeholders, the opportunity to discuss the issues threatening the future of libraries and to learn about the solutions being developed at all levels to ensure they remain a key part of British communities.
- Analyse the impact of lockdowns on local libraries and how to ensure they remain open when lockdowns are eased
- Examine innovative steps libraries are taking as they reopen to enable access to the library while also remaining Covid-secure
- Develop an understanding of how libraries can serve as hubs for inclusion and community cohesion, including their place at the centre of the Future Digital Inclusion program
- Discuss the best approaches to ensure local libraries can meet the needs of an increasingly digitised society
- Engage with new ideas in order to help libraries increase and diversify their revenue streams
- Discuss the role of the library task force and assess its overall impact on the state of British libraries
- Analyse the Government’s plans in relation to the future of libraries and how they plan to promote them
- Assess how the increasing reliance on volunteers has affected the world of libraries
- Consider strategies to ensure libraries remain successful in promoting the growth of child literacy
- Develop awareness of the key role digitisation of material will play in the future of library management
Who Should Attend?
- Local Authorities
- Library Managers
- Library Suppliers
- Library Sector Professionals
- Local Authority Library Personnel
- Libraries, Culture and Leisure Personnel
- Key Voluntary, Community and other Third Sector Organisations
- Policy Managers
- National Development Agencies
- Shared Services Teams
- Income Managers
- Neighbourhood Services Staff
- Directors of Funding and Finance
- Social Inclusion Officers
- Social Services Representatives
- Heads of Organisational Change
- Heads of Equality and Diversity
- Adults and Children’s Services Leads
- Welfare Groups
- Career Development Organisations
- Recruitment and Employment Professionals
- Business Enterprise and Support Representatives
- Learning and Skills Councils Representatives