England & Wales Communities and society

What the library of the future could and should look like


Image by CGP Grey from Flickr

The Arts Council England are doing some great work into the future of libraries. Here they share some of their ideas.

Arts Council England has been working on a programme of research and debate into what the library of the future could and should look like, entitled Envisioning the library of the future. This research will help us to develop a long-term vision for public libraries in England, building upon Culture, knowledge and understanding: great museums and libraries for everyone, our framework for museums and libraries from 2011 to 2015.

This research began in February, with the findings due to be published in a final report in January 2013. We will be announcing some headline findings from all three parts of this research in November 2012.

In the first two phases of this research we talked with library professionals and sector experts to get an image of how trends in society might impact library services in the future. We did this so that we could envisage what the library of the future could and should look like. Phases one and two of the project are now complete, and a summary of emerging findings from these first two phases is available to download here.

Some of the key summary findings indicate that, over the next ten years, the core purpose of libraries looks set to remain the same as it has been for many years – namely that they will enable people to access, explore and enjoy books, reading and other forms of knowledge; they will provide quality-assured information; and that they will provide support for learning and literacy. The critical difference that the early findings of this research has indicated is the social and technological context in which libraries will be working and the impact that this will have on the delivery of their core purpose.

The discussions around funding in these first two phases of research show that the justification for public funding of a core library offer remains strong. However, there is likely to be a move towards a diversity of funding models. The extent to which volunteers are involved in their library service will need to be a settlement between local councils and their communities, and this level of community involvement in libraries will become an organising principle focused on collaboration and engagement, rather than a way of staving off closure.

For more information on the key findings from these first two phases, please check the Arts Council website here.