Opportunities for all – libraries for the 21st Century

“Set aside the campaign rhetoric and build Britain’s future by investing in libraries, information and knowledge for the 21st Century”.

As the dust settles on the 2019 General Election, libraries body CILIP tells Boris Johnson to “set aside the campaign rhetoric and build Britain’s future by investing in libraries, information and knowledge for the 21st Century”.


For the full text of CILIP’s 2019 Manifesto for Libraries, developed in partnership with Library Champion Bobby Seagull, visit https://www.librariesdeliver.uk/seagull.

Public libraries change lives

Public library facts

• Every year, public libraries support more than 225m in-person visits and 90m online
• The audience most strongly correlated with library use is young people aged 15-24
• Libraries are seen as ‘essential’ to the community by more than 75% of the population
• Recent reports show a return of £8 on every £1 the taxpayer invests in libraries
• The library audience is strongly diversified across ethnicity, class and age

For more facts and figures, see our publication Public Libraries: The case for support (2019)

The UK’s fantastic, modern public library networks reach every part of the country. From the Midlands Engine to the Northern Powerhouse, Scotland to the South East, libraries are an incredibly cost-effective way to deliver on key policy agendas including:

• Place-shaping and inclusive economic growth
• Education, informal learning and skills
• Health, wellbeing and social care
• Digital skills and getting online
• Enterprise and business support
• Poverty prevention, social mobility and social isolation

CILIP shares with our colleagues at Libraries Connected the vision of an “inclusive, modern, sustainable and high quality public library service at the heart of every community in the UK.”

We are working with the Arts Council England and the Libraries Taskforce to set in place the building blocks of a modern public library service. We are doing everything we can to put in place industry-led solutions to secure the long-term future of libraries, but we need the Government to play its part.

Austerity has wreaked havoc on the quality, consistency and accessibility of our public libraries, seriously undermining our ability to deliver quality services for everyone, reducing the overall library estate and triggering the loss of thousands of dedicated professional staff.

The £25m investment in libraries through the Cultural Investment Fund is welcome – and library leaders and staff will be able to use it to change lives for the better. But it represents roughly 1/10th of the capital investment we need to deliver a world-class library sector over the lifetime of this Parliament.

We therefore call on the new Government to use the Queen's Speech this week to mandate the creation of a National Library Improvement Plan and matching investment, empowering us to deliver the modern, professionally-run, forward-facing and transformative libraries Britain deserves.

Great School Libraries

School Library facts

• 9 in 10 schools that participated in our survey have access to a dedicated library space
• This figure falls to 67% in Wales and 57% in Northern Ireland
• Schools with a higher proportion of children on free school meals are more than twice as likely not to have a dedicated school library space
• Employment terms for school librarians and library staff fall below national standards, with low pay and little investment in professional development and training

For more school library facts and figures see our publication Great School Libraries Survey Findings (2019)

Working with our School Libraries Group and the School Library Association (SLA), we are proud to lead Great School Libraries – our campaign to ensure that every child benefits from a great school library supported by a professional librarian or Schools Library Service (SLS).

In addition to fostering a lifelong love of reading, school librarians have a transformative impact on many aspects of school life including:

• Enhancing and extending Curriculum-based teaching and learning
• Developing media and information literacy skills to combat misinformation
• Improving mental health and wellbeing in the school
• Supporting digital and enterprise programmes
• Promoting and supporting safeguarding

Our survey highlights that while many schools have access to a ‘library’ space, this is often unstaffed or only staffed for very short periods during the week. Many schools find it difficult to purchase new books and electronic resources.

We therefore call on the Government to use the Queen's Speech to mandate the creation of National School Library Strategies for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (building on the existing model in Scotland) in partnership between the sector and the Department for Education.

Prison Libraries: making the difference

 Prison library facts

• As much as 30% of the prison population fails a Level 1 (Basic) literacy test on admission
• Library provision is statutory under the Prison Service Instructions, requiring every prisoner to have a minimum of 2 half-hour library sessions per week
• Evidence suggests that staffing issues in prisons mean many prisoners do not receive this minimum entitlement

For more prison library facts and figures, visit the Reading Agency page on The impact of books and reading in prisons.

Prison libraries and the dedicated professional librarians that run them make a profound difference – to the rehabilitation of prisoners, to the quality of life in prisons and to the wider community.

Working with our Prison Libraries Group, CILIP is developing a new Prison Libraries Excellence Framework, providing examples and guidelines for delivering excellent, life-changing prison library services.

However, we know that many prisons are struggling with insufficient staffing to ensure that prisoners can benefit from the transformative support their prison library provides.

We therefore call on Government to use the Queen's Speech to bring forward a Review of Prison Library Provision, ensuring that prisons and governors receive the long-term support and encouragement they need to provide excellent prison library services.

The UK’s knowledge economy

Working with KPMG, CILIP has been proud to publish Information as an Asset, highlighting the central role of knowledge, data and information in our future digital economy.

Every business, organisation and branch of Government is being transformed through knowledge, data and information. Securing our ability to compete and innovate on a global scale over the next 30 years means investing today in a new generation of data-savvy citizens.

From Healthcare to Research, Business to Local and Central Government, librarians and information professionals are helping their community build skills, manage risks and make the most of opportunities. Yet the UK’s policy is currently languishing in the last generation.

We therefore call on Government to use the Queen's Speech as an opportunity to set out a bold new vision of Britain as a modern data-driven economy, with ethical librarians and information professionals at its heart.

It is time for this Government to bring people together and to build Britain's future by investing in libraries – our vital, trusted, 21st Century infrastructure which brings learning and opportunity to every corner of our four nations.

Banner image: "Liverpool Central Library" by Carolyn Willitts is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0