What Do Libraries Have to Offer English Residents?
Public libraries are a unique and valued public service.
A 2015 online poll showed that 90% of respondents felt their library service should be protected, whether or not they themselves were a regular user.
Libraries reach and support the whole community regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status or educational attainment. Nearly 60% of the population holds a current library card; in the financial year 2014 to 2015, libraries in England received 224.6 million physical visits, more in total than visits to Premier League football games, the cinema, and the top 10 UK tourist attractions combined. Libraries also received 96 million website visits in 2014 to 2015, more than three every second.
Libraries and the people working in them change lives through:
- promoting enjoyment in reading and other cultural and creative activities
- raising aspirations and building skills so people can achieve their full potential, regardless of background
- actively sharing information, encouraging people to engage with, co-create and learn from each other
- providing trusted and practical support and advice to those who need it
Libraries and their staff don’t sit in isolation; they support other public services that are vital for local and national prosperity and wellbeing. They not only encourage a love of reading, but also provide business support, build digital skills, organise cultural activities, host community events, offer a quiet space to study, and much, much more. All this builds on one of the most important strengths of libraries: the trust people have in them to provide objective and accurate information and guidance in a confidential and even-handed way.
Local libraries provide a ‘cradle-to-grave’ service. They offer significant reach into local communities and a cost-effective way of ensuring that people are connected to the services they need when they need them. This helps local councils achieve their strategic objectives and boosts communities’ resilience and independence. Figures 1 and 2 (below) provide examples of the services that libraries and their staff provide to meet individual and community needs