What Do Libraries Have to Offer English Residents?

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.

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


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  • Sylvia Davis
    commented 2019-08-24 15:57:43 +0100
    I agree with the comment posted by Martin Everitt. There really is a feeling of hopelessness as everywhere, despite huge public opposition, library services are being decimated. More & more branches, even good-sized & well-used ones, are being removed from the statutory service & handed over to communities. Volunteers are having to produce business plans that will satisfy their local authority & they are expected to keep their library going even when that authority wasn’t able to do so. Residents will have to constantly find funding for rent & maintenance etc. in addition to manning the buildings themselves. It should be remembered that these people have already paid for a public library service through taxation. They are now having to deal with everything that was previously covered by the trained & paid staff who are losing their jobs on a large scale. How many volunteers (most of them in their retirement years) feel comfortable about dealing with universal credit, bus passes, blue badge applications & other digital queries? They are also expected to offer assistance to people of all ages & be capable of answering all sorts of questions. The truth is that the response frequently is “Sorry….I can’t help. I’m just a volunteer”.
    Throw into the mix the angry disputes about fines & the inevitable problems with anti-social behaviour & it won’t take long for communities to run out of people willing to do this for nothing. I can vouch for the fact that in Northamptonshire, volunteers are already saying that they really don’t want the responsibility of actually running a library but they are happy to organise the clubs, craft sessions & coffee mornings etc. that a community hub provides. This is not the way to maintain a comprehensive & efficient library service.
  • Martyn Everett
    commented 2019-07-07 23:41:35 +0100
    As it is recognised how much libraries can help people and communities, I find it surprising that Essex County Council proposes to avoid its statutory duty to provide a comprehensive library service and instead close 44 out of its 75 libraries. Of course, Essex isn’t the only library authority to respond to the government’s austerity policies with cuts to its service. I hope you will provide good coverage of the widespread opposition to all such closures – cuts, closures and hollowing out the library service are the most important issues facing the library sector and I am disappointed that the articles appearing on your website to date, make no mention of this appalling situation.
  • Libraries Deliver Uk
    published this page in News 2019-06-26 21:01:56 +0100