Public libraries

A strong public library service is the foundation of a literate and inclusive society and a competitive knowledge economy. Great local libraries are an investment in communities, providing a cost effective way to improve health, support business start-ups, improve literacy and skills, and do all of this in a way that is open to all.

Benefits of public libraries

Libraries and the staff that work in them change lives and transform communities and help to build a fair and prosperous society.


  • Connect people with the information they need to succeed
  • Provide public access to knowledge and information
  • Promote reading and literature to all ages and the whole of society
  • Enable lifelong learning
  • Contribute to the digital inclusion agenda
  • Serve local people as a community hub to deliver services and activities such as internet access, computer sessions, reading groups and some larger hubs in partnership with others support SME’s and start up’s offering help, advice and support and enable access to innovative technology
  • Act as a cost-saver by combating ignorance, alienation and isolation
  • They stand for important values such as intellectual property, equality, engaged citizenship and informed democracy
  • Work with children, those with literacy problems and other disadvantaged groups

Libraries deliver: ambition for public libraries in England 2016-2021

The Leadership for Libraries Taskforce published Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021 December 2016. Libraries deliver aims to provide a 'direction of travel' for the next five years and to convince Councilors, government departments and partners about the ways in which public libraries can deliver a broad range of priorities.

The Taskforce was established to put a landmark report by William Sieghart to reinvigorate England’s public libraries into action. The report, published in 2014, called for clear local decision making and national strategy to secure the future of our libraries.

CILIP has published 10 key principles to provide the necessary leadership and development of public libraries – and has called on HM Government, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Local Government Association and fellow members of the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce to support them.

Key principles

  1. England’s public libraries are part of a successful network which delivers key outcomes including learning, health and wellbeing, digital inclusion, civic participation and stronger local economies.
  2. Securing these outcomes for the long-term depends on effective leadership through a fully-funded and evidence-based National Public Library Plan for England that is owned jointly by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Local Government Association.
  3. Implementing this plan requires appropriate governance of the library network, including partnerships for local delivery, regional and national support and with appropriate engagement with the equivalent strategies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  4.  It also requires a national strategy for the development of the professional library workforce alongside the appropriate use of volunteers.
  5. Effective national support for the library network requires an appropriately-resourced and mandated national development function, the responsibilities of which should include quality standards, targeted investment and development support and a transparent approach to monitoring and impact evaluation.
  6. HM Treasury must make available to Local Authorities emergency relief funding and transitional support to ensure they are adequately resourced and funded to meet their statutory obligation for the provision of a quality public library service and to set in place appropriate plans for long-term governance and sustainability.
  7. Library service points should not be transitioned out of statutory provision unless all alternative options for their maintenance have been explored, a full cost/benefits analysis has been conducted in consultation with the community and a realistic plan for long-term support is put in place.
  8. Where a Local Authority fails to meet agreed standards on statutory public library service delivery (so-called ‘hollowing-out’ of services) DCMS and DCLG should use effective strategies for early intervention & improvement, including options for sanction and the removal of library services (and funding) into a national or regional library service.
  9. Public libraries must work in partnership with other local community organisations to sustain and amplify the reach and impact of their services.
  10. Public engagement with libraries should be promoted and encouraged through a joined-up programme of media and public relations led jointly by members of the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce (and in future by the organisation with responsibility for the national development function for public libraries).

CILIP will continue working with Taskforce partners to secure a clear and funded national strategy that support local decision-making and delivery. CILIP will work to secure a fully-funded and evidence-based National Public Library Plan; the commitment library service points should not be transitioned out of statutory provision unless all alternative options for their maintenance have been explored; and more robust strategies from Government where local authorities fail to deliver a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service including sanction and the removal of library services into a national or regional Library Service.

Public Libraries Skills Strategy

The Public Library Skills Strategy is a joint initiative from The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and CILIP, the strategy has been created to support the development of the public library workforce in England, ensuring it continues to meet the changing needs of today’s audiences. This Strategy will guide and support the learning and development needs of the Public Library Workforce in England, enabling us to deliver our vision of a future for Public Libraries as Digital, Creative and Cultural Centres of Excellence.

The programme has seen the release of the Public Library Skills Strategy 2017-2020 and an accompanying press release

Libraries APPG

CILIP provides the secretariat for the Libraries All Parliamentary Group (chair Gill Furness) was launched in January 2017. It promotes the role of libraries across society and the economy. Libraries in communities, businesses, schools and universities provide everyone with opportunities to ensure the UK benefits from a high-skilled economy and equal society.

PMLG (Public and Mobile Libraries Group)

The Public and Mobile Libraries Group exists to provide information, training, development and networking opportunities to all levels of staff working in public and mobile libraries and to act as advocates for public library services.