Here are some of the key findings from the Independent Library Report for England, published December 2014 by the Government Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The report was complied after a task force was set up, “to investigate how the public library system could best work, in the future.” This study was conducted during seven months, by the team visiting all kinds of public libraries in cities and in rural communities. There are two themes highlighted in the report: one, that there have been too many similar reports about libraries that came to nothing; and two, “that not enough decision makers at national or local level appear sufficiently aware of the remarkable and vital value that a good library service can offer modern communities of every size and character.” Well, no surprises so far..I think most of us with an interest in public library services would agree with those findings.
However, the following statement from the report really strikes a chord with me:
The 21st century librarian will need to be more of a community impresario with digital and commercial expertise who can champion their communities’ needs and generate new business and audiences for the library.
This really connects with findings in my own research, which I conducted in American public libraries in 2012-2013. I identified a need for librarians to make greater connections with the community, in order to remedy “a disconnect between the public library and the community, caused in part by a lack of communication.” My findings were in relation to increasing adult attendance of library programs, but they can equally be applied to the findings in this government report, which focus on the importance of the library in the local community. I went on to state the modern librarian needs to develop greater planning and marketing synergy “to connect online marketing through social media, with physical print marketing, and word-of-mouth marketing to reach the intended audiences.” This really ties in with the idea of a librarian becoming a “community impresario” as quoted above, in order to help public libraries to develop and thrive, to really support their communities as best they can.
Parallels can also be drawn between findings in this report and existing organizations. For example, the report identifies The £6m Libraries Grants program, which supplies grants to libraries for them “to explore new ways of working … with artists and arts organizations.” This reminds me of an online resource that I linked to here last year http://www.libraryasincubatorproject.org which is all about encouraging public libraries to collaborate with artists (although they do not provide financial grants). The website founders have even written a book on the subject: http://www.libraryasincubatorproject.org/?page_id=13596 Although this website and book is based on experiences in America, the ideas can easily be applied to public libraries anywhere, including the UK.
OK, that’s enough for now. I will come back to the findings in this report soon…