Τρίτη, Σεπτεμβρίου 24, 2013
Libraries have long been social gathering centres and provided sources of information for local communities. But how is this role changing with the financial landscape and changes in the way we consume information?
We published a report recently called Envisioning the Library of the Future. In just over a year, and after speaking to more than 800 people, we have a piece of research that demonstrates the vital role that libraries can play in the success and wellbeing of the communities they serve.
Writing this report was important to us because we wanted to bring the research in this area up to date. Our research has revealed that libraries are doing amazing work up and down the country. Look, for example, at the way so many libraries are embracing the Reading Well scheme to encourage people suffering from common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, to read as a form of therapy.
For libraries to remain successful in light of the many challenges and take full advantage of the opportunities they are facing now and will face in the future, our research has indicated that they need to develop in the following ways:
• They need to be positioned as the hub of the community.
• They will need to be at the heart of digital technology and creative media.
• They will need to become more resilient and sustainable.
• Library leaders and staff will need the right skills to meet these future challenges.
These four priorities are a guide for all bodies, organisations, staff and members of the public to help make real the ambitions set out in Envisioning the Library of the Future. This isn't something the Arts Council can do on its own. We are just one of a number of bodies charged with the responsibility of developing public libraries.
If we work together on these four priorities, we can all be ambitious about delivering the future for libraries.
We are already assisting libraries in developing around these priority areas through things such as our £6m grants for the arts libraries fund, our publication of research into the level of community involvement in public libraries, and our investment in the 13 libraries development initiative projects, which we are currently evaluating.
We are also working closely with key partners including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Local Government Association, Society of Chief Librarians, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and the British Library. But it shouldn't stop there, and it is essential that we develop more new partnerships.
We always hoped that Envisioning the Library of the Future would energise the sector, looking beyond the immediate and important issues of funding and library closures towards formulating an approach that will ensure that libraries are seen as vital and relevant long into the future.
In the coming months and years, the aim is to see libraries at the heart of communities, helping us to understand ourselves, our place in the world, and the heritage of the communities in which we live.
This is not some distant goal. As Envisioning the Library of the Future has shown us through the numerous conversations that we have had with members of the public and library staff, libraries are valued and trusted spaces. With a concerted effort, and a collaborative approach, the library will be valued by generations to come because it will have remained true to its core purpose while adapting to the radical changes of the 21st century.
Brian Ashley is director of libraries at Arts Council England.