Sunday 8 March 2020

Sue Williamson - The role of Arts Council England and Public Libraries

The Role of Arts Council England and Public Libraries
Sue gave a fascinating and detailed presentation on how the Arts Council England works to support Public Libraries and gave indications on the future of Public Libraries sending us away with the thought that great libraries build communities.  She tweets as @librarychampion.
We heard about some of the projects that the Arts Council funds : Libraries Connected (was the Society of Chief Librarians), cultural activity through the National Portfolio (but note core activities are the responsibility of local authorities), staff development, Business & Intellectual Property Centres  supporting small and medium business enterprises. After three years 90% of businesses are still functioning.
Funding comes through Grant in Aid and National Lottery money and there is partnership with agencies such as Carnegie UK, Welcome Trust, Wolfson Foundation, Public Health England and the BBC (Sue gave the example of the Virtual Reality headsets).
Notable successes have been the publication of Libraries Deliver in 2016, and the provision of wifi in every library.
Sue then looked at opportunities and challenges 2018-2022 including : the revision of the four universal offers to comprise reading; Information and Digital; Health and Well Being; Culture and Creativity all underpinned by learning, a programme transforming leadership and Libraries apprenticeship.
Public satisfaction with libraries is high, Bradford is investing money from the public health budget and new business models are emerging such as partnerships across Local Authorities (ie SPINE). Libraries are cultural hubs, examples given included Arts in Libraries, GiLiL – get it loud in libraries, which encourages gigs. There are national projects – a long running one being the Summer Reader Scheme and research is planned to back up anecdotal evidence on advanced reading levels over the summer break. This year #letscreate launched a ten year strategy with opportunities to get creative
This talk counteracted the doom which sometimes surrounds public libraries and gave a real sense of hope for the future. Thank you Sue.
Post contributed by Suzan Griffiths, Churchill College.