Sue Williamson, Director Libraries, Arts Council England looks at what the organisation’s 2020-2030 strategy means for libraries.
Since I joined Arts Council England 18 months ago, there have been many developments in the world of public libraries, supported by our libraries team.
Libraries Connected, funded by the Arts Council as a sector support organisation, has established itself as a clear, strong voice in the sector and initiated and completed some key work strands. These include the reshaping of the Universal Library Offers, the creation of a Blueprint for Public Libraries and the further development of the Future Funding project to support future resilience.
They have been involved in the development of the Public Libraries Skills Strategy and a Regional Support Offer, been an active member of the Libraries Taskforce, now led by a team at Arts Council England, and supported the work of the British Library, again funded by Arts Council England with Carnegie UK, in developing a Single Digital Presence.
On Monday 27 January, the Arts Council launched its new strategy for 2020-2030, Let’s Create. The strategy has three stated outcomes: Creative People, Creative Communities and a Creative Country.
After extensive consultation over the last 18 months across England, the message was very clear: people wanted their creativity and cultural experiences to be rooted in their communities. This speaks so clearly to public libraries, often seen as anchors at the heart of the communities they serve and as open spaces that belong to those communities.
Our Chair, Sir Nicholas Serota has spoken of libraries being at the heart of the new strategy. One of the priorities in the Creative Communities outcome is that we will enable public libraries to apply for National Lottery Project Grants to deliver on all four Universal Library Offers.
We will support applications for projects in support of Health and Wellbeing, and Information and Digital, as well as Reading and Creativity and Culture, which might seem more closely aligned to the more traditional aims and objectives of the Arts Council.
This underlines our role as the national development agency for public libraries and is a move towards supporting libraries to develop as practitioners in their own field, as better and more innovative library services.
Over the next few months the Arts Council will be finalising our delivery plan. This will outline how and when the changes will occur, what the terms and conditions will be and what we will expect a good application to look like.
I am delighted to highlight this aspect of our new strategy and look forward to seeing public libraries taking advantage of this fantastic opportunity.