Voluntary Application of the Code of Statistics

Strand 1 data collection: 2022/23 Public Library Sector Dataset

We are collecting data on English public libraries’ activity for the 2022/23 financial year. This is part of the work of the broader data group reporting to the English Public Libraries Stakeholder Working group which consists of:

  • Arts Council England
  • British Library (LibraryOn, Living Knowledge Network, Public Lending Rights)
  • Community Managed Libraries Network
  • DCMS
  • LGA
  • Libraries Connected
  • The National Archives

We recognise that the sector needs timely, accurate and representative data not only for its own advocacy and development, but also to provide to sector stakeholders such as DCMS and the team administering Public Lending Rights.

This dataset is intended to be an initial proof of concept approach and is intentionally limited in both scope of the data collected and in using existing processes and resources to collect, collate and analyse the data. 

In seeking to collect data on the activity of public libraries we are committed to the principles of Trustworthiness, Quality and Value. This is to ensure we have a robust data set that can be relied upon to provide valuable data for and about the public library sector and its stakeholders, without placing significant burden onto the library services to contribute to it.


We have a clear chain of accountability for all data points. The data is provided by a named responsible person at each library service, and collated through a direct process flow to a central store of data. Initially this central store will be collated by Libraries Connected and shared with Arts Council England for permanent storage and access.

The data does not contain any identifiable personal information, apart from the professional information of those responsible for submission, and this is removed before sharing with Arts Council England.

Libraries Connected is a sector support organisation governed as a membership charity. We are accountable to a board of trustees made up of public library heads of service and external trustees bringing expertise from outside the sector.

Libraries Connected will be carrying out its own analysis of the data for its members, and the data will be passed to Arts Council England for broader access to allow others to carry out their own analysis.

The process is overseen by the Data subgroup of the English Public Library Stakeholder Working Group, and data and analysis will be shared and discussed directly with the public library sector through our regular webinars.


To ensure quality we have consulted with Arts Council England and DCMS data analysts and sought the support of the Office for Statistics Regulation.

We seek to ensure quality through the following means:

Quality of data collected:

  • Statistically significant numbers of returns: our target is to build up to returns from 100% of library services across England over the strand 1 and strand 2 work. We seek to do this by demonstrating the value of the collection and analysis to both individual library services and the sector as a whole.
  • Quality Assurance:
    • Manual checks: data is checked at the points of submission and analysis to ensure that any anomalies are interrogated and either rectified or checked and justified.
    • Automatic variation tracking: figures showing variation of more than 10% month on month are reviewed and checked back with the library service if necessary.
    • Sector testing: trends and insights are tested with the monthly active group to check they are representative of their direct understanding
  • Definitions – clear data definitions have been developed from the work done by the Libraries Taskforce and CIPFA definitions. These are developed to ensure alignment and simplicity in completion alongside clarity on the nature of the data being collected.
  • Alignment with standard datasets. Where we include broader datasets for population and LA grouping, these sources are verified and cited.

Validity of initial analysis:

  • We will use an extension of the analysis tool that we have developed over the past 4 years with library services across England and Wales. This focussed on the areas that library services have asked us to evidence, and each element of the analysis has been tested with the practical understanding of the core group of library services.
  • Any analysis of the data will clearly state the actual number of responses including representation of any subgroups (e.g. rural / urban library services) where they are included in the analysis
  • Analysis will consider both the systematic bias of non-returns and gaps in the information we do receive. The aim will be to demonstrate that the data we do have are as representative of the sector as possible.

We are conscious that the resources for QA are within the sector and as the collection develops we will seek external validation of the dataset.

There is a risk that the number of returns is lower than hoped and we are planning to follow up directly with the library services that have not responded with support and demonstration of value.


We seek to ensure value through a sector led approach – our guiding principle is that this is the library sector providing data for its own needs, which does include meeting the needs of some of the stakeholders where this aligns with the sector’s priorities.

More broadly we have:

  • Collaborative approach with library sector – we are responding to the specific needs of the library sector and working with library services to identify the data points and broader analysis that will support their services’ operation and development.
  • Collaborative approach with stakeholders – through the broader data stakeholder group we are bringing into consideration the requirements of each stakeholder and including them as appropriate and proportionate to the value it brings to the sector.

The products we provide for the sector will be two fold:

  • Initial analysis by Libraries Connected providing a tailored report directly to each library service showing them in the local, regional and national context, alongside broader regional and national reports.
  • Access to the dataset through Arts Council England for broader analysis and provision to sector stakeholders.

We will be supporting this through our regular webinar series on data engaging with the sector to help them understand what the data shows, and also how to use it for service development and advocacy purposes. We will use the existing examples of good practice within the sector to do this.

Future Development

While this application of the code is specifically for the collection of the 2022/23 for the public libraries, we see it as a foundation for future development. This will form strand 2 of our work and we anticipate it will provide for:

  • More automated data collection
  • Wider data collection
  • Incorporation of social value analysis
  • Further integration with stakeholders needs and expectations
  • Direct analysis and interrogation by the library services and broader public.