"Medicine for the Soul"- Inscription over the door of the Library at Thebes
Within Government DCMS holds overall policy responsibility for public libraries in England. The DCMS public libraries team supports Ministers on a range of statutory and other library issues.
DCMS also works closely with the Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) . Framework for the Future is the first ever national public libraries strategy, implemented by MLA through a DCMS funded Action Plan. MLA are also collaborating with and advising DCMS on the further development of the Public Library Service Standards, and the Public Library Impact Measures.
These joint efforts aim to encourage the improvement and modernisation of English public library services which are managed by the 149 library authorities in England. The Advisory Council on Libraries, supported by MLA provides its own independent advice to DCMS Ministers.
Public libraries promote reading and provide learning opportunities opportunities for all. Most library authorities host reading groups and participate in reading programmes such as Chatterbooks and The Vital Link. An increasing number provide organised learning and training sessions.
As free public spaces, open to all, public libraries help to build and sustain communities. Groups, organisations and individuals use their library for discussions, research and community activity. Libraries offer volunteering opportunities and undertake outreach work to less accessible parts of the community.
The £120m, lottery funded, People's Network connects virtually every library in England to the internet, opening up the world wide web and putting local people in touch with decision makers through e-government. Many library services are now available on-line.