Department for Culture Media and Sport


The Modernisation Review of Public Libraries is the Government’s response to Empower, Inform, Enrich – the modernisation review of public libraries: a consultation document.

Modernisation review of public libraries

On 20 March 2010 we published The modernisation review of public libraries policy statement. The document contains proposals intended to help libraries achieve six aims:

  • Drive the quality of all library services up to the level of the best
  • Reverse the current trend of decline in library usage and grow the numbers using the library service
  • Respond to limited public resources and economic pressures
  • Respond to a 24/7 culture and to changing expectations of people who want immediate access to information
  • Grasp the opportunities presented by digitisation
  • Demonstrate to citizens, commentators and politicians that libraries are still relevant and vital

Background to the library review

The Library Service Modernisation Review was launched in October 2008 in a speech made by Andy Burnham, the former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. On 1 December 2009 we launched Empower, Inform, Enrich – the modernisation review of public libraries: a consultation document. The Review seeks to define the Government’s vision for a modern, world-class public library service and set out some of the necessary steps to achieve this vision. It built on both Framework for the Future and A Passion for Excellence, the 2008 strategy to support local government with the improvement of cultural and sport services.

Aims of the Review

By reviewing the current models of provision and identifying both existing best practice and new innovation, the Review aims:

  • to refresh the Government’s vision for the public library service that enables local authorities to respond to consumer expectations and to deliver their aspirations for their communities
  • to set out the policy, partnership and investment framework across government needed to achieve this vision

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Objectives of the Review

To deliver:

  • A high level vision for public library services in the 21st century;
  • A set of recommendations for central Government, its agencies and other partners, to support the delivery of this vision for a modernised local library service.

The review was informed by the following drivers for change:

  • The developing and converging digital environment;
  • The changing relationship between central and local government;
  • National and local economic pressures;
  • New business, governance and delivery models for local library services;
  • Relevant cross-government agendas;
  • Community expectations.

To reflect these, the Review Team worked with partners and stakeholders, especially local government, and aimed to achieve synergy with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Libraries Inquiry. The Review focused on five areas with the following objectives:

  1. Digital Services and Information Literacy: to explore and make recommendations on the digital services required to enable public libraries to meet the current and future needs of their local communities 24/7; assess the skills, technology, content, service structures, licensing issues and partnerships necessary to develop those services; and consider the associated information literacy needs, and how they might be addressed in the delivery of those services.
  2. A Skilled and Responsive Workforce: to review and make recommendations on the skills mix required to deliver a 21st century library service and entry routes into the profession; the ways in which the public library workforce can be locally empowered and become more diverse; and on the local and national leadership and entrepreneurial culture needed to develop this workforce.
  3. Capturing Impact: to consider and made recommendations on the local and national data necessary to capture the impact of libraries on their local communities, which will be effective in securing the support and engagement of partners; to identify and make better use of sources of information, especially from consumers and from across government; to consider and make recommendations on the need for a new national definition of a minimum service standard.
  4. A Community-led Service: to explore and make recommendations on innovative models of service delivery that integrate libraries with other local services; that make libraries increasingly responsive to the needs of their communities and that involve users in their design and delivery.
  5. Funding Innovation: to review and make recommendations on innovative partnership and funding models that can release additional capital and revenue funding streams to enable service modernisation and improve delivery.

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Project Board

The project was overseen by a DCMS-chaired Project Board with the following external members:

  • Tracy Chevalier - Author
  • Roy Clare - Chief Executive, Museums, Libraries & Archives Council
  • Tony Durcan - former President, Society of Chief Librarians
  • Jill Finney – previously Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications, British Library and currently Director of Engagement at the Care Quality Commission
  • Sheila Healy - Chief Executive, Staffordshire County Council
  • Paul Raynes - Programme Director, Local Government Association
  • Mike Thorne - Chair, Advisory Council on Libraries

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