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Investing in Knowledge
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 Section description will appear here

The Wider Libraries Project

Because of the high profile success of the People's Network and MLA's role in the implementation of Framework for the Future, some in the library domain have seen MLA as concerned with public libraries to the exclusion of other types of libraries, such as those in higher education, schools, the health service, voluntary organisations etc.

This has never been the case - MLA has already carried out a wealth of work on issues such as learning, collections, workforce development, social inclusion and impact assessment that benefit the majority of libraries - as well as museums and archives. But there is always more to be done and the Wider Libraries Project is an attempt to map the wider library and information domain and to explore how it can make the maximum contribution to economic, educational, social and cultural life in the UK.

In Autumn 2002, MLA launched a consultation exercise covering all types of libraries and information providers to find out what issues they are facing and to identify any clear pointers as to the role MLA might take in assisting them.

More than 80 professional organisations and individuals shared their views with us. With surprising unanimity respondents described a vision for the future:

  • Information-literate users have seamless and unfettered access to information resources at the time and place of their choosing and in the form that they want, no matter where the resources are located.
  • Access is facilitated by more and more information being available electronically, including a wider range of older resources made accessible through digitisation.
  • The library becomes the focus for access to the wider range of services.
  • The library role becomes more closely geared to customers' needs, supporting self-navigation by users, helping then develop information literacy skills or providing intermediation, according to their requirements.

The Steering Group for the consultation phase, comprising leading figures from the library and information world, has helped interpret this vision in terms of what impact it will have upon society in the areas of:

  • Learning
  • Developing sustainable communities
  • Health
  • The economy
  • Modernising government

Respondents identified, again with surprising consistency across all sub-domains, a number of key challenges that have to be addressed before their vision can be realised. They are:

  • Improving funding and the sustainability of initiatives
  • Developing the workforce
  • Creating a policy framework linking information strategies in each sector so that the full power of the library and information world can be harnessed
  • Advocacy to convince industrialists and the policy makers in the various sectors of government that they should give higher priority to information as the catalyst for achieving their objectives

These challenges are all about the means of realising the vision. A fifth set of challenges revolved around practical barriers to achieving the goal of:

  • Improved access for users

Collaboration was a consistent theme running through the answers to the consultation questions, and in the Project itself MLA has been fortunate to have the collaboration of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and the British Library, whose Chief Executive Lynne Brindley chairs the Project.

The next stage will be to establish a Strategy Group, whose main tasks from Autumn 2003 to Spring 2004 will be to advise and assist MLA in working out how to create the right policy framework and in making the case to government for a more joined-up approach to information provision.

This is an exciting phase that has the potential to bring great benefits, but the measure of success achieved will depend very much on the quality of the arguments raised and on finding a receptive environment in which to plant the ideas of what better information provision can do for the Knowledge Society.

Summary Report and Next Steps

This is a summary of the outcomes of the first stage of WILIP: The Wider Information and Library Issues Project. The full story of WILIP to date is told in Full Report of the WILIP Consultation Exercise by Stuart Ede, available below. This document summarises the Full Report and then explains what will happen next.

WILIP: Summary Report and Next Steps (PDF 184KB)format: pdf v.1.4
WILIP: Summary Report and Next Steps (Word 222KB)format: doc

Full Report of the WILIP Consultation Exercise

This is the full report of the outcomes of the first stage of WILIP: The Wider Information and Library Issues Project. Following the success of MLA’s work with public libraries, WILIP is MLA’s long-term commitment to improving services within the library and information community other than the public sector. This ranges from school, further and higher education libraries, through prison and workplace libraries to content providers such as print, digital and other media publishers and involves extensive consultation.

Full Report of the WILIP Consultation Exercise (PDF 1.98MB)format: pdf v.1.4
Full Report of the WILIP Consultation Exercise (Word 1.16MB)format: doc

For further information contact Andrew Stevens, Senior Policy Adviser (Libraries), 020 7273 1405 or email andrew.stevens@mla.gov.uk.

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