Independent Review to guide libraries strategy in 2024

New independent review published on how to support and improve libraries in England

  • Arts Minister Lord Parkinson says recommendations will inform new government strategy on libraries due to be published this year
  • Government will host a series of cross-government roundtable meetings every year to help address the challenges facing libraries

A series of recommendations proposed in an independent review to ensure that public libraries are supported and providing the best possible service for their communities will be taken forward by the government, Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay has confirmed today. 

The independent review, led by former journalist and government adviser Baroness Sanderson of Welton, was commissioned in September 2022 to seek views and develop innovative ideas on how to improve public libraries across England, in order to inform a new government strategy.

The government response to her review welcomes Baroness Sanderson’s recommendations for an expanded library membership, closer work with the British Library, improvements to the branding and visibility of libraries, and the establishment of a national data hub to collate better evidence. Lord Parkinson confirmed that these recommendations will help to inform future work on the government’s public libraries strategy for England, which is expected to be published later this year.

Lord Parkinson has also committed to hosting a series of cross-government roundtable meetings every year to help address the challenges facing libraries, and to consider the ways in which public libraries can be recognised and included in future government policy work. 

A celebratory event to thank the many people and organisations from across the country who contributed to the review will take place in the House of Lords, hosted by Baroness Sanderson and Lord Parkinson.  

Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said:

"Libraries are a vital public resource, helping to inspire, educate, and entertain people of all ages and backgrounds. 

"They’ve played an important role in my life, and provided a vital lifeline to so many people during the pandemic. That’s why I wanted to ensure that, as we prepare the government’s new strategy for libraries, we were building on all the brilliant work and bright ideas coming from across the sector.

"Baroness Sanderson shares my passion for libraries. Her excellent report captures that work and those ideas, and adds shrewd recommendations of her own, which I welcome and will take forward. Her review – and the contributions of everyone who took part in it – will inform our new strategy and help us to ensure that communities across the country can benefit from great public library services in the next few years, and for generations to come."

Baroness Sanderson of Welton, author of the independent report, said:

"Libraries are a crucial part of our social infrastructure, helping to inspire a love of reading while also tackling a host of issues from digital exclusion to loneliness and isolation. Yet all too often they are overlooked and underappreciated.  

"Throughout the course of this work I have met with hundreds of people working within the library sector and have been struck by their enthusiasm and willingness to adapt to changing circumstances. Far from being out of touch, libraries are weathervanes of their communities, reflecting and forerunning societal trends, good and bad. 

"I am grateful to Lord Parkinson for commissioning this review which looks at ways to improve awareness of our libraries and the work that they do so that we may enable them to flourish, both now and into the future."

Councillor Liz Green, Chair of the Local Government Association Culture, Tourism & Sport Board, said: 

"Libraries are a key public asset which provide extra services in providing community spaces. This independent review includes thoughtful proposals which – if implemented – will go some way to contributing to the smoother delivery of library services and collecting accurate reports of their impact on communities."

Liz Jolly, Chief Librarian of the British Library, said: 

"We welcome the publication of the Sanderson Review and the Government’s response, which recognise the vital role of public libraries and the success of the thriving partnerships we’ve developed with the public library sector through the Business and IP Centre Network, the Living Knowledge Network, the Public Lending Right and LibraryOn. We look forward to working with DCMS and partners across the sector on the shared challenges and opportunities identified by Baroness Sanderson."

Between October 2022 and July 2023, Baroness Sanderson travelled around the country to consult people from the libraries sector and beyond on how to improve libraries. To inform her report, she held nine roundtable sessions across the country to seek a diverse range of views to inform her work.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay