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Our second six months

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Today we’ve published our second six month progress report, which explains what we’ve been up to. Like our first report , it covers our activity from October 2015 to March 2016 and includes:

  • an update on the Taskforce’s achievements
  • a summary of existing Taskforce activity
  • proposed next steps and areas of focus over the next six months

We’ve completed some stuff...

Some of our highlights include the successful completion of projects that we started earlier in the year, for example:

  • Completion of the rollout of universal WiFi coverage in public libraries in England, through the collective efforts of Arts Council England and local authorities. 99% of libraries are now providing free WiFi access to their users
  • Completion of the pilot of new approaches in 16 public library services in England to building digital skills in socially excluded, hard to reach groups, in partnership with the Tinder Foundation. The interim evaluation of this pilot has already been published; the final report is due out in May 2016
  • Publication of two toolkits: Libraries shaping the future: good practice toolkit (and associated guidance on the legislative framework for public libraries) and the Community libraries: good practice toolkit [though arguably, these will never really be completed as we continue to iteratively improve them]
  • Worked with partners on a focussed promotion of National Libraries Day (6 February 2016) to achieve a higher media profile than previously
Libraries Minister Ed Vaizey.
Libraries Minister Ed Vaizey. Graphic credit: CILIP

This is really important for me as it shows that the Taskforce delivers on its promises - if we commit to doing something, we do it!

We couldn’t have done all this - and lots more - without the three secondees from the library sector who have been working as part of the Taskforce team. We decided to run the secondee programme as part of our support for workforce development, and the benefits exceeded even my (pretty high!) expectations. As a result, we are looking to take on more secondees over the next year.

But there’s lots more we’re still working on…

This includes:

  • Exploiting the new WiFi access and improving digital engagement and skills in communities by working with the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and public libraries along with a range of national and local partners
  • Continuing to meet with government departments and local authorities to highlight the value of libraries and how they support their communities
  • We know we need to do more on marketing and communications to ensure the many positive benefits of the modern library service are widely understood by the public and national and local government. We’ve now set up a Communications Sub-Group to specifically lead on this
  • We’re part way through a 3 month pilot with the Ministry of Justice and a number of libraries in 2 London boroughs to provide dedicated work spaces (commuter hubs) for use by civil servants. There has been considerable interest from civil servants from a range of departments in using these libraries and we’re looking to expand to other suitable sites
  • We’re working with partners to take forward the recommendations from the public library service data workshop we hosted in December 2015 to improve the collection, dissemination and usage of library data

Alongside all of this, SCL have continued to develop their Universal Offers. They have been a driver for innovation and provide a framework for partnership development at a national level, delivering tangible benefits to library services within local communities. That’s why I was particularly pleased to see that SCL have secured £300,000 per annum for the next 2 years from Arts Council England to enable them to build on and embed the Universal Offers across the library network as well as develop a new Cultural Offer.

But what about the Ambition document?

Those of you who read our first report will remember that, in it, we recommended to DCMS and LGA (our joint sponsors) that they produce a document that set out the government’s and the Taskforce’s shared vision for public libraries in England, including how it would be achieved. This recommendation was accepted, and DCMS asked the Taskforce to produce a draft document for consultation.

Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021 was published on 23 March 2016. The Taskforce is currently seeking views on this draft document - the consultation closing date is Friday 3 June 2016. After this, we will work with DCMS and the LGA to publish the final Ambition document in summer 2016.

So what are we doing next?

I talked earlier about our ongoing projects, but of particular focus over the next few months will clearly be completing the consultation on the Ambition document and then getting it ready for final publication. The final document will include an action plan which will then provide the focus for future Taskforce activity.

Our next official progress report isn’t until September 2016 but, in the meantime, we’ll be keeping everyone up to date on what the Taskforce is up to here and via twitter.

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