The Reading Agency welcomes Baroness Sanderson’s Public Libraries Review

The Reading Agency welcomes the publication of Baroness Sanderson’s review of public libraries today.

We strongly support the report’s affirmation of the value of public libraries. Public libraries are much valued partners of the Reading Agency and work with us to promote the power of reading through national programmes and activities that change lives and communities. Libraries are true community anchor organisations, providing a treasure trove of books and reading resources, but also serving as hubs for learning and discovery, providing free access to information support for health and wellbeing and hosting events and activities that bring people together.

We know that people do not have an equal start in life, and that libraries empower people with knowledge and possibilities for growth, especially those struggling with inequality and disadvantage. We commend Baroness Sanderson and her team for acknowledging the importance of fortifying the public library offer through this report.

Supporting our mission to deliver evidence-led practice, we undertake extensive research and evaluation including a recent review of a new cross-authority approach to delivering the annual Summer Reading Challenge. The Reading Agency believes that centralising data and improving data sharing across library authorities is key to delivering the power of reading to underserved communities.

We particularly welcome the recommendation to offer automatic enrolment to children across the UK, many of whom access the power of reading for the first time through public libraries. Through our 2023 Summer Reading Challenge, we saw an increase of 45% in library card uptake among participants. This clearly highlights the value of automatic library membership in increasing access to the life-changing benefits of reading through the Summer Reading Challenge and other early years reading initiatives.

We welcome Lord Parkinson’s commitment to developing cross-government approaches which connect government departments around common aims and support the vital work that libraries do.

The Reading Agency looks forward to seeing these proposals come to life through the delivery of the Government’s forthcoming public libraries strategy. We will continue to work closely with our library partners to support people to create social connections, improve their skills and manage their health and wellbeing through the proven power of reading.

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency said: “Libraries open doors for people of all ages and backgrounds by providing free access to books, information, and opportunities that enrich lives. As a proud partner to libraries across the UK, we know firsthand the power of the public library to empower communities and change lives for the better. We applaud the research, consultation and thought that have gone into Baroness Sanderson’s report and we look forward to these measures, particularly automatic library enrolment for children, being brought forward to strengthen and modernise our vital public library network.”

Reading Friends: creating connections in 2022/23

From 2022 to 2023, Reading Friends worked with 39 UK authorities and their delivery partners to make a positive difference to individual lives and whole communities – creating meaningful connections, reducing loneliness and improving wellbeing.

How many people took part?

  • Over 4,800 people took part in groups and one-to-ones
  • Over 35,600 social connections took place

Analysing the need

We found that a high proportion of Reading Friends participants felt lonely prior to taking part. In the three months prior to becoming involved in Reading Friends:

  • 66% of participants and 49% of befrienders felt lonely always/often, occasionally or some of the time
  • 20% of participants and 5% of befrienders had not socialised with a friend or group of friends in-person
  • 19% of participants and 5% of befrienders tended to disagree or disagreed that if they wanted to socialise, they had people that they could call on

The difference Reading Friends made

By taking part in the programme:

  • 83% participants and 84% befrienders felt more connected to other people
  • 77% participants and 86% befrienders added purpose to their week
  • 71% participants and 70% befrienders increased their confidence to try new things
  • 69% participants and 68% befrienders increased their satisfaction with their life
  • 68% participants and 29% befrienders felt less lonely

Read the full findings in our full evaluation report.

If you’d like to find out more about Reading Friends, contact
[email protected]

The Reading Agency

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