Our CEO Sue Wilkinson blogs on why we need to shout more loudly about the brilliant work libraries are doing and show they are a good return on investment.
At The Reading Agency we believe that everything changes when we read; it is because of that belief that we work in such close partnership with public libraries across the UK.
We all need libraries. They are the safe and trusted spaces in every community where we have free access not just to books, information, experiences and ideas but to the expert professional advice and support which we all need to help us find the resources we want and to use them effectively. This is why we are wholeheartedly supporting CILIP's My Library By Right campaign. Libraries are a statutory service and recognising this is an important step in ensuring that they are available to everyone.
CILIP's campaign is raising important issues for us all but it should also be part of a broader campaign to ensure that we, and future generations, have the library service we need and want. Local authorities are facing some very difficult choices; we need to show that they aren't just required to invest in their library service but they and their communities positively benefit from doing so. This is what underpins all the programmes we run with library and publisher partners, with funding from Arts Council England; it is what the Library Task Force has been established to further develop and support; it's why we're working with reading charities, public libraries and education organisations to create an evaluation framework that will help us measure the impact of our work and make the case for investment.
Libraries contribute to education, community cohesion, wellbeing and health
Over the last year I've visited libraries across the country, from Glasgow to Exeter and I am a regular visitor to my local library. These busy, vibrant organisations are delivering a wide range of services which are designed to start people on their reading journey and then to inspire them to keep reading. Libraries support and underpin the delivery of a wide range of local agendas making a huge contribution, through the Universal Offers, to the education, lifelong learning, community cohesion, wellbeing and health of children, young people and adults as well as supporting local businesses and SMEs. And on top of all this, they make reading fun: something people will do with family and friends; something they enjoy and something which can help all of us to become more creative, more interested in the world around us, more tolerant of other ideas and more open to change.
Libraries also contribute to the health of individuals and the community by providing a welcoming environment where people can learn more about their condition, or how to support the people they care for, in their own time and on their own terms. Reading Well Books on Prescription, which offers self-help reading through public libraries, is just one example of how libraries can provide cost-effective support for existing services. The NHS spends £14 billion every year treating people with poor mental health; this programme (which we and The Society of Chief Librarians run with a wide range of partners) has, in its first two years cost just £1 per user and supported 445,000 people. People who have benefited from the scheme have told us that they find the welcoming space of the library ideal for exploring self-help books in their own time and that experienced, knowledgeable librarians have made such a difference to them through the advice and support they have offered.
National Libraries Day
75% of people think that libraries provide an essential or very important service to the community. Join us, CILIP and other organisations including SCL and ASCEL to mark National Libraries Day, on 6 February; it is an opportunity for us all to come together to celebrate how libraries have shaped us and our communities, but also how they can continue to do so into the future. Let's use this day and every other day this year to shout more loudly about the brilliant work that libraries are doing and what a good return they are on investment locally and nationally.
Find out how to mark National Libraries Day
Share the book you discovered at your local library with us for the chance to win a selection of books chosen by Ali Smith
Find out more about CILIP's My Library By Right campaign