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."