British Library to investigate possibility of a ‘single digital presence’ for UK public libraries

August 30, 2017

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The British Library is to lead an 18-month scoping project to establish the demand for and possible shape of a ‘single digital presence’ for UK public libraries.

Funded by Arts Council England and the Carnegie UK Trust, the project will investigate user expectations and demand for what a national online platform for public libraries might deliver, and will explore the network of stakeholder groups and organisations best placed to make it a reality.

The scoping project will build on the work of the Single Digital Libraries Presence Steering Group, which has developed a range of early ideas on a universal online platform for the UK’s public libraries [see: Building a Single Digital Presence for Public Libraries], and a report on a Single Digital Presence by Bibliocommons. The development of a single digital presence of this kind was one of the key recommendations of William Sieghart’s 2014 Independent Library Report for England.

The British Library-led project will undertake market analysis, stakeholder interviews, workshops and other research, leading to a draft set of options and emerging findings within the first year as well as recommendations on how this might be taken forward. It will involve key stakeholders from across the home nations, assessing the potential and scope for a UK-wide platform providing access to local collections and services.

Brian Ashley, Director, Libraries for Arts Council England, said: “Inhabiting the mobile, digital space, complementing and energising the existing library offer, is central to the future strength and relevance of libraries. As the development agency for libraries, the Arts Council is very excited by the prospect of it becoming a reality. Developing it will be a challenge but we believe that success is more likely because of our partnership with the Carnegie UK Trust and the British Library. The British Library is uniquely placed to deliver this project across the country and we appreciate this significant commitment to libraries. I’m looking forward to seeing how together we can deliver this for the benefit of the people and communities that use libraries.”

Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie UK Trust, said: “I am delighted that the British Library has committed to lead this programme towards developing a single digital presence for libraries. The British Library has the credibility, expertise and stature to tackle this complex project. It can bring stakeholders from across the four UK jurisdictions, examining models for success and exploring how an on-line platform can support the delivery of high quality library services in the 21st century. I am looking forward to supporting them, and our partners at Arts Council England, to advance this vital work”.

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, said: “As part of our Living Knowledge strategy to 2023, the British Library has in recent years renewed its focus on public libraries, and our engagement with public libraries and city libraries across the UK has given us a sense of the excellent work they’re already doing but also the potential for future growth, given the right vision. We are excited to be leading this scoping work for a single digital presence and I look forward to working with stakeholders from across the sector – and across the UK – to develop a full understanding of exactly what might be possible.”

The project is supported by £236,384 of funding from Arts Council England and £30,000 from Carnegie UK Trust. Emerging findings from the project will be shared in autumn 2018, with the final report published in 2019.


For further information, please contact:

For Arts Council England: Fiona Davidson, 0161 934 4442 / 07872 416711 [email protected]

For Carnegie UK Trust: Billy Partridge, Grayling PR, 0131 260 2512 [email protected] 

For the British Library: Ben Sanderson, 01937 546126 [email protected]



Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2015 and 2018, we plan to invest £1.1 billion of public money from government and an estimated £700 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

The Carnegie UK Trust was established in 1913 by Scots-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. It seeks to improve the lives and wellbeing of people throughout the UK with particular regard to people who are disadvantaged.  The Trust aims to change minds by influencing public policy and change lives through innovative practice and partnerships.

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library’s collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website – – every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.