New £500,000 public engagement funding programme for UK libraries now open

June 12, 2019

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The second phase of the Engaging Libraries programme for public libraries across the UK has opened for applications today (Wednesday 12th June). The programme, delivered by a unique collaboration between Wellcome, Wolfson Foundation and the Carnegie UK Trust, will support public libraries to deliver public engagement projects with research in health, society and culture, and to foster partnerships between public libraries and researchers.[1]

The new phase of the Engaging Libraries programme, worth £500,000, will offer around twenty selected projects direct project funding alongside a range of support and opportunities to build their skills.  We hope that this programme will inspire an exciting and dynamic range of new projects and initiatives, building on the success of phase one, which ran during 2017/8.  Engaging Libraries Phase 1 highlighted the enduring unique and important role that public libraries play in local communities across the UK as free, safe and trusted spaces, ideal for facilitating discussion and debate about a wide range of challenging subjects.

Following the success of phase one, Engaging Libraries Phase 2 has expanded to cover public engagement projects about health, society and culture, with a new focus on engaging the public with research on these topics. Public libraries are encouraged to bring their own ideas and definitions of these areas and to identify issues which resonate for their library service and the community they serve. We are specifically asking library services to work in partnership with a researcher and involve people in accessing, using and responding to research.

Access to trusted information is an increasingly important challenge in our society. Public libraries are ideally placed as ‘street-corner universities’ to engage communities with research in serious or playful ways, promoting critical thinking skills and broadening horizons. Access to new information and the chance to discuss and debate issues in a safe space can not only increase knowledge and skills, but contribute to increased levels of empathy, respect and tolerance in society.

Engaging Libraries Phase 2 will continue to encourage a collaborative approach, offering public libraries the opportunity to apply for funding as a single service or submit a joint application with other library services. We are also encouraging partnerships with different organisations and individuals, including schools, artists or musicians.

Building on the successful online network created during phase one, Engaging Libraries Phase 2 will offer a bespoke Development Programme for participants, to support public libraries build their skills in key areas and to connect and share learning with each other, developing successful partnerships with researchers and others.

Douglas White, Joint Interim CEO and Head of Advocacy, Carnegie UK Trust, said: “This second phase of the Engaging Libraries programme provides an exciting opportunity for public libraries to develop public engagement projects in the areas of health, society and culture, where they have both an interest and an impact. We very much look forward to seeing the range of ideas and topics that libraries put forward.”

Simon Chaplin, Director of Culture and Society, Wellcome, said: “As trusted spaces, public libraries provide an ideal environment to engage people with research and spark conversations about health, society and culture.  With the additional support of the Wolfson Foundation, the expanded initiative will take on an even more exciting dimension helping public libraries develop their civic role at the centre of communities and to form relationships with researchers.”

Lin Richardson, Deputy Chief Executive and Head of Grants, Wolfson Foundation, said:  “Public libraries are often at the very heart of communities, providing knowledge, skills, resources, and space for people of all ages and backgrounds. We are delighted to collaborate with Wellcome and the Carnegie UK Trust on the second phase of Engaging Libraries which will shine a spotlight on public libraries and their important place in helping people to engage with research on health, society and culture.”

Isobel Hunter, Chief Executive, Libraries Connected, said: Libraries are trusted spaces at the heart of communities, with a proud heritage of acting as the gateway to new ideas and forums for debate and discussion. We have an incredibly large and diverse audience – with over 200 million library visits last year. They are the ideal place to bring people into contact with new research, where they can challenge the ideas and be inspired. This programme is a great opportunity for libraries to show how they can play a unique role in bringing together research institutions and communities to mutual benefit.”

Sophie Duncan, Deputy Director, NCCPE, said: “There is enormous potential for researchers and library staff to develop really effective engagement projects together. The second phase of Engaging Libraries is a great opportunity for members of the public to engage with research; for libraries to develop new approaches to working with their communities; and for researchers to develop their engagement skills.”

Further information about the programme’s aims, ethos and practicalities are available in the Engaging Libraries Phase 2 Application Pack on the Carnegie UK Trust website, as well as case studies, definitions and guidance on approaching researchers. Applications should be made using the online form.

Applications close on Wednesday 25 September at 5pm. The portfolio of successful projects will be announced in November.  In the meantime, follow us on Twitter for updates @CarnegieUKTrust.

Information and applying

For more information and to apply please visit

If you have any queries, please contact the Carnegie UK Trust office on (01383) 721445 or email [email protected]

You can read our report “Engaging Libraries – Learning from Phase 1” here:

Carnegie UK Trust

At the Carnegie UK Trust, we seek to improve the lives and wellbeing of people throughout the UK.  It’s our goal to change minds by influencing public policy and change lives through innovative practice and partnerships.

As an operating Trust, we make effective and active decisions about our work. We invest in evidence-based policy development and translate our findings into real-world activities. This allows us to build up a clear set of messages, and we use these to influence decision makers. By doing this, our recommendations can bring about change and, most importantly, improve people’s wellbeing.

The Trust supports public libraries in their role as a significant and effective contributor to the wellbeing of individuals and communities.

For more information please visit

Wellcome Trust

Wellcome believes that everyone should have the opportunity to explore, challenge and shape science and health research, because health matters to everyone and everyone can play a role in improving it for themselves and society.

Wolfson Foundation

The Wolfson Foundation is an independent charity that supports and promotes excellence in the fields of science, health, education and the arts and humanities.  Since it was established in 1955, over £900 million (£1.9 billion in real terms) has been awarded to more than 11,000 projects throughout the UK, all on the basis of expert review.

Twitter: @wolfsonfdn


[1] Public libraries can work with a researcher, a research team at a university or university contact such as a public engagement specialist, or a body with Independent Research Organisation status.