Arts Council England (ACE) is awarding £152,000 to help public libraries buy e-books and digital audio products after demand soared during the pandemic.
Each of England's 150 public library services will be given £1,000, with £2,000 going to Libraries Connected to cover costs in distributing the funds.
ACE said there had been a 146% increase in demand for digital stock at libraries during the coronavirus crisis. The grants would help increase supply of products like children’s books, health and wellbeing titles and popular fiction while also benefiting publishers, who will receive a large share of the grant through purchases made by libraries, the organisation said.
This investment follows a similar grant of £151,000 delivered at the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020, when some public libraries saw a 600% rise in membership compared to the previous year.
Sue Williamson, ACE director for libraries, said: “I am delighted to announce this grant to help public libraries provide the services their users need. Now more than ever, with so many families home schooling, we know how important it is to have access to digital resources. Many people have found reading and listening to audio books during the pandemic a huge support and we hope that this investment will benefit many households across the country. We are extremely grateful to our Sector Support Organisation, Libraries Connected, for distributing this grant on our behalf.”
Isobel Hunter, c.e.o. of Libraries Connected, added: “We know that during the spring lockdown, e-book lending in libraries increased by 146% and remained at this level even when libraries re-opened. This new funding from Arts Council England will be hugely welcome in libraries around the country, allowing them to buy more of the books that their customers want. Access to books and reading is vital to help improve people’s wellbeing and give them an escape from the ongoing stress caused by the pandemic. We will continue to work with publishers and partners to ensure that libraries are able to give their communities a quality reading experience during this time and beyond.”