Increasing investment in libraries will be a key priority for Arts Council England over the next decade, according to its new 10-year strategy published on 27th January.
Called "Let’s Create", the plan highlights the need to boost inclusivity across the arts, provide more accessible pathways into the industries and focus on their environmental impact. It includes a commitment to recognise and champion the cultural activities “of every person in every town, village and city in this country”.
Although the report contains little in the way of concrete plans it does commit to boosting library funding to make them "fit-for-purpose" and equipped to meet the needs of their communities.
The report states: "We believe that England’s network of public libraries provides a vital resource for the development of creativity and the promotion of culture across this country. They are the country’s most widespread and well-used cultural spaces, sitting at the heart of communities and often providing the first point of access to cultural activity. They help to build stronger, happier communities, support social prescribing, develop readers and promote digital literacy. They will be central to our delivery of this strategy, and over the next 10 years we will increase our investment in them."
The commitment and the recognition of libraries as "the creative and civic heart of their communities" has been welcomed by CILIP chief executive oficer Nick Poole. However, he stressed local government funding would still be key to libraries which have seen investment tumble over the years.
He said: "We share the vision of a nation in which everyone has the opportunity to participate, wherever they live and whatever their class and background. At the same time, it is vitally important to ensure that investment in libraries through ACE is matched by investment in core funding from local government. We look forward to working with the Arts Council to help build the case for long-term sustainable revenue funding for libraries in the forthcoming spending review."
Among the other aims set out in the document, ACE calls for cultural organisations to become more entrepreneurial, developing new income-boosting models and sharing services or merging with others. It also demands a "more informed and effective data culture" at the organisations it funds.
Those regularly funded by ACE will also be asked to agree targets for staff and audiences to reflect the communities in which they work, covering disability, sex, race and socio-economic background.
The strategy, put together over 18 months with 6,000 people consulted, will be officially launched on 6th April, followed by a delivery plan containing more detailed investment plans.
Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of ACE Arts, said: "This strategy will value the creative potential in each of us, provide communities in every corner of the country with more opportunities to enjoy culture, and celebrate greatness of every kind. It marks a significant change, but an evolutionary one: honouring and building on the successes of the past decade while confronting the challenges and embracing the exciting possibilities of the next."