Libraries will be affected by changes to Arts Council England’s (ACE) three funding streams.
The organisation, which receives public funding, recently undertook a consultation with libraries and the arts and culture sector to make changes to its National Portfolio, Grants for the Arts and Strategic Funds streams before the next investment cycle begins.
Following the consultation, ACE has decided to scrap the specific “Grants for the Arts” libraries fund, which will be discontinued in March 2018. Instead, libraries will compete with other cultural bodies for money from ACE's new Grants for the Arts and Culture fund after that date. The new stream, which is renamed from its previous title of ‘Grants for the Arts’, will have a broad remit – “to develop great art and cultural activity for everyone”. It will typically supporting applications between £1,000 and £100,000. ACE will develop guidance for libraries in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians over the next 18 months.
For the first time, libraries will also be integrated into the National Portfolio funding pot. Any ACE money won by libraries as part of this pot must only focus on arts and cultural activity, with local authorities responsible for funding libraries’ statutory work. More guidance on this will be published on 4th October 2016.
Brian Ashley, ACE’s director of libraries, said: “Whilst we will no longer ring fence funds for libraries in Grants for the Arts from April 2018, libraries can continue to apply for our Grants for the Arts and Culture fund. Our new investment approach will open up even more opportunities for the libraries sector to benefit from Arts Council investment.
“Our commitment to supporting the development of libraries in England is growing. This is because we recognise the contribution libraries can make to achieving great art and culture for everyone, and because we want to enable libraries to expand their contribution to the life of the people and communities they serve.”
Nick Poole, CILIP chief executive, said that libraries relied on funding to deliver an ambitious service and added that people in the sector were concerned about the changes to ACE funding. However, he said having access to apply for a larger pot of money was an “opportunity”.
"As we approach the publication of Libraries Deliver, the ambition for public libraries in England, it is essential that library staff and service leads have access to the funding they need to make the ambition a reality, and provide services that change the lives of the communities they serve,” he said. “While no longer having a dedicated Arts Council libraries fund does concern people in the sector, we should look to the opportunities of applying to bigger, more generic sources of Arts Council funding. We will support our members with their skills to produce effective bids and identify sources of funding to make sure they can provide the maximum value to the public possible."
Darren Henley, c.e.o of ACE, said the changes in funding had been made after guidance from the sector and would help the body fulfill its strategic goals. "They will ensure the impact of our investment is far reaching; that we support a wider range of organisations and artists: and that we do more to develop talent, encourage ambition and champion our national creativity,” he said.
He added: “The Arts Council believes that everyone should have the chance to enjoy and engage with the best of art and culture, wherever they live and whatever their background."
Consultation with over 1,000 people in the arts and culture sector took place earlier this year through a series of events and briefing sessions across the country, led by research agency ComRes. The feedback has been used to inform the Arts Council’s investment process from 2018.