Digital Transformations for UK Public Libraries

The British Library’s Jake Millar presents: Five Approaches to a ‘Single Digital Presence’ for the UK’s public libraries

British Library

Guest post from The British Library

Jake Millar

Over the past year, here at the British Library, we’ve been thinking about public libraries. A lot. Way back in 2017 it was announced that we would be leading a scoping study, funded by Arts Council England and Carnegie Trust UK, exploring the possibility of a “single digital presence” for public libraries throughout the United Kingdom. Fast forward 18 months, and having spoken to – and learnt from – more than 65 public library authorities, from Cambridge to Glasgow, Aberystwyth to Belfast, and travelling over 2000 miles in the process, we’re thrilled to have published our findings. Starting with the obscure and ill-defined phrase “single digital presence”, we’ve not only explored what a UK-wide digital platform for libraries might look like, but thought more broadly about the role of libraries in an information-rich, digital-first landscape.

Libraries continue to be vitally important institutions in a functioning, open-minded society. Offering free access to knowledge and providing a safe space for all who need it, libraries inspire and empower individuals, communities and nations. To remain relevant, however, libraries must keep up with technological change. That is why we have identified five key areas of digital transformation for public libraries, which we believe have the potential to keep the library at the centre of an open, democratic and inclusive digital society.

Collectively these options suggest an integrated and sustainable digital library service, one that can grow with, and adapt to, future technological transformations, and one that enables library users to navigate the digital world in safety and with confidence.