The British Library will lead an 18-month long project to investigate the possibility and demand for UK public libraries to get a joint online platform.
The project, which is supported by more than £230,000 in funding from Arts Council England and £30,000 from the Carnegie UK Trust, will undertake a scoping exercise to look at what an online “single digital presence” for UK libraries might look like.
The British Library will also look at user expectations and demand among the public through analysis of the market, interviews with stakeholders and workshops.
Brian Ashley, director of Libraries for Arts Council England, said the project will be “a challenge”, but he was hopeful that due to the strong partnership with the British Library and the Carnegie UK Trust, it would end up a success.
“Inhabiting the mobile, digital space, and complementing and energising the existing library offer, is central to the future strength and relevance of libraries,” he said.
“The British Library is uniquely placed to deliver this project across the country and we appreciate this significant commitment to libraries. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can deliver this for the benefit of the people and communities that use libraries.”
The project follows work done by the Single Digital Libraries Presence Steering Group, which earlier this year published a report on ideas around how to build a single digital library presence as “an interactive, personalised platform”.
“A [single digital presence] could offer anything from fairly basic information and transaction-based content, to opportunities for co-creation between users. It could be a personalised service and platform that gives users agency and the opportunity to control their own experience,” the report said.
In the first year of the project, by next autumn, the British Library will share initial findings together with recommendations on how to take the project forward before an official and final report will be published the following year.
Roly Keating, British Library CEO, said the organisation has recently “renewed its focus on public libraries, and our engagement with public libraries and city libraries across the UK has given us a sense of the excellent work they’re already doing but also the potential for future growth, given the right vision”.
“We are excited to be leading this scoping work for a single digital presence and I look forward to working with stakeholders from across the sector – and across the UK – to develop a full understanding of exactly what might be possible.”