British Library to scope ‘single digital presence’ for libraries

Arts Council and Carnegie Trust get behind research project – but prospects for development stretch into next decade

The British Library is to lead an 18-month scoping project to establish the demand for and possible shape of a ‘single digital presence’ for UK public libraries.

The project is being backed by £236,000 from Arts Council England and £30,000 from Carnegie UK Trust, a charity promoting projects for public wellbeing. It will involve a series of interviews and analysis to establish what authorities and the public might want from the development of a digital platform.

Library cardIt is likely that any platform would only be developed in the next decade; the schedule is for findings to be shared in the autumn of next year and a final report published in 2019.

A spokesperson for the British Library told UKAuthority that it is early days in coming to understand the requirements, but that it is likely to involve bringing together all libraries and their services through a single online platform.

The project comes in a somewhat delayed response to one of the key recommendations of the 2014 Independent Library Report for England for the creation of a national digital library network.

It will also follow up the work of the Single Digital Libraries Presence Steering Group, which has developed a range of ideas for a universal online platform, contained in its report Building a Single Digital Presence for Public Libraries. This recommends the development through a phased and iterative approach, in which the British Library project is a first step.

Public benefits

Among the potential benefits it highlights are that users would gain a better understanding of the information and resources and libraries, and be able to explore and produce content in collaboration with others. Library services would gain a collaboration tool and be able to share best practice.

Roly Keating, chief executive of the British Library, said: “As part of our Living Knowledge strategy to 2023, the British Library has in recent years 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.”

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