Department for Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 8th March 2023.
To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, whether her Department is taking steps to increase levels of physical footfall at public libraries of (a) children at key stage 1 and 2 and (b) other users.
The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 places a duty upon local authorities to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. This duty includes having regard to encouraging both adults and children to make full use of the library service. It is for local authorities to ensure that their libraries provide services such as access to books, PCs and study space, as well as access to activities and events which meet residents’ needs and will therefore contribute to and encourage footfall.
Libraries actively engage with a number of organisations and people to encourage visits and use of their services. This includes working with schools on a programme of class visits to encourage children to read for pleasure, to support schools with literacy, and to support parents with the home-learning environment, while also driving footfall. They are also actively engaged in specific initiatives aimed at school children such as the Holiday Activities and Food programme. Libraries also work in partnership with the Reading Agency to bring people of all ages into libraries each year through reading programmes, such as the Summer Reading Challenge, Reading Friends; through book issues, such as Reading Well and Quick Reads and attendance at themed events, such as the Big Jubilee Read and Story Trails.
The Government has appointed Baroness Sanderson of Welton to chair an independent panel to help inform a new libraries strategy. Baroness Sanderson has visited a number of library services across the country to find out about their work, and is having numerous discussions with the libraries sector, plus partners and others with an interest in their work. These include organisations active in boosting and supporting children’s literacy work such as the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians, The Reading Agency, National Literacy Trust and BookTrust.
Baroness Sanderson is also running a series of deep-dive discussion sessions at libraries around the country, themed on different aspects of libraries’ work. Four have already been held (covering culture, health and well-being, communities, and digital), with five others planned through to the middle of May (covering learning, business support and employability, reading, governance and blue-sky thinking).
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