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Darren Henley delivers speech on libraries as new investment announced

Yesterday our Chief Executive Darren Henley spoke at the Society of Chief Librarians’ annual conference. Under the theme Digital Landscapes: The Future of Libraries, Darren talked about our recent investments in libraries, what the arts sector and libraries can learn from each other, and how libraries can help us deliver a good cultural education to all young people.

Take a look at the highlights below, or read the full speech: WordPDF

Learning from each other

Darren spoke about the strength of the relationship between the Arts Council and libraries:

‘I believe that the Arts Council and libraries go together. We can help libraries connect within the arts using the partnerships and the development experience acquired over years of working with government, with local authorities, with arts organisations and with business.

‘And we can learn from libraries. Many are showing the rest of the arts sector what resilience really means – the ability to adapt to one’s changing environment, to try new ways of engaging, and above all, of making oneself relevant to our communities.’

New initiatives 

As well as talking about the success of the Enterprising Libraries programme - funding 10 projects in which libraries used their role as community hubs to spark economic growth and social mobility; and the Libraries Development Initiative - 13 projects that tested new approaches to library service delivery; Darren talked about some new investment in libraries:

Universal Offers

‘I’m delighted to confirm that we have now agreed funding of £205,000 for Universal Offers work [undertaken by the Society of Chief Librarians] in 2015-16 across all four of the existing offers - as the new Learning offer gets under way.’

Grants for the Arts Libraries

‘The second phase of this opened in April and will run until March 2018, offering grants from £1,000 to £100,000. It’s there - as before - to inspire innovative partnerships between arts organisations and libraries, and to encourage library users to take part in more arts activities.’

Wifi in libraries

‘By March 2016, our aim is that all public libraries in England will be providing free access to wifi. Arts Council England will make this possible through a funding programme due to be launched in July. The programme will ensure comprehensive coverage through a network of more than 3,000 libraries in villages, towns and cities across England.’

Importance of cultural education

Darren closed his speech talking about cultural education, and that it should be a right, not a privilege, highlighting: ‘a fifth of all children and nearly a third of the poorest children leave primary school unable to read well – which has a significant impact on progress later in life. This represents a vast human, social and economic cost. We have to get our young people reading – and the library is one of the most important steps to making this happen.’

More information

Find out more about our work with libraries, including how to apply for Grants for the Arts Libraries

Follow Darren and the Arts Council on Twitter - and watch Darren's first major speech as our Chief Executive 


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