Research begins into the rural impacts of changes to library services
Defra and the Arts Council England have commissioned research on the rural impacts of changes to library services in England. We know that public library services are highly valued by the communities they serve, but that like other public sector services, they are facing challenges which are leading to change in the ways those services are provided. We also know that many library authorities in rural areas are introducing new approaches in order to shape services that can be maintained into the future. This research project aims to specifically address that rural dimension. It is being led by OPM and Locality, who between them, bring wide ranging experience of supporting local authorities and community groups to think about and manage new ways of running services.
Over the next five months, the project team will be working on a programme of action research with eight areas to explore the different challenges, issues and opportunities that rural library services are experiencing, as well as the responses and approaches that can engender. The eight areas included are Buckinghamshire, Cumbria, Devon, North Yorkshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Wakefield and Warwickshire. These were selected in order to provide as wide a coverage as possible in terms of geography, types of rural area and rural issues represented, the approaches being taken around rural library services and stages of implementation.
The aim of the work is to help local communities and authorities to better understand the issues, challenges and opportunities for rural areas arising from changes to library services, and what can be done to deliver a comprehensive, efficient and sustainable library service which meets local need in rural areas. We hope that the final report on the key findings in spring 2014 makes an important contribution to learning for library service providers across the country.