Public libraries, arts and cultural policy in the UK




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Peer reviewed



Purpose: Public libraries in the UK are increasingly expected to provide arts activities and events as part of their usual operations. This paper summarizes recent policy trends in this direction from both the perspective of libraries' and the arts sector. A touring theatre project aimed at children and families is discussed in further detail to examine some of the outcomes of these policies.

Design/Methodology/Approach: The paper will present a brief history of policy developments and debate in this area. Mixed method findings from the research element of 'Among Ideal Friends' (AIF) will be discussed, having used surveys and interviews with audiences and librarians, geodemographic profiling, box office records and library card data.

Findings: Public funding across both libraries and the arts has decreased at a national and local level, though both sectors are encouraged to work together to share expertise and community knowledge. Costs and benefits of the project are presented and while the holistic view is broadly positive, the return to any specific agency or stakeholder group less certain.

Practical implications: Public libraries can see the results and challenges of a successful touring theatre project for consideration in their own activity planning, especially those related to families and younger users.

Social implications: Libraries and Arts organisations have different priorities in regards to these areas. Though co-operative, the situation is not without tension. The topic is illustrative of some wider debates around cultural value, participation and ‘cultural democracy’.

Originality/value: This paper offers a timely discussion of cultural policy in relation to libraries, eg: The Society of Chief Librarians 'Universal Cultural Offer' (October 2017).


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.


Public libraries, Evaluation, Arts, Culture, United Kingdom, Children, Theatre, Performance


Fletcher, R. (2019) Public libraries, arts and cultural policy in the UK. Library Management,


Research Institute