January 23, 2022

New Briefing Paper: “Public Libraries in England”

The report linked below was published on June 20, 2019 by the UK House of Commons Library.


Public Libraries


UK House of Commons Library

From Overview

This Paper gives a brief overview of the provision of library services in England, the role of the Secretary of State, and the work of the Libraries Taskforce.

The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 requires local authorities in England and Wales to “provide a comprehensive and efficient library service”.

“Comprehensive and efficient” are not defined. It is the responsibility of each local authority to determine how to deliver public library services in the context of local need.

The Secretary of State for Digital Culture, Media and Sport can order an inquiry where there is concern that a local authority is not fulfilling its duties under the Act. This has not happened since 2009 when an inquiry looked at the library services provided by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.

Concerns about the future of library services are ongoing. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has a “My Library By Right” campaign.

The Paper focuses on public libraries in England. For information on libraries in Wales see:


In Scotland, local authorities have a statutory duty, under s163(2) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, to “secure the provision of adequate library facilities for all persons resident in their area”. For further information see:

Northern Ireland

The public library service is administered by the Northern Ireland Library Authority, known as Libraries NI. The functions of Libraries NI are set out in the Libraries Act (Northern Ireland) 2008.

For further information on public libraries see the Northern Ireland Executive website.

Direct to Full Text Briefing Paper
21 pages; PDF.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.