Arts Council England: Great Art & Culture For Everyone Report (Revised)


Arts Council England: Great Art & Culture For Everyone Report (Revised)

Arts Council England have revised their strategic aims report for the arts, museums and libraries sectors.

Here are a handful of quotes from it focusing on libraries:

Envisioning the library of the future told us that the public appreciates libraries as trusted spaces, open to all, in which we can explore reading, share information, and deepen our knowledge of the world. We will make the case that libraries contribute to the cultural, social and economic objectives of both national and local government. We will work with those who represent library services and with key library stakeholders to shape the strategic direction of the sector. (p.15)

Although there has been a decrease in the number of people borrowing books, evidence shows that where there has been strategic investment in libraries – such as in promoting children’s reading – visits rise. Patterns of use are also changing, with a significant increase in public use of digital services, and libraries are evolving in response. (p.23)

With our new strategic development responsibilities for museums and libraries, we will encourage and support work across our entire cultural footprint that reflect these types of collaboration, drawing on the best practice in each area and beyond. We know that when these connections are made, they can spark a dynamic that changes our perceptions of what great art and culture is, who it is for, and what it can do. (p.27)

The world is changing as it becomes increasingly interconnected. Boundaries and categories are being eroded; this is apparent in arts and culture where the roles of creator, curator and consumer are being redefined, where libraries are often exhibition spaces and museums host performances. We recognise that the change driven by new digital technologies provides both opportunities and threats. The way that people experience arts and culture is changing; and so too is the type of arts and culture they enjoy. (p.27)

We believe that increasing the number of people who experience and contribute to the arts, to museums and to libraries is good for society. Sharing cultural experiences brings communities together… (p.28)

At the heart of our arts and cultural sector is the workforce: the artists and curators, librarians and technicians, producers and administrators and educators and archivists. It will be a priority over the next decade to support these people to maintain and develop the skills they will need to achieve our shared mission. To an important degree, this is about recognising and respecting the hard-earned specialist skills that are essential to so much the cultural sector does. (p.33)

The organisations that make the strongest contribution to our goals are well-led, and have leaders who understand their role in the communities in which they operate. More needs to be done to strengthen the skills and the diversity of governance and leadership of arts organisations. (p.34)

The arts, museums and libraries fuel children’s curiosity and critical capacity. They are about expression and imaginative escape as much as they are about learning and development, helping children and young people to explore, understand and challenge the world, as well as their place in it. (p.35)

ACE CILIP Pushmi Pullyu


I keep getting this idea after filling in the CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) rebrand survey that we’re in a Pushmi Pullyu situation with public libraries.

Arts Council England’s aim is to support the development of library strategy in England and they focus on them as cultural and arts spaces.

CILIP represents librarians and library workers and its been suggested in their proposals for a new name that library staff can be covered by the phrase “information professional”.

I do agree with the idea that libraries can be cultural spaces and that library workers do work with information, but that’s not all they focus on, as is illustrated by the fact that both organisations in this instance have ideas at odds to each other.

This post might be of interest too – The Purpose Of A Library?

But then again it might not.

Arts Council England Live Chat (25 July 2012)


Updated: 25 July 2012, 8:15pm

Alan Davey (Chief Executive of Arts Council England) is taking part in a live chat today. I submitted these three questions:

  • How do ACE aim to ensure that the non-arts aspects of libraries is developed as much as the cultural and arts aspects? Areas such as (but not only) support for education & literacy, community & social aspects are as important as the cultural and arts focus of libraries.
  • Will the ACE charter and mission statement be amended to reflect your new responsibilities that go beyond the arts, as indicated above?
  • Once existing ACE National and Regional council members terms end will the opportunity be taken to increase numbers of representatives for libraries who are able to focus on libraries beyond their arts and cultural aspects?

I received the following reply to the first 2 questions:

To Gary Green: We are already working hard to ensure that we join up arts and cultural activity with the wider libraries agenda, mainly through the Libraries
development initiative announced in January. Areas such as education and literacy will be targeted through projects like the one led by the London Borough of Richmond, which tests the delivery of adult learning in libraries. The Books on Prescription project will also help libraries address health and social care issues by prescribing books from a list of high quality self-help manuals for people suffering from common mental health problems. It is also worth noting that most of the artistic activities going on within libraries will be used to support education and literacy, and will involve local communities. In answer to your second question, our mission statement has already changed to reflect our wider cultural remit and is very much embedded in our decision-making framework Culture, knowledge and understanding. Our charter has also been updated.

Another libraries question was asked by Silent Pete.

  • What experience does the arts council have to oversea museums and libraries? This seems a sector where the expertise of the MLA is missed.

To which he received the reply:

We’ve taken on a significant number of former MLA staff and recruited new people with the right knowledge to enable us to look after these new sectors. We’ve sought to engage both sectors in a constructive way and have listened very hard to their concerns and needs. WE’re getting good feedback from the sectors about the way we’ve done this and so I think you cannot say we lack the right expertise.

Not directly related to libraries, but the following question about the rumoured end of the DCMS was also asked by nolarae:

  • The Rumor Mill is pretty active at the moment, saying that the DCMS will be split up after the Olympics. What potential threats does this pose for Arts Council not having DCMS holding ‘holding back the wolves’, i.e. other Govt Depts taking funding away from the Arts?

Alan Davey’s reply:

Well, I’m not sure that wolves get much from DCMS budgets – it being the smallest department in Whitehall by far. Whatever happens, they’d need to protect budgets for arts and museums and there would need to be a place in Whitehall to represent their interests. In the past this has been the Cabinet Office, the Education department or even the Treasury direct. Some other countries such as Australia put arts and culture as part of the Prime Minister’s office, reflecting their importance. So if there is a proposal to abolish the DCMS there will need to be a convincing alternative so that the interests of arts and culture remain at the heart of government. And that is the case we – the sector and the Arts Council – have to argue as strongly as we can. It seems to me to be a false economy to abolish a body if you then have to reinvent it elsewhere.

It was good to get a reply that addressed some of the issues I raised. It was also good to be reassured that ACE still had staff to focus on libraries and museums, even though I’m not sure how many of these members of staff there are in comparison to previous MLA numbers and how many of them have a specific focus on libraries.

I didn’t receive a response regarding council members with specific focus on libraries, so I’ll be interested to see what happens in the future at that level.

However, I still have the nagging thought that the updated Arts Council England mission statement still focuses heavily on art. It’s led by the line:

“Our mission is ‘great art for everyone’ and we work to achieve this by championing, developing and investing in arts and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives.”

and continues…

“We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. 

Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. 

Between 2011 and 2015, we will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £0.85 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.”

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy art and the impact and benefits that libraries can have on this area, but I still feel it might be more helpful to have an acknowledgement in the mission statement that libraries (and museums) are more than just arts focused.