Renaisi’s consultancy team helped Arts Council England to build the evidence base of the contribution that libraries can make to local and national priorities.

As the national development agency for libraries, the Arts Council commissioned a series of reports looking at the impact of public libraries on communities as a whole and on people’s lives. Drawing on new research and existing data, the reports each cover a different area of work:

  • Wellbeing of older people
  • How libraries contribute to place-shaping
  • The role of libraries as community hubs

What we did

Renaisi looked at the role of libraries as community hubs, drawing on our 20 years of experience of working in local communities and understanding the dynamics of local service provision.

We focussed on six libraries that had co-located with other services, and conducted in-depth case study research with the public, staff and local stakeholders in order to understand the opportunities and challenges that can come through co-location with other services.

“We commissioned this series of reports to research, test and emphasise the role of libraries in their communities and in people’s lives. They show the important contribution libraries make to a range of national and local policy areas, including place-shaping and the well-being of older people. I hope these reports will be used by both library services and our partners to inform decisions and inspire future work.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive at Arts Council England

What we learnt

We found that libraries are well placed to play a role in community hubs because of their existing position of trust within local communities, the contribution they make across a range of agenda, and their strong ethos of partnership working.

The arrangement of libraries and other services within community hubs varies considerably from place to place – we looked at libraries co-located with health services, a gym, other council services, and voluntary and community sector organisations). There are visible benefits, including helping to secure the longer term sustainability of the library for the local community, but success rests on reflecting and responding to local need.

Download the research report on the role of libraries as community hubs.

Louisa Thomson