Response to the Sanderson Public Library Review

Friday, 19 January, 2024

ASCEL responds to Baroness Sanderson’s Public Libraries Review


ASCEL welcomes the publication of Baroness Sanderson’s independent review of public libraries in England. We thank Baroness Sanderson for including ASCEL in the consultation for the review, to ensure that children’s library services were well represented within the discussion and the report.

Sarah Mears, ASCEL's Interim CEO says:

"We are pleased to see the recognition given to the importance of libraries and their value and impact within communities and that more needs to be done to ensure their sustainability, especially the ongoing underinvestment of the sector.

ASCEL strongly supports the idea of Universal Library Membership for children, and that this is seen as an entitlement.

We feel that several key ‘intervention’ points in a child’s life are needed, not just one point for universal membership so that no children fall through the net. To make the scheme truly successful, it would be important to engage partners locally and nationally, such as Family Hubs, GPs, Health Visitors, BBC Tiny Happy People, to ensure that parents/guardians/carers can be reached, as they will be critical to activating membership, and securing investment in a campaign of engagement. This requires capacity and funds to create a sustainable, worthwhile, and beneficial offer. Consideration also needs to be given to making the scheme effective and easy-to-use for vulnerable and looked-after children, who may move areas, to ensure they retain access to libraries without barriers or judgement.

ASCEL very much welcomes the idea of a National Data Hub. The lack of consistent and coherent data has been challenging for libraries in terms of demonstrating impact and attracting investment. Sharing data will be vital for the success of Universal Library Membership and will help us to better understand the impact of our services. We also support the proposal to capture data on digital engagement alongside physical engagement with services, which also highlights the need for the data hub to constantly future gaze to ensure that data gathered is relevant and dynamic.

We are excited by the idea of a Library Laureate. We think the current Children’s Laureate (as well as previous laureates) and the poet laureate have both served to raise the profile of libraries and having a national Library Laureate sends a message both nationally and internationally about the value a society places on its library services.

We believe that having a Libraries Minister would be hugely beneficial to raising the profile of libraries within Government, the political agenda and in society, which is currently desperately needed. Working across departments - DCMS, DFE and DLUHC - would not only reflect the wide remit of libraries but add value to our work. It would ensure that libraries have a central prominence in government and are not excluded from vital discussions and plans.

Proposing to move Libraries Week would be beneficial, to enable more politicians to engage with the event.

ASCEL is interested in the national branding idea. Elevating libraries in people’s consciousness would bring many benefits, which we fully recognise. We are mindful of the challenges and costs this might incur, which may mean it would take time, persuasion and investment to achieve. We look forward to seeing this idea developed with a detailed plan.


We are pleased that Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Minister Lord Parkinson has responded positively to the recommendations in the report and that he has committed to taking these forward in next year’s library strategy.

ASCEL echoes Libraries Connected’s point that 'For libraries to truly prosper and fulfil the potential outlined in Baroness Sanderson’s review, councils need a fairer, long-term funding solution. Without this, it is difficult to see how these recommendations can be fully implemented and resourced.'"


Annabel Gittins, Chair of ASCEL says:

“Baroness Sanderson’s independent report signifies an important moment for the future of libraries as it brings our vital services under the spotlight and shines a light on a number of ways that the sector can be supported, elevated and developed. We support many of the recommendations and are delighted to have been included in the consultation discussions. We know that the true outcome of the report, however, will be seen in what happens next in terms of the Libraries strategy, financial and political support centrally and locally, and meaningful action. We look forward to and welcome these developments, so that Libraries across our network can flourish, thrive and prosper, and be recognised and appreciated in Government, nationally and locally as the lifeblood of our communities that ASCEL and our members believe and know them to be.