Developing a Children and Young People’s Strand of the Universal Health Offer  (March 2017)

A report by The Reading Agency on behalf of ASCEL (the Association of Senior Children’s & Education Librarians), launched Friday 26/05/2017.

The Universal Health Offer is a strategy which expresses the public library contribution to the positive health and wellbeing of local communities.  It is delivered by the Society of Chief Librarians, in partnership with The Reading Agency and is funded by Arts Council England as one of the five Universal Offers available in English public libraries.

Research for the report looked at the key priorities of leading health bodies, including Public Health England, NHS England, The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, The Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal Society of Public Health and included interviews with representatives from health organisations.

The report states that there is clear potential for public libraries to support the health and wellbeing of children and young people in their local communities and recommends areas of focus for public libraries divided by age category, early years (pre-birth/0-4 years), children (5-11 years) and young people (11-18 years).

Sue Ball, national Chair of ASCEL said, “We are delighted with this report as going forward the recommendations will help to shape local public library health offers for children & young people & their families.”

Debbie Hicks, Creative Director at The Reading Agency said, “We’re really excited to be working with ASCEL and SCL on a children and young people’s strand of the Public Library Health Offer.  The report shows there is enormous potential to extend the health work of libraries in this area building on the success of the Reading Well for young people scheme, which is already supporting young people’s wellbeing through expert endorsed reading available in public libraries.”

Julie Spencer MBE, Head of Library and Museum Services, Bolton, said, “On behalf of the Society of Chief Librarians I would like to endorse the importance of this report.  It identifies priorities which will help to extend and shape a coordinated approach to delivering children’s and young people’s health and well-being activity across public libraries. These recommendations will give a welcome extra dimension to the Public Library Health Offer reflecting current health policy and commissioning concerns and underlining the benefits our work brings to local communities.”

Additional information:

The Society of Chief Librarians leads and manages public libraries in England, Wales & Northern Ireland.  It is made up of the head of every library authority and advocates for continuous improvement of the public library service on behalf of local people.  

ASCEL is the national network of senior managers in Children’s Public and Schools Library Services. Their aim is to lead excellence in library services for children and young people and schools so that every child and young person visiting a public library should be inspired by an exciting environment which makes reading for pleasure irresistible and every school has access to a high quality school library service. 

The Reading Agency is the leading charity inspiring people of all ages and all backgrounds to read for pleasure and empowerment.  Working with partners, their aim is to make reading accessible to everyone.  The Reading Agency is funded by Arts Council. 

The Universal Offers for Public Libraries were launched in 2013 by The Society of Chief Librarians.  They cover five key areas which library customers and partners see as essential to a 21st century library service.  They are Health, Reading, Digital, Information and Learning. 




Children's Library Journeys report  (April 2015)

ASCEL's latest report sets out a national framework for the “Library Journey” highlighting the key interactions public libraries should have with children as they grow.

“We are delighted that this work has highlighted so clearly the significance of library services in children’s lives. It has revealed exciting opportunities for new digital engagement and has also emphasized the importance of the library as a rich and welcoming space for children within the local community”. Sarah Mears Chair of The Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians.

The research behind the report was carried out by Laura Crossley for The Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) on behalf of Arts Council England and The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL). It followed recommendations from the Arts Council England funded Automatic Library Membership Pilot (Siddall, 2014) that there should be a universal offer that “positions the enrolment of each child within a series of staged interactions between an individual and the library service, with regular repetitions of the library message”.

Children's Library Journeys: Background research report

Children's Library Journeys press release



Children's Digital Needs and Libraries (December 2014)

“The lives of today’s children are not dominated by digital information, but they are immersed in it."

Our first research report published in December  2014 gives new insight into how young children access digital technology and crucially suggests how public libraries might better support them in the future

The research, commissioned by the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) working in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL), was undertaken by Shared Intelligence and funded by Arts Council England. It draws together existing research literature with the findings from 25 focus groups with children in public libraries and schools across seven local authorities in England. The report highlights the differences between the use of technology by under-fives and children in the primary years. It identifies that whilst there is a need to protect children from negative or harmful experiences of digital technology, a bigger risk is that some children lack the opportunity to engage with it. Public libraries have a clear role to play both in supporting children to become digitally safe and aware but also to ensure that all children have the opportunity to explore, experience and become skilled technology users achieving in their lifetimes things which may seem impossible today.