Call For Evidence: The role of libraries in the 21st century

Lindsay Johns

Head of Arts and Culture

Today, Policy Exchange launches a call for evidence to inform a major piece of research into public libraries.

Issues we will be considering include:

  • What is the purpose of the public library in the modern world?
  • What is the continuing role of the physical book?
  • How can public libraries contribute to social mobility in 21st century Britain?
  • How can public libraries contribute to the creation of social capital in 21st century Britain?
  • How can we ensure that public libraries are readily available to assist people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds to fulfil their academic and social potential?
  • How can public libraries act as refuges and safe spaces – places of both physical and intellectual security – for the vulnerable (especially young people from underprivileged backgrounds) in an age of family breakdown and widespread broken homes?
  • How can we harness the practical benefits of digital technology to increase access to books, journals, full archives, music and digital works of art, together with film and video?
  • To what extent has there been a diminution in the range and quality of journals available in public libraries? If yes, how can it be rectified?
  • What role can school and university libraries play in making their resources available to the public?
  • How should public libraries embrace change in the 21st century while remaining true to their core purpose and objectives?

We invite librarians, experts, policymakers, publishers, readers, writers, interested groups, organisations and individuals to respond to this call for evidence. Submissions should be in Word or PDF format and no longer than 2,000 words, addressing any or all of the above questions.

Any submissions will be treated confidentially and will be used to inform our research around the policies which affect the shape, viability and success of the public library system.

Wherever possible, please describe, qualify and / or quantify your responses.

Submissions should be sent to Lindsay Johns, Head of Arts and Culture at Policy Exchange, by no later than Monday April 3rd 2017. Please email:

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