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This Paper gives a brief overview of the provision of library services in England, the role of the Secretary of State, and the work of the Libraries Taskforce.

The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 requires local authorities in England and Wales to “provide a comprehensive and efficient library service”.

“Comprehensive and efficient” are not defined. It is the responsibility of each local authority to determine how to deliver public library services in the context of local need.

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport can order an inquiry where there is concern that a local authority is not fulfilling its duties under the Act. This has not happened since 2009 when an inquiry looked at the library services provided by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.

Concerns about the future of library services are ongoing. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals has a “My Library By Right” campaign.

The main body of the Paper focuses on public libraries in England.

For information on libraries in Wales, see the Welsh Government website: Libraries and archives.


In Scotland, local authorities have a statutory duty, under s163(2) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, to “secure the provision of adequate library facilities for all persons resident in their area”. For further information see:

Northern Ireland

The public library service is administered by the Northern Ireland Library Authority, known as Libraries NI. The functions of Libraries NI are set out in the Libraries Act (Northern Ireland) 2008.

For further information on public libraries see the Northern Ireland Executive website.

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