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Library shared services and national initiatives

Single digital presence for UK public libraries

Millions wasted on attempt to create nationwide UK library website, campaigners claim.

Dalya Alberge. Observer. 30 Dec 2023

“The UK’s beleaguered public libraries have been let down by years of indecision and delays over how to spend millions of pounds in funding earmarked for a nationwide website.This was among damning criticisms voiced on Saturday by campaigners who have lost patience with the government, the British Library and Arts Council England (ACE) over their longstanding failure to develop a nationwide scheme. The “Single Digital Presence” (SDP) – renamed LibraryOn – was meant to bring together public libraries in one website to enable the public to access collections across the country. The problem has been that there are 150 library authorities in England alone, each with their own technology and management systems. Government funds have been allocated in various tranches to ACE and the British Library to make it happen.

What is LibraryOn

LibraryOn [ was the “Single Digital Presence”] is a publicly-funded, not-for-profit programme that promotes the work of public libraries. It aims to increase visits to public libraries by making their offers and services easier to discover and use.Funded by Arts Council England, and with libraries and library ethics at its heart, LibraryOn currently does this in two core ways:

  1. Through the LibraryOn website, we share content that tells real stories from library staff, customers and volunteers. And we communicate the range of services, community activities and content libraries offer. By showing the real difference libraries make, we aim to encourage more people to explore what they offer – in-person and online.
  2. The LibraryOn grants programme has, to date, distributed £1.1m of funding to library services across England in 2023 to help library services make the most of the opportunities technology offers to be able to connect to their audiences. Through the funding we have been able to support library services to improve their online presence and discoverability. We also convene a Community of Practice for grant recipients to connect and share information and inspiration.

LibraryOn/Single digital presence background and history

The Single Digital Presence project will develop a digital platform to improve public access to the collections, exhibitions and online events of libraries across the UK. Tiina Hill, British Library. [Blog] 6 October 2022
“The platform, which will be developed by the British Library, will allow libraries to share content and resources with audiences around the world, promote two-way traffic with local library websites, and give national visibility to local events and collections.The current phase of funding (June 2021 – March 2024) will enable us to develop and test a public-facing version of the platform. £1.1 million of the funding is ring-fenced to help libraries in England with their digital offers.”

The Single Digital Presence for UK public libraries project get further £3.4m funding. “one national platform that can host library-curated content and services, showcase exhibitions as well as promote two-way traffic with local library websites, giving national visibility to local events and collections” Arts Council [blog] 3 June 2021

National Digital Platform for Wales

“One stop portal for Welsh Libraries – you can find out what’s happening in libraries, search for books, browse a wide range of online resources, join online, locate your nearest library, ask tricky questions, and lots more. This website has been created and designed as part of the Welsh Government’s support for libraries.

Digital transformation for UK public libraries five approaches to a ‘single digital presence

A report by the British Library for Arts Council England and Carnegie UK Trust. June 2019

From the Press Release:

New research proposes five options for a digital presence for public libraries Thu 6 Jun 2019. A new report from the British Library, commissioned by Arts Council England and the Carnegie UK Trust, has set out five possible options for digital transformation for UK public libraries.

The recommendations paper, Digital Transformations for UK public libraries: five approaches to a ‘Single Digital Presence ’ , sets out what a national online platform (or “single digital presence”) for public libraries could look like, what it could be used for and how such an offering might fit in with existing digital library systems.The British Library undertook a year-long enquiry to examine a range of options for such a platform and has identified five potential models that could enable public libraries to benefit fully from recent technological developments and to engage new and existing users at local and national level. These are:

  1. Deep Shared Infrastructure – a common, centralised Library Management System, procured at a UK wide level and run as a single piece of technology serving all libraries. Such interventions are rare at national level, though the Republic of Ireland has recently introduced such a system.
  2. UK wide Content Discovery – an aggregator at UK national level of free-to-view digital content from libraries, archives and other public collections. Example include Gallica in France, Trove in Australia, Finna in Finland and the Digital Public Library of America in the USA.
  3. Unified Digital Lending – a single, publicly-run service devoted to the free digital ‘lending’ of books and other copyright content that would otherwise only be available on a commercial basis. An example is eReolen in Denmark.
  4. Safe Social Space – a user-led digital platform for the people who love libraries, replicating the community spaces they visit and work in as a complementary alternative to commercial social media services. No exact national equivalent currently exists, though emergent services such as Library Planet and Lit Hub offer analogies as digital places where library users and book lovers can gather and interact.
  5. One Library Brand – an intervention to create and promote a single ‘library brand’ at cross-UK scale: potentially applicable in both the digital and physical realms and consistent with any of the above propositions.

Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016 to 2021

Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016 to 2021”, DCMS December 2016

The Libraries Taskforce’s role is to provide leadership and help to reinvigorate the public library sector in England, as well as showcasing and promoting the excellent work already happening in libraries across the country. We were asked by Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Local Government Association (LGA) to develop this vision for the future of public libraries in England

“Supporting the development of the digital offer of libraries.” is action point 20 in the Task Force action plan

Explore the feasibility of a shared national digital platform for public libraries in England (Single Library Digital Presence) and then identify ways to develop, operate and fund it”

Essential Digital Infrastructure for Public Libraries in England.

A plan for moving forward.Prepared by BiblioCommons November 24, 2015. Commissioned by The Society of Chief Librarians in collaboration with The Reading Agency With funding from Arts Council England. (Also known as the ”Bibliocommons report “)

“This report argues that a standards-based digital platform is the only viable technology for realising recent strategic goals articulated by leaders for England’s public libraries. The platform would allow libraries and their partners to innovate, collaborate and share in ways they cannot now do. The report further argues that the primary mode of service on this platform must be co-production – among library authorities, and among library staff, national and local partners, and importantly, end users. We show how new digital divides have made the mission of libraries – literacy, learning, and community inclusion – as relevant as it ever was. And that in order to provide an energetic response, libraries must invite their users into their digital spaces: their catalogues, their websites, their ebook readers, their online events calendars. We argue that these two measures, a standards-based digital platform and co-production of services, will reinvigorate libraries and create substantial, tangible outcomes in literacy, digital and social inclusion, health, education, and economic participation.”

Sieghart on a national infrastructure for (English) public libraries

'Future libraries, William Sieghart LGA website 19 June 2014 [no longer accessible]

“It is possible to strengthen the service nationally without losing the local approach. My strong view is that part of the answer can be found through offering a digital network for libraries, which could include a single management system, one library card valid in all libraries in England,……Once set up, this network could also be a vehicle for improving the leadership of, and vision for, libraries; more joined-up procurement; the sharing of best practice and encouraging change – without conflicting with the need for local approaches. It could give users access to a much wider choice of materials…”

Failed national initiatives

The following initiatives failed to get traction and have been abandoned.

Bookmark your Library

This provided information on public libraries across the UK and includes a link to the national catalogue - Fab Libraries launched in 2012

Fab Libraries

FABLibraries provided access to more than 149 UK public library catalogues in a single search. It linked to the library’s own website, to provide availability information and showed you library locations on a map. It was an project based on an earlier inititaive by OCLC and The Combined Regions (TCR) to provide Britain's first freely accessible national public library union catalogue

OCLC and The Combined Regions (TCR) union catalogue

While the objective was to ultimately include all UK public libraries within the catalogue, initially, the project aimed to provide a view of holdings contributed to WorldCat by the 149 local authorities. It was based on UnityUK. - a national network for resource sharing. UnityUK participants already provided regular updates of holdings records to WorldCat, which were intended primarily for inter-library loans purposes. The initiative provided an initial 'proof of concept' This preliminary version of the catalogue would then be extended to include other UK public libraries. As a pre-requisite for the project, the holdings data of participating libraries would need to be made visible on the open Web through

Shared library system initiatives

Haringey Council joins The Libraries Consortium

From the (Haringey) Press Release7th June 2022: “The Libraries Consortium, chaired by the London Borough of Sutton, currently consisting of 22 local authorities, delivers one of the models defined by the British Library’s recommendations paper, Digital Transformation for UK public libraries: five approaches to a 'Single Digital Presence'. This paper sets out what a national online platform (or “single digital presence”) would look like. The Libraries Consortium delivers ‘Deep Shared Infrastructure’ – a common, centralised Library Management System, procured at a UK-wide level and run as a single piece of technology serving all libraries. SirsiDynix is the incumbent library management service provider.”

Surrey County Council joins The Libraries Consortium

(SirsiDynix library system)

From the 14 April 2021 Press Release: “Surrey has 52 libraries serving 1.2 million people and this is part of the Library Transformation Programme improving services for our residents.“Surrey Libraries are excited to join the UK’s largest consortium, with the enhanced customer experience for all members this will bring. Members will be able to use their library card at any of the 380 member branches, crossing boundaries into London boroughs, and reaching as far as Essex and Luton. Shared catalogues will offer choice from more than 8 million items of stock, which can be delivered to any Surrey Library in days. Pooling staff expertise and fostering innovation will increase our purchasing power and enable development and sharing of new services.” Susan Wills, Assistant Director, Lifelong Learning and Culture, Surrey County Council The Consortium delivers one of the models defined by the British Library’s recommendations paper, Digital Transformation for UK public libraries: five approaches to a 'Single Digital Presence', which sets out what a national online platform (or “single digital presence”) would look like. A common, centralised Library Management System, procured at a UK-wide level serves all libraries, and gives customers access to millions more items of stock, with huge diversity of material and a single powerful brand.

Essex & Thurrock Join a Framework for the Future: The Libraries Consortium.

SirsiDynix Press Release. 14th October 2020

From the Press Release: “Kelly Saini Badwal, Head of Cultural Services, Chief Executive’s Directorate, London Borough of Sutton. “We now have 20 authorities who have joined TLC, making TLC the largest libraries consortium in England. The number of customers who benefit from a wide range of stock is now at 2.8 million across 254 libraries. TLC has successfully delivered a library management system which meets the needs of customers, and this is being further enhanced with the addition of ‘self-checkout’ on the My Library app. Customers will be able to check out and return items in libraries from their personal mobile devices. As the Lead Authority, we’re working with member authorities to develop a unique digital platform giving customers access to books, events, and services all in one place – a single digital platform.”

Libraries-a shared services success story

Libraries systems appear to be one of the success stories of shared services in local government. At July 2019 over 90 Library authorities (around 45%) were part of one kind of shared Library Management System (LMS) shared service. As many library authorities are already shared services it means that over half of the UK councils are in a shared LMS. Over a quarter of UK *Library* authorities (representing a higher share of councils) share a library system. Some like the selms consortium and The Libraries Consortium are very large indeed. Some shared services, like the September 2015 contract for a library system for Wales, are national in scope. The Welsh initiative anticipates savings of 60-70%.

Consortium case studies

SELMS Consortium

SELMS Consortium - reflecting our shared values of customer service, value for money and innovation. Hilary Ballard, DCMS Library blog. 1 November 2018. SELMS consortium manager Hilary Ballard writes about the project’s development, and the benefits it offers today.

”[SELMS] supports more than 600,000 borrowers, issuing over 18 million items a year, from over 6 million items of stock.
The LMS consortium solution has certainly enabled partners to achieve considerable discounts, from shared bibliographic resources, to reducing the technical burden on system configuration and management. One partner reports an annual saving of over £81,000 and another has cut their system costs by 50%.”

Libraries Consortium (was the London Libraries Consortium -LLC)

London Libraries Consortium: partnership working

Case study from:Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Part of:Libraries shaping the future: toolkit and case studies and Library services Published:30 November 2016

“The London Libraries Consortium (LLC) is a business partnership of 18 London public library services committed to delivering excellence and providing value for money. This is is done by sharing resources in IT, stock management, staff development, training and using shared contract opportunities.

The LLC’s vision is to be “the leading player in the success of the nation’s libraries; a powerhouse for new ideas for what libraries can deliver and the way that they work; and the most efficient and cost-effective provider of shared libraries support services.”


A national service for discovery and delivery of academic journal articles

Access to research

From January 2014, over 1.5 million academic articles are available, free of charge, in participating public libraries across the UK. Students, independent researchers and small businesses can now access many of the world’s best academic papers through their local libraries, a result of a unique collaboration between librarians and publishers, who have made their journal content available for free.

UK public Library consortia/shared services

Black Country

(Use the Capita Library system)

The Black Country sits at the heart of England and covers 356 sq. It is home to over 1.1 m people.

Local Authorities included:

  • Dudley Metropolitan Borough
  • Sandwell Metropolitan Borough
  • Walsall Metropolitan Borough
  • Wolverhampton City,

Selected the Sierra Library system for : Innovative Interfaces Global Ltd Award notice: 12 February 2015. NOTE: This contract was cancelled and a new tender published in 2016 with the award going to Capita.


(Use the Axiell (was DS) Galaxy Library Management System)

  • Bedford Borough
  • Central Bedfordshire


(Procured Axiell in 2024)

A partnership of 6 East Midlands authorities:

  • Leicestershire
  • Derby City
  • Derbyshire
  • Nottingham City
  • Inspire (Nottinghamshire)
  • Rutland

EMLIB is open to other authorities requesting to join the consortium.

Gloucestershire and Swindon

(Based on the Capita -Chorus hosted system)

Gloucestershire County Council and Swindon Borough Council will use Capita’s library management software (press release September 2013)

  • Gloucestershire
  • Swindon

Greater Manchester

(Use the Civica Spydus Library Management System)

  • Blackburn with Darwen
  • Blackpool
  • Bolton
  • Bury
  • Manchester
  • Oldham
  • Rochdale
  • Salford
  • Stockport
  • Tameside
  • Trafford
  • Wigan

Libraries West

(Selected Axiell in 2024 -moving from SirsiDynix)

  • Bath & N. E Somerset
  • Bristol
  • Dorset (county)
  • North Somerset
  • Poole (borough of)
  • Somerset
  • South Gloucestershire

Libraries Consortium (was the London Libraries Consortium LLC)

(Selected SirsDynix Symphony in July 2018 -moving from Axiell)

  • Barking & Dagenham
  • Brent
  • Croydon
  • Ealing
  • Enfield
  • Essex County
  • Hackney
  • Haringey
  • Harrow
  • Havering
  • Kingston
  • Lewisham
  • Luton Culture
  • Merton
  • Newham
  • Redbridge
  • Surrey
  • Sutton
  • Thurrock
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Waltham Forest
  • Wandsworth

Scottish Consortium of Public Libraries (SCoPL)

  • Angus
  • Perth & Kinross
  • Aberdeen City
  • Aberdeenshire
  • North Ayrshire
  • High Life Highland

Following a procurement exercise carried out by Tayside Procurement Consortium on behalf of the Scottish Consortium of Public Libraries (SCoPL) consisting of, Angus, Perth & Kinross, Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and North Ayrshire councils as well as High Life Highland, the consortium has awarded a contract worth £1.5 million for a new library management system to Civica


(Based on the Civica -Spydus- Library Management System)

  • Brighton and Hove
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Camden
  • Hertfordshire
  • Kent
  • Medway
  • Milton Keynes
  • Reading
  • Richmond
  • Slough
  • Southend-on-Sea
  • West Berkshire
  • Windsor and Maidenhead


Selected Civica (Spydus library system) in 2012)

  • Cambridge
  • Suffolk
  • Norfolk (associate member in 2017)

Tri-Borough (London)

SirsiDynix Symphony system . London Boroughs of:

  • Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Kensington & Chelsea
  • Westminster


Selected Axiell in 2024

Local authorities included:

  • Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council
  • Bridgend County Borough Council
  • Caerphilly County Borough Council
  • Cardiff Council
  • Carmarthenshire County Council
  • Ceredigion County Council
  • City and County of Swansea
  • Conwy County Borough Council
  • Denbighshire County Council
  • Flintshire County Council
  • Gwynedd County Council
  • Isle of Anglesey County Council
  • Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council
  • Monmouthshire County Council
  • Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council
  • Newport City Council
  • Pembrokeshire County Council
  • Powys County Council
  • Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council
  • Torfaen County Borough Council
  • Vale of Glamorgan Council
  • Wrexham County Borough Council
  • Grwp Llandrillo Menai

Yorkshire and Humber

Selected SirsiDynix 2019 under Framework Agreement for 15 authorities from the Yorkshire & Humberside region. At August 2020 the authorities highlighted in bold are already using SirsiDynix or have committed to moving to SirsiDynix under the framework agreement.

  • Barnsley
  • Bradford
  • Calderdale
  • Doncaster
  • East Riding
  • Hull
  • Kirklees
  • Leeds
  • N. Lincolnshire
  • N.E. Lincolnshire
  • North Yorkshire
  • Rotherham
  • Sheffield
  • Wakefield
  • York
shared_services.txt · Last modified: 2024/05/20 20:04 by