15 December 2015 Last updated at 11:46, 18/07/2016

My Library By Right

My Library by Right

Campaign for your right to quality libraries 

The Government and Local Authorities have a legal responsibility to provide you with a quality library service that meets your needs.

By statute Local Authorities must provide ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library services and Government must oversee and improve libraries.

These rights are not widely understood and are being neglected in the face of economic pressures. This is putting important principles at risk, including the ability to access a quality library service wherever you live and at times to suit you.  

Public libraries in England provide a lifeline for millions of people every day. They help people get online, develop their literacy and skills, find employment and build stronger ties across their community. We must stand up and defend our statutory right to a quality library service.

How can I take action?

Everyone working in the library, information and knowledge sectors are welcome to join CILIP. Become a member and support our campaigns and advocacy

What we are campaigning for

My Library By Right brings people together to campaign for:

  • The public’s rights to libraries to be recognised and respected
  • Public libraries to be treated as the statutory services they are
  • The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to carry out their legal duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act
  • Statutory guidance for local authorities on their duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act from DCMS, with support from CILIP and the library and information profession

Campaign overview

    Why we are campaigning

    Under English law, everyone has a right to quality public library services provided by Local Authorities using statutory guidance that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport should provide. 

    However, these rights are not widely understood and for too long the statutory nature of library services has been ignored. This has allowed the withdrawal of financial and political support for public libraries in England to go unchecked, resulting in the loss or ‘hollowing out’ of services. 

    We will hold the Government to account for these legal duties, including working with the Secretary of State to provide a clear and meaningful statement of the characteristics of a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ service for Local Authorities to follow.

    On the launch of the campaign Nick Poole, CILIP Chief Executive, said, “We urge all Authorities currently considering or implementing changes to their library services without statutory guidance to put these plans on hold pending the outcome of these discussions with DCMS. Changes made to library services without reference to an appropriate statutory guideline may not be lawful, not only under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, but also in respect of the requirements of the 2010 Equality Act. As a community, we want to work with you to deliver the quality library service that the public demands and has a right to expect.”

    My Library By Right builds on legal advice received pro bono from celebrated Human Rights Barrister Eric Metcalfe of Monckton Chambers. This advice highlights the legal duty of DCMS Secretary of State to provide clear statutory guidance on the definition of a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ service.

    Our rights

    Under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act:

    • Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library services. 
    • The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has a legal duty for the stewardship and improvement of public libraries in England.

    Under the 2010 Equality Act:

    • The Secretary of State’s duty to issue statutory guidance must be exercised in compliance with his duty under section 149 of the Equality Act – to have due regard of the need to  eliminate discrimination and to advance equality of opportunity among protected groups. This means, for example, ensuring that changes to library services do not disadvantage people who may not be able to travel large distances
    • The widely-reported cuts to library services risk contravening these rules and we are particularly concerned that protected groups are likely to be disproportionately affected by any further reduction in library services by Local Authorities.

    Under the 1998 Human Rights Act:

    • The Secretary of State’s duty to issue statutory guidance is reinforced by the obligation to act compatibly with Convention rights under the Human Rights Act.
    • The lack of guidance means there is not sufficient legal certainty about how reductions in library services are compatible with Local Authorities’ duty to provide ‘comprehensive and efficient’ services to support the rights of library users under the Human Rights Act including respect for their private lives, to receive information and to non-discrimination

    The value of public libraries

    Libraries contribute to a range of agendas including digital literacy, public health, business start-ups and employment, reading and literacy and deliver Government services such as Universal Credit.

    CILIP's guide to What Makes a Great Library Service provides a practical overview.

    They are uniquely placed in their communities, providing opportunities for all. The Business & IP Centre Network of Libraries saw that of the people that started a new business 47% were women, 26% black, Asian and minority ethnic, and 25% were unemployed or made redundant. 

    Arts Council England research estimates that libraries save the NHS in England £27.5 million as the library regularly results in a 1.4% increase in people reporting good general health. 


    Thanks to The Society of Authors internationally renowned writers Ali Smith, Joanna Trollope, Neil Gaiman and Sir Andrew Motion have added their support to the campaign

    Ali Smith said, “The 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act affirmed the Public Libraries Act of 1850 and neither act has been rescinded – the closures are against the law! Democracy of reading, democracy of space: that's our library tradition, it was incredibly hard won for us by the generations before us, and we should be protecting it not just for ourselves but in the name of every generation after us.”

    Joanna Trollope commented, “The UK - ranked near the bottom in the OECD’s recent survey of literacy levels in the world’s most developed countries - is in absolutely no position to dare to close one single public library. Especially when that library service costs so very little to run and is so crucial to the nation’s well being, and future.”


    All My Library By Right images linked to on this page are available under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.