United Kingdom/ 5.3 Sector specific legislation  

5.3.4 Literature and libraries

The Public Libraries Act 1850 empowered local authorities to provide a free library service on a discretionary basis. In 1853 it was extended to Scotland and Ireland and the levy rates were raised in 1855, but support from philanthropists and wealthy entrepreneurs was the key to the development of the public library system up until 1919 when financial restrictions were abolished. The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 enabled local authorities to offer non-book material for loan through public libraries (e.g. records, films, and pictures) and made library provision mandatory. The Public Lending Right Act 1979 established the right for authors to be remunerated for loans made of their books through the public library system (see chapter 5.1.7). The Obscene Publications Act 1959 relaxed censorship laws. In 2003 DCMS published Framework for the Future, the government's first national strategy for England's public libraries

In June 1999 the UK Government announced that public libraries would have to meet minimum standards set by the DCMS. The standards were first published in 2000, after consultation with The Library Association and the Local Government Association, but were removed in 2008 in favour of integration with the wider performance management of local government. The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland introduced public library standards in 2006.

There is separate library legislation in Northern Ireland (The Libraries Act 2008). The administration of libraries has been recently transferred to a new single, dedicated, library authority, the Northern Ireland Libraries Authority known as Libraries NI.

Under the Legal Deposit Libraries Act, the person publishing work in print (including books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, music, maps etc) is responsible for delivering copies to the official deposit libraries in the UK.

Chapter published: 15-04-2011