When you want to get away from it all, what’s better than a beach read to immerse you in another world? When a city needed to come together in the aftermath of violence, what better than a poem to capture the grief and defiance? Literature can be both an intensely private and a powerfully public art form, and what readers, listeners, writers, reciters get from it is every bit as varied. Similarly, libraries are some of the most inclusive and valued spaces in our society, offering everything from discovery to refuge, transformation to sheer fun.
Arts Council England's focus on libraries in its newly released ten-year strategy rightly acknowledges and champions the great work that is already being done in this sector - and has been for many years. Awareness is growing of the vital role libraries have to play in empowering their communities to make relevant and accessible connections with arts and culture, so ACE's intention to support this momentum is very welcome news. The library professionals we work with are acutely aware of their unique position and role in their local communities, and consider this a priority when looking at partnerships, programming, and development of any offer beyond their core services - it's an impressive process to behold.
The rich variety of audiences, formats and impacts make the literature and library sectors a fascinating area to work in - whether in creating nuanced evaluation frameworks, detailed mapping and profiling of users, exploration of the needs and motivations of writers, or much more. This sector has required us as an agency to draw on our full range of skills to support it in continuing to flourish.
"Oliver Mantell, The Audience Agency's policy research director and literature lead, has driven change on our thinking about poetry audiences, contributing significantly to the shaping of National Poetry Day's engagement strategy. His presentations of data around poetry readership and event attendance at our London Book Fair Poetry Summits in April 2018 and March 2019 have been particularly valuable in raising understanding of poetry audiences."
Susannah Herbert, Executive Director, Forward Arts Foundation