The Reading Agency and the Society of Chief Librarians have worked together for thirteen years and have recently signed a new Memorandum of Understanding designed to celebrate our partnership and outline how we will continue to work together in the future. Here the leaders of the two organisations explain more about the partnership and why shared reading programmes for libraries are so important.

Ciara Eastell, President of the Society of Chief LibrariansCiara biog photo

SCL and The Reading Agency have worked together continuously, for the benefit of library customers of all ages, for thirteen years. Together we have delivered some fantastic initiatives:  record breaking figures for the Summer Reading Challenge; launching three Reading Well schemes; conducting research into the potential for the development of a single digital presence for libraries and building our joint partnership with the Wellcome Trust so that libraries’ health work can continue to grow and have more impact in the future. Everything we deliver with The Reading Agency shares key qualities: dedication to promoting reading as a way of improving health and life; complete professionalism in quality of ideas, materials and delivery; and unflagging and infectious inspiration from the team at The Reading Agency.

The challenges that libraries face in the current economic climate are well documented. And one of the ways we meet these challenges is by partnering with organisations that share our mission: to inspire and enable through reading, information, health and culture. This allows us to reach further than we can alone. This allows us to bring the very best resources and knowledge to libraries in a creative and engaging way.

This MOU signed between SCL and The Reading Agency cements this work and ensures that it continues to the same high standards. The Universal Offers for Public Libraries—Reading and Health, shared with The Reading Agency, and Digital, Information, and Learning—have framed the work of libraries in a way that is instantly accessible to our current, and potential, partners.

I’m excited about what the future holds for this partnership and look forward to working with Reading Agency colleagues to strengthen and broaden the partnership so that reading can reach even more communities through their local library in the months and years to come.

Sue Wilkinson, Chief Executive of The Reading Agency Sue Wilkinson

At The Reading Agency our mission is to inspire more people to read more, encourage them to share their love of reading with others and celebrate the difference that reading makes to all our lives. With that ambition you can see why our strong and close partnership with public libraries and with the Society of Chief Librarians is so important to us. Together we work with struggling and confident readers of all ages, developing and delivering reading programmes which last year reached over one million people. We are therefore delighted to have signed this new MOU with the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and to continue our work together for another ** years.

At a time when low literacy levels are costing the UK £81 billion a year in lost earnings and increased welfare spending, when 36% of the adult population don’t read for pleasure and when 1 in 10 young people have a diagnosable mental health condition, our shared programmes have never been more important. Their reach and impact is astonishing. Reading Well Books on Prescription now runs in 97% of all English library authorities; borrowing of titles in the common mental health conditions has increased by 97% since launch and borrowing of the books on the dementia list has increased by 346%. 800,000 children take part in the Summer Reading Challenge last year across the UK, EIRE and via the British Council, while children borrowed over 18,000,000 books in British libraries. What these shared programmes demonstrate is the difference reading can make to people and to communities and the quality and economies of scale which come from working together to create national frameworks which can be adapted locally by libraries.

All of this is underpinned by the strong partnerships we have developed together, with Arts Council England (which funds both of our organisations), the Wellcome Trust which is investing in Reading Well, the BBC which has made 2016 the year of reading and, critically, with publishers and authors. We know how inspiring people find meeting the authors of the wonderful books which fill the library and each year we have seen an ever more exciting programme of author events, promotions and giveaways happening in the library space.

We are proud and pleased to have signed this new MOU, which is not just about what we’ve achieved so far but what we can achieve in the future; we are very much looking forward to working with our library partners to develop more brilliant offers for their local communities.