A library user at a computer cubicle

LibraryOn Grants programme awards

LibraryOn grants awarded to 27 public library projects

In March this year LibraryOn launched its £1.09m grants programme. Supported by Arts Council England and facilitated by the British Library, the fund enables library services to boost their digital presences and enhance their discoverability for new and existing users. In consultation with the library sector, we created a grants programme which was easy to access and designed with the digital needs of libraries in mind. Library services and consortia could apply for between £10k and £70k for capital expenditure.

We received 68 applications representing 69% of all English library services. From an Expressions of Interest stage, we invited 43 applicants to submit a full application. The first stage panel included an Arts Council England representative and the digital lead for Libraries Connected. Types of projects included upgrading existing websites or creating new ones, digital marketing activity and purchasing new software. The total value of applications came to £1.6m.

We invited a full panel of sector experts to decide which of the final projects would receive funding. Individuals from CILIP and Good Things Foundation, as well as previous library Heads of Service, took part in a robust decision-making process. All applications were considered and discussed in detail; we were very keen to ensure a good geographical spread of projects as well as a range of activity was supported.

The panel awarded funding to 27 projects with a total value of £1,080,846. To give a flavour of the successful applications:

  • In the North, eleven projects were funded including a new website for Sunderland libraries to revitalise customer experience; a digital advertising campaign in Sefton; an animation and VR project working with young people in North Lincolnshire; a new library app in Kirklees and upgraded events booking for Gateshead.
  • The Midlands received funding for two applications, including a website refresh, virtual floor plan, photography and library app for Stoke-on-Trent; and a library app for Leicester Libraries.
  • London had five successful applications. They included a collaboration between the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Camden libraries; an online discoverable catalogue in Lambeth; and an interactive website project for Newham.
  • The South East received funding for five projects. They included creation of online assets such as photography, film and animation for West Sussex; virtual tours and photography in Surrey; and Suffolk reimagining its website’s user experience.
  • In the South West four projects were supported, including online space booking for Libraries Unlimited, a new website in Gloucestershire and an online history and archive project for Southampton.

Awards were also given to three consortiums, meaning 20 services from around the country will benefit from activity including ASK for a Book; a website providing personalised book recommendations from libraries, a film and photography project (reflecting findings from user research, where people said they would be more likely to visit a library if they could see what the spaces and events looked like) and upgrades to websites so we can increase our understanding of how local and national library sites work together for users.

We’re inviting participating projects to take part in a community of practice to support skills development and share ongoing learning. We hope the process will be a useful experience which will have sector-wide benefits and enable services to learn from one another and exchange knowledge.

Liz White, Head of Public Libraries and Community Engagement at the British Library said:

“We’re excited to see this grant award for library services in areas across England, balancing investment in core offers with a wide variety of opportunities for digital innovation, user research and shared learning about ways of working. This reflects our north star goal to increase the number of people using public libraries and raise awareness about their enduring value and importance.”

Luke Burton, Director of Libraries at Arts Council England said:

“We are delighted to see such an exciting range of digital projects and improvements being funded through the LibraryOn grant scheme which is supported by the Arts Council’s overall £3.4m award to the British Library. The team has been progressing the development of the LibraryOn platform at pace over recent months and allowing digital improvements and potential future integrations are critical to the next steps of demonstrating the value and uses of a single digital presence for public libraries in England. I look forward to seeing all of these projects progressing.”

If you work in the public library sector and have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected]. You can also email us to subscribe to our sector newsletter for regular updates.

Successful applications

  • Brighton & HoveCommunity Connect

    • Award: £52,994
    • Region: South East

    Working with local partners to create a digital marketing campaign and materials to reach and connect with targeted groups within our community whose footfall both digitally and physically is currently low. The digital assets created will be integrated in an interactive digital installation at Jubilee library.

  • CamdenExplore Your Reading Choices at Camden Libraries

    • Award: £41,200
    • Region: London

    This project will bridge the digital divide empowering blind and partially sighted people who might struggle to use their own device or lack connectivity at home to get out into their local community, by making digital books accessible via Envoy readers using public computers and offering orientation sessions.

  • DarlingtonA rich interactive digital experience to entice new and diverse audiences

    • Award: £30,000
    • Region: North

    Substantial improvements to our website at a time when our service is undergoing a significant and exciting transformation. The creation of an enjoyable, feature rich, interactive journey to support the discoverability of our library to new and diverse audiences to increase footfall.

  • Gateshead LibrariesWhat's On Gateshead

    • Award: £29,147
    • Region: North

    To replace Eventbrite as our events platform with a booking system created and customised by GOSS, our website provider. This will allow greater integration, keeping users on our site and allowing us to market events more easily to Gateshead residents.

  • GLL Bromley LibrariesBringing library experiences to life online

    • Award: £70,000
    • Region: London

    The project will enhance an ongoing library website project and organic listings by incorporating captivating photography and videography of life at GLL's libraries. A content production house will be commissioned to showcase the unique personality of libraries, the range of services and the diversity of staff and local communities.

  • GLL Greenwich LibrariesRebuilding online experiences

    • Award: £70,000
    • Region: London

    GLL will simplify the customer journey by delivering a single destination for customers to discover, engage and access library membership without having to visit different websites/platforms. Current disparate systems will be consolidated using data feeds to provide an enhanced customer experience that is easier to find and use.

  • Gloucestershire LibrariesAccessible website for Gloucestershire Libraries

    • Award: £30,000
    • Region: South West

    To create a stand-alone website outside of the Council's corporate website allowing us to offer greater flexibility. This year (2023) we have become an Arts Council NPO. This is an important project to boost customer experience, accessibility online and direct digital communications to existing and potential library customers.

  • HertfordshireDiscover Hertfordshire Libraries Online

    • Award: £21,100
    • Region: South East

    Our project will:

    • Extend digital access to and participation in events across Hertfordshire Libraries, utilising streaming equipment and hosting content on a high-quality YouTube channel.
    • Raise awareness of our services, achieving greater engagement, online and in person.
    • Create a 24-hour library offer, which customers can enjoy outside physical opening hours.
  • KirkleesThe Kirklees Library App project

    • Award: £10,326
    • Region: North

    Kirklees Libraries' digital offer does not include a mobile app; customers currently need to use a web browser. We propose to enhance our service by acquiring "BLUECloud" Mobile, an add-on to our library management system which will provide a whole host of service improvements not currently available.

  • Lambeth LibrariesDiscoverability on the web - borrow near me and explore my library

    • Award: £45,607
    • Region: London

    Delivering a seamless online route into using a local library: a book available in a nearby library becomes discoverable via a Google search; non-library members are prompted to join online; and further online exploration of the library is made possible through browsing interactive virtual shelves as if in the library.

  • Leeds LibrariesTransforming Leeds Libraries online customer journey and engagement

    • Award: £70,000
    • Region: North

    The project will transform Leeds Libraries' website into an innovative hub for learning, exploration, and engagement, incorporating state-of-the-art features and technologies to provide our library users with seamless access to services, from registration, searching across service offers, booking events, through to the delivery of high-quality tailored customer contact.

  • Leeds Libraries - ConsortiumAsk for a Book

    • Award: £69,600
    • Region: North

    Our project seeks to take the new digital service Ask for a Book (ASK) to the next level. The project has developed a successful cross-service website and is in soft launch stage. The LibraryOn grant will enable specific developments to improve user engagement based on staff and customer feedback.

  • LeicesterLibrary App for Leicester Libraries

    • Award: £25,000
    • Region: Midlands

    The project will allow Leicester Libraries to procure a customer-friendly library app which can be downloaded on both iOS and Android platforms. The app will be a new addition to our service offer which will help to enhance our profile as a modern and digitally enabled service.

  • Libraries UnlimitedThe Secret Book Quest: Online Odyssey

    • Award: £49,095
    • Region: South West

    Online Odyssey is a bolt-on set of digital activities to accompany our existing Secret Book Quest which inspires 5 to 12-year-olds to read and seeks to reduce the literacy gap exacerbated by the Pandemic. Children will play online quizzes and puzzles with unlockable content to encourage sustained reading.

  • Libraries UnlimitedBook : Space

    • Award: £37,321
    • Region: South West

    To introduce an online booking system, giving users access to all available spaces across the region: from hot-desking to conference and community rooms, catering to online seminar capabilities. We will highlight the range of services we offer, allowing easy functionality for bookings, including photographs & online tours of the facilities.

  • Lincs Inspire LibrariesAnimated Inspirations

    • Award: £30,000
    • Region: North

    Animated Inspirations is an innovative project that uses quality animation production and Augmented Reality (AR) technology to showcase, highlight and celebrate the resources and services that are available for children and families within our libraries.

  • MiddlesbroughImplementation of Aspen Discovery Platform at Middlesbrough Libraries.

    • Award: £14,000
    • Region: North

    To purchase PTFS Aspen Discovery Platform providing one door access, an upgrade to our existing library website/catalogue bringing together physical stock, Borrowbox our Digital Library and our standalone local history website. This is central to our digital strategy and will deliver transformational change for the service.

  • Newcastle LibrariesBookingsPlus - Newcastle

    • Award: £13,780
    • Region: North

    The project will establish a bespoke Newcastle Libraries room hire website. This will allow hirers to search and discover the spaces; find information; take virtual tours; and submit bookings. It will enable staff to easily manage the spaces; handle bookings; build relationships with customers; and analyse usage reports.

  • NewhamNewhamOn

    • Award: £28,720
    • Region: London

    To improve the online presence of Newham Libraries by making it easier for residents to find the website and to make it more useful once they have found it. We want residents to interact with the website to find out more about, and to increase usage of, our services.

  • Oldham LibrariesSynergising Oldham Libraries' Digital Presence

    • Award: £42,150
    • Region: North

    Creation of a new green-hosted Oldham Libraries website, with amplified discoverability and appeal through integration with its partner services in Oldham's Heritage, Libraries and Arts section. The new website will also revolutionise the user experience, with the introduction of an image-led and intuitive information architecture, with bespoke interactive elements.

  • Sefton Library & Information ServiceSefton Libraries Live

    • Award: £30,000
    • Region: North

    Sefton Libraries will create an advertising campaign. Working with local creatives, designing an imaginative and engaging campaign package which would work across a range of platforms to maximise our reach. We would use the adverts to reach out to non-users, digital only users and those unaware of our community offer.

  • Southampton Libraries and ArchivesSouthamptON -Digital discovery in Southampton Libraries and Archives

    • Award: £29,650
    • Region: South West

    A beautiful and simple web experience which encourages users to discover both familiar and new library resources seamlessly from a single place. It will surface never seen local archival records, digital images and oral histories and events wrapped in a responsive new web design.

  • Stoke-on-Trent LibrariesDiscover Stoke-on-Trent

    • Award: £20,500
    • Region: Midlands

    There are four strands to the proposed project, which will help customers discover Stoke-on-Trent Libraries:

    • We intent to refresh our current website.
    • Create and host both 3D virtual walkthroughs and 2D floorplans.
    • Use a professional photography to highlight service areas.
    • Introduce the Solus Library App
  • Suffolk LibrariesSelling the library experience: the department store for the soul

    • Award: £70,000
    • Region: South East

    Suffolk Libraries aims to change public perception of libraries. Through elevating the homepage and extensive exploration into non-user experience, we aim to develop a replicable UX formula which positions libraries as the "Department Stores for the Soul" celebrating the breadth of activities and services they offer in a contemporary context.

  • Sunderland LibrariesFind, Explore and Engage with Sunderland Libraries

    • Award: £64,000
    • Region: North

    We will revitalise the library offer by rejuvenating our online presence and significantly improving the customer journey. With an improved digital footprint that has increased functionality as well as investment in infrastructure to support the continued creation of new content, the platform will remain fresh interesting, accessible and useful.

  • Surrey LibrariesVirtual Tours and Photography Gallery

    • Award: £56,656
    • Region: South East

    This project will deliver virtual tours in 30+ Surrey libraries to improve accessibility and signpost to a range of virtual and in person services and programmes of activity. It will build a visual library of images to encourage, promote and inspire current and future library users' engagement with libraries.

  • West Sussex serviceLibraries are for everyone

    • Award: £30,000
    • Region: South East

    This project involves creating a suite of new online assets including professional photographs, films and animations showcasing what we mean by a baby rhyme time, knit and natter and other library events to help us reach out to new audiences. The project includes a marketing campaign.


  1. Application portal opens for expressions of interest

  2. Deadline for expressions of interest

  3. Applicants informed if they're invited to submit a full application

  4. Full application stage opens

  5. Deadline for full applications

  6. Applicants informed if their application was successful

  7. Project delivery period begins

  8. Project delivery period ends

  9. Deadline to submit final monitoring documents and final accounts.