Our strategies

Welcome to our strategy

“Barnsley Libraries are community and digital hubs in the heart of our local communities. Residents regularly tell us how much they value their local library. The following three years will be an exciting time for the service. We continue to see increasing access to arts and cultural activities.

Working with the Public Health team, Barnsley Libraries will focus on activities to improve the health and well-being of our residents. Our vision and strategy seek to build on our current offer. We're delivering an innovative and modern library service relevant to people of all ages and from all parts of the community.

We're proud to introduce you to the Barnsley Libraries Strategy 2022-25. We encourage everyone to continue visiting their local library, engaging in the activities and join us in making sure your local library thrives. It also allows it to stay relevant and meets the needs of our communities.”

Councillor Caroline Makinson, Cabinet Spokesperson for Public Health and Communities.

Julia Burrows, Executive Director for Public Health and Communities


The library strategy outlines our vision for Barnsley’s libraries.

We're focused on delivering a great service that's welcoming for groups, activities, and events. It also has our everyday business of lending books, audio, e-magazines and delivering a Home Library Service.

We’ll continue to focus on creating a library service that meets the communities’ needs and supports our priorities. We’re making sure we use resources effectively, including how our libraries become greener and more sustainable. This will help towards our Zero40 goals in Barnsley.

We’ll meet our legal duty under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. This means that we'll provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ free library service for all.

We also ask our customers and communities about their experiences. We use that feedback to inform how we deliver future library services. We’ll adapt this strategy based on feedback.

Where do we want to be?

Our vision, mission and council priorities for 2030.

Our vision and mission

Our vision

Enriching lives.

Our mission 

An inclusive, vibrant, excellent, and sustainable public library service. We'll be responsive to customer needs that are at the heart of our communities.

Our priorities to 2030

Barnsley vision and themes

Libraries will contribute to our council priorities in the following ways:

Healthy Barnsley

  • we’ll promote healthy lifestyles
  • we’ll help people stay safe online
  • we’ll support activities to reduce loneliness and help people live at home for longer
  • we’ll provide information, activities, and access to services to help people improve their health and well-being

Learning Barnsley

  • we’ll support reading for all ages
  • we’ll provide activities to develop speech and language to prepare children for school
  • we’ll support educational attainment
  • we’ll support people to develop their digital skills
  • we’ll create voluntary opportunities

Growing Barnsley

  • we’ll refurbish and refresh our community libraries
  • our libraries will be thriving and vibrant places for people to use
  • we’ll become digital hubs to support communities, businesses, and agile working
  • we’ll host community events and attract people to visit our borough

Sustaining Barnsley

  • we’ll introduce sustainable products and recycle whenever possible
  • we’ll contribute to the council’s Zero40 Strategy through our refurbishment programme


What we've done so far

Here are some of the groups and activities that have taken place to help us to achieve our mission.

Cultural and creative enrichment – Live @ the Lightbox

Live @ the Lightbox was a programme of music-making for disadvantaged and disengaged young people in Barnsley. It aimed to raise aspirations and provide a chance for music-making in a safe, accessible space.

The programme was developed at The Lightbox with various musicians and partners. These included Feels Like Home, WE Great Ladies and Barnsley College, with funding from Youth Music.

Barnsley Libraries were thrilled to be shortlisted for Best Arts Project. This was in the Hearts for the Arts Awards in February 2022.

The judges' feedback showed the project's positive impact on the people involved. It promoted community cohesion, enhancing skills, and supporting creative experiences for young people in the borough. 

"Live @ the Lightbox is a perfect example of the magic that happens when the most marginalised people are given a chance to connect. They truly feel a part of a community by creating something from nothing together." Shaparak Khorsandi.

Increased reading and literacy – Reading Together and readers groups

Reading Together is a shared reading project with the local mental health charity Creative Recovery. The project was developed to deliver a safe and accessible reading group for the Creative Recovery community members. It was held at the Lightbox from January to April 2022.  

Many of the group experience issues with mental health, including depression and anxiety, bipolar disorder, and OCD. Some members are recently out of the hospital, and others have caring duties. After the isolation of lockdowns, the chance for members to come together over a shared interest was well received. Many were accessing this project to take some time out for themselves and relax. This two hour session was often their only time in the week free for reading. This was either due to a busy and stressful home life or a lack of focus and concentration. Feedback showed the friendly nature of the group and it's benefits.  It also shows how subject matters from specific material discussed provoked an emotional response. 

Barnsley Libraries and Creative Minds South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust funded the project. 

Improved digital access and literacy – Digital Schools project

Digital Schools was a pilot project funded by Arts Council England. It was used to explore how digital activities can support young people’s literacy and skills development. Two schools (Wilthorpe Primary and Sacred Heart Primary) have worked with Brightbox Makerspace and Barnsley Libraries. They created virtual worlds through coding, linked to the Summer Reading Challenge and a Bronze Age history topic at school. One of the schools took part in completing their Arts Awards. This was followed by a fantastic exhibition of their work at the Library @ the Lightbox for their families and friends to view.

Through this project, our staff joined in with training and development. It's helping us offer more workshops to schools linked to the national curriculum in the future. This project looked at how linking arts and creative activities with digital technologies can impact children’s learning and literacy levels. 

Teachers said: 

"This project had an impact on the personal resilience of learners. Many of them have had to overcome frustrations, but they've done well, and their learning has shone through."

"It was exciting after COVID-19 to focus on something fun. The arts awards was something we had not done before and to work towards a goal was new for the class."

This project is part of the Arts Council-funded Digital Schools Project.

Digital school projects

Helping everyone achieve their full potential - Conversation Café and volunteers

Our conversation café sessions are informal drop ins held in our libraries. It's hosted by our staff and volunteers, and helps people grow their language skills and improve their spoken English.

The sessions include discussions around topical subjects and about life in Barnsley.

We also offer books in other languages. These include French, Arabic, Polish, Chinese, German and Spanish and some dual language books for children.

Books in different languages

Healthier and happier lives – Home Library Service

Our home library service delivers books to the homes of people who can't get to their local library due to illness or disability. We can also deliver to people who can't visit the library because they care for someone with an illness or disability.

The free service visits once a month and delivers a range of reading materials, including:

  • a range of books, including large print and audiobooks on CD or cassette
  • digital devices - tablets that are pre-loaded with eBooks, eAudio, e-magazines and games

The service receives excellent feedback from our customers. They love to receive a visit from one of our friendly Home Library Driver Assistants.  Here is just one of the many kind comments we've received: 

"Dear Home Delivery Team,

There is not a single thing that I could suggest to improve your service to us, because you already get it so right.

Each new batch of CDs is so eagerly awaited. With the anticipation of yet another month of excellent audio entertainment.

Bask in glory! You excel at your jobs!

Many thanks,

Service user."

Home library service

Greater prosperity - BIPC

The BIPC (Business and Intellectual Property Centre) was launched at Library @ the Lightbox in February 2022. This was part of the South Yorkshire network.

We are working with Sheffield Libraries and The British Library to offer eight new online business resources. This includes new books, and a range of specialist events to promote business start ups in the Barnsley area.

Barnsley residents can now make appointments to meet up with an advisor from Sheffield Libraries. They offer individual support on market research, patents and protecting intellectual property. Staff at the Lightbox have been trained on the databases and can advise users on how to get the best information.

Business and IP Centre South Yorkshire

Stronger, more resilient communities - Stories from Around the World

With funding from Creative Minds, we’ve explored some of our local communities’ favourite stories and rhymes from around the world. This diversifies our Story and Rhyme sessions and makes them inclusive, relevant, and accessible to those whose first language isn't English.

We've been working with the local ESOL group Feels Like Home. The group includes asylum seekers, refugees, students, migrants, and people whose first language is not English. They've been attending Library @ the Lightbox. They've been exploring the library, borrowing books, sharing nursery rhymes and fairy tales, and learning storytelling skills.

Feels Like Home Co-ordinator Joanna Sutcliffe has delivered our funded project Stories from Around the World. She's Worked with the group to share stories and rhymes from varied cultures and languages. She Also offers inspiring storytelling workshops.

The conclusion of the project includes an illustrated dual language storybook called Stories from Around the World. Group members contribute their favourite nursery rhyme and their illustrations. They also have a short film of five members reading their favourite stories.  The book will be gifted to members and made available within the library. They'll be used alongside the films within our Story and Rhyme sessions.

Five year trends and statistics

Number of active borrowers
Activity 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
Number of active borrowers  16,403  16,402   19,244  3,757   10,163 
Number of books issued
Activity 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
Number of book issues  456,906  437,459  430,877  120,504   266,089 
Number of computer hours used
Activity 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
Amount of computer hours used  61,453   47,024   58,304   9,056   19,704
Number of e-loans
Activity 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
Number of E-loans  12,800   18,226  34,107   55,843  45,640 
Number of visits
Activity 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
Number of visits  851,549 776,503 806,621 52,574 281,713


What's next

We've set out a plan of what we want to do over the next 3 years working with you to help achieve this. 

Our Libraries 

In creating Barnsley’s future library offer, we’ve made several commitments. We’ve also set out the things you can do to help us.

Each year we will produce a service delivery plan; this sets out the actions we intend to deliver. We've included important activities planned over the next three years.

Key Actions:

  • deliver the community libraries refurbishment programme
  • deliver a customer satisfaction, and community engagement plan. This will help us understand local needs and tailor the library services to meet these.
  • create a full and varied programme of activities at all libraries
  • develop and deliver a marketing plan to make sure everyone knows what is happening at their library. It'll help people to start to use services again post-pandemic
  • apply for National Portfolio Organisation status
  • prepare for the new Libraries Accreditation Scheme

Our commitment 

Over the next 3 years we're committed to working to achieve the following:

Further development of our Community Libraries

We’ll continue to develop the network of vibrant community spaces. Supported by Library @ the Lightbox in our town centre and providing a range of activities and events across the borough.


We’ll promote literacy and reading for pleasure.  Supported by reading materials that more customers want to increase visits, both new and returning.


We’ll have the right equipment, learning sessions and demonstrations.  Showing customers the benefits of technology.


We’ll provide space, ideas, and support to help people back into employment, volunteering, or education.


We’ll help people to choose suitable sources of information.


We’ll provide health promotion information, activities and events supporting our communities. This is so that they can live with a good physical and mental health for as long as possible.

Early help and prevention

We’ll play our part in identifying people who need help. Giving support or signposting to information and advice on access to universal services.

Children and young people

We’ll promote family friendly activities, creating services relevant to young people.

Culture and diversity

We’ll build a variety of local and cultural experiences.  These will be for all ages and relevant to the local community.

Safe community spaces

We’ll refresh our spaces to meet local needs and co-designed with the community.


We’ll be agile and responsive in meeting customer needs. Making sure our staff and volunteers have the right skills to help you.


We’ll be proactive in sourcing new funding to supplement and enhance our offer to communities.

Ways you can help

We can't do this without you. We want everyone to be able to come together and enjoy the services offered by our libraries. You can help by: 

  • taking part in conversations about your library
  • helping us to improve the library offer to communities
  • using libraries as your community space
  • getting involved and helping make your library vibrant with lots to offer
  • coming inside and getting online
  • telling your friends and family about us
  • volunteering your time
  • becoming a trusted key holder

How will we know if we're improving? 

We’ll measure the success of this strategy by achieving:

  • increased number of visits, activities, and groups
  • increased use of IT and support for digital skills
  • increased and diversified grant funding
  • increased number of visits and engagement by young people
  • increased engagement from the advertising of our activities
  • increased self-service take-ups such as online renewals and membership
  • a number of new and long-lasting partnerships created
  • increased number of arts and cultural activities
  • consistently high levels of customer satisfaction