Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

21 February 2022

An update on the Single Digital Presence Project

The Single Digital Presence project will develop a digital platform to improve public access to the collections, exhibitions and online events of libraries across the country.

This project is part of Arts Council England’s vision for public libraries and the British Library’s Everyone Engaged Portfolio, which aims to make our intellectual heritage available to everyone. 

The platform is being developed by the British Library and will allow libraries to share content and resources, promote two-way traffic with local library websites, and give national visibility to local events and collections. We want to make it easier for anyone to access great content via their public library, wherever they happen to be.  User testing from our earlier phases of work suggests that highlighting more of what is on offer in public libraries can help to increase physical as well as online visits. 


The first phase of the Single Digital Presence project took place from 2018-2020. This involved extensive research into similar models around the world, and consultation with libraries and members of the public to explore how a digital platform might work and the resources needed.

Our report “Five Approaches to a Single Digital Presence” highlighted the importance of developing shared systems and infrastructure, and opportunities to improve the experience of e-lending, and the value and importance of building on existing consortia-led activity, rather than taking a ‘top-down’ approach for these.  The collaborative work led by The Libraries Consortium is an excellent example of this. 

Prototype-websiteA prototype from the 2020-21 Alpha Phase

In 2021 we announced £3.4m funding from Arts Council England (ACE) for the next phase of the “Single Digital Presence” project (June 2021- March 2024).  This funding will enable us to develop and test a public-facing version of the platform:

  • Connecting users to their local library and its services
  • Celebrating what libraries are doing around the country
  • Sharing events and information from the British Library (including the Living Knowledge Network and Business & IP Centres)
  • Searchable national, local and online event listings
  • A national newsletter
  • Reading recommendations and ideas from the library community
  • National activities relevant to public libraries

£1.1 million of the funding is ring-fenced to help libraries in England with their digital offers. Further information about the grant programme will be available later this year.

Since the funding announcement, we have been laying the groundwork for the development of the digital platform. This has included developing a roadmap, establishing governance and team structures, refining earlier research and continuing to consult with a range of stakeholders. Brand development, a content strategy and the technical build are three core building blocks and we plan to develop these with a core multidisciplinary project team to keep testing and developing in partnership with the sector and external advisors.   After a competitive process, we have appointed FCB Inferno who will be leading the development of a national brand to encapsulate the value and values of libraries.

We’re kicking off the recruitment for a multidisciplinary and agile team to lead on overall delivery, the content strategy and product development and please keep an eye on the British Library’s recruitment pages if you think any of these posts would be for you.  We want to develop a team that reflects the diversity of public library users, in line with the British Library’s mission to be an institution for everyone.

This project has public library values of openness, inclusivity and accessibility at its heart and if you would to get in touch please email us at [email protected].