Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

17 February 2023

Improving the online presence of public libraries with a new grants programme

LibraryOn is a digital platform that connects public libraries and people. It celebrates what libraries do and what people love about them. To help raise the profile of libraries, LibraryOn also manages a £1.1m grant programme which will help public libraries in England improve their online presence and discoverability. The LibraryOn team – who are based at the British Library – update on the roll-out of this new programme.

The first stage of the LibraryOn digital grants programme will kick off on 1 March 2023. From this date we’ll be inviting library services in England to submit an Expression of Interest form outlining their initial ideas for a funded project.

This programme has been developed following a range of conversations with public libraries around the country on how it can be most relevant and useful. It will fund initiatives that make it easier for the public to find, discover, explore and access the range of services libraries offer. Projects could include upgrading existing websites or online offers and services, or piloting something brand new.

The grants will range from £10,000 to £70,000 and will be offered to applicants across the country to ensure geographical balance and will ensure it benefits a range of library services from small to large, rural to urban, and those with varied levels of digital literacy and activity. Any statutory library service in England is welcome to apply, including those run by mutuals, trusts and charities. Applications need to come from the service itself, rather than from individual branch libraries within it. Services can also apply as a consortium. The funding is for capital activity and requires applicants to confirm with their finance teams that the grant expenditure can be capitalised.

The grants are part of the wider LibraryOn programme of work and share the overall goal of increasing physical and digital footfall to public libraries by making it easier to find out about what they offer and engage with them online. While the LibraryOn website aims to provide a ‘shop window’ for public libraries at the national level, the grants will enable digital interventions at the local level. Together, they will begin to establish an effective and user-friendly digital ecosystem for the library sector where existing and new users alike can easily discover and access all that libraries have to offer.

Following sector feedback, the whole application process has been designed to be as light touch as possible to encourage a wide range of applications and to minimise impact on applicants. The initial Expression of Interest form will ask three simple questions about the project proposal and will be open for four weeks. Once these forms have been reviewed by a panel, including our LibraryOn team and others from the sector, invited applicants will be asked to submit a full application including more detail on their planned activity, expenditure and the intended outcomes. Applicants will find out if they have been successful by early summer and have six months to complete their projects.

Grant programme timeline:

1 March 2023: Application portal opens for Expressions of Interest
29 March 2023, 9am: Deadline for Expressions of Interest
12 April 2023: Applicants are informed whether they are invited to submit a full application
13 April 2023: Full application stage opens
15 May 2023: Deadline for full applications
31 May 2023: Applicants are informed whether their application was successful
12 June 2023: Project delivery period begins
22 December 2023: Project delivery period ends

The link to the application portal will be shared on

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

Article by Jill Brown, Digital Grants Manager