Local Government Group and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council call for libraries to exploit shared services and digital technologies
A joint report from the two organisations, titled Future Libraries: change, options and how to get there, says the digital revolution presents a huge opportunity for library services to broaden their appeal and improve services.
It says that library providers need to understand how new technologies could transform services in the future. These include e-books, digital access, fundraising online and new ways of combining and presenting information, such as the use of application programming interfaces and mash-ups. There is also scope to make more use of SMS, email and social media in communicating with users.
Costs could be reduced by combining and consolidating existing library services, says the document. It proposes developing shared services, single back offices, streamlining catalogues and enquiries, and "other joint service models".
According to the paper, some digital initiatives may require investment up front to realise savings, but others may generate savings more quickly or open up new opportunities for users without necessarily reducing costs.
Councillor Chris White, chair of the Local Government Association's culture, tourism and sport board, said: "By breaking down the barriers of tradition, councils are bringing libraries into the 21st century and meeting the needs of a new generation of library users.
"The best libraries are at the heart of councils' approaches to everything from lifelong learning to wellbeing, job seeking, volunteering, education and encouraging more people to get online."
Culture minister Ed Vaizey said: "The Future Libraries Programme has shone a spotlight on excellent examples of innovation and creative partnership working. It will be a hugely useful resource, inspiring local authorities to emulate the best ideas to provide a first rate library service."