Vision & Values

We want to evolve libraries so that they function as trusted and impartial platforms for the production, exchange and consumption of knowledge and know-how in both tangible locations and virtual spaces. Our aim is to empower people to co-design and deliver new library services, such that they are responsive to technological advancements and fast-changing local needs. The explicit intention, then, is to revitalise the public library ethos and render library services more relevant and sustainable in their appeal to broad-ranging audiences.

What is a Common Library?

Common Libraries

  1. Recognise the value of local or ‘common’ knowledge and know-how;
  2. Enable library users to contribute knowledge and know-how to as well as access information from the library;
  3. Provide the encouragement, tools and support needed to transform libraries into community publishing platforms;
  4. Nurture peer-to-peer learning, collaboration and prototyping amongst library users to help them share their know-how and develop new ideas; and
  5. Go beyond the co-location of multi-media publishing or maker spaces within libraries to integrate related activities and outputs into the very functioning of the library and, with that, grow the common pool of knowledge and know-how it offers.

Whether a library user would welcome help to write and publish their first book, share a family recipe, invite others to try out their hobby, or re-create an app they’ve developed, Common Libraries help them realise their ambitions whilst capturing and sharing some aspect of their knowledge and know-how to also benefit others.


The Common Libraries initiative flows from the drivers of change in UK library services, moves to reconfigure libraries as spaces to facilitate Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) skills development, together with wider developments in the digital landscape. It is coloured by the endeavours of the Open Source and Creative Commons movements, community-led libraries as well as our own enthusiasm for hacking and making. In the course of launching the initiative to engage a wider community of interest in Spring 2014, we were encouraged to also explore the potential for Common Libraries to draw upon the peer-to-peer and sharing economy movement in future – culminating in receipt of an international OuiShare Award. And, we have sought from the outset to enable income generation by ‘library enterprises’.

Activities & Team

We’re eager to help prototype most things in keeping with a public library ethos – from supporting the creation of community publishing platforms to open data access points. Our team benefits from extensive experience working with the public and third sectors as well as with creative industry professionals. Over the past five years, we have contributed to relevant research for national bodies and advised local government. We’ve also helped establish a test-bed for library service transformation at the Waiting Room, working in partnership with Essex Libraries and supported by the Carnegie UK Trust, and have managed community-led library services at the local level.

Please get in touch if you’d like to talk about accessing support to prototype the library of the future where you are!

Image: Some rights reserved by karindalziel