Living Knowledge Network

People at British Library

Sharing ideas and sparking connections between libraries, collections and people across the UK

Published date:

In January 2015, the British Library published its new strategy, Living Knowledge, which has at its heart the mission to make our intellectual heritage to everyone, for research, inspiration and enjoyment.

What is the Living Knowledge Network?

The “Living Knowledge Network” is an innovative partnership in response to our mission with 21 major libraries across the UK, and in partnership with the National Library of Scotland and the National Library of Wales. Together we will share resources, skills and ideas, promoting the enduring values of libraries in the twenty-first century and reinforcing the idea of the library as a transformative and accessible public asset. 

A new way of working

I am delighted to see the formation of the Living Knowledge Network, creating a two way street for innovation, creativity, exploration and discovery. It will engender wider conversations than ever before and foreground expertise from across the whole of the UK. - Neil MacInnes, President of the Society of Chief Librarians

The Living Knowledge Network brings together public and national libraries in a new way.  It builds upon local expertise and national convening power to develop mutually supportive partnerships, building on the success of the British Library’s Business and IP Centre Network in 10 major cities as well as the formidable learning and innovation from London’s Knowledge Quarter, one of the greatest knowledge clusters anywhere in the world. 

The Living Knowledge Network is funded by Arts Council England and the British Library for a two year pilot period. It will have three key priorities for 2016-18:

  • Knowledge Exchange – strengthening our collective capacity, capability and impact to deliver world-class library services to diverse communities
  • Joint offers to audiences – breaking down institutional boundaries to share our programmes, activities and content
  • Network power – forming a unique and powerful cohort of 21 city libraries and three national libraries for funding applications, evidence-gathering and to share programmes with up to 13 million users

At the heart of the Living Knowledge Network is a simple aspiration- to create value by sharing ideas and sparking connections between libraries, collections and people across the UK.

Opportunities for Partnership

The UK’s continuing success in a globalised world depends upon the freest possible flow of ideas, inspiration and information, and libraries – not just the national library, but the whole interconnecting network of public and academic libraries across the UK – are the vital enabler of that. –  Roly Keating, Chief Executive, British Library

We believe that the Living Knowledge Network is unique in the UK, bringing together the very best of public and national libraries in a new partnership for our users and a new collaboration between professionals.  Early priorities include:

  • Business – a decade after the British Library’s flagship Business & IP Centre opened in London, we will continue to work with city libraries to provide bespoke and curated services for SMEs and entrepreneurs in up to twenty major libraries by the end of the decade
  • Culture – we will continue to develop touring exhibitions and a programme of reciprocal loans, including putting collections in context through co-curated exhibitions such as 2016’s Our Shakespeare in Birmingham, which reached over 10,000 visits. World-class talks and debates can be held across the network or live-screened
  • Learning  we share and co-curate programmes for children and young people across the network and secure additional support to inspire and delight learners of all ages

Please get in touch living.knowledge@bl.uk  if you are interested in a programming or funding relationship with the Living Knowledge Network.

The British Library’s Purposes

  • Custodianship – We build, curate and preserve the UK's national collection of published, written and digital content
  • Research – We support and stimulate research of all kinds
  • Business – We help businesses to innovate and grow
  • Culture – We engage everyone with memorable cultural experiences
  • Learning – We inspire young people and learners of all ages
  • International – We work with partners around the world to advance knowledge and mutual understanding

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.

The Living Knowledge Network map

Partner links

Wakefield Council

Glasgow Life

National Library of Scotland

Edinburgh Council

Newcastle City Council

Middlesbrough Council

Leeds City Council

Hull City Council

Kirklees Council

The Preston Harris Library

Manchester City Council

Liverpool City Council

Sheffield City Council

The National Library of Wales

Norfolk City Council

First for Wellbeing

Suffolk's Libraries Industrial and Provident Society (IPS)

Portsmouth City Council

Libraries Unlimited

Bournemouth Borough Council

Reading Borough Council

Birmingham City Council

Northern Ireland Library Authorities



See also