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The Soul Of The City

26th February 2016

This month, the James Reckitt Library Trust is initiating a new debate on the future of public libraries. Our manifesto, The Soul of the City, expresses our belief that public libraries have both a proud past and a vibrant future. At the same time, our manifesto rejects views of public libraries that cling nostalgically to the past. Our vision is one that embraces both a digital future and a reconceptualisation of what libraries have to offer.

Why are we initiating this debate now? Partly because libraries throughout this country are under threat as local councils are battered by spending cuts mandated by central government. Partly because the cause of public libraries has, in our view, been weakened by the poverty of the discourse about them. But, more positively, we believe that, here in Hull, we have something distinctive to say.

We certainly do some distinctive and inspiring things in our public libraries, and we believe that the cause of public libraries across the country would be enhanced if more people knew about the great ideas that are developed in this city, many of which the James Reckitt Library Trust is able to support.

We are proud of our libraries' record of innovation, and we think it adds lustre to our city's burgeoning reputation.

As a Trust we have seen what our libraries can do, and that has inspired the Trustees to think more deeply about a new and different model of library provision. Yet we are careful to talk about a conversation, not a fixed vision. We know that there are inspiring models around the world, and on this website we will continually draw attention to what inspires us, enriches and shapes our vision, and challenges our views.

We invite everyone who believes in libraries and wants to help redefine them, however disruptively, to join us here in Hull in debating their future. Sir James Reckitt, who founded this Trust, was a passionate campaigner for public libraries in the late 19th century. Where could it be more appropriate than in Hull to start dreaming again?

Richard Heseltine