Welcome to the Independent Libraries Association


Your doorway to a world of fact and fiction, literary culture and heritage, study, leisure pursuits and information, shared interests, common goals, inspiration and ideas, hospitality, companionship, conviviality and refreshment.

Independent libraries occupy a unique place in the world’s cultural life. Rather than seeing independent libraries as niche or elitist, the Financial Times described the UK’s independent libraries as

‘havens of books, conversation and cultural events with histories stretching back centuries.’


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Find out about our organisation, mission, our methods, and the results of our decades of advocacy.

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Become a member of the ILA to enjoy our many benefits and rewards.

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The Independent Libraries Association was founded in 1989 to further the conservation, restoration and public awareness of a too little known but significant section of our cultural heritage. It aims to develop links between its constituent members by means of co-operative agreements, newsletters, social gatherings, seminars, workshops and meetings.


The founding institutional members of the ILA all began life specifically as independently funded subscription libraries founded between 1768 and 1841 at a time when there were no public libraries and no university libraries outside Cambridge, Dublin, Edinburgh and Oxford. As more and more people were reading and books were very expensive to buy, groups of individuals combined together to form libraries which could be both of everyday use and of increasing value in the future. Many of the ILA members also provided other facilities for their members including museums, adult education and dining facilities. Several continue to do so.

The number of ILA members has grown since 1989 and now include libraries of varying historic foundations. Amongst these new members are libraries that have been preserved by means of funding from partner institutions and those that never had subscribing members (such as the town libraries). Crucially, all members agree that the provision of a library is a key part of their activity and should subscribe to the aims and objectives of the Association.

Together, the Association’s members possess over two million books and have many listed buildings in their care. Many also possess charitable status. They combine the preservation of their historic collections and beautiful buildings with a supply of the latest books and periodicals, a personal service to their members and research facilities for non members. The majority still retain their independence and all of them possess individual characteristics which are valued by regular users and new visitors alike.


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