Culture minister Margaret Hodge has praised Southwark's refurbished John Harvard Library as a "stunning exemplar" for the rest of the country.
Ms Hodge said that John Harvard Library is "a stunning exemplar of the sort of practice we would like to see mirrored right across the country of a very welcoming environment, fantastic layout, good facilities for children and great facilities for people to learn".
Shadow culture minister Ed Vaizey also joined the audience of library sector representatives and journalists for the launch of the Empower, Inform, Enrich consultation document.
"Libraries are a bit like post offices," said Margaret Hodge. "They are beloved institutions and they embody everything that we value about lives in our communities.
"But whilst they are valued as institutions, I do think they face enormous challenges."
She highlighted a national fall in usage of public libraries despite increased spending on the service.
The consultation paper includes a series of essays on how libraries should change to meet modern needs and expectations. Contributors range from poet Michael Rosen to Darcy Willson-Rymer, managing director of Starbucks UK.
• Respondents to the consultation should email firstname.lastname@example.org by 26 January 2010.