Library


Out of office switched on, Christmas presents wrapped, time for a look back at a year during which I’ve visited a total of 64 libraries*. Lots for work, but even more in my own time. Mostly public, but 2 academic, and one in an institute. Mostly in England, but also one in France, and one in the Maldives (OK, strictly speaking, the latter was a book exchange for visitors – but the sign on the door said library, and it was pretty large  – more than just the odd bookcase you usually find in holiday places.) Also, lots of repeat visits – and not just to the ones on my doorstep which I visit regularly as a reader.

*visited means actually gone inside, had a look around, and in most cases spoken with people who work there. If you include the ones I’ve seen on the outside – perhaps they were closed when I visited the town, or former libraries that have been replaced by new buildings, the total rises to 83!

Highlights

I know it’s a bit unfair to choose favourites, but I really loved The Word, the brand new library in South Shields. I visited for its 6 months birthday, and wish it was my local library – not just a beautiful building, but also a great programme of events.

33922443360_6b2f6c9ee1_z

The Word, South Shields

We spent a wonderful couple of days in Liverpool, and while the definite highlight was the amazing central library, and the buzzing Makefest, it was also good to explore and visit a couple more Carnegie libraries.

34682081143_843d25e590_z

The entrance to Liverpool central library

And finally, a library I’ve been meaning to visit for a long time: Canada Water. The outside is space age looking – a geometric shape, leaning out over the dock – and inside is equally dramatic, with a circular central staircase, and shelves radiating in jagged lines.

As I said, invidious to choose favourites though, I enjoy every visit to the always busy Manchester central library, I love the crazy victorian decoration of Leeds central library, I’ve been surprised by the wide diversity of libraries in Kent (including one which contains a fossil mammoth tusk) and I received a very warm welcome when I popped in to Kibworth community library in a Leicestershire village (they had actually closed for the day, but as they were still setting up an exhibition, they opened the door when they saw me peering in, and were happy to talk about how things were going.)

New libraries

To counterbalance the endless newspaper stories which focus on closures, there also continues to be a lot of investment in libraries. Besides some brand new library buildings, there have been many refurbishments – often celebrated with a reopening event (an excellent way of encouraging locals to take another look!) I’ve been to 3 brand new buildings, and 2 opening ceremonies this year (and colleagues went to at least 5 others) – and am looking forward to more in 2018.

The new libraries were in Chester, Meopham and Halifax (towards the end of this album) – where I also went to the opening event (read more about that here). The new Halifax library is a modern construction that incorporates parts of an old church – and this works especially well in the local history section, where gothic windows line one wall.

Meopham is a new building on the same multi-use site as the old one. But while the former library was actually part of the school – and I struggled to find the front door! – the new one is a standalone building, which proudly has its name above the door.

27159212059_66430f6975_z

The new Meopham library

The third new library building visited was technically a refurbishment: Chester’s Storyhouse contains a theatre, tiny cinema, restaurant and library – all contained in a renovated 1930s art deco former Odeon cinema! I visited twice – once for a tour shortly after it opened, and again when they hosted a Taskforce meeting. It was good to see how it had evolved even just in 6 months – I loved the poetry on the walls!

The second ceremony I attended was the reopening of Fleet library in Hampshire. The library has a new entrance, and is bright and welcoming – but the nicest surprise was to discover that they have one of the Paddingtons from the 2014 trail. He is a real landmark in the library – and apparently has his own supporters group.

36017259882_e8fa11af81_z

Paddington Bear in Fleet library

Libraries in Kent

I managed to tick off 18 more libraries when exploring Kent – a huge variety, from Maidstone history and library centre, to lots of small village libraries. I was very impressed with the extended facilities at Gravesend (unrecognisable from when I last visited, in 2008!), and as mentioned, I love the new Meopham library.

A miscellany of other libraries

We took advantage of other trips to explore – and during holidays or weekends away, saw 5 libraries in Yorkshire, 4 in West Sussex and 3 in Derbyshire.

We (and that includes my nephews) enjoyed a Fun Palace in Cheltenham central library – besides having a go at silk painting, and watching 2 small boys cracking safes and programming robots, it was a wonderful surprise to bump into the author and illustrator of Luna Loves Libraries – the book that features in Libraries Week publicity.

We attended Tech Ilford in Redbridge central library – now I’ve finally found out about how 3D food printers work, and seen Pi-tops in action (a laptop-style casing for a raspberry pi computer).

I mentioned 2 academic libraries – these were: Aston University – spent several hours meeting fellow members of the PPRG committee, first working on the 2017 marketing excellence awards, then planning the conference, and the library in the University of West London. Love their reception desk!

Carnegie legacy

Last, but by no means least, my hunt for the Carnegie legacy continues. This year I continued to get my research into better shape, and added lots more entries to the website I started last year to make this easier.  There are 15 Carnegies in the list below – but still lots more to visit and research.

It was while I was visiting Long Eaton library, that it struck me how often libraries had beautiful stained glass windows. So I set up a flickr group to gather together examples – 82 photos included so far, and I’m always looking for others.

36237268621_8b15242d12_z

Stained glass in Long Eaton Carnegie library

Complete list (most were actually visited, * denotes driveby/they were closed):

  1. Allington, Kent
  2. Ashbourne, Derbyshire
  3. Bath, Wiltshire
  4. Bexhill, East Sussex
  5. Birmingham: Aston University
  6. Birmingham: Library of Birmingham
  7. Bishopsgate Institute, London
  8. Canada Water, London
  9. Cambridge central
  10. Canning Town, London
  11. Chatham
  12. Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
  13. Chester: Storyhouse
  14. Chester (former)*
  15. Coldharbour, Kent
  16. Dartford, Kent
  17. Dashwood, Kent*
  18. Denholme, West Yorkshire*
  19. Ealing: University of West London
  20. East Peckham, Kent*
  21. East Preston, West Sussex
  22. Eastbourne, East Sussex
  23. Fleet, Hampshire
  24. Garston, Liverpool
  25. Goring, West Sussex
  26. Gravesend, Kent
  27. Greenhithe, Kent*
  28. Halifax, West Yorkshire
  29. Higham, Kent
  30. Hipperholme, West Yorkshire
  31. Hive House, Kent
  32. Hull, central library
  33. Hull, West Park
  34. Ilford, Redbridge
  35. Kensington, Liverpool
  36. Kibworth, Leicestershire
  37. Kings Farm, Kent
  38. Kings Norton, Birmingham
  39. Larkfield, Kent*
  40. Lenham, Kent*
  41. Lille, France: Mediatheque Jean Levy
  42. Lille, France: University library*
  43. Lille, France: Mediatheque du Vieux Lille*
  44. Littlehampton, West Sussex
  45. Liverpool central
  46. Long Eaton, Derbyshire
  47. Maidstone, Kent
  48. Manchester central
  49. Marling Cross, Kent*
  50. Meopham, Kent
  51. Morley, West Yorkshire
  52. Nailsworth, Gloucestershire
  53. Northampton central
  54. Paddock Wood, Kent*
  55. Pancras Square, London
  56. Pear Tree, Derby*
  57. Pembury, Kent*
  58. Richmond, London
  59. Riverview Park, Kent
  60. Rochester, Kent
  61. Salisbury, Wiltshire
  62. Sefton Park, Liverpool
  63. Selly Oak (new), Birmingham
  64. Selly Oak (former), Birmingham*
  65. South Shields: The Word
  66. South Shields – former library*
  67. South Woodford, Redbridge
  68. Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire*
  69. Stoke Newington, London
  70. Stroud, Gloucestershire
  71. Swan Valley, Kent
  72. Thimblemill, Smethwick
  73. Todmorden, West Yorkshire
  74. Upper Norwood, London
  75. Vakarufalhi, Maldives
  76. Vigo, Kent*
  77. Waterloo, London – former library*
  78. Wembley, London
  79. West Malling, Kent
  80. Whitechapel Idea Store, London
  81. Worcester: The Hive
  82. Worthing, West Sussex*
  83. Worthing (former library – now museum), West Sussex

Plus a mobile!

Photos of all of these can be found in my flickr album. Plus specific albums for Kent and Medway libraries.

Looking forward to exploring many more libraries in 2018 (already have plans for visits to new places in January and February!).

Advertisements

As this year marks a ’round’ anniversary for both of these awards, I thought it worth a post (and am hoping to encourage someone with a closer connection to the process will write something for the Libraries Taskforce too!). This annual event (full details of all books featured, on this link) is always a pure celebration of books for children – and a means of thanking authors, publishers, teachers, librarians and of course, the children for whom all this material is produced.

P1100885

The event this year was held in the gorgeous art deco surroundings of RIBA, on Portland Place. Before the official award ceremony, there was the opportunity to mingle with authors and illustrators (many of whom were pleased to sign my CKG poster – which is now a very special piece of paper!)

P1100896

The formal ceremony was expertly compered by Cerrie Burnell, familiar to lots of the children in the room (and parents). We were also treated to a song and poem from the wonderful voice of Amy Leon.

On to the awards – and first was the Amnesty-CILIP Honour – which is decided from among the 8 books on each shortlist. This year both winners were very topical: first, the Italian author and illustrator Francesca Sanna’s The Journey – which tells of a refugee family and their flight to find safety. She talked movingly about how this issue was real for her – especially as there have been so many refugees crossing the Mediterranean and landing in Italy.

P1100900

P1100904

And next was The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon. Zana is from Australia and her story tells of life in a detention camp. As she said “I didn’t start out wanting to write a story with a message, I wanted to tell the stories that haven’t been told.”

P1100905

P1100907

Each of these awards was followed by a short film of children talking about the books, and what they meant to them – both were very moving and emphasised how they were the audience that really mattered.

The next award was the Kate Greenaway medal – which celebrates illustration in children’s books. The winner in the award’s 60th year was There is a Tribe of Kids illustrated and written by Lane Smith. This American writer and illustrator made everyone laugh when he talked about how his career started – and when he realised that many of the illustrators he most looked up to were British.

P1100910

P1100913

Lane with Cerrie, and the award judges chair: Tricia Adams

Finally, we came to the last award, the Carnegie medal, awarded to the writer of an outstanding book written in English for children and young people. The shortlist contained some fascinating titles (I’d like to read most of them), and the award went to: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Her story is based on a historical event that is now almost unknown: the German ship the Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk in 1945, with the loss of 9,000 lives – more than the Titanic and the Lusitania combined. Ruta is herself the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, and talked with feeling about how history always makes sure we know the names of the villains,  but we seldom know the names of the victims. It is through stories that we can find out how things were (or are) for people, and this message was also summed up by Tricia Adams, the chair of the judges: “The books that have triumphed demonstrate the vitally important role literature and illustration play in helping children and young people to understand the world around them, be that through a historical lens or through the natural world around them.”

P1100916

P1100920

My post is really just a photo essay. Others have reported the awards: the Guardian has an article too (with a much clearer photo of the winners!) and the Bookseller also published a piece. Finally, as mentioned at the start, for all the background and full information about all the books on the shortlists – take a browse through the main website.

As described in a previous post, I’m working my way around Kent’s libraries. Today we stayed relatively close to home, as we explored the Gravesend/Gravesham area, visiting 6 libraries of similar age, but each with different characters.

Higham library

higham-forblog

First stop was Higham, where a friend’s daughter is doing some voluntary work. As we arrived, the Saturday board games club was in full swing, with Izzy fully involved. There is a lovely courtyard garden outside the library, and evidence of local skilled craftspeople, as the library has a couple of beautifully worked wall hangings on display. The one below celebrates their connection with Dickens (whose house was at Gad’s Hill – actually closer to Higham than Rochester – who usually trumpet him as their own!)

higham-quilt-forblog

Coldharbour library

One of the larger ones we visited, this library is situated next to a health centre. At one end is a large children’s area, and all around there are lots of book related quotes on the walls. There is a separate section for older children, with computer, desks and comfy seats, plus a colourful stained glass window.

coldharbour-forblog

Also, to the left of the library is a small building – not sure whether it is a garage for a mobile, or just a storage shed, but it has appropriate graffiti decoration – credited to the Coldharbour Crew: Free books, Free ideas!

coldharbour-graffiti

Dashwood library

Next stop was Dashwood library – which wins the prize for the tiniest building visited so far. It looks not much bigger than a double garage, and unfortunately didn’t open until later that afternoon, so I couldn’t go in – but there was a small window in the door so I could see that inside it is completely lined with bookshelves, brightly painted and looks welcoming. Its situated at the edge of a park, which was busy on a Saturday morning with football practice. Apparently (we heard from a library worker we spoke with later) there used to be a nursery over the road, which brought in lots of extra visitors.

dashwood-forblog

Kings Farm library

This library is on the Kings Farm estate – next to a building bearing a carved sign: ‘Estate Office’. The estate was apparently mostly built in the 1920s, but has been substantially rebuilt/refurbished over the last 20 years. If you google the estate, you only get bad news stories,  but the library was bright and welcoming inside, with a colourful children’s section, and customers using the computers

kingsfarm-forblog

Marling Cross library

Penultimate stop was Marling Cross library – another that unfortunately wasn’t due to open until after lunch, but through the huge glass windows, looks modern and tidy. Posters advertised a diverse number of groups meet there, from code club, to mums and toddlers, to knit and natter. It is another that was part of a row of shops, and it’s next to a doctor’s surgery.

marlingcross-3-forblog

Riverview Park library

riverview-forblog2

Last stop for today, we called in to Riverview Park. This hexagonal library was opened in 1964. It is situated next to a row of shops, by a reasonable sized carpark – and apparently (according to a bronze plaque on the wall) on the site of the old Gravesend airfield. Inside, the shelving echoes the unusual shape and peaked roof, with wooden peaks above each bay. In the centre of the building is the old mainmast of a Thames sailing barge.

riverview-forblog1

And we did borrow some books from this library – after a slight confusion, as my Medway card should be valid, but the library manager got some slightly odd messages as she put the books through. And another thing we learned, as another borrower went to take out a book, the computer beeped and alerted her to the fact she had borrowed it before. A good tip – and she went back to choose something else. Apparently the self service machines don’t do that – something to look into perhaps?!

All the photos I’ve taken to date of libraries run by Kent County Council are in this album. Still some way to go!

 

Having visited all of the public libraries in the Medway towns, I’m casting my ‘local’ net further and aiming to visit all of those in Kent too. And after a busy year working on issues that affect ALL public libraries, and being lucky enough to visit some of the city centre ‘stars’ of the library world, its good to be reminded about what some of our smaller but no less varied and welcoming local libraries offer.

Kent has 99 public libraries, so its going to take me a while, but today I added 5 to my total: Allington, Larkfield, West Malling, Vigo, Meopham (ending up in Longfield, but that was a revisit…..) . All bar one were open and busy, and in contrast to my last mini tour, when I saw library buildings of all ages, most were of a similar style.

Allington library

p1070492

On the outskirts of Maidstone, this library is opposite a Waitrose, and next to large playing fields. It was probably the busiest and noisiest I visited, as a large group was having a christmas party. Lots of notices showing the usual offerings – plus a knitting group is due to start in the new year (perhaps inspired by the efforts of the Woolly Maids in decorating the High Street in Maidstone?)

Larkfield library

p1070494

Another library close to a school and a parade of shops – there was lots of free parking near to this one. Inside was bright and cheerful, with a family choosing books in the childrens section, which was decorated with lots of artwork from local primary schools.

West Malling library

p1070497

I always enjoy walking along West Malling High Street – so many beautiful old buildings. The library is on a narrow part, and parking is a bit of a lottery, but once inside it was buzzing. The only library where staff made eye contact and said hello, but they were busy scratching their heads making recommendations to a family in the children’s section – to 2 children who I think had read a large chunk of stock already!

Oh yes, and this team get top marks for their christmassy windows:

p1070498

Vigo village library

p1070499

The only one out of the 6 visited today which wasn’t open. Vigo library is in a building shared with the village hall and a church. It is only open 10 hours a week, but they have an arrangement with the pharmacy opposite, so people can order, collect and return books there when the library isn’t open.

Meopham library 

p1070503

Last new (to me) library was Meopham – and this was also the hardest to find. Meopham is a long village which sprawls along the A227, and the postcode directed me to a part where all I could see was a pub, church and garage. Luckily the people in the pub directed me – and the library shares a campus with Meopham school – plus a leisure centre and health centre. All fine, but the only signs from the main road mention everything but the library, and even when you get close, you could be forgiven for thinking it is just the school’s own library – until you see the familiar shape of Invicta (the white horse of Kent) and the red signs of the public library service. However there is one final step – I went 3 sides of the building before realising that the entrance is the one headed “Meopham School”.

Inside was busy though – as in all the others, computers in use, families in the children’s section, and people browsing the shelves.

Last stop was a re-visit to the tiny Longfield library – completing my mini-tour. A standalone brick building with lovely arched windows, possibly the oldest of the group I saw today.

So, that’s around 20 of Kent’s libraries seen – plenty more local exploring to be done.

 

This year’s Publicity and Public Relations Group’s conference: Library marketing and PR – critical to success, was held in the Custard Factory, Birmingham. Probably the CILIP group with the most relevance to my work with the Libraries Taskforce, I was glad to get a place and looked forward to seeing presentations from their Marketing excellence award winners.

p1070121Celebration cake: pprg award winners 2016

Before we got to those though, first up was Alastair McCapra – CEO of CIPR, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.
He started by asking if anyone was familiar with Libraries Deliver…… (not many were – but then as a large percentage of the group were from academic libraries, I’m not that surprised). It was valuable to hear comments from someone not at the heart of the libraries sector, but who has experience and expertise in marketing. Alastair worked from the draft text, commenting that he thought it set out a good summary of what libraries have already achieved – confirming that even in a document looking at a future vision , it is important to remember there is a track record. He went on to pull out some important lines, which, as he put it, sound good, but benefit from unpicking. Overall he was positive, and said he was pleased to see communications, advocacy and marketing given a profile in the document. I’ve invited him to write a guest blog post for the Taskforce, and look forward to hearing his thoughts once he has seen the final document.

He commented that any advice around libraries and marketing perhaps includes the supposition that the library has some kind of PR resource – and he suspects many don’t, or have to rely on a central PR team. His follow up comment: if you work in a library and don’t have your own PR team, but want to land a campaign, DO go and talk to the central team. His aside: “cake will always open doors” went down well! He made the point that the main thing PR people hate is having things dumped on them at the last moment. They like to be in at the beginning, so they can help shape things. nb. this did remind me of the wonderful cartoons I saw from Helen Reynolds the other day – which she called face-palm bingo.

The next speaker was Liz McGettigan, whose lively talk titled: From a whisper to a roar! contained masses of examples of innovative library marketing, modern exciting library and exhortations that we ALL need to shout more about what we are doing. It was delivered at breakneck speed, and I plan once the presentation has been shared to work though it more slowly, following up many of the links I noted and actually watching some of the films she shared tantalising clips from.

Emma Walton‘s talk: Marketing – a nice thing to do? shared how Loughborough University engages with its users to ensure that they continue to deliver exactly what people need. She used the example of their recent refurbishment as something that could have caused problems (while the library building had to close for the summer, services were still available). She commented that while marketing was business critical, and essential, it was also a nice thing to do, and could be fun.

At the end of the day, we heard from the Library of Birmingham’s Dawn Beaumont about the challenges they have faced. Tough times is an understatement, but it was good to hear that this iconic building is now recognised as a real landmark in the city (and its worth noting that their twitter account now is one of the most followed among English library services – with 22,600!)

2016 Award winners

But, as mentioned, what I was really looking forward to was the award winners.

Oldham libraries were the first of 2 Gold award winners, for their live@thelibrary programme of literature and arts events.

p1070122The team from Oldham with their award.

Andrea Ellison introduced the context: there are 12 libraries in Oldham, including the flagship central library. It’s is a colourful, architecturally interesting building (definitely one to add to the ‘must visit’ list) which includes a purpose built performance space. The performance space is a good space, but had a low technical level spec and tended to be used more for meetings. ACE capital funding improved the quality of the space, and GftA supported development of the programme.

 

I’ve invited Andrea to blog about their programme for the Taskforce, so I hope to be able to share more details about their project soon.

The second Gold award was given to Durham University’s Palace Green library for their Magna Carta exhibition. Emma Hamlett – curator of exhibition shared their objectives and evaluation, which included a specific measure of economic impact generated (£2.4m) and % of people who came to Durham specifically to visit the exhibition.

A different team from Durham received a second award: silver, for their 2015 induction campaign for students, which was based around Harry Potter.

p1070107Publicity materials from the Durham University library induction campaign.

Their aims were to inform new students about library services, and encourage them to visit the library.
Assets included ‘owl’ flyers, banners, bags and traditional publicity leaflets. They had displays at library entrances,  and attended campus events (freshers fairs etc) plus there was lots of activity on social media.
One idea that captured peoples attention was the sorting app they created (as students swiped their library card, they were ‘sorted’ into one of the Hogwarts houses).
Their overall budget was around £3000, which chiefly went on printing materials. Design and organisation was all done by the in-house team.

durham-screenshot

Their induction video sums up the  style tone of the campaign  “we think the library is magic” (and it contains owls – whats not to like?!)

NB – someone in the audience asked about copyright. The team did contact JK Rowling’s representative, and as it was non commercial use, permission was given.

Leeds libraries won the Bronze award for their #whatsyourstory campaign. This one was already familiar to me, as they had written a blog for the Taskforce, but it was interesting to hear Alison Millar presenting their plans for the future, and how it has turned around the way they think about services: focus on the people and what difference library makes to their lives. Statistics are important, but stories matter.

The final award was for a social media campaign. Edge Hill University won for #WillOnCampus, a one week campaign which ran 18-23 April 2016. Julie Nolan told us about the initiative, which started as a fun idea to celebrate the anniversary. They wanted to engage with their social media community and lift the mood during a stressed time in the university calendar.
They took a series of photos of the Bard hiding around campus, and shared one each day, challenging participants to guess the PLAY and guess the PLACE. All planning and implementation was done by the in house team and their total budget was c£18 (!) which included the chocolate bars for the winners (and for those alone they deserve a prize for plays on words – as each was relabelled, for example ‘Much Ado About (Fruit and Nut)-ing’)

Having seen the impact of this, they are planning more social media campaigns, for example another photo competition, this time to highlight library services.

p1070120All the award winners.

Conclusions?

A well organised event in a bright and easy to get to venue, which illustrated the range of activities going on in libraries – both public and academic, showed just how many similarities and overlaps there are between the 2 sectors, and how much we can learn from one another. It also endorsed the calls made by several of the morning speakers, that libraries really need to get better at publicity: while the media loves bad news stories, we must not let these drown out the innovative work being done.

And my own objectives? Well and truly met. Lots of people met and ideas for future blogs and case studies gathered.

Extremely busy weekend: looking at all the wonderful and diverse things going on in libraries across the country, gathering examples of where colleagues and members of the Libraries Taskforce are visiting, and doing my own library tour!

You’d think after spending all week immersed in library news I might like to take a break at the weekend (you know, watch some rugby, go out for a lazy lunch? – its OK, managed to fit that in too!) but National Libraries day is an opportunity too good to miss. I checked the website  and discovered no particular events planned for my home area, but Kent Libraries were offering activities, so we started the day by heading over to Snodland library.

Snodland

Snodland library

Snodland library

Their library is in the High Street, and besides library services there is also a space for the local borough council to offer surgeries. There was a book sale so I couldn’t resist 5 books for a pound. [note to self…. supposed to borrow books from the library, not fill up the house], but more importantly, there were also people reading, choosing and borrowing books, and a family in the children’s section having storytime. I did their “so you think you know libraries” quiz and was duly awarded my certificate.

Completed quiz and certificate

Completed quiz and certificate

Over the 20 years I’ve lived in the Medway towns, I’ve visited many of the libraries, but not all, so this year National Libraries Day was a good excuse to plan a route to fill in all my gaps.

Grain

Grain library

Grain library

While we’ve had many walks around Northwood Hills and Cliffe, we’d never ventured right to the northeastern edge of the peninsular, and Grain village is a long way from the rest of the Medway Towns. The library is in a former Bethel Congregational chapel (built 1893) and is also billed as a community and learning centre.

On a grey damp Saturday morning, behind that blue door was an explosion of colour and sound. The regular Saturday morning kids club was in full swing and every corner of the library had children making posters, colouring, playing with lego or on the computers. A couple of brave adults also brought back and chose new books.

Me, and a book, in Grian library

Me, and a book, in Grain library

Rainham

Rainham library

Rainham library

I must have driven past this library many times, but never stopped to visit. The building opened in 1961 and lots of the features are classic 60s: curved concrete entrance porch, coloured mock granite tiles, wooden shelving and crittall windows. Inside, the walls are painted vivid deep pink, and many of the shelves are dark wood, but the high ceiling and huge windows means the overall impression is of light and space.

Inside Rainham library

Inside Rainham library

There is a mezzanine floor, with comfy looking sofas – apparently popular with the many reading groups and U3A groups who meet in the library. Just as in Snodland, there was a family having storytime in the colourful childrens section, and adult readers were scattered among the armchairs. One patron was using the free wifi to carry out some research (on a table behind me, surrounded by files and papers).

Wigmore

Not far from Rainham, in another part of the Medway towns I’ve never visited before, is Wigmore library. Not an attractive looking building on the outside, but with its own carpark and woods behind, its one I’ll go back to. Inside the library lobby has a display of pictures by local artists, and the childrens section has lots of creative displays on the walls (including 2 exotic looking owls).

Inside Wigmore library

Inside Wigmore library

Like Rainham, this library also has an upper section, but here it houses the computer section, while the main space has lots of mobile bookshelves and a table with a pile of jigsaw pieces……. if I didn’t have other libraries to see, I might have been there til closing!

Thomas Aveling school and community library

Inside Thomas Aveling library

Inside Thomas Aveling library

Final destination was a library I’ve been intrigued about for a while. Thomas Aveling library is on the site of Thomas Aveling school. During school hours it is the school library – with space for classroom activities, plus a coffee bar. From the end of school time, it becomes a public library – although staff said from 3-4.30 it is often still filled with  students doing their homework and using the computers. Later and on Saturdays it is available to local residents.

The last port of call completed my visits to Medway libraries and its great to look over the full set of photos and recognise how different they are. From a 19th century chapel to a refurbishment only opened last year; partnerships with council services, adult education, and a school; 16 spaces with very different atmospheres and sense of place. And as I can take out books from, and return to, any of them, think we should make more effort to break away from force of habit (just popping into Rochester or using the ebooks option), and visit more of them, more often.

As part of my current job I monitor media stories about libraries – both at home and overseas.

While the stories from England tend to be dominated by cuts and closures, there are some interesting stories coming out of Canada at the moment. The journalists are clear that this is despite challenging economic times, and point to some initiatives which definitely bear closer investigation.

Recent stories include Calgary, where fees have been removed (people used to pay $12 per year) and membership has risen. This is not put down just to the free cards, but also to outreach programmes and incentives.

Calgary library memberships rise during tough economic times and Calgary Public Library sees 33% increase in new card holders in 2015

Residents in Halifax have been enjoying a wonderful new library – with double the number of predicted visitors. Interesting to note, visits to branch libraries have also been increasing – so the star newcomer hasn’t sucked in all visitors, but has perhaps inspired people to check out their local library too.

New Halifax library draws 1.9 million visitors in first year

One idea that caught my attention apparently started off as a project by a designer for his library-loving girlfriend. He made her a passport, which included an entry for each of the 100 libraries in Toronto – figuring that while people can find out the location, opening times etc online, people also like something they can hold in their hand. He drew each library, and included facts and things to look out for. This booklet caught the attention of friends and he has produced more – turning it into a sort of treasure hunt with clues to find that mean participants need to go into each library to find answers, and get a stamp. Fun – I’d love to see one of those for London, Birmingham, or any region with a number of libraries!

Passport for Toronto

Reading about this reminded me of other things I’ve read recently about encouraging others to visit libraries and record their activities. How gamification might work for libraries – fuel for another blog.

Another story from Toronto reminded me of a project I heard about about in Warwickshire, where a book loan machine has been put in a busy hospital. The rationale being that people often find themselves in a place for longer than expected – and might need something to read. They can return the books to their local library when they get home. Librarians in Toronto followed this train of thought and have put a kiosk into a busy commuter station.

Why Toronto Public library is creating its first book lending kiosk.html

A story from Vancouver talks about the support libraries offer to people newly arrived in Canada: Not just for books talks about language classes, business advice and job search workshops. Not a million miles from the statement put out by Society of Chief Librarians on how libraries here are ideally placed to support refugees Library leaders confirm the welcome offered to refugees and asylum-seekers from public libraries (did anyone see this picked up in the mainstream news?)

Finally, another article started off talking about Halifax, saying “Halifax Central Library, with its cafés, auditorium space and video-gaming section, challenges every traditional notion of what these public spaces should be.” It goes on to talk about other Canadian libraries, including plans for redevelopment of the central library in Ottawa, and concludes: “As for the future of libraries, Tierney [Board Chair in Ottawa] says the institutions are at risk of going the way of video rental shops if they don’t continue to embrace new ideas: “If we don’t adapt, you’re going to turn into a Blockbuster where the service you’re offering doesn’t work anymore.

Peace, quiet and the occasional flashmob: how libraries and patrons are evolving

I’ve also seen encouraging stories from Scandinavia, and Malta. I think besides analysing the CIPFA statistics (currently each presentation I’ve seen raises more questions than answers) and looking at including wider sources of evidence about the people and place, we should also be looking overseas both for comparison and evidence.

Next Page »