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More than Just a Place to Borrow Books

Upton Library fade

Last week I attended our Communities Libraries Meeting with the four community libraries that have been taken over by local and community groups now that the local council authority closed some libraries in the area.

Throughout the company this has been happening and through visiting other community libraries in surrounding areas we have the disadvantage – or the advantage – of having little to no support from the council – apart from a one-off fund at the beginning.

The advantage of that – if you look at things positively – are that we’ve had to think beyond the box to grow.

So at the meeting we updated each other to how far we’ve come and what the future holds. We also discussed the publication of the Community Libraries Review which gave us confidence that we’re heading in the direction that they recommend.

So…..libraries – particularly community libraries – are much more than a place to borrow books. Of course, this is still a major part of libraries, but community libraries have had to widen their roles to draw people and funding in.


A to Z

A is for Arts and Crafts – colouring sheets and seasonal themed arts and crafts events for children – and adults.

B is for Books – fiction, non-fiction, crime, chick-lit, history, biographies……the list goes on; growing interest in e-book lending.

C is for Computers – access to computers for all, with full internet access and Microsoft.

D is for Decorations – the ability to decorate the library seasonally. Before being council-run it was beginning to get to the point where every library, like a high street store, would look the same, with no individuality. And no extra decorations. Ability now to decorate the library how we see fit.

E is for Everyone – welcoming everyone into the library and seeing how we can tailor what’s in the library to try to fit everyone’s needs. Whether it’s lending books, joining groups, getting online, meeting friends, job seekers….

F is for Friendship – providing an area for friends to meet; providing an atmosphere where people feel comfortable;

G is for Groups – providing the space for groups. Our current groups include knit and natter, writing groups, computer groups, plus the ability to set up groups should some suggest one.

H is for Hospitality – providing a space and opportunity for a cafe space. My particular library has such a space, with three tables and a cafe serving a selection of hot and cold drinks and some snack foods. This has brought in a number of people who didn’t use the library before, which has increased footfall generally, income, and has led them to use the other facilities and take books out – the Holy Grail of librarians.

I is for Information Services – computers, photocopying, printing, faxing, scanning, the Internet…

J is for Job Club – we hold a weekly job club which offers help and guidance in getting people back to work, whether it’s help applying for jobs online or help creating and improving CVs.

K is for Knowledge – whether it’ll be local or general knowledge, but more significantly the knowledge of where to direct a person to answer any questions, whether outside of the library, or websites or books.

L is for Local – trying to keep things local. Thinking about what local library users want from their local community library and tailoring it. One of our local libraries in our community library group is much more affluent than my library’s community, which impacts on what the library provides. This library has more groups tailored for adults, such as a community choir and bridge club, whereas our library is tailored for providing free seasonal events for children, such as a super-successful Santa’s Grotto in December.

M is for Meetings – We have a separate meeting room for use. We also have a more relaxed meeting area in the cafe seating area – so we can tailor for different meeting styles. Our bookshelves can be moved too to open up the library space to hold bigger social meeting events, like a book launch.

N is for Newsletter – we are currently creating a newsletter to be delivered to every household within the local area, updating the local community on how the library is run and what it offers.

O is for Online – Get Online – computer courses for beginners.

P is for Public – addressing what the public want and making our community library tailored to those that use it.

Q is for Quiet Areas.

R is for Recommendations – that our staff and volunteers read and are familiar with popular authors and titles so that they can recommend something if asked.

S is for Shhhh! Shhhh no longer. Libraries have left the “Shhhh!” far behind, and libraries are now a space of noise, chatting, relaxing and discussions.

T is for Twitter, WordPress, Website etc. We are using social networking to promote our library.

U is for Understanding – we are a place and a team who understands our residents and what we can provide – and understand that we continually need to think of new ways of increasing footfall and making the library a welcoming place.

V is for Volunteers – community libraries cannot be run by volunteers. I am fortunate enough to be a paid professional librarian – which is equally important. But I could not operate without the help of a team of fantastic volunteers.

W is for Wi-Fi

X is for ‘Xciting Events – We provide seasonal events that run through the year, which we try to keep as exciting as possible. Our events are usually aimed at children, but we do try to aim them at different age ranges so that no one is left out from a Teddy Bear’s Picnic to more complex arts and crafts events.

Y is for Youths – Probably every library throughout the country whether community or council led will admit that the Teenage section isn’t as popular as they’d like. The trick is to encourage youths to keep coming into the library – whether the in the cafe space or attending our seasonal events – and there’s a good chance that coming to the library will become second nature and they’ll enjoy it. And one can hope that one day they’ll come in a borrow a book. I’m an avid reader now and when I was a child, but between the ages of 11 and 14 I didn’t read that much, until I picked up adult fiction books. I think that now Teenage Fiction is a much more popular genre to write.

Z is for Zzzzzz. Stories for children. We keep the children’s section a fun and exciting place to be, so children want to pick books up, and parents want to read to them. Reading with children is a key part of a relationship and it is also a key role in establishing a routine bedtime for children, so they have a good night’s sleep.

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