Libraries for active and engaged communities

The annual celebration of the very best that local libraries have to offer their communities has kicked off, with Libraries Week taking place from 4-10 October.

Organised by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and sponsored by Bolinda UK Ltd and Nielsen Book, the theme this year is ‘Taking action, changing lives’.

Throughout the week, libraries will be organising events and activities online, in person and via community outreach to highlight the central role that libraries play as drivers for inclusion, sustainability, wellbeing, social mobility and community cohesion.

The pandemic has showcased the power of libraries to serve as vital ‘civic infrastructure’, helping local people to stay connected, informed and healthy. When the doors closed due to lockdown, libraries went online to maintain their engagement with the community – with tremendous results.

For example, libraries in the Royal Borough of Kingston were astonished to see 10,000 people joining in the livestream of one of their popular ‘rhyme time’ events – 30 minutes of sing-along songs and rhyming stories for children aged under five.

In total, loans of e-books increased by 146 per cent during lockdown and e-audiobook use went up by a whopping 186 per cent.

Suffolk Library staff made more than 10,400 telephone calls to elderly, vulnerable and isolated people within their authority. One 102-year-old resident contacted by the library said: “I was absolutely amazed at the kindness of them.”

Now that library doors are reopening across the country, Libraries Week is an opportunity to showcase the often unexpected things that libraries do to ‘take action for their community’.

In Merton the library service is working with partners like the Wimbledon Guild and Merton Adult Education Services on ‘Connecting Merton’ – a project to loan digital devices to more than 200 elderly and vulnerable residents, supporting them with digital skills to get online, access health and information services and stay connected with family, friends and loved ones (www.librariesweek.org.uk/case-study-connecting-merton/).

In Redbridge, the library service pioneered the ‘Death Positive Library’ initiative – using the physical library as a safe and trusted space for local people to come to terms with bereavement and loss (www.visionrcl.org.uk/the-death-positive-library).

The sessions have had a powerful effect, to the extent that the model is now being rolled out UK-wide by Libraries Connected, the sector support organisation for libraries.

Libraries are being encouraged to engage with local councillors to learn more about your ideas and ambitions for your local area, and to see how they can help you achieve them.

To find out more and learn how you can get involved, please visit www.librariesweek.org.uk. CILIP provides a periodic bulletin of library news for stakeholders. To subscribe, please email denise.hawkes@cilip.org.uk.

“Libraries have done amazing work to help keep us connected, informed and entertained over the past year. They are vital to communities and will continue to play an important role as we build back better.

“Libraries Week is a brilliant opportunity to showcase the work going on across the whole country and I encourage people to visit their local library and show their support.”

Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage MP

For more information about Libraries Week, please visit librariesweek.org.uk and/or follow #LibrariesWeek on social media. See www.local.gov.uk/topics/culture-tourism-leisure-and-sport for more information about the LGA’s work on libraries

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