[Editors note: this post was written by Jacqueline Widdowson, chair of CILIP’s Public and Mobile Libraries Group, after she attended the Ambition workshop in Manchester central library]
The seven 'Purposes' adorn the bright white walls of the large meeting room. Pinned next to each, A1 sized blank pages invite answers to the questions: "Is this ambition realistic?"; "What would you change?"; and "Are the proposed indicators the best ones to track progress?"
Entering the 'Ambition for public libraries in England workshop - North West' I am curious as to how the organisers will tackle such a mammoth task as unpicking a 21 page consultation document with a group of nearly 100 participants from a wide range of backgrounds. Surely this is a mission impossible. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a well-paced event that systematically looked at each and every section of the ‘Libraries Deliver’ paper. In a repeating pattern of overview presentation followed by facilitated group discussion, we progressed through the document in less than three hours. A pleasant networking opportunity midway through arrived in the form of a walk-around, where each participant penned their opinions on the wall-mounted paper. I found myself circuiting the room twice, as reading the growing list of other people’s ideas, and discussing points as we moved around, gave me additional thoughts of my own.
Commonality of purpose
So what was the outcome of this workshop? Only time will tell, but this document seems to be doing something right. The diverse collection of individuals scattered around the room, ranging from LMS Suppliers to Councillors and even - that most precious of voices - the public library user, look to be generally in agreement. I am not suggesting that no comments, questions or concerns were raised – battling through the important details is after all the purpose of this event. However, a positive vibe permeates the discussions, as contributors frequently find themselves on the same page. Despite coming from different backgrounds, commonality of purpose united the assemblage; with many people voicing similar priorities, familiar obstacles and above all the same sentiments.
It is hard not to feel that the ‘Libraries Deliver’ document is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of public libraries. The Libraries Taskforce still have a long-road ahead, but one of the most vital activities underway has already begun: people are talking. Not just library folk talking amongst themselves either, the most significant thing here is that many different partners and stakeholders are in at the ground-level helping to shape a united approach to service delivery.
Have your say
The consultation closes on the 3rd June, make sure that you have had your say before then to help shape the future of public libraries in England.
To read the full report visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/libraries-deliver-ambition-for-public-libraries-in-england-2016-2021/libraries-deliver-ambition-for-public-libraries-in-england-2016-2021
To respond to this consultation visit: https://docs.google.com/a/culture.gov.uk/forms/d/1lGZV1u3bctGL-OA9MgFJyCTGckLOuBZ_uIZr_IjMeC0/viewform
Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce