It was fabulous to see Arts Council England and DCMS announcing today that 30 library projects from across England will receive a total of £3.9 million from the Libraries Opportunities for Everyone Innovation fund.
Launched in December 2016 as part of Libraries Deliver: Ambition, the fund was established to enable library services to test out new ideas in new areas, helping to build a fairer society and deliver opportunities for disadvantaged communities across the country.
A wide range of projects
I was delighted at the level of applications that were submitted to take advantage of this opportunity. The full list of successful applications can be found on the Arts Council website.
The projects address the full gamut of 7 Outcomes that Libraries Deliver: Ambition describes - from an innovative indoor soft play facility designed to engage children and families with learning and reading through play, to a ‘human library’ where people can gift their talents or experience to someone in need, to initiatives that reduce social isolation and digital exclusion.
We’ll feature more detail about the projects as they start to come to life but, in the meantime, here is a flavour of a few of the ideas that have been funded:
Story Book Play will be an indoor soft play facility in Eltham library, built around the theme of children’s literature. Modelled on the outdoor play area in the Bibliotekshaven in G, Denmark, the bidders believe that this soft play facility will be the first of its kind in this country.
Telford and Wrekin
Telford and Wrekin propose to trial a family code club programme across libraries and other community settings which will challenge parents to explore the technology their children are using, and examine how it may benefit their own learning and employment opportunities. The programme will run in the most disadvantaged parts of Telford and Wrekin where a significant proportion of families have at least one parent who is unemployed.
A space will be created within Hull Central Library for visitors to explore their creativity in the arts, science, technology and engineering - independently or collaboratively. The space will have state of the art manual, digital and electronic equipment, skilled staff providing support and workshops, space to make, think, collaborate, explore and exhibit. It will be close to the Business and Intellectual Property Centre, with workshops and resources to encourage invention, entrepreneurship, and IP protection. The project will also include a mobile element, with pop-up Makerspaces happening all over the city.
Norfolk Libraries have put forward a project aimed at helping non or poor readers to read. It involves volunteers supporting learners to develop their reading skills - based on the premise that anyone who can read fluently can teach a poor or non reader to read in 6 months or less.
South West consortium
Led by Bournemouth libraries, 6 library authorities have put forward a combined project: "The South West: A region of readers" which aims to engage communities in shared reading activities, a cultural programme and co-creating resources. The project will be delivered by the libraries, working with Literature Works, The Reader, and South Western Regional Library Service (SWRLS) representing public and academic libraries.
Views from the Arts Council and DCMS
Not surprisingly, today’s announcement has been warmly welcomed:
Darren Henley, Chief Executive at Arts Council England said: “Libraries are brilliant for books and reading, and they are inclusive spaces where we can learn, create, and participate. This programme has provided us with a fantastic opportunity to fund new activities in libraries and reach people all over the country who might not usually use their local library service. We had a phenomenal response to the fund when it opened; there is a huge appetite for funding like this and I’m looking forward to seeing these innovative projects come to life and make a real difference to everyone involved.”
Libraries Minister, Rob Wilson, said: "Libraries are important local assets that not only provide access to books, but are places where people can come together, be inspired and learn new skills. This programme is a fantastic example of how 21st century libraries can offer a range of services that benefit communities across the country and help build a shared society that works for everyone. We want libraries to think differently about how they serve people in their local areas. I have been impressed by the innovative projects put forward and I can't wait to see them in action."
What happens next?
After the authorities have received their funding, they can start to implement their ideas. We’ll keep in touch with them, sharing what they get up to over the next year. And we’ll be supporting them to share the evaluation of their projects widely, so others can also benefit from their learning. Subscribe to this blog to be kept up to date.