[Editor’s note: guest blog written by Mandy Macdonald, Service Manager (Libraries) for Plymouth City Council]
We’re hugely excited to have received funding to work with CATERed, our school meals provider, to reach disadvantaged children and families over the summer. We’re looking to combat holiday hunger and introduce new audiences to library services through fun and cultural activities.
Holiday hunger is a real issue for many families across Plymouth and, for the last two years, CATERed have delivered their Big Summer Food tour, giving out free, healthy bagged meals in parks and other locations throughout August.
This year, our library staff and volunteers will be joining CATERed at outreach locations every Tuesday and Thursday throughout August. We’ll be promoting library services, joining new members and signing children up to the Summer Reading Challenge.
Lunch at the Library
Each Wednesday in August, we’ll be hosting ‘Lunch at the Library’ in Devonport Library, St Budeaux Library and a ‘pop-up’ library in Whitleigh (an area that currently has no library provision). We’re specifically targeting these places as areas of high deprivation and hope that ‘hard to reach’ children and their families will come for the food and stay for the fun!
We’ve been busy organising an ambitious range of events for our ‘Lunch at the Library’ Wednesdays based around the Animal Agents theme. We’re working in partnership with the National Marine Aquarium, Dartmoor Zoo, authors Tom Palmer and Emma Carlisle, Plymouth Music Zone and the Theatre Royal to name but a few. In addition to these events, we’ll also be offering a full range of library services including crafts, digital making, coding, gadget sessions and, of course, book lending and the Summer Reading Challenge. For those who haven’t used libraries before or haven’t visited in a while, we aim to dispel some of the myths around what a library service is and what we have to offer.
Staff Engagement with New Audiences
‘Lunch at the Library’ is a fantastic opportunity for us to attract new audiences, but (and this is a big but) we’ll only fulfil the potential of the project if we make every interaction with our new audience count. We want repeat visits, to upsell our full library offer, to promote and market that we have something for everyone and that we’re just all round awesome!
With this in mind, we’ve been working with CREW training to develop and deliver a training programme for library staff focused on visitor engagement. Many of the library team have just completed a full-on but fun fortnight learning skills to ensure the success of our summer project, ranging from one to one communication to delivering talks and presentations to large groups.
CREW training have a proven track record of successfully working with museums and attractions (and our CATERed partners) to empower staff to go the ‘extra mile’ and make each and every visitor experience memorable. Adam Senior, Managing Director, said:
“From start to finish, it was a pleasure to work with such a vibrant and creative team. The library staff approached this training and development programme in good spirits but with serious intentions. Committed to opening access and extending their user reach, the team explored all of their engagement opportunities. There was a lot of laughter but also some really serious development in personal confidence and guest engagement skills. We really look forward to seeing the results as the team put all three levels of training into practice from one to one conversations to whole school assembly presentations. Well done team!”
Library staff were involved in the development of the training and Customer Advisor, Andrea, who completed levels 1 and 2 said:
“Really enjoyed this course. A little nervous at the beginning but soon made to feel comfortable and, by the end, I loved it. Adam and Eileen were great fun and really informative – it all made sense and made you think about ‘why’ we need to use these skills.”
Debbie, a Development Officer in the West of the city, said:
“Has given me plenty of confidence to go out to [school] assemblies with a fresh way of delivering it. Feeling very excited! ☺”
We’re now busy finalising our promotional material and marketing plan.
We’ll be attending school assemblies across Plymouth to promote ‘Lunch at the Library’, specifically targeting those schools in areas of deprivation and with previously poor take-up of the Summer Reading Challenge. Look out for our next blogpost in August!
Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce.