https://librariestaskforce.blog.gov.uk/2018/08/14/passing-the-baton/

Passing the baton

Kim Bromley-Derry has been Chair of the Libraries Taskforce since October 2017. He’s been a real champion for the work of the Taskforce, in particular taking a personal lead in promoting work it’s been doing to promote strategic planning of library services. He spoke at our masterclass in London on this; about what library services needed to do to get their voices heard within their own local authorities so libraries’ contribution can be recognised and integrated more strongly into other major strategic work for local communities.

He’s been a champion of the provision of excellent library services in his own Borough too - in the recent Library of the Year award run by The Bookseller, Newham Libraries reached the top 10 shortlist. It was recognised for its work in increasing community engagement in a deprived area. Newham is classed as 25th most deprived borough in England, and its projects with children aged four to 12 were praised, including the Summer Reading Challenge. The challenge saw 23 schools taking part at events in Newham’s 10 libraries, resulting in increased awareness of the library and of reading for pleasure, and improved engagement with local schools.

He has also steered the Taskforce through an important phase in its lifecycle; starting the transition of the work undertaken by the Taskforce Team across to other Taskforce member organisations well before March 2020, which is the point at which its current funding from DCMS comes to an end. By doing this the Taskforce hopes to ensure that library services seamlessly continue to receive the support they need from the Taskforce up to, and beyond, that point.

However, it was recently announced that he will be stepping down as Chief Executive of Newham at the end of August. The Sieghart report, which led to the setting up of the Taskforce recommended that the Taskforce should be council-led (since local authorities hold the statutory responsibility for public library services). So, since the Taskforce’s Terms of Reference specify that the Chair should be a local authority Chief Executive, Kim has tendered his resignation as Chair, but he will continue to be a passionate advocate for the contributions that libraries make to improved outcomes for individuals and communities, and for the importance of the public libraries network in helping central and local government to deliver strategic priorities.

So a big thank you to Kim for his leadership and commitment to the sector - and the Taskforce wishes him well for whatever the future brings.

He is being succeeded as Chair by Professor Steven Broomhead, Chief Executive of Warrington Borough Council, who has been a member of the Taskforce since February 2018. Steven said: “I want to build on the vision and achievements of the Taskforce. Libraries need to explore new innovative approaches and responses to budgets under pressure and changing customer expectations. I bring from my own experience an appreciation of the importance of engaging both partners and the community in developing and achieving sustainable change in library provision.”

And over time we will be looking to recruit a couple more local authority chief executives or senior officials to join the Taskforce and contribute to its thinking.

Passing the baton (with thanks to DCMS colleagues who have a souvenir London 2012 baton).
Passing the baton (with thanks to DCMS colleagues who have a souvenir London 2012 baton). Photo credit: Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce

The work goes on...

The Taskforce is going full steam ahead to achieve the goals set out in its Action Plan to 2020.

For example, over the next few months we’ll be publishing an independent evaluation of the DCMS-funded Libraries: Opportunities for Everyone Innovation Fund, which has supported 30 projects, innovative library service activities benefitting disadvantaged people and places, taking place in over 40 local authority areas across the country. We’ve published many blog posts about the amazing work that these projects have been doing, including lending tablets to people for their first taste of digital activity, hosting a writer in residence, giving business advice to people, creating makerspaces in libraries, running immersive storytimes and lots more. Search #LOFEfund on this blog to read all about them.

We’ll be running free masterclasses in London and Barnsley during August on impact measurement and evaluation - take a look at our blog on these to find out more and book your place. Then watch out for the follow up reports where we’ll share all the advice and guidance presented.

We’re continuing to work on how we help libraries to collect and publish information in line with our core dataset; and developing a new Library Management System requirements document.

We’re also continually advocating for the valuable contribution that public libraries can make to a range of central and local government work. To help with this we’ve just produced a range of advocacy materials, designed to be used in conversations with decision makers. They are based on some of our Ambition strategic Outcomes, and to date we have published 3, covering how libraries deliver:

A fourth, which will cover digital access and literacy, together with helping people to reach their full potential (the learning Outcome), is in preparation. All brochures can be downloaded via the links above. If you would like printed copies, please email us: librariestaskforce@culture.gov.uk .

Photo collage showing all 3 Outcomes brochures
Photo collage showing all 3 Outcomes brochures

We’re currently consulting on Taskforce communications to the sector - things like the channels people prefer to use to be kept up to date, and the sorts of topics they would like to hear more, or less, about. We’re asking about content on our website, on this blog, our newsletter for frontline staff, plus our social media accounts: twitter and flickr. We want to know what people value, what changes and improvements they’d like to see, and what we should be providing in the future. If you haven’t already responded to our questionnaire, it’s not too late and we’d love to know your views!

Taskforce organisations are also pushing on with a range of exciting developments with the public libraries sector that are mentioned within the Ambition document or included in our Action Plan. A few examples are:

  • CILIP and Libraries Connected are pushing forward with implementing their Public Library Skills Strategy
  • CILIP is leading on plans for Libraries Week 2018, to be held between 8-14 October. Sign up to take part on their website: librariesweek.org.uk
  • ACE have been commissioning research designed to help demonstrate the impact that public libraries work can have - for example, they funded a report on which was published recently on rhymetimes and maternal mental health, and published another on how library services promote and foster social justice
  • British Library are working on the discovery phase for their project to explore potential of a Single Digital Presence for libraries
  • The Reading Agency has launched this year’s Summer Reading Challenge for children, in partnership with the Beano, on the theme of Mischief Makers; and at the other end of the age spectrum it is piloting Reading Friends, a UK-wide programme, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, which connects people by starting conversations through reading. This aims to empower, engage and connect older people who are vulnerable and isolated, people with dementia and carers.

Continuing to provide the right support for Taskforce work

I mentioned that we had started to transition the support that my team has provided so far to the Taskforce across to member organisations. We’re hoping that doing this will further develop capability within sector organisations to carry on the sort of work the Taskforce does, advocating for library services and promoting and sharing best practice, into the future even after the current funding ceases.

So we’ve been working closely with Arts Council England to scope out what changes might be needed and what resources need to be made available so the Taskforce can continue to deliver support and leadership to the sector, and make these changes seamlessly. We’re already working together on shifting secretariat support across to the ACE governance team - they will be running Taskforce meetings from the December meeting onwards.

As we move activities across to our member organisations, we’ll share more information - for example, who the lead contacts will be for particular pieces of work, or where to look for information and updates on particular issues in the future. Subscribe to this blog to make sure you receive the news as we publish it.

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