Monthly Archives: September 2016

Live @ The Library

IFLA_Paul Tovell








For my final guest blogger post, I want to highlight the award-winning work at Oldham Libraries – a small authority on the edge of the city of Manchester.
This year they won gold at the CILIP / PPRG Marketing Excellence Awards for their innovative work to bring in new audiences, based around the refurbishment of their performance space.


Audience in the new performance space


In 2015, Oldham council received funding from Arts Council England’s Small Capital Grants scheme, being one of the only library services in the country to have benefited from this funding. Additionally, further funding was secured from Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts (Libraries) pot which went towards developing the successful live@thelibrary programme and brand. Their idea was to support the key strategic aims of Oldham Council Libraries to raise the profile of the library as a resource not only for learning and social development, but also as a place to experience live cultural performances.

The entrance to Oldham Library

The entrance to Oldham Library

The rejuvenated performance space now has a capacity of around 80 people. The library has worked closely with other partners in Oldham to bring in a wide range of events, including musicians, drama troupes, comedians, authors and TEDx talks. The brand works extremely well, and their marketing strategy is an important part of the brand’s success. Impressively, the project has significantly increased library membership throughout its first year of operation. Surprisingly though, they don’t seem to have invested too much in their website!
I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour of new developments in UK public libraries, from Wakefield, Lambeth, Staffordshire and Oldham, and I hope they’ve made you think about what your library could do next.

Come to Code Club!

IFLA_Paul Tovell





This week I’ll be mentioning an activity closer to home for me – we launched a Code Club in Tamworth Library in Staffordshire. This is the third code club within Staffordshire, and several more are planned in our other libraries.



Code Clubs are aimed at 9-11 year olds who are interested in making their own computer games. Of course they learn far more than that – coding is about problem solving, creativity, thinking outside the box, teamwork, and sharing knowledge. Not to mention the fun they have! They are overseen by the Code Club website, which has all the resources and instructions you need for running a club, and also contains lists and maps of all the other Code Clubs in the UK. You can choose one to attend, or one to volunteer at!

In the UK all children do coding at school, and virtually all of our 9 children attending had seen the coding training website, Scratch, before. It is seen as a really important part of gearing the next generation for the future – where the majority of all jobs in 10 years’ time will require coding skills.

Code Club Volunteer

Code Club Volunteer

These clubs are run by volunteers, and our volunteer is actually a computer programmer by trade, who wants to give something back to the young people through this one-hour-a-week club. We put posters up in the library, which he saw and then got in touch with us. The resources are all provided in the form of projects, which get progressively harder, and contain fewer instructions as the coders get more confident at finding things out for themselves.

In this very first week, we could see how much fun they were having by going off at a tangent from the instructions to make things work differently – and they felt a sense of achievement at the end of the project. 5:00 came all too soon, and they left very keen to carry on learning at home – they all have a username to get onto the Scratch website from anywhere.



We organise the club in 12 session blocks – the first block runs from now until the school term ends at Christmas. After this the group get certificates and then can progress onto other programming languages like Python. But for now it’s fantastic to see a very hard-to-reach group coming into the library and having a great time learning how to code. Not a bad way to celebrate National Coding Week this week!


Carnegie Library Labs Snapshot Report


In 2014 we reported on the Carnegie Library Labs project set up by the Carnegie UK Trust

This  is a three-year program(2014-2017) created by the Carnegie UK Trust to support and develop innovation and leadership in the public library sector. It supports participants through providing project funding, online learning, mentoring and networking opportunities.

The  Trust has just published  the final Snapshot of the first round of projects supported by this program:

  • Commons are Forever: a project to encourage members of the community to discover and use copyright-free works while educating them on copyright laws and their digital rights (Aude Charillon, Newcastle)
  • Digital Toyboxes: boxes of kit that are rotated among libraries and beyond like a mobile makerspace (David Hayden, Edinburgh)
  • Ideas Garage: a volunteer-led programming club (Claire Lewis, Monmouthshire)
  • Library After Dark Café: monthly creative writing workshops held outside the library opening times (Helen McMahon, South Dublin)
  • Rub-a-dub-hub: a virtual learning environment for parents of preschool children to boost literacy (Eileen Russell, Ballymena)
  • Library Bike: a branded bike to take to events and into the community to sign people up to the service and lend books and run story telling sessions (Anish Noble-Harrison, Swindon)
  • Datascape: an advocacy presentation that makes the best of existing statistical reports and case studies for Kirklees library service (Troy Mcintosh, Kirklees).

Some really great ideas are included in the Snaphot so take time to read them.



Fun Palaces

IFLA_Paul Tovell





This is a great idea which has already blossomed into a worldwide campaign and celebration of culture, and is starting to take off in the UK.

A Fun Palace is a free, community event with arts and science activities inspired and made by the people who live locally. You don’t need to be an expert in anything to make a Fun Palace – you just need to want to make something happen (however tiny) with and for the people that live around you. Fun Palaces happen in many different types of spaces – swimming pools, universities, shopping centres, theatres, tech spaces, woodlands, libraries and art centres to name a few. They are led by many different types of people too.
The celebration culminates in an annual weekend of action (the first weekend of October each year – this year it’s 1 & 2 October). In 2014 and 2015 there were 280 Fun Palaces created by over 5000 Fun Palace Makers across 11 nations, with 90,000 people taking part. In 2015 Lambeth Libraries in London had 11 Fun Palaces across the borough. They put up posters on library notice boards asking two simple questions with room to write answers below:

  • What would you like to do or learn?
  • What can you offer to share or teach?

The message is then displayed:
“The content was driven by the input from each library’s community. There may be lots of people in your community who are very happy to contribute to this celebration – why not find out?”
As community events go, these must be among some of the cheapest, easiest and most effective to put on, and fit very well with the current public library ethos of putting the community first.

The Fun Palace page on vimeo

The Fun Palace page on vimeo

Is your library dementia-friendly?


IFLA_Paul Tovell





Libraries in the UK are going through an unprecedented period of change – and this is leading to some fantastic initiatives to encourage new audiences. I would like to use my month of blogging to highlight some of these developments.

sandal refurbishmentDementia-Friendly Libraries are being developed in association with the Alzheimer’s Society . Many people who work in libraries are being trained (for free) by this society to be ‘Dementia Friends’, which means they understand the needs of customers with Dementia. However, whilst libraries are well known for being friendly, welcoming and social places for many people, it is also true that many are not very easy places for people suffering from Dementia to navigate. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if libraries could be safe and welcoming for them? In Wakefield, which is a small authority in Yorkshire, the first dementia-friendly library recently opened in Sandal, with the following key features:

  • No reflective surfaces. These can confuse and disorientate.
  • No patterns in the furnishings. These can cause stress.
  • Clearly defined entrances, exits and wall edges. Being sure about how to get out is really important.
  • Appropriate signage. Symbols and pictures can really help.
  • Appropriate furniture. This might sound obvious, but chairs and tables that look like chairs and tables, rather than futuristic ‘pods’.
  • Good colour choice and lighting. Deep reds are good, and oak finishes are warm and friendly.
  • Reminiscence sessions and displays. These can be low-key events with donated objects that remind people about the past and provide great talking points, and digital photos are fantastic.
  • A good clock. Preferably very big and clear, and displaying day, morning/afternoon as well as time.
Sandal Library’s new clock, with changing display screens which also show the date, and the time in other formats

Sandal Library’s new clock, with changing display screens which also show the date, and the time in other formats

The wonderful thing about Sandal library is that the public have no idea that it’s been specifically designed to aid dementia sufferers – but these small steps make the world of difference.
There is a presentation about this library online, written by Andy Wright and presented at a CILIP conference last year.

An example of how people with Alzheimer’s Disease perceive a clock face – this is  test which doctors use to assess the development of the disease. As it progresses, numbers leave the clock face altogether, and then appear in the wrong places.

An example of how people with Alzheimer’s Disease perceive a clock face – this is test which doctors use to assess the development of the disease. As it progresses, numbers leave the clock face altogether, and then appear in the wrong places.