Initial discussion focused on how libraries are used, and the fact that many public libraries are currently visited much less often than you’d hope! The function of many libraries has also changed from offering books to offering services as well.
We decided that libraries need to re-focus their energies on books (in their various forms – ebooks, audiobooks, reference and the rest)and, crucially, literacy.
Most importantly, libraries must be made relevant to the communities who use them. This might involve outreach to families to show why their local library is relevant and how it can help their children.
We discussed a lot of ideas around what kind of things these re-defined libraries would house. Highlights included:
- Children’s book clubs to encourage parents and children to read
- Hold reading and writing classes
- Material available for young people studying forexams
- Broadband internet access
- A book-exchange programme
We also questioned whether expanding mobile library services would be more beneficial than the traditional library building, embedding outreach into the service itself.
As to how this would work, a number of options seemedworkable. Libraries could be housed in schools and run through them. They could be volunteer run and much more localised within communities. Services in poorer areas could be cross-subsidised from richer ones. What’s most important is that something is provided that meets the needs of potential users in the catchment area.
- Libraries should be free for all to use.
- They should be relevant to the communities they are in, with a focus in all cases on literacy.
- We should be proactive in promoting the benefits of libraries to parents.
We have no set model in mind, just a model that provides what is needed.