Reader in Residence
Under the 2009 'Reading for Life' banner, Knowsley has funded a range of exciting programmes promoting reading. In the summer, over June and early July, Halewood Library had its own Reader in Residence, Sarah Maclennan. Sarah lectures in Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores University, and is Co-ordinator of the Dead Good Poets Society - an arts organisation that promotes live literature events in Merseyside.
As part of a 6 week project, Sarah was in the Library on Monday afternoons, seeking out customers' recommendations for a good read and helping them to choose something different. She also engaged with health customers in the PCT waiting areas, and with customers using the Post Office.
In addition she worked with pupils from Halewood College on producing a book on the positive aspects of being a teenager, and on Saturday mornings she worked with children on story telling and crafts. A visit to the Halewood Children's Centre for a 'Stay and Play' session with mums and toddlers was also arranged.
Halewood Library staff accompanied Sarah to local primary schools to promote the local Library and our Library Reading Challenges.
The overall aim for choosing Halewood Library was to promote the new co-located library within the Halewood Centre, and as it has turned out, new and existing customers very quickly found us! Total issues to date are a massive 31.7% or 7396 extra items borrowed compared to the same period in 2008.
Facts and figures
During her time in and around the Halewood Centre, Sarah engaged with over 1,100 customers, and the figures are detailed below: -
June 6th - July 18th 2009
- Reader recommends - adults in library discussing favourite authors: 165
- Saturday morning crafts and reading stories: 73 children, 45 carers
- Stay & Play session at Arncliffe Centre: 30 children and carers
- School visits (3 sessions): 750+ children and staff
- Students at Halewood College (4 sessions): 60 + 9 staff
Since the summer, Sarah has been working with two groups of emergent readers in Page Moss and Kirkby. According to Sarah,
'Monday's Reading Group is the highlight of my week. We started off reading short stories by Roger McGough, and Saki. The language in the latter was challenging, but the group members were quite taken by the notion of a cat that had learned to talk and it inspired a debate. Over the following two weeks, we read The Savage by David Almond which provoked a lot of discussion about bullying, ensuring we tell people we trust if anyone makes us feel unhappy etc. During Half Term week, we had a trip out to The Bluecoat Arts Centre where an exhibition of the original artwork from The Savage was being displayed, the main value being interaction with the general public and introduction to a venue they'd not visited before'.
Sarah has also visited Capper Grove and Centre 63 working with the Crosslinks Project, which supports adults with employment and mental health. All the members of these groups found their creative writing sessions a 'very positive experience'. One had so many beautiful images in her poem that she was going to illustrate it with a painting. She was dyslexic and so expressed her creativity via art usually, but she said the session gave her the confidence to try more writing.
Finally, Sarah has been working too with Helen Maitland, Family Reading Matters Coordinator' on reading bedtime stories:
'The first, at the National Wildflower Centre, had tables set up outside. I'd photocopied templates for stories as a 'starting off point' and there was a 'lucky dip' of words. In this session, the children told their own stories and we gave copies of the Knowsley Libraries Creative Writing Competition entrance forms to the parents. Helen gave out leaflets promoting Family Reading.'
There can be no doubt that the reading activities that have taken place across Knowsley over the last few months have been very successful. The increase in the number of items borrowed, both by children, teenagers, and adults, is very encouraging, and the enthusiasm reflected in the very positive feedback comments illustrates how well these events were received.
However it is the impact that reading makes on people's lives that can never be measured, but which is so important, that gives so much promise for the future. The success of the activities with the traditionally 'hard to reach' groups such as at the Crosslinks venues and the emergent readers groups will hopefully only be the beginning of such partnership working.
Being able to work with someone like Sarah who has immense experience with and enthusiasm for, working with these challenging groups is so stimulating for customers and staff, and we look forward to being able to work much more widely with a Reader in Residence.