Everybody's Reading Toolkit
Project 1 - Mobile library initiative
To target young people who would never go to join a traditional library To build relationships with these groups to form the basis for a reader development programme
Two locations - Breightmet Youth Club, Alastair Ross Baby Clinic
Youth club users and young people generally for the first location and young mums for the second location
What took place
Those people already attending the venues regularly were invited to borrow library books on a week-to-week basis without conforming to strict library membership criteria. I merely obtained their name, address, post code, (landline) telephone number and age, plus school attended (for those at the Youth Club) and baby's name (at the Clinic) - for tracing purposes, should the books not be returned to me. I attended both venues weekly - the Youth Club, on Thursday nights (7-9.30 pm) and the Baby Clinic, on Tuesday afternoons (1.30-4pm), I stocked three suitcases (on wheels!) with three categories of books - for the Youth Club:
- teenage fiction
- relevant resource materials, ie books about eg divorce, careers, periods, bullying, step-families, etc
- books about interests, eg , fishing, cars, health and beauty, biographies, etc;
for the Baby Clinic:
- young adult fiction
- relevant resource materials, ie books about baby care, child hyperactivity, feeding, etc
- books about interests, eg cookery; yoga, biographies, etc.
Tips, strengths and weaknesses
'my first mistake was to fall into the "stereotyping trap" - I had taken no male fiction or interest books to the Baby Clinic! - where, to my surprise, there were a handful of dutiful dads either accompanying their partners or, in two particular cases, playing the full role of house-husbands!'
'I ran the "mobile" in both locations for a number of weeks and learned quite a lot in that time. I would recommend having your paper-work sorted out in advance as, once you arrive in such settings, you tend to get "pounced upon" by potential readers, particularly in Youth Clubs where youngsters cannot wait!'
- that you meet the kind of young people who would never go to join a traditional Library! However, such people may really enjoy reading and, through developing a relationship with you, may be persuaded to join in time
- that the percentage of the Reading Lifelines age-group is better in Baby Clinics than at Youth Clubs
- that the idea might sustain itself in Clinics, as parents attend over a period of several months to get their babies checked and weighed - long enough for parents' real reader development, perhaps?
- the younger ones at Youth Club also engage with reading, so there are chances for reader development with them also, but perhaps only in a minority of cases?
- that this work is fairly exhausting (all the packing, unpacking, transporting and re-filling stock!), and labour-intensive, so as a means of recruitment, is best kept temporary
- that the idea will "burn out" fairly quickly at Youth Clubs (ie, their attention span is short!). However, if you were an avid reader yourself, there is scope for you to act as a positive role model, to nurture and sustain reader development in this setting
- that 16 year olds rarely (initially) engage with reading at a Youth Club, possibly because it might appear "un-cool" in this setting?
- that you do "lose" books, predominantly in Youth Clubs. I am about to initiate a "retrieval" trip round the local area!'
- To encourage library staff to use this idea - half day training session
- Use this material as a way of introduction the idea - hand out sheets outlining the Bolton Mobile project
- Suggest a pilot of one or two deposit collections
- Group exercise - Ask staff about choice of stock and how involve some members of the target group discuss stereotyping
- Feedback ideas
- Introduce idea of a simple admin system that fits with your own joining and issuing methods as staff for comments
- At end of training session -Ask members of staff to volunteer be responsible for them, allocate a link person in the community
- Keep the pilot short term and evaluate its success
Project 2 - Reading Lifelines Membership Starter-pack
To create some 'street-cred' associated with library membership which could act as an incentive for young people to want to join the library
Throughout target area in Bolton
Any young person aged 16-25
What took place
This initiative started with a simple request to the Manager of a local supermarket: would it be possible for the Library to "piggy-back" our promotional leaflets, along with the supermarket's regular weekly leaflet-drop, without any cost? When the answer was, surprisingly, "yes", it became feasible to consider a substantial local promotion for RLP membership.
We had always planned to include a handful of Library "freebies" (eg free CD and video loans) which we thought might attract members - but what if the freebies were for commercial, "street cred"-type places? I personally approached the Managers of only those organisations with a positive image for young people, to ask for their co-operation and help with the RLP, explaining what it involved and my role within it.Gay O'Donnell
Tips, strengths and weaknesses
- that my first visit to each organisation was unannounced and very informal. I did not write or phone in advance. I merely walked in "for a chat", to ask them about possibilities? I listened to what they had to say, and promised to return again after discussing their thoughts with my colleagues, to devise a suitable promotion
- I think it helped that, on my return visit, I took a letter describing the promotion strategy in detail for them to read whilst I was with them - addressed personally to each individual Manager I visited - and answered any questions put to me. Also, I only asked for a small number of freebies in their terms (in our case, thirty), reassuring the organisation it was a very local promotion and they would not be swamped by hordes of claimants
- It also helped that I had with me a (laminated!) copy of the press coverage the RLP received recently from the local newspaper. Giving them this to read proved that Project was genuine, and that more publicity could feasibly be generated by their inclusion in the RLP
- that once I was handed my first batch of free tickets, I was able to show them to the next organisation I visited, saying how generous they had been! This seemed to create a "band-wagon" effect..!!
- organisations seemed genuinely pleased at the prospect of associating themselves with a worthy cause - ie, young people's reading, to encourage their longer-term social inclusion
- that the organisations can say no! - which is unlikely - though they may well suggest you contact their Head Office or Promotions Manager, which happened to me several times. I did not follow these up, but only due to lack of time
- the organisations may also ask you to print the necessary vouchers, which involves some extra work. If so, ascertain any conditional elements to their offer, so this can be included in the wording on the voucher. It is a better idea to get the Manager to write the requisite wording, thus avoiding any comeback on yourself. The vouchers may also need to be signed by the Manager, involving another follow-up visit for this
- that the vouchers may not be recognised by staff, when the young people visit the organisation to claim their "freebie", which would cause problems for both parties. Discuss this thoroughly with the Manager in order to avoid this situation, which can be avoided by leaving a copy of the voucher with the Manager on your follow-up visit, for staff training purposes