Time For A Change Toolkit
"In general terms the DCMS/Wolfson Reader Development Programme was resoundingly successful in stimulating short-term reader development initiatives. A great deal of extremely exciting, innovative reader development activity took place as a direct result of the programme."(Wallis, Moore, Marshall, 2002)
The conclusion to the report on the first year of funding states:
"Overall the DCMS/Wolfson programme has provided an opportunity for public libraries to move the reader development movement forward. The scale of the activity undertaken and the results that have been achieved have proved the role that public libraries can play in supporting the government's commitment to social inclusion in the short-term. The challenge remains as to whether this momentum can be maintained to embed reader development work on a long-term basis."
In North West England the major benefit of both projects in was the common aim they gave all the consortium authorities who were benefiting directly from extra funding and extra staffing hours committed to reader development activity. Being involved in a project gave all the partners a sense of common purpose, which was clearly defined, had milestones of achievement and was being effectively co-ordinated and monitored. Communication about the projects became the key agenda item at Time To Read meetings, and sharing information and difficulties strengthened people's links with each other as well as enhancing the value of the team.
Among the major achievements was the number and range of events and activities taking place across the region and the local impact these had, not only on the targeted young people, but also internally on the library organisations where they were taking place.
An early training course during Reading Lifelines asked outreach workers to reflect on possible barriers to library use. Issues such as having to be quiet, dress codes, changing appearance of library space, and assumptions about young people were all identified and were addressed in many places during the course of the projects. Many of the outreach workers were able to challenge library staff's assumptions about young people and move them to being more tolerant and flexible in their attitudes.
Comments received by young people engaged in the project included:
'Promote libraries more. Lots of my friends don't have a clue what is available to them free of charge, and they don't have to own a computer themselves to be able to learn'.A young parent in Knowsley
'I really appreciate the library making Santa's grotto. It's the first time my kids have seen Santa, I can't afford it'.A young parent in Knowsley.
'It was boss! It was class! It was cool!'After a Games workshop held at Halton library.
'Library is a bit dull from outside but Top Stuff inside'after an event at High Street Library, Bolton.
New partnerships developed with other agencies working with this age group, in many cases are being sustained. Examples are Education Action Zones, Youth Services, Partnerships for Learning, Regeneration areas. Having an identifiable worker with time to go out of libraries to meet potential partners was a huge improvement for many library authorities. Working in this way has highlighted to other organisations the potential for joint working with libraries.
Comments received included:
'Working with Everybody's Reading has increased the opportunities for our young people'Millennium Volunteers Co-ordinator. Blackpool.
'The availability of computers helps many of our young people overcome disadvantage'Leyton Boys and Girls Club.
'I hadn't seen reading being used in a workshop setting before and was very impressed at how it engaged young people'Preston's Access and Social Inclusion Officer.
Successes with the target group of young people reinforced the value of reader development work with library staff in general and with managers in particular. Many staffing restructures during and since the projects have established reader development posts or teams. Towards the end of Everybody's Reading an advocacy day was held with Senior Managers to reinforce the success of the projects and appeal for funding to sustain the work.
The following measures were used to identify the impact of the work:
- The number of books and magazines issued to the target group at all service points.
- The number of 16-25 year olds who register as readers at all service points.
- The number of 16-25 year olds accessing computers at the target libraries
Collecting these statistics by identifying the age group was not straightforward, because of the limitations of computerised systems. In most authorities library membership has increased everywhere both at the participating library and regionally. One of the project libraries in Blackpool recorded an increase in membership by this age group of 91.32. Figures for book issues showed significant increase when the new stock was received. The most significant increase can be seen in the use of computers where the Peoples' Network is up and running.
With hindsight, as constructive comparison between individual authorities has proved beyond our reach, the collection of these measures proved more effective from the individual authorities' perspective. For example the recorded increase in membership and issues at Savick library in Preston underlined the success of our work started with Reading Lifelines. This was used as an appropriate case study at the Conference.
Obviously a project of this size also encountered difficulties. In particular the time taken in some authorities to recruit outreach workers stands out as delaying a smooth start to Reading Lifelines. This influenced our decision to bid to the second round of funding for Everybody's Reading as in many places the real work with the target audience had only just begun.
Sustainability is always raised as a major issue for short-term funded projects. Building trust and expectations among groups of young people took longer than expected and sustaining work once the outreach worker had left was an issue many authorities had to face. Some have been able to absorb new partnerships and activities such as young people's reading groups into the mainstream activity, however in other places they have had to stop. The availability of additional funding from RALP (Regional Arts Lottery Programme) has meant that some targeted activity has gone on beyond the time limits of Everybody's Reading in most authorities.