Burning with energy: Burnley Library

Posted 12 Nov 2018 by Ian Anstice in Opinion, Training

I had the sheer pleasure last week of talking to David Ridehalgh of Burnley Library about the Burnley Literary Festival and other things like disembodied flying witches, of which more later ...

Burnley Literary Festival

Unusually for a small town with such a wide ethnic mix, Burnley has a thriving literary festival which has been going on for three years. If you drive into the town at the moment, as I did, you’ll see signs for the festival, which is fantastic. The local radio station is also up for publicising it and so everyone in the town is at least aware of it, giving it a reach normally beyond that of a library service. And this shows in attendance. Events get 30 or 40 people coming to them, which is brilliant, with such visitors often not being library users to begin with.

Burnley FestAnd there’s a need to attract non-library users. There are real pockets of poverty and poor literacy in the town. Those two so often go together. A lot of people just don’t go to cultural events, especially if they have to travel, and so the festival brings the events to the people, as things should be. The events are free as a way of reducing barriers – experience shows that locals are often put off by charged events – and are open to all. The library works closely with local schools and has regular class visits, with the idea being that “if you work together, you can achieve more”.

Stemming from an idea from Burnley Council, the library service jumped at the festival as a way of boosting library usage, and have been keen partners from the start. There is funding from Arts Council England and also from the local Stocks Massey bequest. This means that the library events are free, with Lancashire offering the building and staffing as its contribution in kind. As is common with free events, there is some non-attendance but a good 80% do come to the library when they say they will. Oh, and what a building, it’s gorgeous, with an impressive pillared façade leading into wood-lined rooms with an awful lot of stained glass.

"... there’s a need to attract non-library users. There are real pockets of poverty and poor literacy in the town. Those two so often go together."

David sees the point of the festival, and other events put on, as ways of providing – and this is important – high quality events to local people. This encourages them to come back as well as attracting people from outside of the area. The events also need to be fairly individual and not mirroring something happening just miles away. Moreover, the library has learnt to taylor events for the local audience. What works elsewhere does not necessarily work locally.

An example of this is the Light Parade. The Library is involved in doing craft workshops beforehand, creating lit props like umbrellas shaped as jellyfish and encouraging the lanterns to be created locally rather than shipping them in. And, wow, what a result. 1500 attended the last parade.

"1500 attended the last parade"

Cater the event to your audience. The same does not work everywhere. Learn My Way works well here., not so much in more affluent areas.  Unemployed needs email address. Vital for universal credit.

Witching videoAnd now, finally, for the flying witches. David has a background in graphic design and this shows. There have been some lovely displays, with the one that (literally) stood out for me being a witch flying in the area as a result of a projector (only £70 apparently - see in "the technical bit" below) shining on a gauze cloth. It was the most impressive display I’ve seen in a library and is an idea that’should be adopted more.

So, Burnley Library is working hard to be an important part of the local community. All of the local community. And it does that by working with partners and the public to put on individual and high quality events.

"Burnley Library is working hard to be an important part of the local community. All of the local community. And it does that by working with partners and the public to put on individual and high quality events"


The technical bit

The projector usef is an Excelvan 3D DVB-T Theatre projector. It is an LED projector – the picture quality is better – and is capable of projecting 3D movies/images and can also be used for Virtual Reality. It was available on eBay for around £70-£80 but they can be pricey from places like PC World. They also allow for HDMI input too which means you don’t have to use a PC/Laptop. I have attached a video of what it looks like this year.

The website where the 'illusions' were purchased from is here - https://atmosfx.com/. There are some absolutely amazing scenes on there and they can all be purchased via download reasonably.  YouTube have a good collection of videos and effects and there are quite a few cheap DVDs or Blu-Rays that have holiday scenes on… it appears to be a growing market. Netflix also do have a few 'atmospheric' shows called moving wallpapers, there are tropical, underwater and winter scenes that do work really well when projected. The Christmas one is especially good and I think I may be using it this year.

North West Libraries

Librarians in the North West have pioneered partnership working to encourage new readers into libraries. Time To Read is a partnership of librarians engaged in reader development activity in public library authorities in the North West Region. 22 public library authorities in the region currently support Time To Read.

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