Posts in Training

Burning with energy: Burnley Library

Posted Monday 12 November 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 - 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.

Making the sandwich: putting on successful author events

Posted Wednesday 13 December 2017 by Ian Anstice in Events, Training

Public libraries are superb places to host author events. There’s thousands of them, for a start, with a wide geographical spread. They often have large amounts of floor space when compared to book shops. But, in this age of increasing competition for people’s time and limited staff resources, how does a public library ensure that writer visits can be as successful as possible? That’s the question Time To Read posed. The answers that came back all pointed to the conclusion that simply offering an author, except if they’re really famous, is not enough.

Making the SandwichIn fact, what came through loud and clear is that the library needs to think of how to package the event. Perhaps the best way to explain this is by analogy. Think of it like trying to sell a sandwich, where the author is the main filling and the library is the bread. Well, that may not be enough to get people to buy the sandwich, especially as there are many other fantastic lunch options out there. So it may be better to add in some refreshments as extra fillings  and  -  to improve the packaging, as it were -  theme the event. Oh, and make sure you don’t serve it at the wrong time of day. Perhaps add some music in there as background too. And, voila, you get a really nice sandwich . Or author event.

This guide is intended to share the best practice out there and to share the hard-won experience of experts so you don’t have to learn on the fly. But it’s not intended as prescriptive. To take the food analogy still further, choose what you want from the buffet of ideas and perhaps come back later to try something more adventurous. Oh, and let us know your ideas too so we can improve for next time.

Download the "Making the sandwich" guide here.

Fead and Read: libraries providing food and activities to children in holidays

Posted Monday 4 December 2017 by Ian Anstice in Training

Examples of Feed and Read schemes in the North West

Child foodThis is where children use the library over a school holiday period, with food being provided. This is often, but not always, in partnership with another agency.


Lunches for children provided by Urban Outreach over the summer .  This programme was extended to several branches this year. The lunches will be available every day over the 6 week summer holiday, with libraries opened up if it’s a day they are closed usually. Schools are emailed closest to the libraries to let them know and libraries promote the sessions in outreach sessions for other activities.  The sessions are open to all. if any child is hungry over the summer and would like a lunch they just need to visit the library.  Libraries are also going to supply an activity of some kind at each session, such as storytimes.


Warrington are running this project over the Summer with Active Warrington. They have local funding and or widening their successful Fit and Fed programme. The main parts of the project are:

  • Children recruited will be from a ward with deprivation issues, with children from 5 up joining a programme of sports and reading activities. They will also be provided with meals and instructed about healthy eating

  • Young leaders will volunteer to help at the sessions and will gain a food hygiene qualification as part of the project. We are also hoping to recruit Reading Hackers especially to help with Summer Reading Challenge.

  • It takes place 4 days a week. Libraries will be involved for 2 days.

  • See below for the sort of activities we will be doing on a Tuesday. On Friday the children will be taken on an away day to Stockton Heath which will include a visit to the library in the morning with the chance to join in with Summer Reading Challenge and to the park in the afternoon. Many children will not previously have often travelled that far outside their immediate location.

  • Active Warrington will provide staff, recruit participants, cover transport and book venues.

Possible activities – could all be tied in to healthy eating or good mental well-being. We have tended to work with older children with this as you will see by some of the examples, but can adapt it for younger ones.

  • Create a digital book review – usually we do a Vine (now obsolete I believe!) or animation

  • Rugby Reading Champions sessions – based around favourite reads of Wolves players. Book and rugby quiz, match the player to the right book. Possible stadium tour, training session attendance, match day attendance, visit by role model player

  • Join up to Summer Reading Challenge and give them associated rewards.

  • Listen to Hip Hop Shakespeare and create their own poem (this is not boring I promise. We listen to Akala and talk about how Shakespeare and Hip Hop are both poetry.  Would need to adapt to for a younger audience so would probably listen to someone like Craig Bradley

  • Create emoji stories or guess the emoji book. They can either create a story using only emojis or create a review of a story using only emojis and see if the others can guess the book.

  • Create a comic – we have a template we can use,  they can create it by putting photos together or they can draw it

  • Create a photo story – a six word story illustrated by 6 photos. Can make a healthy eating story –  eg we had 1 which was no booze, no fags, be healthy with a photo for each word. 

  • Twitter or text story – we can give the beginning of a twitter or text story that they can finish.

Review of our Friday group sessions here


In Manchester, Read and Feed was piloted/trialled throughout the school holidays in July-August 2017, with a full high-profile implementation in summer 2018. This approach will enable us to ensure high-quality delivery.   

As Fallowfield is a community library, volunteers will be available to support the scheme.  When the scheme is run in 2018 in other libraries, we will engage volunteers to support the scheme. We have worked with GM FareShare for the first time.  They supplied food for free (with a nominal administration charge) and additional sandwiches were purchased from a local supplier. We held reading / craft activities, to increase engagement with the Summer Reading Challenge.  The scheme is not designed to reach very high numbers, but target those that need it, and increase the amount of people starting and completing the Summer Reading Challenge. 

On the very first day of the Read and Feed scheme, one Mum arrived with 3 children and explained to Elaine and myself that her 11 year son was autistic and would be unable to join in any activities like painting and gluing and would find it difficult to interact with others. At first he wouldn’t make eye contact with us but with encouragement he joined in with all the activities and over time he would chat to us about books and games he liked. We told him how we could reserve books from other libraries which he did and managed to complete the reading challenge. He especially enjoyed the iPad sessions where we did Stop motion with Lego. There were some challenging moments when he got upset but we managed to gently talk him through them. Towards the end of the scheme his Mum said how thrilled she was with how he had joined in and built up a relationship with us and hoped it would help him when he started High School.

St Helens

St Helens has taken part in the very first Food in Schools Holidays project this year. We were given a budget from Public Health to provide food at our events. We decided to use our existing events around the Summer Reading Challenge and earmark some of them for food. We had:

Children had to book onto these sessions and at the end they received a snack bag containing a bottle of water, cereal bar, chocolate, fruit and a packet of Pom Bear crisps. We took details of allergies at the time of booking but there was only two instances of allergies being recorded out of hundreds of places booked.

The scheme was a great success and very well received and Public Health are now preparing a report advising that the strategy should be adopted permanently and all holiday periods should have funding allocated to provide food at events


The idea came in 2016 from local councillor John Blundell. Here’s an article he wrote on where the inspiration came from:

This year, the scheme was rolled out to 6 libraries across 4 townships: Belfield and Balderstone (Rochdale Township), Smallbridge (Pennine Township), Darnhill (Heywood Township) and Junction and Langley (Middleton Township).  The libraries chosen are in areas with a high number of children eligible for free school meals.  Funding has been provided by the Townships.

The aims of the project this year are broadly similar – primarily to provide a healthy lunch for children who might otherwise go without – but also to encourage take up of the Summer Reading Challenge – all children who attend automatically become library members and are enrolled in the challenge - and engage them in reading/craft and related activities.  This year, we are extending the appeal of the scheme by working with Link4Life (Rochdale Boroughwide Cultural Trust, provider of arts, sport and heritage services in the Rochdale borough) who had independently secured funding through charity Street Games to provide their own Fit and Fed programme, led by Link4Life sports coaches. 

By pooling resources, and sourcing food cheaply from Fare Share  , we are able to offer 30 places for “Fit, Feed and Read” at each venue.  Leaflets (see attached) are going out to targeted schools in the participating libraries’ catchment areas and parents are asked to complete the registration form and return it to their chosen library.  Extending the scheme this year has presented quite a lot of challenges, not least having to open up part-time libraries out of hours and buy in extra staff (from ROSA – Rochdale and Oldham Supply Agency) but we’ll see how it goes.  Each session (11am – 2.30pm) will involve at least an hour of reading/related activities/craft and at least an hour of sports/games/fitness as well as the lunch aspect.

See also these examples from the USA:

Snap, crackle and flop: crafting a better message

Posted Thursday 15 May 2014 by Jane Mathieson in Training

This came to me via JISC mail and sounds potentially very useful as we are all having to do more and more publicity work ourselves.

Wednesday 11th June 2014

Have you ever said "I’m rubbish at design"? If so, this interactive workshop is for you!

The workshop will give attendees a basic grounding in some of the underlying principles behind copywriting and graphic design, so that they can produce fantastic copy.

There are a maximum of 12 places available at this workshop, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Book a place  Cost - £30

By the end of the day attendees should have a good understanding of:

  • What is copywriting and why it’s important in visual communications?
  • What makes good copy
  • Understanding and writing your brief
  • The importance of space and form in design
  • Text and typography
  • Using colour effectively

It will also provide an opportunity for attendees to share and discuss their own good practices with fellow participants.

Who should attend ?

This course is aimed at those involved in the creation of publicity or promotional materials, particularly those new to the Library and Information profession or those with an interest in visual/graphic design who want to learn the basics.  If you need help getting started, this course will provide the grounding you need to get going and be confident producing more stimulating and enticing copy.

Course prerequisites

Participants are asked to bring with them one piece of promotional literature that they have found particularly effective. This could be something they have produced, their institution has created, or something they’ve simply seen. It could be a poster, flyer, press release, badge, website etc. It doesn’t have to be a Library publication!


09:30  – Welcome and registration (Tea and coffee)

10:00 – 12:00 Snap, crackle and flop: crafting an effective message workshop

12:00 – 13.00 Lunch

13:00 – Walk to Learning Commons

13:30  – 14:30 Alan Gilbert Learning Commons Tour (University of Manchester) led by Anna Theis

Address: New Business School, Manchester Metropolitan University, Room 3.20 Oxford Road Manchester M15 6BH Manchester, GTM United Kingdom

For more information please email Davina Omar -

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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