Engaging Libraries unpacked

April 4, 2017

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Andy Wright, Carnegie Associate

Carnegie Associate Andy Wright explains how the new “Engaging Libraries” programme came about, and why it is such a fantastic opportunity.

Engaging Libraries logoThe Engaging Libraries programme has a special place in my heart. In 2015 I spent time at Wellcome (the world’s largest medical research charity funding research into health) as a Society of Chief Librarians secondee. My aim? To investigate the overlap between the aims of Wellcome and those of the public library sector. I’m delighted that the time spent exploring, dreaming and wondering has resulted in the launch of this programme – a partnership programme between Wellcome and Carnegie UK Trust that is open to all public libraries across the UK and Ireland – and equally delighted to be involved in the programme as Carnegie Associate.

Those of us in the public library sector know that we do some great work around promoting health and wellbeing, and as safe, trusted spaces in the community are well-placed to explore these topics.

Engaging Libraries challenges the sector to move beyond disseminating health information, to build on our assets and experiment with something new.  The programme encourages libraries to think broadly about the types of health and wellbeing themes that might be relevant to their communities, and to think creatively about how to engage people with them.

Public engagement is about creating an opportunity for people to consider, participate and debate ideas.  It is a two-way process and is done well where there is a creative and inventive approach to bringing people together.  We want to see activities that inspire curiosity, spark debate, and stimulate conversation – and projects that support people to make connections between ideas, their own lives and society.  Whilst this might sound rather serious, we are encouraging libraries to experiment and have fun!  We are all in this learning process together and welcome ideas that are playful, creative and imaginative.  This is an opportunity to take a risk and try something that you may not usually have the time or resources for.

We also believe that there is much to be gained from a collaborative approach, where those from different disciplines come together to explore an issue or theme.  We would encourage libraries to think about possible partnerships with other organisations or individuals – this could be a local charity, a school, an artist, scientist or researcher.  We would be happy to discuss this further with you, and help to facilitate connections where that might be helpful.

Hopefully you’re excited by these possibilities – however, if any aspect is daunting, don’t despair!  We are providing lots of resources and support to help you develop ideas and plans.  The application pack will be published on the project web page on 2 May.  In the meantime, please do sign up for one of our applicant workshops.  These will provide an opportunity to learn more about the scheme and experiment with ideas in an interactive way.

Engaging Libraries presents a fantastic opportunity to build on the great work that libraries do.  As well as funding you will receive support from the programme and opportunities to connect with partners that you may not have considered previously. Part of my role is to facilitate a network, providing an opportunity for project partners to share ideas and learn from one another.  An external evaluator will also be involved, ensuring that we gather all of the successes and learning, and can share it widely at the end of the programme. We very much look forward to hearing from you.

You can find information about the programme and register for a workshop here.

You can contact Andy Wright here

Applications open 2 May.