Looking Back on Carnegie Library Lab

May 27, 2016

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Anish Noble-Harrison, Joint Lead, Outreach, Swindon Libraries

Carnegie Library Lab has been an invaluable experience. I feel that I’ve grown as a person, in confidence and professional ability as a result of the project funding, online learning, mentoring and networking opportunities. In terms of the project, one colleague noted that it is, ‘one of the best things we’ve ever done’.

My project, ‘Get on your Library Bike’, was an initiative to deliver a mini library service from a bike. The bike was to be taken out into the community for events as a promotional tool and also to deliver targeted work to promote the Society of Chief Librarian’s Universal Offers.Library Bike

This included doing geo-mapping of our local population, to see where the bike would be most effective, working with partners in our most deprived areas and working alongside projects such as the Bookstart year 2 programme, to target harder-to-reach families.

The bike has been active since August 2015 and was launched at Swindon Gay Pride – it even took part in the parade!  Since then we have been working with a number of partners and we have found new partners contacting us to secure the bike for events.  We’ve also noticed that people want to approach us when we have the bike: the bike is breaking down barriers and is a talking point.

Now other teams within the service are requesting its use, from community events to local studies work.  I’m determined to have most of our library staff trained on the bike, as it should ‘belong’ to everyone.

That the project has gone well is in no small part down to my mentor, Miranda McKearney, the online learning platform and my manager. My brain tends to function like a Jackson Pollock painting, particularly with new ideas, and my mentor helped me to clarify my thinking, focus on a few core goals and discuss methods for strategic thinking and practice.  This was reinforced by the online learning platform, which provided tools for critical reflection. The Myers-Briggs assessment helped me understand myself, how I relate to others and conduct projects. In addition, the topics on leadership and change were particular highlights and equipped me with a wider toolkit to tackle work-based challenges.

Meeting the other Carnegie Partners at network meetings was brilliant.  It was great to see such creativity from across the UK and Ireland. The group discussions left me feeling inspired and encouraged despite the current challenges libraries are facing.

Working with Blake Stevenson, the independent evaluators for Library Lab, helped me to develop evaluation tools for my project. In turn, this enabled me to think about what I wanted to achieve, how I wanted to get those result and looking at supporting evidence.  It provided me with a great framework for future projects and I’ll certainly draw on my learning for evidence-based practice moving forward.

Looking back at my time as  a Carnegie Partner my one regret is that I didn’t make as much of a song and dance about being a Partner as I should have: the brand opened doors and  I hope the next cohort get as much out of the experience as I did.