Delivering Public Engagement Digitally

December 9, 2020

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Emerging Learning from Engaging Libraries in Lockdown

The Engaging Libraries programme, delivered by Carnegie UK Trust, supports library services across the UK to run public engagement activities on research within the themes of health, society and culture.

Today the Trust published a new digital learning leaflet, sharing what has been gleaned from the delivery of digital public engagement activities by two projects during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and first national lockdown.  We recognise the value in sharing this not only with the rest of the Engaging Libraries participants, but also more widely with the libraries sector and those with an interest in developing public engagement methods in the Covid-19 context.

Phase 2 of the Engaging Libraries programme began in November 2019, with a cohort of 16 library services. Progress has been significantly impacted by the extraordinary circumstances of a global pandemic, which have brought specific challenges for those who wish to engage with communities in a truly participative and interactive way.  Engaging Libraries participants were encouraged to take time to adjust and most of the projects now plan to run their activities during 2021. However, two of the Engaging Libraries projects adapted during lockdown and have delivered digital engagement activities during recent months.  Redbridge, Newcastle and Kirklees library services worked together to help communities explore the themes of death and dying, whilst Falmouth Library ran AccessLabs, bringing researchers and citizens together to explore research about climate, environment and health.

Whilst significantly different in scope and scale, the activities run by the two digital projects enabled two-way interaction and conversation.  An independent evaluator of the Engaging Libraries programme found that 87% of participants felt that they had learned something new, and 86% agreed that they had become more interested or curious about the topic as a result of their involvement.  To find out more and to read our summary of ‘top tips’ for digital engagement, you can download the leaflet here (PDF).  You can also visit our Engaging Libraries project page here.

In focusing on two projects that were delivered digitally we are not suggesting that this is the only way in which public library services could, or should, seek to engage members of the public. We, like the staff who responded to our Making a Difference survey earlier this year, are mindful of the need to reach and include the digitally excluded. You can read Making a Difference, a research report considering the impact that libraries had on their communities during lockdown here, and you can read our recent 12 steps to eliminate digital exclusion — learning from lockdown paper here.