A Year in the Life
We are often asked as outreach officers what we actually do in our role, so we thought we’d give you a brief overview of ‘a year in the life of outreach’.
Much of the work we do is based around the SCL Universal Offers & has a calendar of events which you can find here
However, just to give you a flavour, here is a summary of some of our main projects…
National Libraries Day
This key event, which usually takes place in February of each year, is an opportunity to showcase our services. Last year we focused on digital resources including our EBook offer. This year we focused on our under 5s offer, which involved the ‘boat’ image on recycling Lorries, adshells and on social media. Alongside this was the launch of North Swindon Library’s dad’s storytime, a special one-off dad’s storytime at Highworth & special promotions with the Bookstart bear at soft – play areas.
This resulted in a 35% increase in under 5s books for that period, 31% increase in new membership to under 5s card & 47% more people accessing our blog. This was alongside some impressive social media usage too!
Now that we have our funky new Book Bike, we can take this to community events and settings that we struggled to engage with before. This included targeted parental workshops in partnership with early years and our Penhill Bookbike Tour. For this
we worked with housing and the Street Reps to engage with different groups in the community, in December 2015 & June 2016. Looking at Penhill Library stats from January 2016 – June 2016, new membership increased 31% with active membership increasing 12%.
Alongside this, we have taken the bike to Highworth May Day, a Local History event, Highworth festival, Children’s Fete & Cineworld!
This takes place every year around the first week of June and we use this to promote all things under 5s and families. Each year had a different theme and this year was under the sea, which fitted really well with our National Libraries Day campaign. As part of this we had a tour of the Bookstart Bear, alongside our Penhill Bookbike targeted tour.
This year we say the wonderful local author and illustrator Steve Antony became patron of our children’s services. His books are simply beautiful and we are thrilled to have his support.
Author Events & Literary Performances
We are extremely lucky in Swindon to have Arts Council funding through our Artswords project, to pay for some fantastic performances. In the past this has included Sammy the Snow Leopard & Private Peaceful. This year we had the fabulous John Kirk perform his interpretation of The Twits by Roald Dahl, to help promote our Summer Reading Challenge. This was a fantastic success, with over 200 children attending two events in our libraries.
We also have free children’s author events, organised through our national libraries’ contacts and through publishers.
The Summer Reading Challenge
This is simply our biggest project of the year. Every year approximately 3500 Swindon children engage with the challenge, with approximately 2000 children completing. It accounts for approximately 30% of all children’s loans and supports visitor numbers and most importantly children’s literacy. There is a cost to the outreach budget to pay for SRC materials (around 1/3 of all our money spent goes toward the SRC), but considering the results, we feel it is worth it.
For more information on the SRC, visit the Reading Agency website
As well as supporting children’s literacy we also co-ordinate Reading Ahead, which is the adult equivalent to the SRC. We work in partnership with businesses and colleges to target emergent readers and try and get them into libraries and into reading in general. In 2015 187 people took part with 87 completing the challenge reading the full 6 reads each. Many participants feel much more confident in reading due to the scheme, with one mentioning “I now feel more confident in my ability to read a book.”
Health & Wellbeing
This has become more and more an important part of our remit and includes supporting the co-ordination of the Reading Well scheme, which helps people understand and manage their conditions, using self-help reading. GPs can ‘prescribe’ a book or they can self-refer and it has the support of public health.
In conjunction with this, we also run health events, including World Mental Health Day. This supports users and professionals to network and find out about services which are on offer locally.
As you can see, the life of Outreach is busy and we haven’t mentioned all the projects and events we support, manage and promote. We feel it is vital people have access to our services & we are motivated to improve the quality of people’s lives through our library offer