Swindon Libraries’ Libraries Opportunities for Everyone Innovation Fund Bid

boat and books


A couple of weeks before Christmas, as part of the Libraries Taskforce released report, it was announced that there would be money available for Libraries to bid for to enable them to carry out innovative projects. We, along with most Library authorities in the country, put in a bid as we want to be able to offer Swindon residents the best service we can within the financial constraints put upon us. The potential to get more funding into the service could not and should not be ignored. With a deadline for bid submissions of the 6th January that did not give us long to put together an entire Arts Council bid.

There seems to have been quite a bit of chatter in the press and on social media around our bid to the Libraries Opportunities for Everyone Innovation Fund (LOfEIF) following our Lead Member Cllr Martin’s mention of the bid on BBC Wiltshire and post on FB. As people are talking about the potential project we tyhought it best to put out the facts and so answer some of the speculations and address some of the issues that seem to have arisen with regard to our bid.

Cllr Martin’s post on Facebook does a very good job of summarising the potential project and is reproduced below;

“Swindon’s 81k bid to the libraries innovations fund is called Libraries Unbound.

The ‘Libraries Unbound’ innovation is to take modular and flexible Library services to communities, rather than have them come to static libraries.

This follows through on our needs assessment findings that libraries in more deprived areas aren’t attracting the visitors they should, yet it’s those communities hat most need support with literacy and learning. The outreach plans in our Libraries strategy aim to address that through developing more engaging ways of enabling access to Library services, and this bid will increase scale and impact of that work.”

It seems that there has been some misunderstanding of the nature of the, and I stress potential, project. The bid is for the equipment and extra staff time to support projects that would enable us to set up portable facilities such as IT suites, Fab Labs, storytelling areas and pop up libraries in any location as well as for the project work to enable us to staff and run job clubs, digital skills sessions, story-times, coding clubs, homework clubs and other services and pop up events in any number of possible locations that people already use. The idea is to actively take the services people need directly to where they are needed rather than passively expecting them to come to us which has not always happened in the past despite there being provision in our libraries and widespread promotion of such provision.

The important point is that this is work that we will be doing regardless of how many library locations we have and what the opening hours of those locations are. Indeed whether we are successful with our bid or not, the Outreach work we are developing as part of the new strategy is going to be more targeted at the communities that need it most and at the point of need rather than being bound to specific locations.

Libraries Unbound is not intended to replace any current services or provision. The intention is simply to increase our reach and impact by taking services direct to the people that need them most.

The LOfEIF has very strict criteria as to what it will fund and there is only £3,900,000 being made available nationally with pretty much every authority in the country putting in some kind of bid. The criteria the bid will be judged on, and this is highly simplified, is that the money must fund work that is ‘innovative’ for the Library Service putting in the bid and which is targeted at areas and people experiencing the most disadvantage in order to give them the opportunity to remove or reduce their experience of disadvantage. There is specific guidance from the Arts Council who will be judging and administering the fund that funding will NOT be given to support work that the Library Service should be doing as part of its normal role. Hence it could not be used to keep libraries open, buy stock or fund extra staff time or anything else to do with the normal and expected role that libraries perform and which we will continue to do as part of the new Library strategy. See here for the full details of the fund including the guidance on what would be the sort of project eligible for funding. http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/libraries-opportunities-everyone-innovation-fund

Also, please bear in mind it is just a bid at this stage and we may not be successful. We put in for all sorts of grants all the time and generally only make things public when we are successful. Bids are always to support specific projects and the condition of accepting such bids is that the money is spent on the project outlined in the bid. Two recent examples of successful bids are the Artswords ( http://artswordsswindon.blogspot.co.uk/p/latest-news.html) Arts Council bid and the Better World Books grant for our Memory Book project.( http://cares.betterworldbooks.co.uk/literacy-grants/swindon-libraries/ ).