BY: Alan Lynch
09 Oct 2017
Today is the start of the first ever Libraries Week, a showcase of the great activities offered by libraries across the UK. It’s organised by CILIP, who we met at this year’s School Libraries Conference. Arts Award is an avid fan and supporter of libraries and to celebrate the wonderful work undertaken by these organisations, here are a few reasons on what makes them so special. Their Arts Award offer
We’re lucky enough to see lots of great projects coming our way from libraries. They’re fantastic places for young people to read and write, both of which we know work well with Arts Award. Some of the recent projects have involved young people working alongside authors and artists, while others have shadowed the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards, building their Arts Award around some of the year’s best books!
One regular strand of our collaboration with libraries is the Summer Reading Challenge. Each summer holiday young people are encouraged to read a group of themed books – this year was Animal Agents, while previous challenges have covered Roald Dahl and Record Breakers. As part of the event bespoke Arts Awards resources are designed around the theme, this means that all young people get the opportunity to complete Discover!
So many books…
Speaking of reading, the main reason most of us would’ve gone to our local library for the first time was to pick up a book, or two, alright maybe ten... Libraries continue to be a key source of reading material for many, with over eight million of us actively borrowing books in the UK. Believe it or not, even in today’s digital world the popularity of physical books remains high - they've outsold ebooks for the last two years and young people play a large part in this. Public demand for a good old book is still there and we should embrace the huge range of material available from libraries.
And a whole lot more
But libraries do so much more than lend books. Taken from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s 2016 annual report on public library activity:
“…Public libraries are a valuable resource for all members of the public. They are an important part of every community; entertaining and educating, acting as meeting places and are an important source of information.”
Books are only one part of what libraries have on offer. You also get a public space with access to facilities such as printers, the internet or even just a quiet spot to study. If you’re looking for further evidence, The Society of Chief Librarians lists six Universal Offers, that are “…key areas of service which today’s users regard as integral to public libraries...”. These cover areas such as health, learning and culture amongst others that libraries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are committed to making available to everyone. In Scotland, the Scottish Library & Information Council’s national strategy contains similar objectives set to make libraries a vital community space. Even beyond promoting reading, libraries should be celebrated as somewhere where anyone can access a host of services that might otherwise be unavailable.
Best of all, it’s all free!
Libraries across the UK are committed to remaining free at the point of access. At a time of austerity and funding cuts, libraries have stuck to this principle. A remarkable feat, particularly in light of their ongoing efforts to expand beyond the traditional book-lending model. It would be so easy to charge for access to computers or even new books however libraries and their staff work incredibly hard to make sure that all of us have access to free knowledge and support.
So get involved with us and celebrate libraries! Visit www.librariesweek.org.uk for more information about what’s going on around the UK.