For the third article of our series, we’ve interviewed Clancy Mason, coordinator of the Time To Read project, a partnership of 22 Library Authorities in North West England, working together to promote reading. She tells us more about the opportunities that a cultural inter-library partnership can offer.
How implementing new programs can get visitors to the library
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Answer: I lead Time To Read, a unique partnership of 22 Library Authorities in North West England, working together to promote reading. I also co-direct Wordpool, Blackpool’s Arts and Libraries Festival of Words, currently in its 11th year. Prior to this, I was the Arts Engagement Manager for Blackpool Council and have previously worked in education, public health, and marketing. I am currently leading on plans to support libraries celebrating Jane Austen’s 200th anniversary in 2017 with projects being developed encouraging library users to engage with the much-loved author with a range of creative activities.
2. When reviewing the statistics in the library sector, we’ve noticed a general trend that library usage has decreased in the past few years. What are you doing to fight this trend?
Answer: Although there is evidence showing that trends in library usage has decreased in recent years, libraries are still one of our most valued and well used resources in our communities. We work hard to ensure we provide an attractive and relevant offer, and although reading still remains at the core of what we do, we add value to this with a range of other cultural activities in our libraries. You would be amazed to see the variety that takes place across the North West.
One of the benefits Time To Read is that we strongly believe that we can have far more impact on reader development if we work together and collaborate.
3. The “Time to read” project is an interesting inter-library partnership, promoting reading in more than 22 local authorities. What is the main objective of this partnership?
Answer: Authorities who have signed up as members to Time To Read benefit from the coordination of activity, support, and resources across the North West. As a unified group, we can increase the quality of events and promotions and share our resources, information and learning, achieving economies of scale. This ensures we can make our current library stock and resources work harder for us, finding new ways for the public to engage with them.
This adds value to current reader development work across the NW and supports wider participation in reading. Our collaborative approach allows us room for experimentation, raising our ambitions of what we would like to achieve with some quite exciting results.
4. What are the benefits of this kind of partnership? Are there any challenges?
Answer: As a first calling point for many publishers and authors, Time To Read can help support an author to tour several libraries in the North West. Many London-centric publishers and publicists are unfamiliar with the North West so approaching Time To Read for advice about how best to make a tour work geographically and logistically makes sense. Our combined social media reach is vast so events reach a wider audience.
For the Time To Read member organizations, having a proactive network of fellow librarians who can share and support creativity, resources, contacts, good practice and ideas has been one of the biggest benefits of the group. We meet quarterly, but also have a forum for discussion via our website and email. We also form smaller working groups to focus on special projects, drawing on expertise within the group.
Our biggest challenge is encouraging well known authors to visit the North West. We have a wonderful cultural offer here with passionate librarians and readers who are incredibly receptive to author visits. We would encourage more authors to get in touch and Time To Read would be more than happy to help them access our North West libraries.
5. How is the program organized? Do you offer the same program in all authorities or can each library choose a specific program?
Answer: As a group, we agree to one large project per year and several smaller initiatives, often tying-in with key national dates or events.
In 2016, our large-scale project was Celebrating Shakespeare 16 and, in 2017, we are focusing on Jane Austen. We are currently building up an artist directory of artists, poets, performers and storytellers and have circulated a call-out brief for artists to submit an Expression of Interest for consideration to be included in the directory. Time To Read will manage this directory and member authorities will have access to this resource, helping them programme activities supporting their Jane Austen celebrations.
This directory means that all participating libraries signed up to Time To Read will participate in the Jane Austen promotion, but they can choose individual artists and authors based on their own local needs, keeping a level of autonomy in their own programming and reader development work.
We are also working with The Reading Agency to build a reading list of authors who will be publishing work this year with a focus on work inspired by or re-interpreting Jane Austen’s work. Working with The Reading Agency means they can highlight to any relevant publishers our Jane Austen inspired plans and encourage authors to include North West libraries in any tour itineraries.
Pooling our resources together means we have consistent marketing, central coordination, stronger impact and the support of a wealth of shared expertise and knowledge from library professionals across the NW.
6. Do you have additional comments or advice for libraries wanting to implement new and attractive programs in their libraries?
Answer: We have an opportunity at each of our quarterly meetings for a guest speaker to meet the network and talk about their ideas, projects or organisation. This has built some long lasting and mutually beneficial relationships in the North West Libraries and please do get in touch with the coordinator if interested in attending one of our meetings.
Read more about the Time to Read program here.
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