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Common Libraries come to Lewisham

By Joanne Moulton, Service Development Manager – Lewisham Libraries

Libraries have always been places where people look for knowledge, information and skills. Enabling people to continue to do that but in a fun and engaging way is what excited us about participating in the National Library Science Experiment.

Lewisham Library and Information Service have a wealth of experience working with a range of community partners to develop projects that bring expertise into a library space. From locally created patchwork quilts to supporting local writers to self-publish their work, we see libraries as spaces to showcase community talent, develop creative networks and share expertise, knowledge and skills.

Our approach to the National Library Science Experiment has been to build on that experience. We decided to place the maker instruction sets and kits at Deptford Lounge, an award-winning community hub at the heart of Deptford and part of a wider regeneration of the area. Deptford has a strong tradition of housing artists, and there are many artists’ studios throughout the area supporting artists in a range of disciplines.

We are promoting the instructions and kits through our strong social media presence such as Twitter and Facebook, aiming to reach a wider audience. We have also engaged with frontline staff to promote the kits to customers, seeing them as another resource in the library that sit alongside books and online resources.

Part of the learning from this experiment is around how well staff and customers engage with the instructions and kits. We will monitor this through analysing issue figures from the library management system; to see how many times each kit has been borrowed. Staff will be asked for regular feedback on the engagement with customers about the kits and any comments we can use to improve the offer.

We feel this is a model that is replicable in libraries not just in Lewisham but across England. The maker instructions and kits should be seen as another resource that libraries regularly purchase and loan, as they do with books. The themes of the kits can be varied to meet local needs, can build on local talent and skills, and most themes can be linked into books.

We have picked a theme for our hack day that suits the locality and the interests and skills of local staff. From creating a giant comic strip to music and film events, we will create a fun and lively space where creative skills, knowledge and expertise can be shared.

The National Library Science Experiment is a great opportunity to try something new, to re-think libraries and the sharing of knowledge and to have fun getting creative. We can’t wait to see what happens!

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