Our National Library Science Experiment Gets Underway!


Well, what an exciting few weeks we’ve had here at Common Libraries! Our National Library Science Experiment is now well underway, with 35 library authorities taking part across England. We sent them five different Maker Instruction Sets ‘made for the library’ by users of the Waiting Room – each providing step-by-step instructions about how to carry out a creative project, guidance on lending them to the general public and related publicity materials. Over the next two months, each participating library will monitor interest from library users, including borrowing rates and general feedback. These libraries will also explore the extent to which local people wish to produce and publish maker instruction sets that reflect their own knowledge and know-how.

Our intention is to help libraries further support local people to become contributors of knowledge and creative works to public libraries – publishing, promoting, lending and selling the knowledge and know-how of their local communities. So, in addition, five library authorities have been selected to go one step further – Essex, Lewisham, Northamptonshire, South Tyneside and Stockton-on-Tees.

Each has identified a library which will soon host both Maker Instruction Sets (for lending) and full Maker Kits (for sale). These libraries will be supported by our team to promote them to library users during February and March – the aim: to assess demand for such items and any interest in the production of titles devised in their respective communities that could underpin the establishment of new Common Libraries.

Each library service will also host a ‘Hack the Library Day’ during March, at which links between selected libraries and the producers and consumers of creative content can be explored, hands-on activities tried, and the profile of Common Libraries raised around the country.

The outcomes from the project will be presented and discussed at two free events to be held in London and Newcastle during the last two weeks of March – and, we do hope to see as many interested parties there as are able to join us!

South Tyneside Libraries

Contributions from our programme participants –

Emma Tennant, Stockton Library Service: “Stockton’s library service, unlike many others, is still developing and our team are really excited about the prospect of working with our community to help them discover their talents. Our Borough is a special place with a unique history of invention and innovation. On our High Street, local chemist John Walker, invented the friction match and nearly 200 years ago, Stockton helped to change the world when the first fare paying passenger rail service ran between our town centre and nearby Darlington. We know our libraries are used by a huge range of people for all kinds of purposes and we try to use our spaces and our resources to inspire, stimulate and develop minds.”

Russell Hall, South Tyneside Library Service: “Our library service wants more people than ever to love their libraries, for traditional and new reasons.  That’s why we are so pleased to be able to work alongside Common Libraries and bring Maker Kits to local residents. The Maker Kits – devised with enthusiasm , care and talent by the creative community based in Colchester’s Waiting Room – offer a real opportunity to expand the public and professional appreciation of what a library can do. We are reinventing our libraries to meet contemporary needs and aspirations. South Tyneside’s libraries span a population of 148,000 across several towns with distinct identities and heritage.”

Nikita Thanki, Northamptonshire County Library Service: “We are so excited to be working with Common Libraries and bringing Maker Kits to Northamptonshire’s residents. The Maker Kits represent a future where we can elevate the ambition of our library users and help them become the source of creative and educational materials. Our libraries span a population of 629,000 across 7 districts and are as diverse as the county, ranging from small rural libraries to larger urban locations like Northampton.  We look forward to working with local groups as well as the manufacturing and technical traditions Northamptonshire is known for.”

Paul Probert of Essex Libraries: “We want more people than ever to love their libraries.  That’s why we are so pleased to be able to work alongside Common Libraries and bring Maker Kits to Essex residents. Maker Kits will help us take the library’s traditional mission of increasing and sharing knowledge and adapting it to address the different tools, methods and skills people want to learn today. Essex County Council’s libraries serve a population of 1.4 million across twelve districts. Our libraries are as diverse as the county and range from small rural libraries through suburban sites to large Chelmsford and Colchester locations. Wherever we launch, we will be able to work alongside a wealth of local groups, a range of manufacturing and technical traditions as well as current high-tech practice, and with our experts from Essex’s own creative industries.”

Joanne Moulton, Lewisham Library & Information Service: “We are excited to be part of the National Library Science Experiment, working with Common Libraries and Arts Council England, and proud to be piloting this innovative approach to evolving libraries. We are passionate about using library spaces to showcase community talent, and have experience of working with a range of community partners to develop projects that bring expertise into a library space. We are also interested in learning from other library authorities involved in the project, and look forward to sharing our experiences through library networks nationally. We welcome this opportunity to participate in this innovative project that will not only enhance libraries in Lewisham but support library development nationally.”


  1. Christopher Hatton-Wood

    Good luck with a great project.

  2. Hazel Robinson

    We have been forced to take over our local library in Dorset as a volunteer-run enterprise and have run maker workshops – and many other beneficial activities – for the past couple of years. What’s more, our book issue figures across the nine volunteer-run libraries in the county are far better than those in authority-run branches.

    It’s a sad thing that authority-run libraries are actually trailing behind but it seems that they are now trying to catch up, if only in a limited way.

    1. Annemarie

      Hi Hazel – great to hear you’re already engaging users in making activities – if you’d like us to send you further information about Common Libraries, please get in touch with your full postal address.

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