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Shakers and Makers in Stockton

By Mark Freeman, Libraries and Heritage Services Manager – Stockton Borough Council

We’ve had our share of Shakers and Makers in Stockton and in our neighbouring communities of Thornaby, Billingham, Yarm and Norton. Our local area was (and still is) important for manufacturing, steel making, ship-building, pottery and chemicals. A Stockton chemist, John Walker, invented the world’s first friction match and, in September 1825, Stockton was the terminus for the world’s first fare-paying passenger railway.

As a library service, we want to support our local communities in celebrating our achievements and also to inspire them to develop their own innovation – and, Common Libraries are part of this aspiration. We want young people to develop their digital skills, we want our residents to share their knowledge of traditional skills, we want people to be creative and to record their thoughts and their imagination. We plan to do this by providing the space to get involved and to connect them to other creative places in our borough where they can explore music, heritage, digital development as well as reading and creative writing.

Our Shakers and Makers “Hack the library” day will take place on March 21st and will sit alongside the launch of our refurbished High Street in Stockton on Tees. We’ll offer people the chance to talk, create and explore in our Central Library, supported by local and national makers and experts. We are working on providing an event between 10AM and 2PM which, we hope, will attract all age groups and involve the regular Saturday visitors to the library.

Our plan is to use the expertise of the Common Libraries team, local university and college contacts, our heritage workers from Preston Hall and our arts and music contacts from the town. Hopefully there’ll be something for everyone.

Our real aim is to support both the people of our diverse communities and also the regeneration of our towns and villages. We have already seen how people can be inspired to develop ideas into businesses through our work with the Enterprising Libraries project we took part in throughout 2014/15 and we see this as a way of developing the ideas in a different direction.

We’ll also be working with Bridge North East on a workshop to engage with children and young people who are interested in undertaking Arts Award through the creation of digital projects.

Our libraries have changed a great deal over the last five years and we have tried to make them more flexible with a much more engaging atmosphere for the people of the borough. We’ve put in cafes, created spaces which can be used for events and installed new technology where we can. We want to continue to develop our learning spaces for future generations.

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