BBC local radio stations in the UK are partnering with libraries to create “one of the biggest book clubs in the country”.
Altogether just under 40 BBC local radio stations in England including two on the Channel Islands are teaming up with libraries in their areas to launch a new Book of the Month slot, to encourage both reading and boost visits to libraries.
The initiative, organised in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians, comes amid widespread closures of libraries in England, with a recent BBC investigation finding that 343 had closed since 2010, with a further 111 slated for closure this year.
The club, which will see BBC radio stations broadcasting from local libraries, is designed to "get people reading, encourage people to talk about books and draw people to use their local library service more", a BBC spokesperson said.
It will see a different book selected each month, with listeners encouraged to borrow the title from their local library, and contribute to on-air discussions about it on their local radio station.
BBC radio stations will also host joint story-writing competitions and story-telling events with libraries.
David Holdsworth, controller of BBC English Regions, said he hoped the new partnership would lead to BBC local radio having "one of the biggest book clubs in the country".
"We want [our listeners] to get involved by reading along with us and then, most importantly, telling us what they think about the books," he said.
Neil MacInnes, president of SCL, said: “We are really pleased to be working with BBC Local Radio. We hope this will encourage people to read more and talk about books more. Libraries provide information that enables people to change their lives: improve health, find a job, upgrade skills, learn a new language, travel, learn a new skill, share in the digital world, open a business and succeed in education. We hope this will encourage more people to come to their libraries and see the range of services they offer such as digital access and information about health and financial issues.”
BBC Local Radio stations will start their book clubs over the next few weeks. Library staff from each station’s area will pick the Book of the Month and make sure their libraries are stocked with enough copies of the book for people to borrow.
Library professionals have hailed the new partnership as a “great opportunity” for the under-threat service.
James Powell, marketing and communications manager at Suffolk Libraries, told The Bookseller: “It’s really positive to see the BBC promoting books and reading in this way. We have a close relationship with BBC Radio Suffolk which is very supportive of our library service and helps us reach out to people across the county to keep them up to date about developments and events in libraries.
"Working with the BBC is a great opportunity and it all helps to raise the profile of libraries and gets people talking about books and the diverse range of other services and activities they can access.”
Beverley Rice, head of library and information service at Leeds Libraries, said: "The BBC’s 39 regional radio stations have a great reach and both the BBC and Library Services are really excited about working together and benefiting from each other’s expertise and the audiences they bring.
"We in Leeds are working with colleagues from Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield Libraries and of course Radio Leeds to support a book club amongst other things. Reading and talking about books is always good."
Martyn Wade, chair of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, said public libraries and the BBC were “natural partners” in their “mission to empower people through knowledge, information and entertainment".
"This is a great opportunity to unite people and communities in England around our love of books and reading, and to promote the brilliant range of related resources and activities that are there for people via their local library,” he said. “Libraries and the BBC have a successful history of working together and our response to the BBC Charter Review called for greater partnership. We welcome these new relationships with local BBC radio teams.”
The BBC launched its Love to Read campaign in May, celebrating reading for pleasure, which will culminate in a #LovetoRead Weekend on 5th and 6th November 2016.