Over 1,000 libraries are running events for National Libraries Week, beginning today (9th October), in a bid to “celebrate the transformation of libraries across the UK”.
The inaugural Libraries Week has run will see a “huge” variety of creative activities on offer, including activities introducing people to coding, 3D printing and video making, as well as reading-based activities.
The campaign is led by CILIP, the library and information association, and supported by libraries and partners across the UK.
Nick Poole, CILIP chief executive said: "All over the UK, libraries are seeing a renaissance, transforming their services to meet the needs of a new digital generation. With 250 million visits a year and 15-24 year olds more likely to use their local library than any other age group, Libraries Week is a chance to celebrate the innovative work going on across all types of library."
A number of partners have teamed up with the library network, including BBC Make It Digital, which is marking the 30th anniversary of the Great Storm by encouraging people to get online at their local library, so they can sign up as Weather Watchers and post their weather photos.
All 325 of London’s public libraries will take part in Libraries Week, hosting a series of free artistic events as part of a new London Libraries Festival, Worlds of Possibilities, which features names such as actress Jessica Hynes, bassist Jah Wobbie and libraries minister John Glen. The festival will run from 11th - 14th October.
Anthony Hopkins, the president of the Association of London Chief Librarians, said of the new festival: “There are the national festivities going on with National Libraries Week and this is London’s opportunity to demonstrate what it has to offer to its residents. This is the first time we have been able to put this festival together and I am really pleased to see such a great range of artists who are also huge supporters and advocates of libraries.”
Later on in the week on 12th October, the winner of the 2017 CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award will be announced in London by three time Kate Greenaway Medal winning illustrator and former children’s laureate, Chris Riddell. The week will also see illustrator Sarah McIntyre take part in the first ever mass Readathon reaching 20,000 school children across Liverpool.
McIntyre said: “I get asked to support a lot of charities, but the one I've chosen to champion is Read for Good, because what they do is so important: bringing books to children in hospital. The Readathon is a great way to encourage empathy in children who support Read for Good, helping them imagine what it would be like to be in hospital, possibly for very long stays; how stories might inspire a child who's poorly to imagine bigger and better things outside the walls of the ward.”
Last week, Andersen Press published the first picture book authored by poet Joseph Coehlo in dedication to the initative, Luna Loves Library Day, illustrated by Fiona Lumbers.
Coehlo said: “Luna Loves Library Day is about the magic of libraries, the wonder of ink on paper, but also about their essential role in helping and aiding families, in being a safe space for everyone and anyone to learn and to discover and I truly believe that it is only through such spaces that we can support our children, shore-up our families and heal our communities."
While campaigners welcome the "postive buzz" around libraries during National Libraries Week, some have argued the week does not address the issue of the government's "neglect of a great public service".
Children's author and campaigner Alan Gibbons, who helped launch National Libraries Day in 2012 (which has now been replaced by National Libraries Week), said: "It is good to see such a positive buzz about libraries as thoughts turn to National Libraries Week. It would be an abdication, however, to pretend that the event takes place in an entirely positive background. Under this government we have seen hundreds of libraries close, a quarter of library staff made redundant, book stocks and opening hours reduced and too many staff replaced by volunteers. Addressing these issues are not within the remit of National Libraries Week and I stepped back from involvement in it some time ago to be able to speak out against the government’s neglect of a great public service."
He added: “So, in short, good luck to what will be an excellent series of events, but I want to see a change of heart in the corridors of power and much better leadership of the sector at government level.”
Ian Anstice, editor of Public Libraries News, said: "I'm delighted to see all the events going on for National Libraries Week. It's starting to be bedded in to the service plans of most, if not all, library services, and that can only be a good thing. The hope is that such a Week will publicise the wonderful services that libraries provide. This needs to be done to those who do not use libraries as well as those that do. As such, I am concerned that the Week appears not to as yet received a large degree of coverage in the national media.
"Having said that, this Week is being produced on a shoestring budget, and shows what can be done with just willpower. Now imagine what could be achieved if some serious cash would be directed towards publicity. This has always been the Achilles heel of libraries, locally or nationally, with almost none having any significant public relations budget at all."