Friday, January 18, 2013

Creating a 21st century reading service: results announced from new library/publisher skills sharing project

London, 17 January 2013 – As digital reading trends move ever-faster, a special event held today addressed the urgent need for libraries to embrace new technologies in order to take their vital support for readers online.
Today’s event, held at Southwark’s Canada Water Library, was organised by The Publishers Association and national charity The Reading Agency. It showcased the work of six teams of publishers and librarians from around the country who have been working together on using new digital approaches in a ten month-long digital skills sharing project. Please see ‘Notes to editors’ for full details of all the publishers and library services involved in this project.
The skills sharing teams shared their highlights, challenges and learning. Examples of the innovative work outlined at today’s event included work by Raintree and Faber & Faber with Halton Borough Council and Lancashire County Council library services co-creating a project where librarians worked with local families, establishing them as champions for their favourite books and authors. The Reading Families’ selections were presented via libraries’ online channels, including their website, Facebook page, Twitter and Pinterest profiles, encouraging a wider community of local readers to connect with books recommended by their peers. (Please see for more about Reading Families.)
Meanwhile Pan Macmillan, Headline and Canongate helped South Tyneside libraries explore ways of engaging young people online. For the launch of South Tyneside’s first-ever Facebook page, the team worked with three local comprehensives, offering students free copies of Wildwood by Colin Meloy, Ember Fury by Cathy Brett and What's Up with Jody Barton by Hayley Long, and encouraging them to post reviews and engage in discussions about the books online. Author Cathy Brett thrilled the students by posting replies to students’ reviews, and Canongate also harnessed creativity with a competition to design a new character for Wildwood, with entries also posted on the Facebook page.
A full, final project report will be available in February, but part of this digital skills sharing project has involved master classes and the injection of cutting edge thinking from digital innovators. Today’s event’s keynote speech on ‘Digital Public Spaces’ was delivered by journalist and commentator Bill Thompson. He argued that his library-influenced ability to read and to think deeply about text was what allowed him to operate successfully across all the ever-developing digital channels, and said that the challenge now for libraries, which had always offered access to "the private spaces of readers' minds", was to navigate occupation of new, liminal online spaces and, within them, how to continue to help readers find ways into texts.
The new resources and skills gained from this project will enable library authorities across the country to benefit from publisher expertise in the creation and strengthening of libraries' digital marketing. The project – which was funded by the Arts Council England Library Development Initiative – has been overseen by The Publishers Association and The Reading Agency, and drew on the support of the charity’s Reading Partners consortium which brings publishers and library services together to create successful and exciting events and activities for readers.
At today’s event, Miranda McKearney OBE, Director of The Reading Agency announced an online digital marketing resource guide resource, sharing the learning. This resources site, which was initially created to support the digital skills sharing project and which is open to everyone, is at It features blogs, interviews and videos by librarians, publishers and other experts on digital platforms and opportunities. These include master classes available to librarians for daily use, such as The Guardian’s Claire Armistead presenting on how to engage young people online, and Nicki Sprinz of Made by Many demonstrating the enormous possibilities of using Skype for events.
The event also included a panel discussion on Compelling Reader Experiences in the Library of the Future with Stephen Page, CEO Faber and Faber; Liz McGettigan, Libraries and Information Services Manager at City of Edinburgh Council; Nick Stopforth, Head of Doncaster Libraries; and keynote speaker Bill Thompson.
The panel recognised that the 'hybrid library' which combined physical venues and human contact with digital presence and services was already well-established. They saw the need for combined 'big thinking' to position libraries as the most-trusted portals for digital information, and to make them 'extraordinary emporia' for material of all genres -- especially as spaces dedicated to music, books and films etc disappear from our high streets -- where exciting online and offline cultural conversations start. There was also agreement on how much libraries have to offer communities in terms of accessing information and cultural experiences, because they are free and accessible and inclusive, with a need to focus on existing best practice and innovation, not a narrative of only cuts and closures.
Richard Mollet (pic above), CEO, The Publishers Association says:We are really pleased to have led the digital skills sharing project. It has provided a unique opportunity for publishers to gain an improved understanding of the role of libraries and the engagement with their readers in the digital era. Working closely with libraries and sharing skills and experiences will allow publishers and libraries to develop new ways to reach new audiences”.

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