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Carnegie Library Lab: Innovate, lead and overcome

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Eileen Russell shares her experience of being a Carnegie Library Lab Partner: Since becoming a Carnegie Library Lab Partner I have grown in confidence and become more future-focused: the experience has been life changing.

The programme

Carnegie Library Lab is a programme created by the Carnegie UK Trust to support and develop innovation and leadership in the public library sector in the UK and Ireland. It offers participants (‘Carnegie Partners’) project funding, online learning, mentoring, peer support and more over an 18 month period. I started on the programme, alongside six others, in November 2014.

Carnegie library lab logo
Carnegie library lab logo. Image credit: Carnegie UK Trust

My Project

My project, Rub-a-dub-hub, is a digital platform with a virtual learning environment targeted at parents/carers of pre-school children. Through it I aim to: 1) increase awareness of the impact of interaction through nursery rhymes and books on babies and pre-school children 2) enable parents/carers to achieve better skills and knowledge to help them to share books with their children. The platform will sit within Libraries NI website and will be officially launched on World Book Day, 3 March 2016.

Eileen next to a poster promoting her project
Eileen next to a poster promoting her project, at the CILIP Ireland conference. Photo credit: Eileen Russell

Developing Rub-a-dub-hub has been an invaluable experience: it’s the first time I’ve managed a project from start to finish on my own, and the process has given me transferable skills and knowledge. So far, I have created branding (logo and characters), scripted videos, filmed some videos for the platform and am currently writing website content. This has involved working with other professionals from health and education, a graphic designer, illustrator, film production company and Libraries NI service provider.

Having the Carnegie brand has also helped my project stand out. This has given me the opportunity to engage with a wider pool of people in senior positions both within my organisation and externally.

I have received great support from senior management within my organisation and as a result my project has really developed and grown.

Being a Partner

I’ve really enjoyed engaging with the online learning programme – it’s a great mix of video clips, text and activities. Some of the learning I put into action straight away, e.g. how to create a design brief and leading innovation. Other things I know I will come back to as my career progresses.

My mentor, Helen Poston Operational Manager at Libraries NI, has been great. She’s given me great advice about how to gain the most from taking part in Library Lab and in terms of enhancing my career. Helen’s also helped me think about next steps and what I can do after the programme.

I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to meet up with my fellow Partners and exchange thoughts with them on the online learning forum. It’s very inspiring to be able to chat with likeminded people.

Being a Partner’s also expanded my network: I had the privilege of speaking at Society of Chief Librarians Annual Seminar and more recently with the Libraries Taskforce. I have been overwhelmed by the support and interest of people such as Suzanne Zeedyk and external organisations like South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and Save the Children.

Next Steps

Over the next few months I will continue to film and finalise video clips for the virtual learning, create animation for my brand characters, continue to work on content for the website, create a marketing plan and organise the official launch event.

It’s been a steep learning curve but I feel that Carnegie Library Lab has already shaped and enhanced who I am within work and that it will continue to do so. It has given me the time and the tools to think in a different way and step outside the box accessing things in a strategic way seeing the bigger picture. I have several thoughts on my next innovation and get really excited about the potential future of library services. To sum it all up, I haven’t looked back. For anyone out there thinking of giving it a go I would say just go for it!


Carnegie Library Lab is open for business again and the Trust is looking for applications from individual library staff working in early and mid-management roles across the UK and Ireland. To find out more or to apply click here [application period closes 29 January 2016]

To find out more abut Eileen's experiences as a partner and hear more about her project, follow her on twitter


Please note, this is a guest blog and was also published on the Carnegie Trust site. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of Libraries Taskforce or the DCMS.

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