[Editor’s note: As promised in our post introducing plans for #LibrariesWeek, we now publish a guest post written by Anthony Hopkins, Head of Library, Heritage and Adult Education Service in Merton, and President of the Association of London Chief Librarians (ALCL)]
In London, you are never far from a library. London has 325 public libraries, more than any other major world city. From Walthamstow and Hillingdon to Sidcup and Enfield, our network stretches across 607 square miles. We serve one of the most diverse populations in the world: Korean materials fill shelves at Piccadilly; Tower Hamlets has the largest Bengali language collection in the UK; Westminster Reference Library is renowned in circles of Sherlock Holmes fans.
That people use and love our libraries is clear. But as Londoner’s are territorial, so is their library use. We wanted to show how interconnected the libraries are; how, seen as a whole, they offer near limitless opportunities to create, learn, explore, connect—all for free using the space, resources and expertise of our dedicated staff.
We also wanted to celebrate the first National Libraries Week, organised by CILIP and supported by all library sector partners, including Arts Council, SCL, The Reading Agency, and the ALCL.
We wanted to showcase the energy and diversity that London and our libraries offer. Our idea for a London-wide Festival began as most ideas do—abstract and unformed. But scratch the surface, and you see how many local and nationally recognised artists use libraries, support libraries, and cite libraries as a reason for their success.
Worlds of Possibilities
Worlds of Possibilities, the first ever London Libraries Festival, starts this Wednesday and runs for four days through to Saturday 14 October. We are thrilled to offer a range of artists, authors and thinkers. Jah Wobble will be live in conversation with Mike Tyrell and will perform with his band, the Invaders of the Heart; Elizabeth Kostova reading from her new book, The Shadowland, and Jessica Hynes talking BAFTA nominations and W1A. All just part of the hundreds of events happening across the London library network, all for free.
This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Arts Council England. When we had our idea to showcase London Libraries, we applied for and received a grant to run Worlds of Possibilities.
Worlds of Possibilities is happening because we are able to back up the name through our libraries, thanks to the hard work and passion of library staff across London. Our libraries really are brimming with possibility, for every person who walks through the doors. We want people to realise that, whatever their needs, interests and circumstances are, libraries are open. And every week is Libraries Week in London Libraries.
From January of this year, we have been promoting these possibilities through our Twitter feed (grown from 275 followers to more than 4,000 in 9 months), our Ambassadors Jah Wobble and Viv Groskop, and through monthly campaigns centred on the value and depth of libraries and their resources. #DidYouKnow highlighted hundreds of weird and wonderful things in London’s libraries in January. 30 Minutes a Month demonstrated how much of an impact your library can make on your life if you use it for just 1 minute a day. The benefits are impressive.
We are planning to continue these campaigns in 2018 as they’ve proven successful in raising awareness. More importantly, ALCL’s work over the past year has brought us all closer together, across neighbourhoods and boroughs, united by a shared love of libraries and commitment to making a difference in communities.
Wishing everyone a busy first National Libraries Week!
Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce