[Editor’s note: Post written by Julia Robinson, Principal Librarian at South Tyneside Libraries, about the first anniversary of the opening of the new library in South Shields]
We have just had a fantastic weekend celebrating the 1st year of having our library here at The Word. The first year has been a great success for South Tyneside Libraries; the building has had almost 400,000 visitors and here are just a few of the amazing library statistics:
- 176% increase in number of new members
- almost double the number of children’s books have been issued
- 44% increase in total number of books issued
- People’s Network log-ins have more than doubled
Obviously we have been very lucky to move to such a fantastic, beautiful building, but we have worked very hard to make the most of it, and the hard work began around 3 years ago. Before we moved, I encouraged our team to think about everything we did, and more importantly why we did it; was there a new, more effective, approach we could take?
I could bore you with the horrors of the actual move; packing and unpacking 70,000 items and trying desperately to keep all the boxes in the right order to minimise the time needed shelving and sorting, but my eyes are beginning to water so I’m going to move on……..
Advice on moving to a new building
I am often asked what advice I would give people who are lucky enough to be in the same position of moving to a new build, or even to those who want to improve the service they have. I could go on all day but, in a nutshell, I would say:
BE BOLD: For example, in our old Central Library, we had acres of reference stock. Times have moved on and we seemed to be buying reference stock to fill the shelves rather than because it was needed and filled reference criteria. Although we do have some local stock for reference use only, we transferred most of the reference material to being available for loan.
BE BRAVE: We are all repeatedly told in the media that book issues are declining. Whilst this is true for adult book stock, it is not true of children’s books, where issues are increasing every year. With that in mind, we trebled the size of our children’s library. Local studies is another growth area for libraries. We doubled the size of ours and took a lot of material out of the archives and onto the open shelves.
BE STRONG: Our frontline staff changed from working behind large desks to floor walking and using touch down pods. Over and over again at planning meetings, it was suggested that a building this size needs a reception desk (NO, NO, NO!!!). That’s not to say it wasn’t difficult for the staff to adapt, but they have been brilliant. A simple bit of advice to everyone: if you have self issue machines, invest a bit of staff time into making your customers use them.
Preparing for the opening - and the future
In the run up to opening at The Word, we visited many different libraries and other cultural venues (many thanks if you were one of them). This year, we have played host to visitors from all over Great Britain, and further afield – including Auckland, New Zealand. It has been fantastic to get so much positive attention, but it is important to remember that we are not, nor will we ever be, the finished article. We need to keep improving and, more importantly, to keep challenging ourselves to deliver the best service we can and do justice to this beautiful building.
As part of the anniversary celebrations, The Word published a series of blog posts looking at lots of areas of activity. Read them on The Word's blog (and subscribe to be kept up to date). Also, to keep in touch with what is going on, follow us on twitter.
Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce