Belsize community library is a branch library in Camden. The building opened in 1937 and is Grade II listed, as a classic example of one of the many libraries designed by Hugh Gold and Rowland de Winton Aldridge. Formerly run by Camden Council, it has been run by The Winch since 1 April 2012. There is also an active Friends group, who provided much of the material for this post.
Working in partnership with local businesses
In a recent blog post, David Wilcox reported on the successful Tech & Tea afternoon run by Dentsu Aegis Network, a Camden company which embraces the digital economy. The team of staff who gave one-to-one help with technology for people aged over 60 enjoyed taking part.
"Away from their office desks for the day, the digitally skilful and friendly team of Dentsu volunteers kindly gave one-to-one hands-on help to over 60s with getting to grips with gadgets. With a backdrop of a friendly face in a local space, also computer help books on the shelves, what better place to get to grips with Skype, Facebook, Instagram, apps, photo albums etc. than in the local community library.”
The blog post contains an interview with a representative from Dentsu Aegis Network, and his comment: “As the key hub for the whole community in Belsize, the library was the perfect venue for the training. As a Camden employer, it gave us a chance to put something back into our community and the whole Dentsu Aegis Network team found the day really fulfilling."
The success of this event inspired the Friends group to invite a team from Metro Bank to host a similar event. They too found the library was the perfect venue to spend time with local people, supporting them to have a go in their own time, and offer help and advice.
Response from participants shows that they valued the chance to learn the basics around using their digital devices, sometimes solving annoying little problems that they had had for a while. Plus they found learning alongside others was reassuring - realising that even "younger people have similar difficulties".
"Many, many thanks for this workshop. Really helpful for dinosaurs like us – help on security, bus apps, updates, etc. Jim and I enjoyed ourselves very much and learnt a lot.”
“This is the kind of session/support I’ve been looking for a long time. I was able to state my requirements/questions and Dentsu volunteers listened patiently and sorted out my problems like how to deal with apps, and investigate why my mobile is so slow. Lovely supportive people - please come again.”
The library has also hosted a Santander Fraud and Scams Awareness Workshop. The aim of the Friends group is to give reassuring, enjoyable and rewarding paths to digital participation for residents who are unable to go far to seek help with their gadgets.
Besides specific events run by partners, free sessions for the over 60s to offer help with technology take place every week in the library.
Not just digital
Other (non digital) projects planned by the Friends of Belsize Library for 2019 include sourcing a commemorative intergenerational bench for Arthur Rackham - described as “the finest illustrator of his day”. This follows the intergenerational Mad Hatters Tea Party held at the library to celebrate the 150th anniversary of this local illustrator. The Mayor of Camden, Councillor Richard Cotton came dressed as Mad Hatter!