In the face of widespread public library closures and slumping visitation, Wiltshire County Council, one of Axiell Ltd.’s public library partners, are bucking the trend. Against the odds, recent years have seen no closures and the opening of three new libraries.
Now with 10,000 children signed up to the Summer Reading Challenge, some are asking how they’ve done it.
Speaking to the Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Standard, Jonathon Seed, Cabinet Member for Housing, Leisure, Libraries and Flooding on Wiltshire Council, said:
“The volunteers who give their precious time to support our libraries are a big part of the reason they are so successful.
“We know the value people put on their libraries, and we will continue to do everything we can to protect them for the communities they serve. We are continuing to innovate to achieve this, and continuing to involve communities in the heart of everything we do.”
In fact they are in the top 6 local authorities for use of volunteers in the country. But what else could be causing this anomaly?
Perhaps the answer lies in the efforts libraries like those in the south west county take to be inclusive, engaging and innovative, exploiting digital technologies to help improve their service.
Currently Wiltshire are working with the Reading Agency and the Summer Reading Challenge, which has teamed up with Guinness World Records to add a theme to this year’s activities for kids.
Those struggling to visit the library in person don’t have to miss out either, with the Record Breakers website providing more for children to discover, and even allowing them to keep a record of their challenges online. So as to be as inclusive and accessible as possible, children with visual impairments can access large print materials, something aided by the Royal National Institute for the Blind’s (RNIB) National Library Service.
Online games are also being used to help engage children. The project called Fantastic Feats includes a game where children have to rescue a town from a raging book troll.
Interestingly, volunteer involvement and the role of digital technology were seen as key ways of reinvigorating the UK library network in the Department for Culture, Media & Sport’s Independent Library Report. And it appears certain that these factors will play a big part in the library of the future and hopefully we will see more authorities share Wiltshire’s success.
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