Black History Month: North Yorkshire Libraries Young Adult Library Team

By Basia Godel (she/her), Library Assistant, Harrogate Library & Customer Services Centre

North Yorkshire’s Young Adult Library Team consists of library assistants and volunteers under the age of 27, who work on improving the library offer for teens and young adults. They aim to provide a fresh point of view on services, promotion, inclusion and on library innovation in general.

As a group they are encouraged to suggest ways in which the service can reach out more effectively to young people. They have already made recommendations that will inform the service’s stock policy and have developed promotions aimed at supporting young people’s mental health.

They have also just launched an Instagram page and are developing their own content. As well as running quizzes, competitions and developing online clubs and games, they want to use the page to give a voice to young people so that they can influence the North Yorkshire library offer.

Poster for BHM event

For Black History Month, Library Assistant Basia Godel, who is part of the young adult team, organised a free online webinar on the Black History of Yorkshire and Harrogate. The event featured actor and writer Joe Williams, the founder of Heritage Corner Leeds and Leeds Black History Walk, as well as Audrey Dewjee, a Harrogate resident who specialises in the local history of people of African heritage.

Basia Godel:
‘Sadly, racism is very prevalent in today's society. I think that the responsibility of anyone with any kind of platform is to amplify supressed voices, and that's all I try to do, really. I'm passionate about this because I'm passionate about ending discrimination, and the truthful retelling of history is an important part of that. I myself learned new things about local Black history through this project so I hope it has been interesting for our customers as well.’

The event was a great success, with over 100 people attending and the talk was made available online for the rest of October. The recording has been archived with both Harrogate Library local history archives and the County Records Office. Further:

  • The online event allowed us to reach audiences normally not available to us, including attendees from Paris, Ghana, Dominica and Vietnam.
  • Crowdcast proved to be a great platform for engaging participants, with many asking questions and engaging in the chat box.
  • The feedback after the event was overwhelmingly positive: ‘It was fascinating and insightful. I hope there will be very many more such events at the Library.’ and ‘Brilliant! So important that all this hidden brilliance comes to light’.
  • The speakers felt supported and were grateful to be given a platform to discuss the issues close to their hearts.
  • It was a wonderful way to build relationships with members of our community.

The biggest lesson learned over the course of organising this event was to keep reaching out to local individuals, organisations and services. The worst that can happen is they say no, but much more likely it will be a start to a great collaboration!