Ayub Khan MBE has reached 100 days as Libraries Connected President. Here he gives us a snapshot of what he has been up to.
I made my inaugural speech as Libraries Connected President at our annual seminar. I spoke about my childhood growing up as a refugee in Birmingham, announced my Presidential theme - sustainability - and outlined my priorities for the year. This was a really successful seminar - our first get-together since Covid and there was a a lot to catch up on. I managed to grab a selfie, on stage, with DCMS Minister Lord Parkinson, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Arts. It is not often you get to take a selfie with a Government Minister.
I co-chaired a webinar on Public Libraries and Literacy Recovery, again with Lord Parkinson. More than a hundred delegates from all over the country took part, looking at how to support children’s literacy in the post-pandemic environment. We gained a lot of powerful evidence and research findings which can be used for advocacy locally. This is a good model for future sessions.
DCMS Director General Ruth Hannant visited Warwickshire. I took her to see libraries in Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon to show her not big, flagship libraries but the sort people visit in towns across the country every day. I also showed her some of the innovations many libraries are introducing, such as Makerspaces. In Stratford we superimposed Ruth onto a photo of the library’s opening ceremony, more than a century ago, so it looked like she was there on the day. I took the opportunity to talk to Ruth about Libraries Connected and its programmes.
My first official engagement: a visit to Coventry which, as part of its City of Culture year, received a grant to showcase digital technology in libraries. I attended during the launch event. It was good to see colleagues from around the country there, sharing learning and best practice. Coventry is Warwickshire’s neighbour and the two library services co-operate and collaborate quite a bit.
I co-presented at a Best Practice session organised by the Local Government Association as part of its ‘academy’ pilot providing training for leaders working in the cultural field. I explained how elected members and officers can work together to deliver outcomes for local people. Other speakers brought along the councillor responsible for libraries in their authority. I had three portfolio-holders to choose from - libraries, education and culture - and invited the latter. Library services touch many council agendas. Involving them all is how you get wider support.
I represented Libraries Connected at the CILIP Conference in Liverpool which was excellent, as always. It was so pleasing to see so many young people there. It was good to meet colleagues from outside our profession. The highlight, for me, was the workshop on green libraries. Libraries Connected is a key partner in the Green Libraries project. The first night drinks reception and dancing was as at the Museum of Liverpool, a stunning waterfront location. CILIP is a key stakeholder for Libraries Connected and it’s important we attend each other’s events.
My first international engagement representing Libraries Connected on the world stage was the International Federation of Library Associations Conference in Dublin. This was a chance to meet library colleagues in Ireland. I attended my first IFLA conference in Jerusalem 22 years ago. It’s always inspiring to meet librarians from so many other countries. We might operate in very different circumstances but experience surprisingly similar problems and share the same values. I brought back lots of ideas and contacts for Libraries Connected to pursue. I met Libraries NI CEO Jim O’Hagan, who was keen for us to forge stronger links. I also had the chance to visit some local libraries.
I chaired a couple of Trustee meetings on two key topics - our application to renew Libraries Connected’s Sector Support Organisation status and funding and our response to the Levelling Up agenda.
We helped support library workers who faced protests at Drag Queen Story Hour events. This was a very difficult time for many colleagues but we were able to bring members together to share experiences, helping to keep staff and users safe. We all have a right to protest but library workers should never face intimidation, abuse or harassment for doing their jobs.
Behind the scenes
The presidency is not all about attending engagements. Being responsible for a charity involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work - accounting and planning - with the Chief Executive and Trustees.
I am helping to organise annual away-day for Libraries Connected Trustees, who will be coming to Stratford-upon-Avon,on my patch. We’ll be looking at Libraries Connected’s past performance and strategic planning for the future. I secured special permission, from the Church authorities, for Trustees to lay flowers on the bard’s tomb. We are also planning a Trustee meeting in the autumn and the AGM - which we hope will be held by the end of the year.
What a first 100 days! I am looking forward to the next 100.
Wherever I go, my library-themed socks go with me.