As I sit on the train heading to the SCL seminar I’m reflecting on the last two years and my term as President of SCL. Apart from it having been the quickest two years of my entire life it has been one of major transformation for the organisation whilst at the same time successfully delivering on a wide range of activity as part of its funding award from Arts Council England.
Following a successful application, SCL now faces an exciting future as part of the ACE National Portfolio, becoming a sector support organisation for public libraries in what will no doubt be challenging times for the sector and public services in general.
However I won’t focus on the new role for now but it is hard to believe the pace at which SCL has transformed. I have to say a big thank you to everyone involved in delivering the change, in particular regional chairs, executive members and the transformation steering group members.
One of the highlights for me over the past two years and a key priority was the launch of the sixth universal offer, the Culture Offer, with a successful event held in Hull Central Library during their year as UK City of Culture. The Culture Offer has been well received by the sector and will hopefully assist library authorities to engage with other cultural organisations and cement libraries as part of the cultural ecology.
Two new Reading Well schemes - shelf help to support the health and well-being of young people which launched in 2016 and this week the launch of Reading Well for long term conditions - are great examples of true partnership working in action with The Reading Agency supported by Wellcome Trust and ACE.
Over 778,000 people have used the scheme since it was first launched in 2013, demonstrating that public libraries are part of the health and well-being solution supporting local communities. I loved the quote from a library member of staff on whether the collection well used:
'Oh yes, the shelves are always messy.'
Always a good sign!
We secured a place in the Government Digital Services Framework supporting the Libraries First agenda which reinforces our role as providing citizens with information, something public libraries have always done, and we continued our journey to create a single digital sign on to improve the user journey and ease of access of on line resources.
We also launched the Public Library Skills Strategy with CILIP to support the development of the public library workforce and a numbers of learning modules and leadership events have already been delivered.
One of the key strengths of SCL is its many networks - local, regional, national, UK wide, European and international. I’ve been fortunate to have been heavily involved in hopefully strengthening those networks, working with partners and stakeholders to share best practice, thinking, learning and support.
I’ve tried to get out and about visiting different areas, events, regional meetings which has been extremely helpful in getting a better understanding of what’s happening on the ground. I’ve been extremely impressed with the range of innovation and creativity taking place across the sector.
We’ve become more connected with the other UK jurisdictions and there is a willingness to do more work together. I’ve just completed a CILIP home nations presentation tour by speaking at four conferences, most recently the CILIP Ireland /Library Association of Ireland conference in Newry.
Our European networks are strong and we have lot to learn and share with colleagues across the continent and we’ve continued to develop global connections - it’s a big and exciting library world out there.
The real strength of SCL is its people and I’m proud to work in a sector with such great people who are always willing to share and support. The backbone of SCL is its regional and local networks and I’m sure that in the new structure these will thrive and ensure that the new organisation is fit for purpose and able to support the sector.
I believe that we have continued to build on our strong partnership working with other agencies to deliver tangible benefits to library service, this can only be accomplished with the efforts and expertise of our partners so I would like to thank the following for their support over my term as president: Arts Council England, ASCEL, BBC, Booksellers Association, Booktrust, British Library, Carnegie UK Trust, CILIP, The Reading Agency, Share the Vision and Wellcome Trust.
Thanks also to all of our members for their ongoing support, the Universal Offer leads, Regional Chairs and the team which consists of Helen, Marsha, Elizabeth, Katie, Mag - as each and every one of you do all the real work.
I’d finally like to thank Manchester City Council for encouraging and supporting me to be President during 2016-18 and the wonderful Manchester Libraries team and in particular the leadership team and my peers across Greater Manchester and the North West for their support and guidance.
It’s been a most enjoyable two years for me both personally and professionally and I’ve learned a lot which I will take back into the workplace, particularly the need for increased advocacy that demonstrates the power of libraries and their role as part of the solution; the contribution libraries make; and the importance of aligning the narrative and the message to your audience.
I’m looking forward to our seminar which will showcase some of the great work, programmes, activities and outcomes being generated from library authorises across the country. As I pass on the baton, I wish Mark Freeman all the very best in his role as President and I will continue to support him and the organisation over the year as Past President as I will our new CEO, Isobel Hunter and her new exec team.
I will still be around as will serve as a Trustee for year however I have to admit I look forward to more time back in my beloved Manchester and will not miss those early morning journeys to London.
Finally SCL – you’ve made me addicted to twitter - @macinnes_neil