Sarah Mears, Programme Manager, Libraries Connected
I can't believe I'm already a month and half into the role of Programme Manager at Libraries Connected. It is really exciting to be part of something so new. I think we are all finding our feet in the team, setting up the new processes, and reaffirming our external partnerships. So far it has been a really positive experience.
In my six weeks I have been busy bid writing, planning the review of the Universal Offers, working with ASCEL on their structural review and getting out and about. I was delighted to visit Wakefield Library a couple of weeks ago to attend the opening of the British Library’s Living Knowledge Networks touring “Quentin Blake: The Roald Dahl Centenary Portraits” exhibition. I loved the way the museum and library were so physically integrated and worked so closely together.
Last week I also visited Norwich Millennium Library. It was so impressive to see this lovely library filled with customers and very clearly right at the heart of the cultural life of the city. This week I have been with Ayub Khan and Stella Thebridge from Warwickshire for a meeting with our partners at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to talk about exciting strategic plans for Shakespeare Week as well as ideas for a new project to support adult engagement with Shakespeare through libraries.
In the short term, as well as project managing the Universal Offers review, I am working on Culture Offer developments and beginning to start exploring the idea of an evidence base for libraries. My passion for and commitment to children's and young people’s library services remains the most powerful driving force for me and I won’t be able to help but bring that into my Libraries Connected work. I am also becoming increasingly convinced that in a society where intolerance is on the rise and inequalities in education, health and income seem to be widening, libraries’ role in promoting social justice and health and wellbeing have never been more important. I have been reading some of the case studies shared by libraries about the support they offer people who are lonely or isolated and I was so moved by the collective story they tell of libraries, daily making people’s lives better.
The Libraries Connected team have received such a warm welcome from the library network. We’ve been invited to launches, events and library openings. My previous role was working for Essex Libraries and so I am under no illusions about the challenges and issues the public library sector is facing. This makes the vibrancy of the library offer and the commitment of staff to the values of public libraries all the more inspiring. I hope that Libraries Connected will bring new support for the sector, that we will be open to new ideas and that we will be a strong voice highlighting the value and greater potential value libraries bring to our communities.