Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Every Child A Member - Damian Harvey

With so many libraries around Great Britain closing many people are looking for ways to increase library usage and to prove that libraries are as important and valued as we know them to be - rather than the soft target for cutbacks that the government seem to see them as. The recent trend of opening large, modern, inner city libraries such as the ones in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff is all very nice but not when it is at the expense of the smaller branch libraries which are extremely valuable. As a child my Mum took me to our local library every week to borrow new books - not something that would have been as easy to do had we had to travel further afield to visit the main library, and it's the same with children now. It can be hard enough getting children into libraries, however, here in Wales a new initiative was launched earlier this year to try and encourage all children to use their local library.
Welsh Libraries and Primary Schools have joined together to support children's reading and literacy by making Every Child A Member of the library, something that I can't help should have already been going on.

In a Welsh Government press release the Minister said: "The link between library usage and literacy levels is well documented - over 42,000 children in Wales took part in last year’s Summer Reading Challenge which ran in 245 libraries across the country.
"Those children that took part maintained or improved their reading levels and we are hoping to build on this by giving every child the opportunity to use their library to borrow books and access all the other services available to them.”

Initially, this opt out scheme is being trialled by the Gwent, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Merthyr Tydfil, Powys and Swansea authorities but is planes for rollout across the country in the near future.

I was delighted to be asked to take part in the launch of the Every Child A Member initiative by visiting local libraries and meeting year four children from local schools, many bussed in from outlying areas. All the children received their new library cards and were then let loose to choose books to take home and read - as well as receiving a goody bag. As well as being able to talk about my own books it was great being able to read from and suggest books by other authors that they might like to read - John Dougherty's Stinkbomb and Ketch-up Face went down a treat.
Although many children were already members and keen users of the libraries they visited, there were many more that weren't. Some had never been to the library before. Will parents keep coming back to the library with their children? This has yet to be seen, but I can't help feeling that this is a late, but welcome start to getting children into the libraries. Without creating this link between children and libraries what hope is there for the future.

Damian Harvey


Joan Lennon said...

Applause for this!

Sue Bursztynski said...

What a wonderful story! Pity you can't join local libraries here if you're under 18 without parental permission. I can see why, but it's not encouraging. I joined the local library in the area where I work so I could show the kids what benefits they can get, and many are already members, but the having to get parents to sign makes a difference to whether the others will bother.

Perhaps next someone will do something about the fact that school libraries are being closed down to save money...

Andrew Strong said...

In the same month the 'Every Child a Member' initiative was announced, Powys CC decided to axe the Bookrunner service, a mobile library that visits remote rural schools. Without it many children have no chance of borrowing books as the distances involved are far too great. The Welsh Gov't has begun a series of cuts, starting this year and going on for a further three, which will in all likelihood result in library closures all over this country. So as much as I'd like to applaud the Every Child a Member scheme, it is typical of every Welsh Gov't initiative - riddled with contradictions and ultimately, just cheap PR gimmick.

Sheena Wilkinson said...

Heartening in a climate of library closures and cuts. Though, as Andrew says, mere gilt if there isn't actually a library for the child to be a member of. I grew up in a Belfast estate with a wonderful local library without which, I am quite sure, I could have Gone to the Bad.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I don't think we've yet lost our public libraries, though with the conservatives in power, who knows when they'll take it into their heads to make savings that way? But schools - since some fool in government decided to give principals the power over the purse strings, they have found it easiest to start cutbacks with the school library, arguing, "oh, they're all using the Internet these days,what do we need with books?" With no school libraries, where will children go to read? My own principal has closed down our senior campus library and is coming for the rest of them as soon as he can.

Penny Dolan said...

This a good initiative and paints a cheering and encouraging picture of new young readers, and of the keen enthusiastic work of the librarians in those areas. Hope it continues to boost all the local libraries.

One of the features of UK libraries used to be that a child could go inside and hang about with the books (after school as well as on Saturdays and school holidays)without there being any time cost for busy parents. I'm not sure this idling in the company of books is possible now, for many reasons.

Grieved by Andrew's information, coming alongside, though. The ploy of funding smaller and pleasantly distracting initiatives whilst cutting away at funding at a higher level is often used and is tawdry gilt indeed.

It's myopinion that

Penny Dolan said...

ps Ignore the "In my opinion." Thanks.

pps A good post, Damian, even if it raised sadness as well as happy thoughts.