Beyond the book and back again

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The recent Carnegie UK Trust report Beyond Books: The role of enterprising libraries in promoting economic wellbeing featured four projects to explore the potential and impact of libraries promoting economic well-being.

Gateshead Library was happy to be involved seeing this as a chance to share one of the many ways we engage with our borrowers and attract new users. The case study focused on our annual eDay event, which enables people to experience new technologies, learn new skills and have direct contact with digital sector employees.

Organising the event was a great experience and I’d like to share some tips about what worked for me when setting up a digital technology event in the library.

1. The Idea

eDay grew from two seemingly unrelated ideas. I’d heard on the news about changes in the curriculum regarding practical coding sessions in schools and about Raspberry Pi and wondered if it were possible to run a workshop in the Library. At the same time, we were looking at ways to attract a larger male audience to Library events and came up with the concept of gadget day.

2. Take Advice

Look at your existing partners. Can anyone help develop your idea? Be prepared to take advice. I had previously worked with the tech people in local organisations such as Baltic and Gateshead CLC, it soon became clear that if I was going to call my event Gadget Day I needed to be sure that the day involved something cutting edge. I also got to see Raspberry Pi in action. After talking it through with various colleagues, we thought we may struggle to produce sufficient ‘gadgets’ and came up with the concept of eDay, primarily to tie in with our new eBooks service.

3. Make Friends and Influence People (1)

My research via appropriate forums and social media led me to Newcastle’s Maker Space, associated hobby groups and companies working in the North East, most notably Vector76. I also attended local associated events Maker Faire – this may be free if you volunteer to help out. At Makerspace I’m sure I was the first person to ask them to showcase their work in a library. You have to be prepared to take a few rejections, not everyone will want to be involved, but get out there, engage with the local community and don’t be discouraged. Keep the contact details of everyone you speak to, those who turn you down for one event may be interested the next one, especially if you send them news of your event’s success.

4. Promote

Begin to promote your event as early as possible to create interest, even if you’re a little vague about what’s on offer while you’re waiting for people to confirm. Use every opportunity to promote your event – email signatures, website, Council website and publications, local newspapers, Facebook, Twitter and related forums. The title is all important in giving your event a brand and also ensures you don’t raise expectations you are unable to meet. I also noticed the Eday concept evolved to become an event that attracted all ages and cross section of the public and so then could plan the event to involve all areas of the library.

5. Plan B

Your event does not need to be large scale – it can be a workshop for a limited number of people but whatever you do, make sure you have backup should someone or, more usually, your IT equipment let you down.

6. Record, Evaluate, Capture

Use a variety of methods to collect comments from those who attend your event. Eventbrite includes SurveyMonkey, which is really useful. Use Twitter, but capture screen copies of comments as they do not stay on the page for ever. Feedback collected from our first ‘show and tell’ event, indicated that people would have liked to attend workshops. We included workshops in our second eDay but overstretched ourselves by offering four sessions. We got it just about right at eDay 3. It’s important to incorporate everything you learn from each event into planning the next one.

7. Back to the Book

At all our Library events, we take the opportunity to promote our other services and develop our membership. Relevant books and magazines are displayed, and at our eDay events, activities take place throughout the Central Library so new visitors to the building can see what a wide range of books and other services are available.

8. Be Lucky

Luck is something we don’t have much control over and I must admit luck played a part in the success of our first eDay. Through my contact with Maker Space Newcastle, we suddenly had a 3D printer coming to the Library. This gave me a great selling point for the event as 3D printers were in the news and the technology was high profile.

9. Make Friends and Influence People (2)

Friends are definitely worth another mention as without the goodwill and help of many of the people who have worked with us, our eDays and associated events wouldn’t have happened. It enables us to run really good events at small cost. By bringing passionate enthusiasts into the library to promote and share what they do, we have introduced a range of new technologies to people who may not have the opportunity elsewhere. One of the best things I’ve learnt is how generous people can be with their time, enthusiasm and expertise

These are some of the lessons I’ve learned through organising eDay, is there something you would add to this?

How else can libraries support economic wellbeing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments

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About the author

Jacqui Thompson is Community Learning Officer at Gateshead Central Library.

About the Beyond Books report

Beyond Books” is the final report from the Carnegie UK Trust’s work on Enterprising Libraries. It draws on learning from four local projects in England and Wales that explored creative ways of encouraging enterprise and digital skills development.

Driving digital inclusion

Library and information professionals can make a significant contribution to increasing digital inclusion and participation.

Find out more about the role of library and information professionals in driving digital inclusion.

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