Wednesday, 1 August 2012

University of Missouri seminar with Library Songwriters: Skipton Rewind Club

What a treat on Monday to co-deliver a seminar for University of Missouri doctoral and masters students on the role of libraries in terms of social justice. There were lots of fascinating discussions. The differences between the UK and the US were extremely interesting. Even the term social justice is problematic in the States. But many of the challenges are broadly the same, and it was great to explore ways libraries on each side of the Atlantic are responding, and to identify strategies for improvement.

John Vincent of The Network led excellent sessions on effective library provision for new arrivals and on LGBT issues. My session was on how libraries can support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The top photo shows groups deliberating on methods for making libraries relevant and attractive to such teenagers, and breaking down barriers to use. We were enormously privileged to have a dozen members of Library Songwriters: Skipton Rewind Club, winners of the CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award, attending. Interestingly, there was a great deal of overlap in the ideas the students, university staff and UK librarians present talked about and those the young people promulgated. In particular, everyone was adamant that active involvement by young people in decision making in every aspect of provision and at every stage is fundamental to success. Staff training emerged as another very high priority: vital for combating negative attitudes and stereotypes.

The Rewind members then showed us how theory can be turned into practice with a brilliant presentation on how the club operates. They were inspirational, and shared masses of ideas for good library interactions. The club has been a catalyst not just for all sorts of music-related activities, but also for better community relations. It has increased members’ skills in lots of areas, music of course, public speaking, as we saw, plus marketing, fund-raising and more. Importantly, the club is entirely collaborative and each member works to their strengths. Skipton librarian Claire Thompson gave us a valuable insight into her role as facilitator. The club ended their slot with a scintillating performance of one of their songs.

A huge thank you to all who came, especially the Rewind Club members and Claire, and to York Library Service for hosting the event.