A report on the Carnegie UK, Wellcome and Wolfson Foundation ‘Engaging Libraries Phase 2’ programme has now been released. The programme, which ran from November 2019 – November 2021, supported public libraries collaboration with higher education partners to deliver public engagement activities.
Noticing a historic trend whereby universities tend to hold more power in a library/university partnership, Carnegie UK consciously shaped the programme to support library services as the lead partners rather than the academic partners who were matched post-selection. The programme challenged libraries and partners to creatively engage audiences on research in health, society and culture and offered professional development to public library staff. The three central aims were to:
- Energise and empower people through engagement with research
- Enable public libraries to build upon and explore their civic role as safe spaces for participation and engagement with research
- Facilitate partnerships between public libraries and universities or Independent Research Organisations (IROs)
14 projects with 57 partners across academia and community culture saw 321 public events/activities delivered, engaging over 12,000 people and more than 3,400 non-library users. This is a testament to the resilience and flexibility of the partnerships given the Covid-led service disruptions across all libraries which pushed events online and necessitated rapid digital upskilling and new approaches to project delivery.
However, the digital element did expand the programme’s reach as far as South Africa, the USA and Australia. Participants also commented on having greater confidence to explore sensitive topics such as death and dying, identity and culture and menopause which involved the Universities of Northumbria, Ulster and Bristol respectively.
Public enjoyment/satisfaction with ‘Engaging Libraries’ scored significantly above 90% with most positive influence metrics above 80%. Similarly public library staff highly rated the development of their skills, knowledge and confidence to deliver public engagement. Academic partnerships faced challenges largely due to pandemic impacts ‘squeezing’ participation and delivery capacity. Notwithstanding this, over 70% of academic partners reported a positive collaboration with greater numbers citing increased understanding and confidence around community engagement and willingness to undertake future collaborations.
Overall the report highlights the opportunities digital literacy, spaces and activities present for successfully engaging the public. And further, that while it is too early to understand the ultimate legacy of the partnerships, their continuation and the programme as a tool to support advocacy, offer tangible mechanisms to improve service delivery within the wider sector.
The full report is available to read HERE