Libraries & Archives together at last!

Today I’m feeling inspired as I’ve just returned from the second day of my tour of Explore York Libraries.  I have been overwhelmed by the dedication, community spirit and welcome we received  from both staff and users.

A warm welcome from the staff at Rowntree Park Reading Cafe!
A warm welcome from the staff at Rowntree Park Reading Cafe!

I’ve never worked as part of a library service before so when I was invited to tour the libraries I thought this was an opportunity to see something a bit different.  I was surprised to discover how community focused our branch libraries are and how their activities feed into the work I’m doing. It’s especially important that we develop these links as Explore Libraries & Archives moves forward together as an independent organisation.

The Gateway to History project is bringing libraries and archives together, services that have traditionally operated separately. We believe that our strength is our integrated, community focused service.  I’m developing crucial community links to build a stronger public profile, driving our services forward and exploring new ways of collaborative working.

New Earswick Library...comfy seats and a great learning space!
New Earswick Library – comfy seats and a great learning space!

So what did visiting our branch libraries teach me? Well, first of all it was that we have some fantastic spaces for reading, learning and exploring local history. I’m working with Laura to find ways in which we can use these fantastic spaces to bring local history back to the community through the branch libraries.

Speaking with the branch library managers also gave me a really good idea of how our communities are working with their local library, often in more ways than I was aware of. For example, Dringhouses Library is based in the old school which is 150 years old this year. The library is working with the local community to celebrate through a programme of events.

Dringhouses Library - 150 years old this year! Happy Birthday!
Dringhouses Library building – 150 years old this year!

On the 5th August the library is running Remembering Dringhouses  from 9.30am-12.30pm and 2pm-5.30pm. Visitors will have a chance to share their memories of Dringhouses and find out about the history of their community. I’ll be based at the library all day to get a flavour of the event and to meet people from the community.

All branch libraries have a local history section - Have you spotted it at your local library?
All branch libraries have a local history section – Have you spotted it at your local library?

We also used the visit to hunt down the local history books in each branch. We are planning to find new and dynamic ways to represent archives and local history across all the branches to complement our new service at York Explore library. We’ll be doing this through building and sharing our community contacts, improving our local history stock and hosting events in the local libraries to engage a wider audience.  So, if you have ideas for how to bring local history to your branch library, we’d love to hear from you! Your input will shape our libraries and archives for the future.

Up until now I’ve largely been based at West Offices and traveling around the city to meetings with community groups. After visiting the branch libraries, I’m going to be based more and more out in these fantastic spaces. So if you’re a regular visitor to your branch library, you may just see me around and about, so feel free to stop and have a chat!

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