Bridging the Gap

Guest blogger, Annette Barnes, Library Manager with Lancashire Library Service, wonders how to attract young people to the Library.

As manager of a small library branch in a semi-rural location, one of my main objectives is to grow the love of libraries within the younger generation. If we can encourage young children to form a relationship with the library and to enjoy books from an early age, we will see them become our library users of the future. Current users of the library, which has been open 50 years, often regale me with tales of being shushed by a strict librarian back in their youth. They occasionally credit the relationship they had with the library and the librarians that worked here then with their current love of reading.

In the current climate, my job is more difficult because of the technology that seems to be engaging more and more children. In my time here, I have tried to counteract that by entertaining toddlers with stories, rhymes and creative activities. I have set up a board games afternoon for those of school age. I have invited the local schools in for class visits and I have told any small person using the library that they can order almost any book they really want to read. I am basically trying to show them that they can get pleasure from the simplest of things. The amount of library books being borrowed by children aged between 0 and 11 years old has increased by 12% in the year I have been working in this library. 

The one demographic I really struggle to get anywhere with is teenagers. I have tried engaging the local youth group, visited the high school, offered Duke of Edinburgh award candidates a volunteering place here, asked the local scouts to come and do their reading badges here. All of the efforts that have paid off for primary aged children have no effect on those at high school or sixth form and I am at a loss to understand why. I loved books during my teenage years, they seemed the only thing that understood me during that awkward time between being a child and a grown up. Maybe the books that they are forced to read in their English lessons provide them with the assumption that all books are uninspiring, that there are no adventures to be had. George Eliot’s Silas Marner had a depressing effect on me at fourteen.

I am determined not to give up my efforts and will continue in my quest to get this group of young people into my library, although I’m open to new and exciting ideas to help me along the way. Short of asking the high school to set a library visit as English homework, forcing them to come in, I’m a little stuck. Hang on…

Annette Barnes

 About Annette: “I have worked for the library service for little over a year, having been drawn to the advertisement owing to my love of books from early childhood.  My library is in a semi-rural location with a lovely community spirit and I feel lucky most days to work in such an amazing place.  I am also doing an NVQ in management through work, to help me in my role as branch manager as well as doing a degree in my “spare” time and being responsible for two small people.  I think you could say that I can’t sit still”

You can follow Annette on twitter @newlibrarian2




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