Last weekend saw the return of our Unconference on the Move. After the success of the 2015 event in Manchester, we decided to stick with the ‘on the move’ format and visited three stunning locations in Liverpool’s cultural St George’s Quarter: Central Library; the Walker Art Gallery and the majestic St George’s Hall. All of which were shown in their best light on what was a beautiful last-gasp-of-summer Saturday.
The aim of the Unconference was to give delegates from across the region the chance to meet, network and talk about topics that matter to them. With that in mind, we started the day by asking delegates to nominate topics for discussion before embarking on a tour of Central Library with our guide, Susan.
Susan showed us some of the building’s most distinguishing features, including the large children’s library, the Picton reading room and the soundproof space for teenagers, complete with games console and PCs (no books in there though, although teenage fiction is situated just outside). The impressive archives space also looked well-used, whilst the roof terrace is always beautiful – I’m beginning to think it’s always sunny in Liverpool as I’ve never visited the library on a day that’s not terrace-worthy yet!
After the tour, we settled down to our first discussion groups of the day. Splitting into two so delegates could choose what most appealed to them, one group discussed digital engagement and interaction with young people; whilst the other focused on the future of school and public library services for children as librarian posts are deleted and libraries are closed.
The digital group discussed the best ways to connect with teenagers and reasons why they might not be digitally engaging with our services as much as we might like – including organisational restrictions (library staff not being allowed to use social media); the platforms we are using (are these the ones where the teenagers are? And do they even want us there?) and the danger of teens tuning out (social media saturation). Suggestions included staff using examples of other organisations where social media is used to good effect to build a business case or even to look to the young people they work with for this (ask them what they want from us digitally then use that as evidence). It was agreed that whatever method of communication is used, the key is to always be authentic as young people can smell desperation through a screen.
With well-documented cuts and changes to delivery models, the second group discussed ways in which library services for children and young people can be promoted and protected. The key finding of this group was “keep shouting your message, it is always new to somebody.” Key initiatives that are good opportunities for libraries to raise their profile were identified, including the Summer Reading Challenge, Code Clubs and the Shelf Help collection for young people.
Following this we then moved on to St George’s Hall where, after a look around this beautiful building, the discussions continued apace. Books were the order of the day this time, with “Moving readers on…Wimpy Kid and beyond” and “Books for older teens, including LGBT+ and mental health themes” the chosen topics.
After lunch and further networking at the Walker Art Gallery, it was back to Central Library for the final part of the day: deciding upon the Northwest regional nominations for the 2017 CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway awards. Committee members championed a selection of books, highlighting how they meet the awards criteria before delegates voted for their favourites. As a result our regional nominations are:
Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles – Steve Anthony
Counting Lions – Stephen Walton
These Shallow Graves – Jennifer Donnelly
Orbiting Jupiter – Gary D. Schmidt
The YLG Northwest committee