[Editor’s note: This guest post was written by Cllr Luthfur Rahman, Executive Member for Schools, Culture and Leisure, Manchester City Council on the day that the Manchester libraries team took over the official twitter account of Manchester City Council (@ManCityCouncil with its over 140,000 followers), and first appeared on the Libraries Taskforce blog on17 October 2017 ]
Manchester has always loved its public libraries. The country’s first rate-supported public lending and reference library was opened in Manchester in 1852, with Manchester taking advantage of powers granted by the Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1850.
The City’s libraries are valued more than ever, with the 22 libraries receiving 3 million visits last year, an increase of 4%, and Manchester Central Library, one of the country’s most visited, receiving 1.5 million. In addition, there were nearly 7 million visits to our 24×7 online services
The value the City Council and its residents place on libraries is being featured this week as Libraries takeover the Council’s social media. Takeover week features hundreds of messages, photos and videos showing the wide range of quality services offered at the City’s libraries to the residents of Manchester. It is a pleasure to see so many Mancunians and library customers smiling faces and the pride in which our staff and volunteers talk about helping customers.
Last week, during national Libraries Week, I, supported by our Head of Libraries, Neil MacInnes, presented a report on the library service to Manchester City Council’s Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee. The report was warmly welcomed by fellow Councillors and showcased the excellent library offer in Manchester and recognised the complete transformation of Manchester Libraries over the last 10 years.
The service has received £75 million investment, including the £50 million transformation of Manchester Central Library, in the last 10 years, and we have relocated 80% of its libraries into new or refurbished or co-located premises. The recent Adult Public Library User Survey reported that over 93% of customers were satisfied with the service – the highest satisfaction rating we have ever received.
Libraries 2020 strategy
We are investing further in our libraries with our Libraries 2020 strategy. We are refreshing and introducing a range of self-service technology such as new customer PCs, online payments, upgraded self-issue at all libraries across the city, and introducing Wi-Fi printing and Open Libraries at a few branch libraries. This will increase access to our services and free up staff and volunteer time to assist customers where they need the help. This allows us to successfully deliver our priorities which largely match the SCL (Society of Chief Librarians) Universal Offers.
All libraries help customers navigate the digital world through IT Training and Digital Assist, there are Tiny Tots Times at every library, a full range of activities and cultural events, and each library works with its partners and community groups to maximise use of libraries as community spaces. The number of libraries running coding clubs for children has increased from 3 to 10 in the last six months.
Projects to encourage reading
One example of increased engagement with the libraries is the summer reading challenge. The numbers of children joining the summer reading challenge more than doubled this year, compared to last – an incredible achievement! This was achieved as a result of greater engagement with schools through the Read Manchester project.
Last week, we launched a new initiative to increase engagement from young children and families with libraries and help children with school readiness. Every child will be gifted a library card and welcome leaflet at their birth registration.
The summer also featured the launch of ‘Read and Feed’ in Manchester. Piloted in Fallowfield Community Library, The Place at Platt Lane, the initiative is designed to tackle the holiday hunger felt by children who normally receive free school meals and increase the number of children taking part in the summer reading challenge. At Fallowfield Community Library, hundreds of children were fed during the summer holiday, and the amount of children completing the challenge increased by 150%, 40 of whom were new members.
Our libraries are community hubs that offer a diverse range of quality services, and meet the different needs of the residents and communities where the libraries are located. We’re working with our communities in an Our Manchester approach to ensure we are providing a vibrant and sustainable 21st century library service of the people, as opposed to one purely for the people, therefore meeting local need. We are very proud of the difference we make to our residents lives, and how highly Mancunians value their libraries.