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 our 22 libraries receiving 3.2 million visits last year, an increase of 9%. Manchester Central Library is now officially the busiest public library in the UK, receiving 1.8 million visitors. In addition, we have seen an increase in book lending and 1 million wifi and PC sessions across the city.
The value the City Council and its residents place on libraries is evident in the increased use and it is a pleasure to see so many smiling faces, and the pride in which our staff and volunteers talk about helping customers.
We have invested further in our libraries with our Libraries 2020 strategy. We have refreshed and introduced a range of self-service technology such as new customer PCs, online payments, upgraded self-issue at all libraries across the city, and are 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.
All libraries help customers navigate the digital world through IT Training and Digital Assist, there are Tiny Tots Storytimes 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. One example of increased engagement with the libraries is the summer reading challenge. Almost 9,000 children joined the summer reading challenge this year with over 44,000 books being read – an incredible achievement! This was achieved as a result of greater engagement with schools through the Read Manchester project.
We also continue to increase engagement from young children and families with libraries and help children with school readiness with every child gifted with a library card and welcome leaflet at their birth registration. The summer also featured our ‘Read and Feed’ programme in Manchester. This took place at Gorton Library, Newton Heath Library and 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 also to increase the number of children taking part in the summer reading challenge. At all three libraries, hundreds of children were fed during the summer holiday, whilst also having fun with activities such as magician sessions, learning circus skills or creative crafting.
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, meeting local need. We are very proud of the difference we make to our residents lives, and how highly Mancunians value their libraries. We will also continue to develop libraries as creative and cultural spaces.
It’s been an exceptional year and I would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone an enjoyable festive break and a Happy New Year with your nearest and dearest. We look forward to all the challenges and opportunities 2020 will bring.
Councillor Luthfur Rahman
Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure