Public Libraries User Survey – the Results are in!

Earlier this year, the PLUS (Public Libraries User Survey) was carried out in libraries across the city. It has been revealed that over 94% of people visiting Manchester’s Libraries described the library they used as ‘very good’ or ‘good’. This is the highest ever figure for the 8 times the survey has been run. In addition to this, standards of customer care were also rated 3% higher than last time at 94% which is the highest in the history of Manchester’s Public Library User Surveys.

The PLUS survey also asked library users about loneliness and how libraries help with their wellbeing. 44% of respondents said they felt lonely often or some of the time and of those who reported feeling lonely, a massive 73% said that the library helped to reduce these feelings of loneliness. Read more at our Manchester Libraries Blog!

Festival of Libraries 2023

Manchester City of Literature’s Festival of Libraries returned for 2023 from 7th June – 11th June. This celebration of Greater Manchester’s 133 libraries featured a vibrant programme for all ages that highlights the library network’s full offer, across wellbeing, culture and creativity, digital and information, and, of course, reading.  Manchester Libraries held numerous events during these days – some of the highlights below:

Festival of Libraries – Gorton Library

Children and families and local adults had a great afternoon celebrating the amazing activities that we get up to in our local libraries. Gorton Library staff were joined for an afternoon of creativity by local arts organisation Gorton Visual Arts who made the most lovely Manchester Bee window hangings. One of our favourite paper artists brought her parrot hat-making activity which ensured a host of little squawking flying parrots around the library. Children enjoyed participating with their arms outstretched, squawking!

Gorton Library attendees also celebrated Empathy Day with library staff painting messages on wooden hearts. Last but not least artist Nate Frost encouraged the exploration of printing using LEGO covered in ink. As a lovely add on Save the Children donated LEGO packs to give away to participants. Everyone had a really lovely time. One young participant wrote “I visited the library on 10th June 23 and it was so fun. I learned many things like making things with paper”

Festival of Libraries – North City Library

Children play and dancing in the library

A fabulous time was had by everyone at North City Library’s Festival of Libraries Family Fun Day on Saturday 10 June. One of our three cultural highlights of the year, it is always a lively fun day and over 400 people came through our doors to enjoy our fantastic line-up which included dancing games with Matrafisc Dance, Doodle Bugs art table, Stories and Craft sessions featuring owls and butterflies, drama games with Ali from the Royal Exchange Theatre plus Inspired by Libraries sticker board. Fatima and her family team won the So You Think You Know Libraries family Quiz, taking home a packed goody bag with crafts, games and stickers. Jude and family gave us an expert Bey Blades demonstration which people really enjoyed, alongside the Table Football, LEGO and games area. Families and staff from Manchester Youth Zone also came to join us and there were snacks, fruit and drinks plus every child could choose a free gift book and goody bag filled with pencil, crayons and stickers.

Festival of Libraries – Down Memory Lane with Archives+

Memory box

During the festival Archives+ brought out their collection of Memory Boxes which cover areas of Manchester. Whilst enjoying a brew and a chat, visitors enjoyed looking through the image collections, looking back at their neighbourhood and seeing how it has changed over the years. Everyone attending made a start in creating their own memory box to take home and fill with cherished family times.

Festival of Libraries – Sunday Funday

Central Library’s popular Sunday Funday took place during the festival and families celebrated everything we love about Manchester Libraries. Fun activities included homemade reading rockets with the Curious Crafty, awesome free face painting with Vix, family film screening with free popcorn, plus a special vegetable story time! We met some new families who had earlier attended for Baby Week and they were all keen to find out more about the free activities available for children across Manchester Libraries.

Festival of Libraries – Arcadia Library

Children gathered around a book reading together with staff

St Andrews Co Primary School reception year took part in an interactive workshop at Arcadia Library, delivered by the Department of American Studies Staff (Dr Michelle Coghlan) and Creative Manchester. “Tasting Children’s Literature: An Edible Read-A-Thon” was an immersive sensory experience and read-a-thon of classic and contemporary children’s literature aimed at pre-school and Key Stage1 aged children. The read-a-thon engaged children in drawing pictures and telling stories about the foods that come to life in their favourite stories, as well as the foods that mean most to them and their communities. Feedback included:
“Thank you very much for the amazing event” 

“It was nice to take part in a such interactive combined activity” what an amazing experience!”

Read Manchester – Empathy Day

Participants pictures together holding their goody bags and books

On June 8th, 600 excited Manchester school pupils came together at the National Cycling Centre (Velodrome) for Empathy Lab’s live event for Empathy Day, in partnership with Read Manchester. Three fantastic authors – Sophy Henn, Rob Biddulph and Rashmi Sirdeshpande – talked to the children about books, writing, empathy (and monsters!). Lord Mayor Councillor Yasmine Dar got the celebrations off to a flying start and Paul Jenkins was an excellent compere. The children had a great morning sharing their new-found empathy superpowers, seeing the amazing Velodrome, and going home with a Read Manchester goody bag including their very own copy of Rashmi’s book ‘We’ve got this! Six steps to boost your Empathy Superpower.’ Library colleagues, Read Manchester literacy champions and Empathy Lab worked together to bring the event together for schools across the whole city. Schools who missed out on the opportunity to attend have been gifted empathy-themed books to use with their pupils to ensure that empathy discussions happen throughout the year.

Build A Business in GM Libraries

The Business & IP Centre’s business support programme, Build A Business in GM Libraries, has been helping new enterprises and start ups across the region since September 2021. The project has been very successful at engaging with local entrepreneurs, with approximately 1,000 individuals attending at least one of the four workshops in the last 18 months. One such business is Manchester based Ardea Upholstery founded by Anna Hill. Ardea Upholstery is a handmade chair and soft furnishings upholstery company which specialises in using artists’ and designers’ work on each piece. “I am so grateful for the knowledge I have gained.”

Build A Business supported Ardea by reassuring them that their ideas for business development was viable and achievable. It provided a good focus point and structure for Anna during the early stages of their start-up. Anna also found the networking opportunities encouraged by the project beneficial. Through the project, Ardea was able to connect with another participant who helped them to build their website.

Additional signposting of opportunities for additional training such as marketing and social media and the one-to-one support from their local SME Champion also helped to build on the knowledge gained in the workshops. The project has been encouraging in fostering resilience and creating a supportive environment.

Watch a video about Ardea and some of the other businesses we have supported on our BIPC GM YouTube channel!

Afrocats Refugee Week – Get Together

Working closely with our partners who support sanctuary seekers, Manchester Libraries provided the performance space in Central Library, arts and craft materials, refreshments and bus fares for a group of sanctuary seekers to get together to enjoy a wellness session with the fabulous Magdalen from Afrocats. The group enjoyed a fun fitness session, followed by creative session with Edel making beautiful paper flowers.

Refugee Week Celebration – Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) 

Lady next to the Women Asylum Seekers Together sign

Around 60 women joined together at Central Library with Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) for a joyful evening of song, poetry, dance and music to celebrate Refugee Week. The atmosphere was electric, the music was uplifting and everyone was up on their feet dancing!

Manchester Libraries Databank Project

We’ve now provided over 1490 sims to the people of Manchester, and 1110 of those came directly from libraries! Our library staff have been keeping the digitally excluded residents of Manchester connected, safe and warm as the rising costs of living continue to affect people in every community. If you or someone you know is in need of a connection, you can also grab a free sim with up to 6 months of internet access at a local library – Find out more at the MCC Website.

Windrush 75 – A Celebration

In collaboration with The Jamaica Society and UNISON Manchester Inspire Black Members Forum, a special book reading by Deniz ‘Skip’ Önaç was held followed by speaker Jennifer Rouse-Burgundy, Chair, Leeward Islands Peoples Association who talked about her Windrush experiences. It was very interesting to hear Deniz and Joan’s story of how they first met in Jamaica and their time spent there. Audience members were taken back in time to when they themselves lived in Jamaica as they listened to Deniz’s anecdotes.

Local Community History Month – Get inspired sessions

To celebrate Local Community History Month library staff visited branch libraries across the city to show examples of records you might use to research your family history. Staff took street directories, school log books, church registers and more. During each session we showed visitors how to access the online family history databases and promoted the Manchester and Lancashire Family History help desk. The people staff met at each branch said they found the archives very interesting and some of the live family history searches resulted in some excellent finds. One customer said she was “blown away” and “quite emotional” when a member of staff printed out her grandfather’s birth registration in Jamaica and a record of his presence on a ship sailing from Cuba.

Borrowbox – Now with Digital Magazines and Newspapers

Borrowbox has in recent years been extremely popular for reading eBooks and listening to eAudio books. 1000s of Manchester residents use this service. Now you can also read eMagazines and eNewspapers on the Borrowbox App. This is a fantastic way to keep up to date and of course is much more environmentally friendly than buying newspapers and magazines – find out more here!

Age Friendly Activities – North City Library

Author Caroline England at North City Library with book display and attendees

Caroline England (aka C E Rose) is a local author whose dark psychological thrillers make compulsive, edge-of-the-seat reading. Caroline talked to our Grand Day Out group and other guests about her latest novel ‘The Stranger Beside Me’ and what inspires her work. This was a free Age Friendly event with refreshments plus a chance for attendees to buy a signed copy. Our group were intrigued to discover how Caroline began writing and what led to her success. It was a fascinating afternoon and Caroline encouraged everyone to pick up a pen and to start jotting down their ideas as ‘you never know where it might lead you’!