On Tuesday 17th October I attended NoWAL’s Leisure Reading - Exchange of Experience / Workshop.
The day began with an introduction to Wakelet, software which aims to facilitate organising your online information. The software is free and can be used for collaboration, to exhibit portfolios/collections and planning (holidays, events, teaching etc.). As all content can be saved in one place time is saved for end users as they don’t need to click on multiple links to find the information. MMU use Wakelet to curate content from their collections which is then embedded within libguides e.g. http://libguides.mmu.ac.uk/usrnew
The next presentation came from Dom Marsh and Susan Hurst (University of Salford) who spoke about “Leisure reading at the University of Salford”. We learnt that the impetus for leisure reading at Salford came from looking at SCONUL statistics. The statistics showed that their students seemed to read (borrow) less than those benchmarked against. These figures in addition to the theory that leisure reading improves academic performance led Salford to investigate using pleasure reading as a method to address student drop out. Not only is leisure reading heralded as improving academic performance evidence shows that reading for pleasure reduces stress / mental health issues, which would help students with issues with stress.
What did they do? Suggestions were gained from their staff forum and were categorised in a spreadsheet. They then asked for volunteers to run with the three themes chosen.
The creation of the new collection involved surveying students (in the library and non-library buildings) asking about their reading habits and what (if they read) they read. They also asked about enthusiasm for a collection and what they’d like. The library was given a budget of £5000 for first year, however, they didn’t choose everything selected by those surveyed but instead looked at best seller lists and the British library collection as they wanted a wide variety of genres but limited the selection to contemporary books to limit choice and attempt to interest users. In addition to the stock selected the collection included science books that they’d bought for another event. The new collection was seen as a way to rebrand the library for potential non users.
The collection was housed on the ground floor of the library, near the café and the looking at the pictures it looks both stylish and comfortable. It was kitted out with nice chairs, bunting and a plant. Leisure reading was promoted as a way to de-stress, both during exam time and also holiday time. They linked to the reading agency to show the benefits of improving academic performance banner and used social media to promote this.
They used a “Welcome home theme” and put out books on Salford and Manchester which was another way to promote the collection; other methods of promotion include a pop up stand at wellbeing. Usage figures provided showed that the collection had been well used (450 loans). In order to improve the collection feedback is sought from focus groups and also feedback cards in the library
Cheryl Pridgeon from Manchester Public Libraries delivered the next presentation about the “Read Manchester Project”. Cheryl spoke about the campaign/movement to promote reading for pleasure and how they are connected with sure start and focus the scheme from ages 0-99. The project has been responsible for the brilliant book benches around Manchester, however as they are dependent on funding the project may end after 18 months.
The project wants to create a desire for reading for life because of all the benefits associated: mental health, educational attainment, reducing social isolation. One of Cheryl’s slides showed that the reading levels in Manchester were lower than the national average. Therefore, this scheme is of vital importance in the area and it key to upskilling local workers.
The project been responsible for creating partnerships e.g. libraries and education to share knowledge/services – I was astonished to hear that the person responsible for education in Manchester was unaware of the summer reading challenge which has been going for a number of years. As a further output of the project the team aim to produce a toolkit to measure the success of the leisure reading initiative.
The last session before lunch was led by Sharon Reid from the University of Loughborough and focused on “Encouraging leisure reading at Loughborough: a three-pronged approach and why handing over the Book Club baton is a positive step”.
The session began with an exercise where using the following template “I love________ because it made me feel ___________” we spoke to our neighbours about a book we had read that we loved because it made us feel an emotion; this exercise is something that could be used for students/groups to engage them in talking about reading.
When talking about why leisure reading was encouraged and engaged with Sharon cited similar reasons as Salford: pedagogical and mental health. Following a refurb, the leisure collection was given its own area with seats and shelves. Similarly, to Salford they had a budget: £1500 initial budget now £300 a year. In addition to their funding, they bid for alumni funding and received £5000, part of which was used to buy books for the book club book. The leisure reading collection has been going for 5 years and is made up of 972 titles including mood boosting and mental health titles. It is used by staff and students, however, they would like to increase use.
The library also got involved with the Book Crossing initiative where they made donated books available to students. This involved a lot of work: advertising for unwanted books, uploading all books onto a site (so end users could can track the journey of the book), making and adding stickers, taking the books out to different locations and restocking the book baskets. This was stopped as was too time consuming but has restarted on a small an adhoc basis. I know at my institution we receive a number of donated books, therefore it might be an idea to do this with any that don’t go into stock.
The official launch of the book club was organised by about 5 or 6 staff members, and was held in a room in student bar rather than in the library where they had a competition and food and drink. The first meeting took place about three weeks after initial launch and saw a smaller number of attendance, however, Sharon said that attendance at meetings fluctuates. Sharon suggested a number of ice breakers for students e.g. favourite characters, print book covers and blurbs photocopy separately and get them to match up. The library moved away from big launches to making the book available to collect in the library at lunchtime on a set date. As there was no budget available to buy the books anymore and the amount of time it was taking the library have decided to handed book club to the student union, however, Sharon did say that maybe they will take it back and look at a different model if it doesn’t work out.