Tag Archives: Libraries

Jurassic libraries: five go on a safari to deepest Dorset

On a lovely spring day in mid-March, we climbed aboard the Dorset Safari to visit a selection of libraries along the south-west coast. First stop was the Wey Valley School Library, where we learned how Eileen Harding, the Learning Resources Manager, had transformed the reading habits of pupils using the Accelerated Reader Programme (introduced in September 2014). From a standing start, when few pupils picked up a reading book, the most recent academic year saw pupils read over 1,700 books – that’s over 54 million words. How did she do it? Well, Eileen enlisted the help of Renaissance Learning software which matches children’s fiction books to pupils’ reading level and interests. The software then tracks their understanding via an online 34-question quiz after each book they read.

The questions are carefully phrased to check each pupil’s knowledge of the storyline as well as their understanding, and each book is selected to expand the pupil’s vocabulary. Eileen also uses the information to identify pupils with special needs, so that they can be given any extra help they require.

The software tracks the progress of individual pupils’. It has been noticed that boys, in particular, love to know how many words they have read over the term. The school now has dozens of word millionaires! The pupils are encouraged to set themselves targets and like the immediate feedback provided by the quiz, which motivates them to read even more. As a result, 89% of students have seen an improvement in their reading age during the course of the first year.

The Wey Valley School Library uses the Micro Librarian System to manage their stock, which includes the Reading Cloud, accessible via the Internet. It can be used as a social media platform, allowing pupils to chat to one another about books they have read. If they want, they can blog about books they’ve liked and make recommendations. It even allows pupils to add their own home reading books, so they can share them with friends.

Our second stop was The Verne Immigration Removal Centre in Portland, which houses up to 580 immigrant detainees while their cases are being assessed.

Originally, The Verne was designed as an impregnable fortress, built by convicts from Portland Prison between 1860 and 1872, to protect the harbour and nearby coastline from invasion. In 1937, it was being used as an infantry training centre, then converted to a prison after the Second World War. It eventually become a medium-security prison for over 600 long-term ‘Category C’ prisoners. Finally, in 2013, its function changed again when it was designated as one of the country’s immigration removal centres.

Even though most detainees are there just a short while (sometimes as little as a day), it is a requirement for all detention centres to have a library. Dorset County Council administer the one at The Verne, which stocks books, newspapers and magazines in a variety of languages. Elizabeth Bean, the Librarian, says there are currently 53 different languages spoken by detainees at The Verne, with the most common being Bengali and Chinese.

The detainees have free access to the Library every weekday, two evenings per week and at weekends. Elizabeth hinted that providing a library service for detainees can be emotionally challenging because they are often distressed. Given the predicament of the detainees, it is not surprising that the most sought-after books are on immigration law. The Library also offers a legal-aid booking facility and information about charities and immigrant support groups.

After a splendid lunch at the Jailhouse Café, we were driven inland to Dorchester Public Library, which opened in 2013. Apart from the normal library fare, it offers community spaces where locals of all ages can meet and learn. Spread out over three floors, the ground floor also plays host to various partners, such as tourist information, adult education (skills and learning) and the Dorset police contact unit. Within the complex, there are six classrooms that are used for various activities – many of which are oversubscribed. One new feature is the Changing Places accessible washing facility, that is available to members of the scheme even when the Library is closed. I imagine this will be a huge help to those with restricted mobility that cannot access facilities elsewhere.

The Library sees an average of about 1800 customers per week and also offers a Housebound Service to 71 residential homes in the region that get free delivery of books. This service replaced the mobile libraries that were abolished by the local authority during December 2016. Dorchester Public Library also acts as a hub for inter-library loans, which are handled in a busy back office. In total, there at least 10 staff are on duty each day in the Library, with over 20 in the team altogether.

Francesca Roper explained that space on the upper ground floor is divided into themed zones including Teenage Headspace with shelves of teenage literature and an easy access Children’s Library, where popular rhyme-time sessions are held twice a week. Another innovation, are the Library Gets Lively sessions for under 5’s and a Chatterbox reading group for slightly older ones, as well as a Youth Group for the 11+ children. In fact, since other youth activity providers have lost funding, this is now the only youth group in Dorchester. Classrooms are also used for adult skills and education, including the Reminiscence Sessions, where older members of the community can come in and share their memories and experiences. Digital Sessions are also popular, where members of the public can bring in their own equipment and get advice and guidance. Throughout the Library, the glass walls and pastel carpets and furnishing create a welcoming, airy, open atmosphere. The bookcases are also deliberately spread out, so that no space feels claustrophobic. At the back, an innovative Autism Room (designed in conjunction with the charity Autism Wessex), features dimmer lights, bean-bags and soundproofing to create a safe, soothing environment.

Just across town, the Dorset County Hospital Education Centre was our final stop on the Dorset Safari. Morag Evans, the Trainee Librarian, told us that they provide information and research facilities to almost 1000 registered members, in a variety of NHS posts. Within the Library a new digitalisation project was underway, archiving patient records. The staff organise educational events for doctors, including lectures and workshops. The library staff also conduct literature research and provide research training for doctors and other staff. In addition, they offer referencing and reflective-writing workshops. They also carry out Ward Rounds and make book deliveries to the workplace. Although most of the research is available online, they have found that some NHS staff insist on a printed version. It seems that nurses, in particular, prefer to look at something on paper rather than on screen.

Jonathan Edwards

Senior Library Assistant (Bournemouth and Poole College)




Presidential visit to UWE Bristol

Kirsten-Rose Brooks reports on talk by CILIP President, Dawn Finch

On 6th December, CILIP President Dawn Finch visited UWE Bristol to give a talk to students on the MSc Library and Information Management course and library staff. Her subject was ethical principles in LIS (Library Information Science) and codes of professional practice. While regarded by some as old-fashioned and no longer needed, Dawn stressed that library ethics have never been more important, particularly in the so-called ‘post-truth’ world as false information proliferates and concern mounts not only for the public good in general, but also the good reputation of the information profession.

Dawn talked about the problem of inappropriate bias in LIS; while some sectors and organisations cannot avoid a bias, such as the House of Commons Library and the military, an ethical code enables librarians and information professionals to fight against this pressure. She reminded us of the major issue of privacy, since the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 has received Royal Assent and the revamp of data protection laws loom.

After this introduction, we worked through some quick-fire ethical scenarios, identifying whether they involved business ethics, personal morals, ethical codes or a point of law. We were continually reminded that, in providing frontline customer service, librarians have seconds to decide what to do in a given situation. Some were really tricky, and there were some disagreements over courses of action, and Dawn emphasised that good training of staff and users is important to avoid ethical dilemmas or negotiate them appropriately.

Dawn used examples to relate ethics to current events, such as in Ferguson, St. Louis during the riots, where librarian Scott Bonner and his staff kept the library open despite pressure from the local authorities to close, in order to continue providing an information service to the community. Another recent instance was media scrutiny of libraries during the Jo Cox murder case. Questions were asked of the role of local libraries since Thomas Mair visited them to search for controversial material online in the lead-up to his crime. During discussions, Dawn said that library work is potentially a minefield, with several potential obstacles. I was reminded of the e-learning module on ‘Overcoming Bias’ we were recently encouraged to complete at UWE Bristol. In this module we were told that librarians and information professionals should be aware of the need to overcome unconscious bias and provide information and books to all users, regardless of personal beliefs. This did get challenged, however – if a library user asked you for details on constructing weapons, would you give them what they wanted straightaway?

There was an encouraging message at the end: our jobs are more needed than ever, if more difficult. Reliable information must be made available from all sides, with policy documents, ethical principles, and the work of professionals used to fight false information, censorship and violation of privacy.

Dawn herself is a very engaging and funny speaker, and I enjoyed the fast pace of the session; although we were discussing weighty issues, we didn’t get bogged down in too much deep discussion and could cover lots of different points. It was an intriguing session which left attendees with plenty to think about.

Kirsten-Rose Brooks

(Graduate Trainee, UWE Bristol Library Services)

Digital adventures for all in Taunton’s gleaming new Glass Box


After the last CILIP SW Committee meeting I took the opportunity to visit the Glass Box, which has recently opened in Taunton Library. Prominently located at the Library’s entrance, the Glass Box provides a bright welcome as the first area visitors see as they walk into the building. It functions as a digital makerspace, with free wi-fi access and an exhibition area.

The Glass Box was launched in the summer to provide a space where all can access a range of digital resources and create and experiment in a supported environment. Staff provide support for digital skills and there are workshops to help get started in using the 3D printer. A regular Code Club has been set up to help children to learn coding. The offer for children and adults also includes opportunities to learn how to make a computer, engage with a local history and heritage project and even sign up to ‘robotics for fun’. The space also functions as an enterprise zone for local business, which it supports by hosting free webinars and making available databases providing company information and business start-up materials.

The Glass Box is one of the latest initiatives in a bid to create innovative spaces in public libraries, providing the communities they serve with access to try out state-of-the-art equipment. Such projects are encouraging evidence, if any were needed, that public libraries remain absolutely relevant and connected in fast-moving times, providing an essential educational role. The popular and inspirational Fab Lab opened in 2014 at nearby Exeter Library, which hosted the CILIP AGM and Gadget Day earlier this year.

To find out about latest events scheduled at The Glass Box see:


glass-box-interior   glass-box-digital-skills     

Exeter College Learning Resource Centres: User Participation and Promoting Reading for Pleasure

In Exeter College’s seven Learning Resource Centres, we work hard to create an ethos that uses both staff and student views to develop our service. Last year, the ‘Your Library: Your Imagination’ project was formed, led by Simon Bowler, Learning Media Services Manager. The aim of this project was to gather user feedback in as many forms as possible, including focus groups, comment systems and some more unusual ways such as post-it note walls, where students were invited to leave comments.

Post it walls 1Post it walls 2

Post-it note walls were a fun and engaging way to gather user feedback

The ‘Your Library: Your Imagination’ project was very successful and in response to the comments we received, several sub-projects were formed with the aim of innovating our Learning Resource Centre services. One of these projects explored the reoccurring user need for a comfortable and quiet reading space together with requests for a wider variety of fiction for reading for pleasure. Comments we received from students included:

“Somewhere to curl up and read would be goodJ

 “A relaxed quiet place to read for pleasure not study – nice chairs”

 “A quiet place to sit and read”

“A place to sit comfily and read”

 “More books I reckon. (Fiction ones please)”

“Larger fiction section e.g. HG Wells (Sci-Fi) and Stephen King (Horror)”

“Bigger fiction collection”

“More fiction”

It was clear from this that it would be incredibly positive to design and create a space for reading for pleasure within one of our Learning Resource Centres. An additional benefit was that it would also support wider college aims of promoting and supporting literacy for all students.

Jude Fleming, Library Services Co-ordinator, led this project supported by Tori Gower, Subject Librarian and Tammy Whyte, Learning Centre Supervisor. Following discussions about what would make a welcoming reading space for our student users, we identified a corner of our Hele Learning Centre that could be used. Through a ‘Dragons’ Den’ scheme run within our Information and Learning Services Department, Tori was able to pitch a plan for the project and subsequently secure funds to renovate it into a bright comfortable area.

This linked with another approved ‘Dragons’ Den’ proposal named ‘Fresher Fiction’ by Cathie Strover, Information Services Assistant. This project focused on rotating our fiction stock between our Learning Resource Centres, actively seeking feedback to inform our fiction selections and building a collection of graphic novels to engage our 16-19 year old student age group.

So, with a few tins of very purple paint, bright green beanbags, a new sofa, shelf rearranging and a Dr Seuss quote, it was relatively easy to create the space the students wanted. To continue the emphasis on student involvement, we ran a competition asking students to suggest a name for the new reading space and after many entries, ‘Book Nook’ was chosen as the winner with ‘Reading Retreat’ and ‘fREADom’ as runners up.

Name the Reading Space

Name the Reading Space competition winners  

The new Book Nook has been both well received and well used by our students. It has helped us to promote participation in the Reading Agency’s Reading Ahead scheme. We are expecting to see an increase in our fiction lending statistics and there has been positive interest in the new graphic novels. There were some initial issues with behaviour management and maintaining the space as a quiet reading area, but this is improving.

Successful Reading Ahead

Successful Reading Ahead participants

We have recently started using ‘positive posters’ for behaviour management and this seems to be working well.

Yes you can poster

An example of a ‘positive poster’ used in our Learning Resource Centres

Overall, this has been a successful project and we are looking forward to continuing to promote literacy and reading for pleasure, as well as aiming to improve user experience informed by engagement and feedback from the people we work with here in the Exeter College Learning Resource Centres.

Tammy Whyte (Exeter College Learning Centre Supervisor)

Visit to the Britannia Royal Naval College

We always welcome reports of visits to facilities that show the amazing range of information and library services in the CILIP SW region. Here Anne Howard reports on a visit to the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth on the 4th November. 

A repeat visit to the College Library is in planning for a Wednesday afternoon sometime in 2016.  To register your interest in joining us for this enjoyable and educational experience, please contact valerie.bearne [@] tesco.net


Built in 1905 when ‘money was no object’, the Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) is a beautiful building high on a hill overlooking the River Dart in Dartmouth.


Peter and Gill conducted a tour of the college showing us the highlights which included the Great Hall, the Senior Gun Room and the Anglican chapel.

Peter pointed out that in the west window, high up, is small round section quartered with leadwork and explained that at 16.30 on 21 October which is ‘Trafalgar Day’, light coming through this window casts the shadow of a cross onto the altar – the only time this happens, at precisely the time and date of Nelson’s death. The chapel was built in 1905, exactly a hundred years after the Battle of Trafalgar.

There are also a Catholic chapel, mosque, Church of Scotland and Free Church chapels on the site.

Museum and Archives

Older historic materials are located in this area and research is undertaken by the Britannia Museum Trust.

Upper and Lower Library

The Library and staff are provided by Babcock Facilities Management Services as part of the Naval Training Support Contract. The main role of the resource is to support the 400 cadets training during any given year. There are three intakes each year and 85% of the intake are graduates with an average age of 23 years. Between 10% and 25% of the intakes are female. The intake will also include Senior Upper Yardies (SUY’s) who are ratings who have reached the top of the career progression and have often never undertaken academic study. The initial training takes 30 weeks. After completion the cadets undertake specialist training in their chosen field, for example initial warfare training which may take a further 15 weeks.

The Library is on two levels. The lower level has been redesigned to provide a comfortable browsing space which is clearly signed. This was deliberate because the space is available at all times and the intention is that the cadets can locate resources independently when the staff are not on duty. The subject areas are supportive of the knowledge that the cadets are researching and include international affairs, meteorology, leadership skills and doctrine (documents that cover the strategic aims of the Royal Navy).

The upper Library, complete with chesterfield sofas, houses the stock covering past conflicts and history of the navy. The collection has a long run of such titles as The Navy List and The Blue List which are looked after by the Britannia Museum Trust. This is ideal because it enables Peter and Gill to support the current cadets with their training requirements, rather than using external research requests.

The collection has been reduced since 2011 to ensure the remaining stock is relevant to current training. The original collection consisted of stock added from Greenwich and RNEC Manadon (the Royal Naval Engineering College) in Plymouth which were amalgamated when those libraries closed. This was the first comprehensive stock check since 1978 and was undertaken as part of the transformation of the Library.


Peter controls his own budget, from which resources such as Jane’s Fighting Ships online are purchased. Peter’s budget is intended to ‘provide an academic library’ for BRNC.

The Ships Library Officer, based in Portsmouth, mainly supplies the ships and shore establishments with paperbacks for recreational purposes, supplying BRNC with fiction paperbacks for their Fiction Swap in the Learning Centre and the Costa Coffee Bar.

Information Literacy

Peter and Gill have put a lot of time and effort into developing an informal and supportive atmosphere in the Library and recognized the value of developing an information literacy programme. This is based on the ILEAD tool: ‘Identify, Locate, Evaluate, Assess and Deliver’.

The Navy is looking for agile, adaptable thinkers who can operate in changing cultural, technological and operational environments. There is fierce competition for resources and the Navy wants to be in a strategically strong position. Peter links information literacy with the critical thinking skills required by RN Officers and he and Gill continue to develop the programme. Peter has researched the model practised by the Royal Marines whereby promotion is reliant on research skills and educational attainment.

The aim is to tie enquiry skills to the information relevant to the courses. The tour and the presentations given by Peter and Gill were interesting and informative. The College is a beautiful building located in a perfect place overlooking the River Dart. Peter and Gill have done a tremendous job transforming the Library and deserve the accolade from the 2015 audit that it ‘exceeds expectations’.

Anne Howard

Halsway Manor and Kennedy Grant Folk Library

 We are always delighted to receive reports about unusual libraries or information repositories in our region. Here Marie Weinel, Stock Manager at Bath and North East Somerset Libraries, reports on a ‘true gem’ to be found in Somerset.

Post 3 Halsway Manor

Halsway Manor

A true gem lies in the beautiful Quantock Hills: Halsway Manor, a national centre for folk arts and home to the Kennedy Grant Folk Library. Halsway Manor itself dates back over 600 years and it has been devoted to its present use as a folk centre since 1965. The centre, near Crowcombe, Somerset, has therefore been celebrating its Golden Jubilee throughout 2015. Cynthia Sartin who, with her husband Bonny, has been Librarian at the Kennedy Grant Library since 1999, kindly offered to show me round the centre. I couldn’t have seen the manor to better advantage than in the warm glow of this splendid autumn afternoon.

Halsway has housed a folk library since 1965; originally this was named after Margaret Grant of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. This facility was given a major boost in 2006 when renowned folklorist Peter Kennedy gifted a bequest of some 11,000 items from his extensive private collections. In agreement with the Kennedy family, the Library was henceforth renamed the Kennedy Grant Library.

Fittingly for a centre which seeks to represent folk arts in all forms – music, dance, song, storytelling, folklore, arts and crafts – the Library’s holdings cover many different media types: books, periodicals, artefacts, photographs, manuscripts, records, cassettes, CDs, videos and DVDs. It is Halsway’s aim to make these treasures available to everyone and, to this end, Cynthia and her team of volunteer librarians have worked tirelessly to electronically catalogue the Library’s stock. With over 10,000 catalogued items to date, the Kennedy Grant Library is the biggest dedicated folk library in the UK and thriving. Donations are coming in to the centre faster than Cynthia and her colleagues can add them to stock!


Post 3 Kennedy Grant Folk Library

Kennedy Grant Folk Library

Halsway has long been run on the goodwill and enthusiasm of its many dedicated volunteers. As part of its fiftieth anniversary celebrations, the centre launched an ambitious oral history project: ‘Telling Tales’. The aim of this scheme is to document and celebrate fifty years of folk arts at Halsway Manor through the stories, recollections and memorabilia of those who have been involved with the centre from its early days.

After fifty years, with so much history behind it, what does the future hold for Halsway? Hopefully many new and exciting ventures: a £4 million pound phased development project, ‘Our Future’, has been unveiled, which would see the construction of a woodland activity centre, a new performance space, upgraded accommodation and the conservation and repair of the Grade II listed manor house. These much needed developments would enable the centre to expand its highly successful residential courses and programmes of performance.

At this exciting juncture in the centre’s history, Halsway Manor and the Kennedy Grant Library are eager to recruit more volunteers to help the centre move forward into its next fifty years. Anyone interested in getting involved with the Library, ‘Telling Tales’ or any other aspect of the centre is warmly encouraged to contact the Halsway on tel. 01984 618274 or e-mail: office@halswaymanor.org.uk. Visitors too are always very welcome. My thanks to Cynthia for a most enjoyable introduction to this quite remarkable place.

Marie Weinel