Welsh Libraries Reaching Out Into the Virtual World

Library staff across all Local Authorities in Wales will have access to an exciting digital training package, thanks to a  grant from the Welsh Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund.

The past 12 months have seen a huge change in the way public libraries across Wales have been able to deliver their services due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

With ongoing restrictions meaning that libraries have not been able to open their buildings for browsing, libraries have been transforming the way they are delivering their services and connecting with users.

Libraries have been quick to develop services to enhance their digital offer such as e-books, e-audio books and e-magazines, as well as online stories and rhyme times, which has already seen a huge surge in usage and membership.

However, SCL Cymru (The Society of Chief Librarians in Wales) felt that it was vital that a training and development programme to develop library staff skills, knowledge and confidence in delivering bilingual digital activities and promoting library offers and services would have to be offered to enable libraries to reach their potential in engaging with readers and library users online.

Bethan Hughes, Principal Librarian of Denbighshire County Council, who led on the successful grant bid and chairs the steering group, said: “This grant of £169,950 has enabled us to appoint Kerry Pillai from Swansea Libraries as coordinator to organize, plan and deliver a range of training packages for library staff members across Wales. This will be technical training in the use of basic equipment and software apps for creating and delivering digital content, but also activities for staff to experiment and practice their skills – such as author talks, conversations between readers, reading group discussions, and illustration workshops.  The Estyn Allan project will also enable authorities to invest in basic hardware and software they need to produce good quality activities and content.”

Nicola Pitman, Chair of SCL Cymru, said: “We are delighted and grateful for the support of the Welsh Government for the level of funding that has been made available to Welsh libraries. The Estyn Allan project is truly a collaborative project across all Welsh public library services, and will benefit all services through sharing good practice, expertise and contacts, and will be available to audiences across the whole of Wales, raising the profile of Welsh libraries and of the writers and artists featured in the activities.”

Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, said: “I was delighted to be able to support this project through our Cultural  Recovery Fund and I commend SCL Cymru on this initiative. The Estyn Allan project will contribute to the resilience of libraries to continue to engage with their audiences during the current pandemic period and beyond. Even when physical activity returns, society and our audiences will have become increasingly comfortable with digital delivery and will expect Library services to be delivered via a variety of channels.”

The Estyn Allan project has already started with gusto, with 30 trainees attending webinars on reader development in an online context, social media skills, and attracting audiences to library activities.

The 3 month project aims to deliver a varied and exciting range of online training working with key partners in the books and publishing world in Wales and beyond.

The expectation is that the training programme will create a foundation for Welsh Libraries to promote their library offers to existing and new audiences in the coming months, as well as into the future by delivering a project which will engage audiences and develop staff skills and confidence as a long-term legacy.