Greer Roberts, from Wellcome’s Public Engagement team, explains why we're co-funding the projects.
What is Engaging Libraries?
Engaging Libraries is a pilot, £200,000 funding programme for libraries to discover new ways of engaging their communities about health. It’s co-funded between Carnegie UK Trust and Wellcome.
We challenged libraries to think about what’s important to their local communities and to be creative in how they could engage audiences, even with really challenging topics. We wanted to encourage libraries to try new ways of working and deliver activities that open up libraries as a space where people can explore health.
There were 120 applications and 14 public library projects from Somerset to Dundee were successful and are receiving funding. We were really pleased with the quality of the ideas put forward, so Wellcome is providing an additional £85,000 to allow a further four projects to take part.
Why does Wellcome think funding library projects is important?
Public libraries are trusted places in local communities. The Engaging Libraries programme is a people-centred approach to engage with others’ experiences and explore new ideas in a safe space.
Wellcome is dedicated to improving health and we fund a diverse range of public engagement projects. But we have had very little demand from libraries within our funding schemes. This pilot programme will enable us to learn from a cluster of projects as they discover how engagement can help to develop what libraries can offer.
Can you give us a flavour of the type of projects getting funding?
There’s a real range. The funded projects reflect diverse approaches to exploring local health and wellbeing, both playful and serious. Many deal with mental health at all stages of life and what it means to be human. These are a few examples.
The Norfolk workshops, You Can't Judge a Book by its Cover, allow local people to discuss mental health issues by creating personalised book cover biographies.
City of London project Release the Pressure similarly looks at mental health but focuses on men working in the City. The project will create a wellbeing sanctuary, featuring talks, film screenings and performance workshops.
Oldham libraries are building on young people's interest in comics and cosplay. They will use stories to engage with young people about their mental health and will include theatre performances, creative workshops, a graphic novel and even a themed Comic Con to provide a platform to celebrate the young people’s creativity. Their findings will be shared with local community services.
How were the winning projects chosen?
Carnegie UK Trust arranged an expert advisory group with representatives from the Society of Chief Librarians, CILIP The Library and Information Association, Arts Council England, Scottish Library and Information Council, Welsh government, the Local Government Management Agency in the Republic of Ireland and Libraries NI.
What happens next?
The projects will get going and we’ll check in along the way to see how they progress. Plus the libraries will be sharing their projects along the way.
Carnegie UK Trust are having the impact of the Engaging Libraries programme independently evaluated by social research company Blake Stevenson. That way we can see how what has happened as a result of the initiative.