Libraries - it's all about reading, not books

Reading has the power to connect people and to transform lives.  The UK charity the Reading Agency exists to help people feel confident and inspired about reading.  Speaking at Axiell's Rethinking Libraries event, Miranda McKeaney (the Reading Agency's Chief Executive) spoke about some of the Agency's successes and challenges and shared some transferable ideas and lessons learned.HAVE - AND BE ABLE TO ARTICULATE - A BIG PURPOSEIt is vital that you have a crystal clear and significant sense of purpose.   You must identify and be able to articulate exactly what it is that makes you/your service unique.  Do you have a ‘noble sense of purpose'?  Why do you exist?  With public libraries, a shared articulation can be difficult and it is important not to cling to the past.  Libraries exist to support reading, not books.HAVE A BIG PICTUREIt is important to create a big picture - to think about the future and to begin to shape the future you want.  Part if this is identifying what trends are active and working to best thrive in the future  these trends are pointing to.Some UK trends to pay attention to

  • The number of bookshops in the UK has halved in the past six years
  • Opportunities in combining ‘live' experiences with digital
  • Offering live and social experiences
  • Digital book sales and loans
  • Take a lead in social issues  - e.g. articulate the social costs of low literacy levels; demonstrate the links between reading and good health
WIN BIG SUPPORTERS AND KEEP THEM HAPPYIt is critical to ensure that partnerships are balanced.  You must give your partners and supporters what they need - without compromising your own mission.  For example, when the Reading Agency began to develop partnerships with publishers, the outcome would be beneficial to both parties.  Public libraries gained access to the type of author events that were previously only available in bookstores.  Publishers were gaining access to new audiences and markets.Finally, tough times should create a spirit of innovation.  We should not be afraid to dream or experiment.