Coventry Library Service West Midlands


oventry Cit Council has 14 libraries, three of which are run by volunteer groups. But it also currently boasts a floating mobile library, in the form of the RV Furor Scribendi narrowboat. It is a living research vessel, a floating library of short stories, a retreat for writers and readers, over- seen by artist Heather Peak Morison. She has been working with librarians from Coventry and Lancashire to stock the boat with public library books and short story collections from independent publishers in the UK. Librarians have also been leading groups from libraries to the boat with a programme of events that engage with the communities along the canals in Coventry and Lancashire. It is stationed in Coventry until September. “The boat was going to set sail in 2020 and instead we constructed her throughout that year and kept all the partners, librarians and communities involved through doing Zoom tours of the boat as it progressed,” Peak Morison says. “This year, when Furor Scribendi finally set sail from Stourbridge to Accrington, and subsequently to Coventry, we were nervous about how she would emerge in this pandemic, so we gently and slowly worked out how she could best respond: from making her Covid-safe, to running reading and writing residencies,


Suffolk Libraries Suffolk, East Anglia

Library Focus Library Spotlights


making her super local, mirroring libraries protocol to eventually opening her fully and running her side by side with

the librarians. What I hope is that the vessel of Scribendi has the imprint of these feelings and emotions. When people are on board sometimes it is silent as people read, and sometimes we talk and talk, oſten about the past 18 months.”

The boat is just one of several projects as

part of the Arts Council-funded One Million Reads project in Coventry, as its libraries


uffolk Libraries was faced with a challenge when lockdown hit in how to

mobilise support across its 44 sites, though the experience has seen more permanent innovations. “We quickly put into place a plan


16 3rd September 2021

which involved a number of new initiatives,” said Krystal Vittles, head of service development at Suffolk Libraries. “We set up a new Lifeline service, which involved staff making regular telephone calls to customers who were most likely to become lonely or isolated and less likely to engage online. Post lockdown, this has evolved into a volunteer-run service and around 11,000 calls have been made, with recent research showing it’s genuinely provided a lifeline during lockdowns. In one heartwarming example, staff [at Ipswich County Library] recorded their own audio version of an


Increase in applications for a library card in July 2021, compared to the same month’s tally in 2019

out-of-print novel for a 102-year- old customer.” Frontline staff learned how to

stream storytime sessions and created a menu of other activities online via social media. “During lockdown we were seeing around 2,300 engagements on social media every day, and many of these interactions were with parents, stuck at home with chil- dren, looking for ideas to entertain and educate them,” Vittles said. The library service also ran a

successful programme of online author events during lockdown

capitalise on its status as Cit of Culture for 2021/22. Sorrelle Clements, service develop- ment manager of libraries and information services at Coventry Cit Council, says: “The project also includes a bibliotherapy project for children in care, a book bench which plays people’s stories of old Coventry and a photography project featuring people as they enthuse about their reading pleasure.” The library service has also started work- ing with Coventry Universit Library and Warwick Universit Library on the Big Cov Read project, and it will also be involved in the Contains Strong Language BBC poetry festival this month.

which has continued with an online children’s book festival, taking place next week. In July, it launched The Big

Catch Up campaign to encourage people back into libraries in line with the relaxation of Covid restrictions, with encouraging results. “Many of these new services have a legacy beyond the pandemic,” Vittles said. “E-library use is higher than pre-Covid levels, we’re still making calls, lending laptops and running online events. We’ve seen really encouraging figures in terms of people coming back to libraries and borrowing books, and children signing up to the Summer Reading Challenge. In July, new applications for a library card were up 40% on July 2019, and our website saw the highest number of monthly views, with more people looking for informa- tion before visiting.”

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