Reading in the UK is changing dramatically. New digital platforms are transforming the ways in which people discover and read their books, while new websites and services are changing their engagement with fellow readers. For those involved in writing, publishing, selling and lending books, these are tumultuous but exciting times, full of both threats and opportunities.
Back in April we launched the digital skills sharing project, an initiative developed in partnership with the Publisher's Association and funded by ACE through their Libraries Development Initiative. It brings together six teams of librarians and publishers who, over a period of seven months, will collaborate on reading campaigns which enhance and extend vital reader development work through the use of digital communications platforms and social media. We've been helping to develop a really exciting set of projects covering a wide range of areas and audiences and are delighted to report some early tangible benefits which have arisen from library authorities being part of the project. Here's a summary of each project:
Gloucestershire will launch their twitter feed, encouraging online reviews and debate on debut authors. They will be targeting 2 groups - existing reading groups and members of Baby Bounce & Toddler Time. The project will culminate in a Readers' Day at the library with users and authors who have participated in the project, with an additional online dimension to the live event.
Halton and Lancashire will explore families reading habits and establish them as champions for particular books via online channels, visible to other users. Libraries aim to recruit six families per library and participants will be encouraged to create content to inspire book choice and recommendation. Qualitative data on family reading habits, plus co-creation of content for library service. In addition to this project, Gloucestershire will be targeting isolated readers by piloting a virtual real time reading group for Older People and Young Carers using Google Plus/ Hangouts.
South Tyneside will launch their Facebook and Twitter feed. Key launch activity will be a Big Read promotion for crime author Ann Cleeves. This will include a big book giveaway and incentivising readers to review the book on South Tyneside's social media channels, culminating in an author event where we're hoping to pilot a virtual event for Care Home Residents. In addition to this, South Tyneside will be working with young people to help populate the Facebook page by having a 'Book of the Month' promotion. Through this engagement the young people will help with planning for the new central library.
Nottinghamshire will be working with the Youth Service to engage young people in a co-creation project which will support the opening of the new West Bridgford Library. This will include a competition to create a promotional campaign for a YA book. Workshops at Bridgfest and online tutorials around creativity and communications, authors event (possibly virtual) for young people, content created will be used online to promote the books. Prizes £1000 for young people to select stock and create content around their choices plus for one young person to visit Penguin's media suite and create a podcast/ video of author, which will be debuted at the opening of West Bridgford library in early 2013.
Tri-borough will be launching an online reading group - using wordpress blog - that will function across all three boroughs and is promoted to existing reading groups and via library sites and social media. Targetting 16-35s and older people, they'll be looking into providing digital literacy skills workshops for the latter demographic. A launch event will be planned in the autumn to promote the new service and ongoing content created for blog facilitators, guest bloggers and authors themselves.
Leeds/ Wakefield are developing a social media and web presence around reading and books with a special focus on engaging with adult and teen reading groups (inviting teens in particular to create/ curate content for the libraries online presence). They will be using online channels to facilitate connection between reading groups with a view to trialling an online author event at the end of the project. In addition to this, they are building an online promotion around their Mood-Boosting Books promotion for adults and teenagers using online content and communication channel to promote the offer.
We lead the Reading Partners scheme, and as part of our work organised a major digital marketing event in spring 2011 from which a shared action plan will be created. To inform this event and plan, and to sharpen the thinking around digital reader development, we invited all public library authorities in England, Scotland and Wales to participate in an online survey. Full responses were received from 113 authorities--a completion rate of 52.6%.
Reading Groups for Everyone
Reading Partners' digital survey, event and action plan coincide with our new online reading group initiative -- Reading Groups for Everyone. Libraries are at the heart of this and it has been developed in partnership with The Society of Chief Librarians
Messages from libraries
Reading Groups for Everyone is the sort of experiment that our survey shows libraries need and want. This report reveals that libraries are already widely active in digital services and social media, and that there is a strong enthusiasm among staff to do more to promote reading and develop new audiences for reading online. There are plenty of issues to be overcome--in strategic planning, staff confidence and councils' IT infrastructure among others. But the message from public libraries is clear - that the sector must continue to develop its digital services around reading and be prepared to be bold.
Digital research report
Read the full Digital research report.