The national charity, The Reading Agency has today announced that it is working with local authority library services across the UK to create a "Youth Innovation Network" of librarians who together will generate thousands of new volunteering opportunities in public libraries for young people aged 11-25 years. The initiative will be delivered in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and the Association of Senior Children's and Education Librarians (ASCEL) and has been made possible following a £127,000 grant from the Cabinet Office's Social Action Fund.
The Reading Agency, which has many years experience of working with libraries to develop national volunteering programmes, will co-ordinate the Network and provide new training and resources for librarians on how to engage young volunteers and run successful volunteering programmes.
Miranda McKearney, Director of The Reading Agency, said; "Young people are having a really tough time, so we're delighted to be able to give libraries extra support to create important new volunteering opportunities to support reading in the community. The Network builds on libraries' long standing experience of involving volunteers, extending this to build year round volunteering opportunities. These opportunities will help young people develop their communication, literacy and civic participation skills, and unleash their passion for helping to create a better society."
Volunteering opportunities are likely to include designing new library services, organising author events, reading with children, handing out books at events like 'World Book Night', and using library space and computers to tell stories about their community via social media.
Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society, today visited Canada Water Library in Southwark where he met young volunteers. He said: "Through the Social Action Fund, we are supporting organisations that are creating new opportunities for people to get involved and help others. I am particularly keen for more young people to get the opportunity to contribute to their community and develop their skills and confidence."
Aishat (photographed above), aged 15, who volunteers at Canada Water Library said; "I enjoy being a young volunteer, I communicate with the public and children - it's fun. I am gaining communication skills and it boosts my confidence."
74 local authorities have already committed to join the Network to share their experience of working with young people with other libraries and benefit from extra support.
Southwark Councillor Veronica Ward, lead member for culture, leisure, sport and the Olympics said; "It is good to be able to showcase the work we are doing with our library services. As a council we have invested heavily in our libraries across the borough and worked hard to ensure that they serve the needs of the local community.
"As a result, our Summer Volunteers Programme has worked really well this year with over 40 young people from across Southwark volunteering at libraries. We look forward to sharing and learning from our partners within the Network."
For The Reading Agency please contact Mandy Pursey at FMcM Associates on tel: 0207 405 7422
For The Cabinet Office please contact Jeremy Olver on tel: 0207 276 2234
For Southwark council please contact Florence Igbokwe on tel: 0207 525 0382