Gateshead Libraries have four Reading Hack groups who meet regularly and often run successful events. We asked them to share how they work with young people and what they have learned.
About Gateshead Libraries
Gateshead has four Reading Hack groups. Three groups have members aged 14-20 and one group, known as The Anime Attax Committee, has members aged 17-24 who all have a common interest in Anime.
The groups develop their own individual events and activities and have their own particular areas of interest.
The groups came together recently to support and deliver a large-scale event called Geek-Con. Activities took place across Gateshead in the morning, then the groups came together in the afternoon at the Central Library for a large celebration event with stalls, crafts, a cosplay competition, music and prizes. It attracted a large audience of young people and was a huge success.
The groups have won several competitions set by the Reading Agency. They have worked with musicians, photographers and authors and won prizes such as a chocolate fountain, book collections, Amazon vouchers and interviews with authors.
The groups have given some of the young people a real sense of belonging and have helped them to develop social skills, confidence and even language skills. The library has become a second home to them and a place where they feel comfortable and confident. The group members have supported each other through exam stresses and a wide variety of teenage dramas, including family problems and relationship issues.
One young person, Ylenia, has said:
"Overall, I think the libraries have changed me a LOT, because I realise that I can achieve so much more that I thought. I would now like to pursue a career as a librarian."
Learning and Feedback
Working with Reading Hack has transformed the way Gateshead libraries work with young people. It has raised our profile within the local authority and with partner agencies and has allowed our libraries to present themselves to young people in a way that is attractive and appealing to an age group that is sometimes hard to reach.
Over time we have learned that the ideas, plans and development of the groups must be led by the young people themselves, supported by library staff. It is by empowering young people and giving them the freedom to be creative that the best and most innovative activity happens.
Recruitment can be a challenge as young people grow and move on, and Reading Hack groups face stiff competition for young people's time and attention.
New group members may find it difficult to join an already established group and this requires real skill from group leaders to ensure everyone is welcomed and involved.
Working with young people themselves can sometimes present challenges, such as fall-outs within the group or issues that group leaders may not be equipped to deal with. This requires strong and supportive management for group leaders and a safeguarding system which supports all involved.
Funding for the project can also be a challenging area. A small amount of funding can help group leaders support their groups with rewards such as cinema trips or may pay for transport or resources to support the groups. Previous funding awards from the Reading Agency have been used in this way.
Future Plans for Reading Hack
Gateshead plans to build on its successes and continue to grow our Reading Hack involvement , including competitions, sharing of ideas, social action, volunteering and enjoying everything libraries can offer.
We will be hosting several recruitment events in libraries and schools across Gateshead to promote Reading Hack. We have also approached our Anime Attax Committee young people to see if they are interested in becoming a constituted group, which would enable them to apply for funding independently.