Libraries are an example to follow
Merton’s libraries have gained European recognition, following a visit last week from a party of 20 librarians, from Copenhagen, Denmark.
The visitors, who are all public library directors in their own country, had read about Merton’s excellent methods of tackling social exclusion in libraries in their national press, and had come to the UK to learn more. As well as a tour of Morden library, the party was given a talk on the necessary change that has come about in the library service in recent years.
Merton library service has successfully implemented a variety of schemes which aim to ensure the service is reaching out groups in the borough whose needs had not been previously met. These groups include older people, teenagers and asylum seekers. The visitors were given a presentation on a new approach to reaching young people, the new youth magazine, Merton Sense. This is a libraries and Youth Service joint initiative that aims to draw young people into using the library service. The group of young journalists meets on a weekly basis in a space that has been set aside for special projects in Mitcham library.
The Danish visitors were also told about the successful Lending Time Project which involves using volunteers in libraries to bring in new skills with which to develop services to current and potential users. For example, a recent initiative involved using volunteers with strong IT skills to train older people who wished to become comfortable in using computers. This was so popular that it was oversubscribed! The lending time scheme also successfully provided the assistance of a retired journalist to advise the editorial team on the production of Merton Sense, the new youth magazine.
Shiraz Durrani, Innovations and Development manager for Merton, said of the visit:
” We are pleased that our Danish visitors thought Merton’s approach an innovative one they wanted to understand better during their visit. I hope that we inspired our guests to use similar methods in Denmark’s libraries.”