As far back as the 1990s we have explored the possibilities and opportunities offered by library based residencies to engage with library users. Facilitating residencies has allowed us to undertake the vital work of activating our collections, building partnerships, and address the pressing issues of our time in a lively, inventive way. While in the past books were the principal medium by which we helped people to visit other worlds, now we embrace everything from dance, food and play to digital media and cultural programming on the most provocative themes to engage our audiences.
From writers, readers, poets, artists, and more recently, historians and musicians, our active residency programmes have allowed us to work in partnership with ‘unusual friends’ providing an effective way of delivering positive outcomes for all of our users. There are reciprocal benefits in these programmes. Residents are provided with resources including space, time, and financial support to create works, investigate ideas, and experiment, as well as the opportunity to develop their practice by excavating the ideas contained within the library. It also gives them access to new audience while creating new bodies of work. Perhaps their most important contribution is their ability to surprise and delight our users and to encourage the general public to think about libraries as creative spaces.
By providing programming, demonstrations, and training with library users as well as our staff, all parties benefit. Staff members are enthusiastic and willing to promote the programmes, eager to learn new skills and ideas, and excited about working in collaboration with the residents. Our residents have delivered a diverse range of events, including writing workshops, art installations, theatre, dance, presentations and engagements with schools, families and local groups, allowing them to share their methods, their projects, and their inspiration with the community. Through blog posts and diverse public happenings our residents have helped to shine a light on the value, breadth, and accessibility of library collections while bringing them to a much wider audience.
We have measured the success of these programmes against our initial goals, including the high level of interest in the programmes offered and attendance at events, the range of positive comments made by library users, the level and frequency of engagement with communities, and positive stories of increased empowerment to explore and learn from the programmes.
DUBLIN CITY HISTORIANS IN RESIDENCE
In Spring 2017 we engaged a team of part-time Historians in Residence working with communities across the city under the auspices of the Decade of Commemorations. The historians work in the five administrative areas of Dublin City to make history and historical sources accessible and enjoyable for all. The residents work on all sorts of history events throughout the city including talks, walks, tours, discussions, history book clubs, blogs, exhibitions and more.
The single most important contribution I feel we have made individually and collectively is bringing history into places where it is normally absent. In my case, this has been lectures around Herbert Simms in working class inner-city communities, Gaelic Sunday talks in GAA clubhouses and our prison lecture series.
- Donal Fallon, Historian in Residence
Developing a growing interest in our shared heritage with all ages and backgrounds across South Central, explaining National history through events that happened locally through talks, walks, re-enactments, exhibitions and functions.
- Cathy Scuffil, Historian in Residence South Central Area
DUBLIN UNESCO CITY OF LITERATURE - READERS IN RESIDENCE
The Reader-in-Residence programme is an innovative way of providing opportunities for positive engagement with libraries and reading for the children living in inner-city Dublin. Three experts in children’s literature were employed over the last two years using funding secured from the North East Inner City Initiative. The programme encourages reading for pleasure by introducing children to a wide variety of high-quality, age-appropriate books from a range of authors and genres.
The Readers’ role is to visit groups within their schools and chose exciting books and activities to introduce to the children and young people. Participants take part in library visits, receive a library membership card and participate in skills activities as part of the programme.
Many of the programme’s young readers have also had the opportunity to attend events with award winning authors and illustrators including Jeff Kinney, Dave Rudden, Andy Griffiths, Pamela Butchart, Korky Paul, Caroline Busher and Helena Duggan. In advance of these events the Readers introduce their groups to the author’s work and make the practical arrangements with the schools.
Reader-in-Residence is a very unique and special role, it has allowed me to work with hundreds of children, introducing them to a world of books they never knew existed. Discovering a love of reading is something that can happen at any stage in a person’s life, but discovering it at a young age is a gift you will carry throughout your life. I truly believe that the Reader-in-Residence Programme has helped many young people discover this love of books and reading. Seeing children squeal with joy when you tell them they are going to the library, their delight and pride in getting their own library card and watching their faces light up at a story, are what make my job so rewarding.
- Julianne Mooney Reader-in-Residence (Primary Schools)
North East Inner City Project - THE DIGITAL SKILLS PROJECT
Coding is an increasingly popular activity for children and young people. The Digital Skills Project was set up to provide a high quality coding programme in a library environment. Coder Dojo is a grassroots movement ‘of free, volunteer-led, community-based computer programming clubs for young people.’ A Project Co-ordinator, Joanne Dolan, was employed with funding from the Dublin North East Inner City Initiative to run the programme. On Saturdays, in Charleville Mall library, a Family Dojo provides sessions where children aged 7 to 12 can learn how to code, while family members (parents, siblings, etc.) are encouraged to make use of the library facilities. On Wednesdays, in the Central Library, teenagers, aged 13-17, are welcome to work on computer projects in a casual, social environment.
This programme was chosen to represent Irish libraries at Generation Code: Born at the Library, a Public Libraries 2020 initiative, hosted in the European Parliament which aims to showcase innovative digital projects in European libraries and to raise awareness of library services.
What inspires me, particularly, about the approach, are the social networks forming among teen participants, the educational and professional aspirations developing in younger attendees, and the connectedness participants are beginning to show with the libraries providing the sessions
Joanne Dolan, CoderDojo Coordinator
DUBLIN UNESCO CITY OF LITERATURE - WRITERS IN RESIDENCE
Declan Burke and Elizabeth Reapy, writers in residence have worked with library-based writing groups around the city, as well as doing public readings and working on their own new writing. Activities include free master classes in dialogue, readings for the public in Irish Writers Centre and sessions for writing groups in exploring approaches to poetry writing.
'There were many enjoyable aspects to the writer-in-residence role, some of them related to unexpected friendships that will survive long after I have left the position, some of them relating to realising exactly how wide and deep is the untapped pool of writing talent that exists within the framework of the Dublin City library writer groups. For my own part, the year spent as writer-in-residence served as a long overdue wake-up call, a reminder of the reason I first picked up a pen and began defacing perfectly good blank pages: the simple and pure joy – that simplest and purest of all joys – of putting words in their best order.
Writer in Residence Declan Burke
DUBLIN CITY MUSICIAN IN RESIDENCE
Ríona Sally Hartman is Dublin City Council’s first Musician in Residence. She is a vocalist, composer, educator and bandleader who performs and composes in English and Irish. The Musician in Residence programme has the goal of offering a range of music engagement opportunities for members of the public to listen, play, perform and compose music in a structured supportive environment. The programme also offers valuable experiences in piloting music initiatives to inform programming at the City Library and Parnell Square Cultural Quarter. Aimed at all age groups but with a particular focus on engaging with young adults and adults, the programme has offered taster ukulele workshops for all ages, lyric writing workshops aimed at young adults and adults, the formation of an adult choir who performed “ Song for Suffrage” at the Dublin Festival of History, music listening parties aimed at adults who selected music from the Music Library resources to play and discuss and support for a newly formed young adult band.
Whenever people come together with the intention of making music, it will happen regardless of abilities.
Ríona Sally Hartman, Musician in Residence
FUTURE RESIDENCY PLANS
Digital Champions/Makers in Residence:
The popularity of creation through digital media is a defining characteristic of today’s younger generations. Young people are redefining creative works with the use of digital audio and video, and they are eager to learn and use all of the technological tools they can to exercise their creativity. During the lifetime of ‘Libraries Unlimited’ we will continue to work with residencies and other models to ensure that as many citizens as possible have the opportunity to engage creatively with digital media. We will meet the increasing requirement for provision of digital services by engaging a number of area based Digital Champions. Their role will be to help library users become familiar with the full range of digital technologies and promote their use. Multimedia production tools will be available for use by library staff as well as the public. This use will be supported by a maker in residence who will be tasked with cultivating a “hacker ethic” among library users and staff alike.
We will expand the readers-in-residence project to continue current engagement and extend engagement to more schools, reaching each DCC area
Youth worker/Community out-reach worker in residence:
We will investigate the potential of engaging with youth and community practitioners to expand the reach of our services to those groups who may not see libraries as services for them, exploring areas such as Digital youth work and community outreach to engage with communities in homeless services, family hubs and direct provision