Neil MacInnes, SCL President

2016 has been a year of innovation and partnerships in public libraries. It never ceases to amaze me how much we achieve above and beyond expectations. We could fill pages with the work and successes of our Universal Offers this year alone, but in the spirit of one of my New Year resolutions I will keep this message short and sweet.

We have celebrated Shakespeare to the hilt! Working with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Arts Council England and all of the enthusiastic teams in libraries, we have something to be hugely proud of in our Celebrating Shakespeare achievements. From Shakespeare Selfie week in March through to autumn activities, it is truly inspiring to see how engaged library customers of all ages have been. I have to admit attending the Celebrate Shakespeare National Learning Event in December and the fabulous performance of Romeo and Juliet at Halesowen Library in Dudley – were two of the particular highlights of my 2016 as SCL President.

The BBC has said that public libraries are now their most enthusiastic and capable partners, thanks to the overwhelming success of LovetoRead. The LovetoRead weekend saw thousands of libraries, library customers and staff celebrating reading both in and out of the library space. Radio stations across the country forged new partnerships with local libraries and new platforms for showcasing literature.

We are proud of the Summer Reading Challenge and the more than 750,000 children who completed it, the more than 14,000 library staff who made it fun and interesting for them. Each year The Reading Agency delivers a superb programme and we look forward to 2017.

We’re all getting healthier in libraries! In April 2016, we launched Reading Well for young people at the Wellcome Trust supported by the Minister for State and Community Care and other young people’s mental health champions. We now have a thoroughly researched and expert-supported list of 35 titles for 13-18 year olds, covering common mental health experiences such as anxiety, depression, stress and eating disorders as well as difficult life experiences such as exam pressures and bullying.

We continue to work with the Taskforce to forge a path towards a single digital presence for public libraries. SCL successfully secured a place on the Government’s Digital Services (GDS) Digital Training and Support Services framework for the supply of Assisted Digital/Digital Inclusion services. This allows SCL to bid on behalf of public libraries to provide services and receive funding under the Framework.

We’ve cracked Cracking the Code and our Manchester event was a huge success, thanks to the hard work of the Learning Offer team, Helen Drakard, Katie Peckacar and all of our innovative partners. Feedback has been excellent and we will look at how we can hold more of these events in 2017. To date, thanks in large part to the Learning Offer, there more than 350 coding clubs in libraries—a 330% increase from March 2016.

We have exciting plans afoot for the Children’s Promise, the Information Offer and Six Steps, so watch this space in early 2017.

In June 2017 we will launch the sixth offer, Culture, and we’re working on how it fits in with all the other offers. It will complement and showcase what is best about Health, Digital, Information, Reading and Learning.

Thank you to our partners who see the value in our projects and impact that public libraries make. Thanks most of all to the staff of public libraries who see each and every customer as an opportunity to share a passion for knowledge.

It’s been a very busy 2016 and 2017 already has seen an extremely active 2017. As always a big thank you to all SCL colleagues and partners and I look forward to continuing to work with you over the year to ensure that public libraries thrive, rather than merely survive.