By Andy Wright
The application process is now open for Engaging Libraries: a programme aimed at supporting creative and imaginative public engagement activities on health and wellbeing in public libraries across the UK and Ireland. The programme is led by Carnegie UK Trust working in partnership with The Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation that supports scientists and researchers to take on big problems, fuel imaginations, and spark debate, and is the outcome of joint work between the Wellcome Trust and SCL.
The programme provides the perfect opportunity for the public library sector to demonstrate its collaborative potential and its capacity to develop innovative activities around health and wellbeing topics
We are looking for projects that create new ways for local communities to use and engage with libraries, typically projects that creatively and critically engage communities with health and wellbeing topics in exploratory and experimental ways, enabling people to relate to health and wellbeing themes in ways that are accessible and relevant to them.
Public engagement involves creating an opportunity for people to consider, participate and debate ideas. It is two-way process, which may involve activities like participation, conversation, interaction and listening. It can take many forms but is often made up of projects, activities or events, ranging from a family fun make-and-take activity, right through to an artist performing a new piece of work exploring an issue or concern to a public audience. In these situations, activities can inspire curiosity, spark debate and stimulate conversations, supporting people to make connections between ideas, their own lives and society.
We all know that libraries do lots of hugely valuable health promotion work and Engaging Libraries has been designed specifically to give library services the opportunity to broaden their toolkit, to support activities that connect with people in more dynamic and discursive ways, to provide a safe space in which to be truly innovative.
What does this mean in practice? Well, a health promotion activity might mean giving clear advice and sharing information about the need to “eat your 5 a day” – disseminating this advice ‘as is’ through pamphlets and a talk. A public engagement project on the same topic might be to create an interactive event. Maybe an evening dinner with chefs, historians and food related researchers, where dinner members can share their thoughts and opinions about what eating healthily means to them. Or, activities could include sharing recipes, hints and tips, or might even include a debate on the 5 a-day rule.
Neil MacInnes, President of SCL and a member of the project advisory group described the scheme as “…a great opportunity for libraries to be creative and experimental in designing a health and wellbeing engagement activity that they have not tried before. Libraries are becoming increasingly innovative in how they meet the challenges they face, and we look forward to receiving an inspiring range of ideas from applicants across the country.”