The Scottish Government has made available through The Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC), an amount of money that public Libraries can bid into annually. It is an ‘improvement’ fund directly related to The Public Library Quality Improvement Matrix. This means that as long as a library service keeps bringing forward projects which can be seen as an improvement to the service it is currently able to offer and as a response to community and individual need then it can bid into the fund in as many consecutive years as it requires.
Highland Libraries were successful with a bid in 2006 for the installation of six self-issue machines in six disparate libraries. These freed up staff time to work in partnership with other agencies enhancing the service offered by the library, and helping library users get the maximum benefit from information technology. The time freed up and the expertise made available as a result of this project is now enabling staff to leave the counter and work with people directly, adding value to their library visits, and helping them meet their information and reading needs.
Buoyed by the success of the partnership-working model in this first initiative, and by the staff confidence arising from the training delivered in the course of it, Highland Libraries bid again successfully in 2007 for funds to deliver a new project: Opening the treasure chest: delivering equality of access to Rhymetime / Storytimes and primary school class visits to all Highland children.
As the name implies this will build on the existing good practice and expertise available around the Highlands. The process of planning the project has involved many experienced library staff and partners meeting together to create a programme of activities and materials. These can be used during class visits to libraries across the Highlands, regardless of the amount of space available in libraries or their geographical remoteness, and the materials can be used effectively by staff whatever their prior level of experience. As the original bid says, “The Project will fund the planning, development and delivery of a staff and partner training programme, provide relief staff where necessary to release permanent staff to deliver the programme and aim at achieving sustainability.”
As this is something that many library staff, nursery staff and teachers have been requesting from Highland Libraries for a long time it is with great pleasure that we are at last able to share our collective experience and work together with partners to enhance the experience of children when they visit libraries.