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From Uni project to Social Enterprise - Celebrate my Library tells us their story

by Startacus Admin

Startacus heard about Hilary Chittenden & Victoria Foster when we had read up about the Creative Enterprise Awards at University of the Arts London back in November.Celebrate my Library

Hilary and Victoria, two recent Graduates from the University had won the Social Enterprise Prize for their fantastic Uni project 'Celebrate my library' that encourages libraries to become community hubs rather than just be seen as book lenders. The guys want people to remember why they love their libraries so much - hence the name ‘Celebrate my Library’.

Its early days, but we were keen to ask the guys to write a piece for Startacus on their self starter journey - and here's their story below...

"Two For the past few years the looming library cuts facing numerous councils up and down the country has been hot news. Regardless of your personal political beliefs, the tireless work of local groups campaigning, fighting and saving their local libraries is admirable. But we felt there was something missing in all these campaigns. The time spent 'saving' left little time for celebrating - celebrating just why everyone loves their library so much in the first place; and this bred Celebrate My Library. We want people to remember why they love their library so much, and ultimately get more people through those library doors!

We both have a deep love for our public libraries; not just for the books but for the chance they present for so many to mingle regardless of demographic, as a place to shelter on a cold rainy day, and for the library staff, who’s knowledge to find even the most obscure thing and willingness to help their local community, amazes. With this passion we use the voice of those who use and adore their libraries and pass it on, through our blog and publications, to those who do not.

We never thought we would be the founders of what is shaping up to become a social enterprise model. What started life as a final year uni project just sort of grew legs and ran away with us - so we followed! And it has led us on to some great things - our favourite being our children's workshops.

Celebrate my LibraryRealising of the correlation between getting children using libraries and increased literacy rates we saw that getting them into a hyped up frenzy of excitement over libraries could not only increase their literacy skills but increase the likelihood of them becoming regular library customers, and the life long benefits that come with this. As a result we run a series of Children’s workshops that aim to get children’s imaginations going, with their libraries as the inspiration. In a class group we develop a story, which have so far ranged from Jack the detective saving Ealing Road Library from an evil vampire to Steve the smelly teenager falling through a little door in Bookham library and coming face to face with a dragon. By bringing in an illustrator to live draw as the story is created this gives the chance for the Children to come back, and the end result of seeing a library book they have helped to create (and having their own name in a REAL book!) has meant the enthusiasm from these workshops has been immense. (You can see all of the amazing books the children have written here: http://www.blurb.co.uk/user/store/CelebrateLib)

With funding from our university and from O2 we are continuing these workshops and also planning a one day event in collaboration with Fixers. We hope that the small amount we can do gets public enthusiasm for their libraries going once more, and the work of the numerous campaigners can have a bigger knock on effect.

Both of us work full time at the minute and spend our spare time working on Celebrate My Library. Yes, there are times when we would have rather gone to the pub, and yes, sometimes the thought of another funding application is enough to make you sick. But we have come to realise that the sense of pride and achievement that you have when you get incredible feedback from a librarian, or the joy you get from seeing a kids face light up seeing their name in print… well, its better than any pint (almost). If we were to give advice to anyone else thinking of starting a social project it would probably be make sure its something that you really, really love, and secondly, just go out and DO IT! It's easy to spend a lot of time thinking and planning, and we tend to find this happens when we are putting something off that we're just a bit nervous about. So just pinch your nose, shut your eyes, and dive right in.

If you would like to volunteer with Celebrate My Library, or you are school/library looking to host a workshop - or really if you just fancy a chat - drop us an email: celebratemylibrary@gmail.com" 


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Published on: 5th February 2013

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