Brightbox spent much of 2022 working on the Good Growth Pilot Project for Barnsley. One of our project aims was to connect with local communities to understand their needs and the role of the library in offering some of what they want to achieve. We were interested to find out how people perceive their local libraries, how often and in what ways do they use them and what kind of things would they like to see more of. We also wondered if Makerspaces could be integrated into libraries to offer more of what people are asking for. All of these questions led to us forming links with several grass roots organizations and groups working in neighbourhoods across Barnsley to conduct community consultations.
We learnt from this process that young people are keen to do more and often feel judged and misunderstood. They struggle with finding places local to them to be with their friends, learn skills and have fun. Older people often see the younger ones as anti-social, creating trouble and not making the most of what they have.
Over the weeks as the project ran its course Brightbox encouraged the History Group to run with their idea to put on a few workshops for young readers, with funding made available through the Community Renewal Fund. Initially, the group were a little worried about it but they contacted Art on Your Doorstep to ask if they would support the session. They ran a 6-week programme of events with 12 children and young people attending. They also ran an author event attended by 37 people!
With each session, the History Group noted that perceptions across generations also began to shift.
“We've learned by [this project] not to be scared of approaching the children and relax and talk to them like people. Through this, they've started to see us as people. They wave at me now when they see me outside the library, they wouldn't have done that before.” Tricia, Worsbrough Local History Society
Tricia says she was surprised by how well received the events were by the young people. Some even started to bring along friends who had never used the library before and many continue to come even after the project ended. This has encouraged the group and the library to create more events for young people of the area. Seeing how the young people engaged positively and showed interest in arts events has shed new light and understanding on the way to win hearts and minds.