Libraries Unlimited awarded funds to rollout new library services in North Devon

© Dom Moore, Plymouth College of Art

Posted on: 22 March 2017

Arts Council England (ACE) has awarded Libraries Unlimited £245,330 as part of the Libraries Opportunities for Everyone Innovation Fund.

The funds will enable Libraries Unlimited, which runs the county’s libraries on Devon County Council’s behalf, to develop and implement innovative new library services across rural communities in North Devon and Torridge, offering a range of exciting literacy and digital literacy facilities.

Barnstaple Library will be home to a new Fab Lab PLUS, equipped with specialist digital machinery such as 3D printers and laser cutters, as well as providing training, workshops, and courses on creative writing and digital content creation including vlogs, blogs and videos.

To ensure the facilities are available to new and existing service users in North Devon and Torridge, a new outreach programme will allow digital tools and opportunities to visit communities in Bideford and Ilfracombe with the mini Fab Lab, a mobile digital making lab.

The ACE Libraries Opportunities for Everyone Innovation Fund has been designed to support projects that develop innovative library service activity to benefit people and places in England.

As part of the project, Libraries Unlimited will also visit key community locations, including health centres and GPs, children’s centres, youth centres and food banks as well as libraries, to ensure the services are reaching out to those most in need of support. Children and families will be able to take part in a vibrant range of programmes and promotional events such as Books on the Beach, and the annual Active Life Active Mind campaign will be extended to develop a range of new taster sessions for those with mental health and wellbeing issues.

The programme will focus on ensuring that children and families have better access to a wide range of services and opportunities, allowing families to better support and engage their children, to develop new skills and to improve heath, wellbeing and overall life chances for families and communities.

Barnstable Library will also become a business support hub, providing bespoke business support services, helping to improve employment opportunities, offering start-up support and encouraging entrepreneurship, with a key focus on women in business and supporting parents in getting back to work.

Ciara Eastell

Ciara Eastell, Chief Executive of Libraries Unlimited said:

“We are absolutely thrilled to be awarded this innovation fund to provide new literacy services across North Devon and Torridge.  This funding is to enable us to develop existing and new services which help support and enrich the life chances of families and communities across the area. As a new charity delivering library services across the county, we are delighted to have this new funding to enable us to have even greater social impact in the future.

“The funding will enable us to offer a wide range of new digital, health and outreach services across our libraries which serve the North Devon and Torridge areas.  As part of the project, we will be able to establish a new ‘Fab Lab PLUS’ facility in Barnstaple Library, which will offer people of all ages access to digital making and literacy services and machinery to develop new skills, as well as providing bespoke business support services. The ‘mini Fab Lab’ outreach programme will allow us to get out into local communities and support those that need us most through our network of rural libraries. It’s an exciting opportunity for us to take library services out to a diverse audience, and shape our offering to meet the changing needs of local communities.  We look forward to working with our staff, partners and local communities to make the most of this new funding.”

As well as the funding from Arts Council England, Devon County Council is contributing match funding of £55,900 towards the project.

Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for libraries, Cllr Roger Croad, said:

“This is great news for Libraries Unlimited. I’m thrilled that its application to the Arts Council was successful. This is an exciting and innovative project which will give people new opportunities to benefit from the library service.”

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