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#25What can we learn from libraries?

In 2018 Arts Council England welcomed six library services as NPOs (National Portfolio Status). In the latest issue of the AMA’s membership publication JAM — the journal of arts marketing — AMA member Melissa Matthews considers the impact NPO status has had on Suffolk Libraries. 

Having never worked in libraries, Melissa’s first year managing Suffolk Libraries BLOC programme — Building Libraries on Creativity — has been a: “steep learning curve”.

One of the key things Melissa’s learnt is the importance of what she calls: “creative democracy”. Libraries are often at the heart of a community and as part of that ownership local communities need to be involved and engaged with the creative process.

“Those voices needed to be heard,” writes Melissa. “I quickly learnt to embrace a democratic approach and align the aims of the programme with the vision of those individuals.”

Melissa also considers the misconception that libraries are “passive venues” and argues the importance of involving libraries in the creative process and planning from the outset.

“We have fought to be around the table with neighbouring arts organisations, championing libraries as creative collaborators. We have a voice, something to offer.”

As Libraries Connected, a national charity and an Arts Council England Sector Support Organisation, observe on AMAculturehive:  “Libraries are commissioning art and culture and designing regular programmes of cultural activity.”

The role of libraries in reaching new audiences with new cultural and art experiences goes beyond the traditional loaning of books.

“Libraries offer quality experiences locally enabling people who don’t usually have access to enjoy and participate in arts and culture. Libraries also offer relaxed spaces and help new artists test and showcase their work and build audiences.”
Libraries Connected, AMAculturehive.

Image courtesy of Suffolk Libraries ©

Read Melissa Matthew’s article What can we learn from libraries? in JAM 73 — Community Engagement. You will need to be  logged in to access.

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