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Welsh libraries reach out into the virtual world

LIBRARY staff across Wales will have access to a custom-built digital training package thanks to a Swansea Council officer and a grant from the Welsh Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund.

Kerry Pillai, of Swansea Libraries, has coordinated a range of training packages for library staff members across Wales.

The Estyn Allan training and development programme will develop staff skills, knowledge and confidence in delivering bilingual digital activities and promoting services so libraries across Wales can fully engage with readers online.

It was funded by a Welsh Government grant of almost £170,000 secured by The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) in Wales.

The past year has seen a huge change in the way public libraries have delivered services due to the pandemic.

Ongoing restrictions mean they can’t open their buildings for browsing – so staff have transformed the way they’re connecting with users.

Those run by Swansea Council are among the libraries to have developed services to enhance their digital offer. They offer services such as e-books, e-audio books and e-magazines, as well as hosting online stories and rhyme times. This has seen a surge in usage and membership across Wales’ libraries.

Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said:

“I’m delighted that expertise from our libraries service is helping the whole of Wales in this important way.

“Kerry’s skills in coordinating Estyn Allan on behalf of all local authorities in Wales will mean that many people will benefit from a new way of working for libraries.”

Bethan Hughes, the principal librarian of Denbighshire County Council, who led on the grant bid, said:

“The grant has enabled us to appoint Kerry as coordinator to organize, plan and deliver a range of training packages for library staff members across Wales.

“This will be technical training in the use of basic equipment and software apps for creating and delivering digital content, but also activities for staff to experiment and practice their skills – such as author talks, conversations between readers, reading group discussions, and illustration workshops.”

Nicola Pitman, chair of SCL Cymru, added:

“We’re delighted and grateful for the support of the Welsh Government for the level of funding that has been made available to Welsh libraries. This is truly a collaborative project across all Welsh public library services, and will benefit all services through sharing good practice, expertise and contacts, and will be available to audiences across the whole of Wales, raising the profile of Welsh libraries and of the writers and artists featured in the activities.”

Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, said:

“I was delighted to be able to support this project through our Cultural Recovery Fund and I commend SCL Cymru on this initiative.

“The Estyn Allan project will contribute to the resilience of libraries to continue to engage with their audiences during the current pandemic period and beyond. Even when physical activity returns, society and our audiences will have become increasingly comfortable with digital delivery and will expect Library services to be delivered via a variety of channels.”

The Estyn Allan project has started with gusto, with 30 trainees attending webinars on reader development in an online context, social media skills, and attracting audiences to library activities.

The three-month project aims to deliver a varied and exciting range of online training working with key partners in the books and publishing world in Wales and beyond.

The expectation is that the training programme will create a foundation for Welsh Libraries to promote their library offers to existing and new audiences in the coming months, as well as into the future by delivering a project that will engage audiences and develop staff skills and confidence as a long-term legacy.

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