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Artwork Derby - Libraries Development Initiative

  • Date: 7 May 2013
  • Artform: Libraries
  • Area: Midlands, North
three smiling women of mixed ages sit at table looking at laptop in library setting

Artwork was an innovative course that ran as part of a job club scheme organised by Derby City Libraries and funded by Arts Council England through the Libraries Development Initiative.


In January 2012, Derby City Libraries piloted a free weekly job club at Derby Central Library. Public libraries have a long history of supporting people looking for work, offering information, skills and facilities in a welcoming, non-judgemental setting. Job club sessions are delivered by volunteers and experts from partner agencies, who offer advice on writing CVs, job application, and interview technique. Derby City Libraries work in a management role, offering training, supervision, promotion and quality control.

While the job club has registered success in building skills such as writing CVs or filling in forms, it was noted that traditional courses and workshops did little to help rebuild low confidence.


Funding from the Libraries Development Initiative enabled Derby City Libraries to partner with local arts centre Derby QUAD in 2012 to produce Artwork, a course using theatre skills to help build self-esteem and confidence in jobseekers.

The aims of the Artwork project also dovetailed with the broader aims of Derby City Libraries, which include building a network of four job clubs in the wards in Derby with the highest levels of unemployment; recruiting and training volunteers to deliver the sessions; and building partnerships to enhance the library offer to jobseekers.


A designated Job Club Project Officer liaised with the facilitators from Derby QUAD, and recruited and monitored the take-up of the 12 places on each course, working with partners and key agencies.

These included Jobcentre Plus and The Shaw Trust, a registered charity that receives European funding to support jobseekers from areas of deprivation in Derby.

Each course was made up of three sessions:

  • Quad digital animation
    A practical animation workshop, allowing delegates to explore skills, identify current barriers to employment, and experience working in teams
  • Personal impact
    A participatory workshop, exploring networking and how to make a personal impact using verbal and non-verbal communication
  • Interview skills
    Using forum theatre skills, delegates practice mock interviews or press conferences and compare clips from film and TV to get an understanding of good and bad technique

Lessons learned

  • recruiting and retaining
    The main challenge was to retain jobseekers for three sessions of the workshop. Participants often attended the first session, but would then not attend for the other two. One key finding was that jobseekers were more likely to respond to text messages, as many were not comfortable with using email
  • timing
    The optimum time to recruit jobseekers to the course was 10 days to a week before the start.  If it was longer than this, people were optimistic that they might have found work
  • reaching clients
    Jobseekers are a hard to reach group, and organisations running support activities should have trusted sources of referral (in this case, the Library Job Clubs and The Shaw Trust)
  • transferrable business model
    This business model for re-packaging traditional library enquiry work actually works, and can be transferred to other areas of the library service


The Artwork model will inform future work when developing further learning and information library offers, such as homework clubs and support for people when claiming the new welfare benefit Universal Credit.

The partnerships formed by QUAD are ongoing. In January 2013, as part of the Derby Festival of Learning, Derby City Libraries engaged the trainers who had run the four confidence building courses to run a fifth course, funded by Derby Adult Learning Service. There is will to run this course again, and Derby City Libraries are seeking further funding.

With Derby City Libraries handling organisation and the sessions delivered by volunteers and partner agencies, the job club scheme is both sustainable and expanding.

Ongoing activity

Derby City Libraries have a network of job clubs in three libraries with a fourth currently in the pipeline.

Key data

  • after the session on team building, 19 jobseekers rated themselves as having good or excellent presentation skills, as opposed to five before the session - nearly a fourfold increase
  • after the session on interview skills, 20 jobseekers rated themselves as excellent or good in presentation skills, compared to 13 before the session
  • all participants reported an increase in their personal confidence, with respondents describing Artwork as 'so helpful' and saying that the courses 'really helped my confidence and helped me remain positive'
  • of the 33 jobseekers who attended Artwork, 40 per cent have gained employment, either temporary or permanent. Many jobseekers offered positive feedback:

'Just to let you know I got the job with E.ON. The workshop helped me a great deal with my interview'

'I have taken up an appointment at a council as an expert panel member for the NJC Job Evaluation scheme...So thanks very much for all your help, the workshop really helped'

'I have [a] job interview this Friday for a software job. I will use the experience from your workshop and the previous interview to present myself in the best light.'