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Author events in libraries

  • Date: 14 August 2012
  • Artform: Literature
  • Area: National
A speaker at the Ivybridge author event The Ivybridge author event

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The Reading Agency is a national charity with a mission to inspire more people to read. In this project it explored the potential of multi-author events in libraries. The aims were:

  • to deepen reader involvement
  • develop new audiences
  • demonstrate the emerging role of libraries as community hubs for reading

Innovative collaboration with publishers and bookshops and user involvement in originating ideas for content, programming and activities were key success factors.

The library services consulted with reading groups who  put forward ideas on content, programming and discussion points. Children helped to plan the event in Bath and design the invitations.

Four events were delivered:

Worksop - Girls' Night In, with Fiona Walker, Jojo Moyes, Amanda Brookfield and Jessica Ruston

Of the four events, Girls' Night In was the most popular, fun-packed night out. It drew a near-capacity crowd of 80. The event was mostly attended by a mix of Dinner and a show, and Family and community focused - mothers in their 60s with their daughters in their 30s and 40s - spending time with their friends and family and accompanying them to events.

The library service encouraged local businesses to support the event: Sainsbury's provided the catering, The Body Shop provided free hand massages and sold their products, and W H Smith sold the books.

This event was effective in attracting new audiences into Worksop library, an area with high levels of deprivation and very few arts and cultural opportunites.

'It was all very informal, and all four authors were really amusing and articulate speakers. It was like going out with a group of friends'

Event participant

Bath - Chatterbooks Roadshow, with Jeremy Strong, Elen Caldecott, Steve Voake, Tamsyn Murray, Kat Whelan and Richard Jones

50 children aged eight to 12 from Bath, Wiltshire, South Gloucestershire and Bristol took part, each with parents/carers, in a fun and action-packed day with five authors, plus bookselling and signing. 

  • 85 per cent of the children voted the day 'brilliant' and 15 per cent 'good'.
  • for the adults 75 per cent said 'brilliant' and 25 per cent 'good'
  • whilst most children and adults had previously visited a theatre, 82 per cent of the children and 66 per cent of the adults had never attended a similar event
  • Jeremy Strong's was predictably the most popular session but the feedback showed that both children and adults found the whole day enjoyable, worthwhile and memorable

Bristol - crime panel, with Tim Weaver and Michael Robotham

40 people attended this event. The two writers had never met before, but there was a great rapport between them and the audience particularly appreciated the middle section of the evening where the two of them discussed the business of writing, and compared notes about their techniques.

Over half the audience met the profile of Dinner and a show. Participants said they particularly valued the informal atmosphere which allowed them to feel involved. They also enjoyed the insights into the writers craft and their approaches to writing thrillers.

Ivybridge - Readers' Day, with Lesley Pearse, Elizabeth Buchan and Christina Hopkinson

55 people attended this commercial women's fiction event. 80 per cent of the audience were older women with low levels of active participation in arts activities. The majority of them belonged to a local reading group but rarely attended 'live' events. However, feedback from the audience suggests they are likely to attend similar events in the future.

Those attending particularly appreciated meeting 'the face behind the words' which they felt 'added another dimension to the reading experience.'

'This was my first experience of an author event and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. It was great to mix with other people and hear different opinions.' Event participant

Achievements

These events allowed people to:

  • find out more about a writer and their work
  • be inspired to read something new
  • be entertained by something thought-provoking

Feedback from these events has been very rewarding and will help to inform local event strategies. Following Girls Night In The Reading Agency is talking to Random House about further events.

Using learning from planning and running the events, The Reading Agency hopes to run further Chatterbooks Roadshows and author events, working with more publishers in different areas of the country.

The project has produced an event toolkit for use by libraries wanting to run similar events. This will become part of a training package to be offered by The Reading Agency.

Key learning

  • placing an offer delivered in a familiar environment was clearly successful in attracting Dinner and a show to try something different
  • the association with recognisable commercial brands such as Sainsbury's and The Body Shop helped position the 'Girls Night In' as accessible and appropriate to its target audience
  • working with local cultural organisation helped particularly in building relations with the media
  • using libraries to promote reading as a social activity and shared experience helped attract people who would otherwise be unlikely to attend a literature event
  • libraries have a very wide reach into their local communities and can target particular audiences who have never participated in live literature events
  • the successes of the library events has helped to encourage a stronger library-publisher relationship
  • these events contibute to a deepening relationship between arts and libraries as a complmentary cultural offer