- Date: 11 February 2013
- Area: South East
Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library. Credit: Michael Cameron
Situated in the East of England in the country’s only UNESCO city of literature, is Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library which has successfully held on to the UK’s busiest library title for the sixth year running.
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) 2011-12 survey revealed Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library received the most visitors in the country last year at 1,343,828; significantly higher than greater London based libraries. In addition, they also issued the most items in the country at a staggering 1,184,345. Chelmsford Library, one of 76 libraries in Essex was the third highest to issue items closely followed by Cambridge Central Library.
The location of the Millennium Library has been vital in ensuring accessibility and interest for a range of audiences. It is located in The Forum; a busy community hub with a focus for a broad range of learning and cultural activities in Norwich and hosts several organisations. Socialising within a library might have been frowned upon in the past but in the Millennium Library it is heavily encouraged through the many activities presented; from knitting and nattering groups to reading groups. The Millennium library has creatively adapted its space to house separate areas including a children’s area and a 2nd Air Division Memorial Library; a living memorial to nearly 7,000 American servicemen who lost their lives during the Second World War.
Norfolk libraries is well known for engaging with its communities and collaborating with partners. At the end of January, the Millennium Library announced it is one of four libraries in the UK to join up with the British Library as part of the ‘Writing Britain’ project. The project is a continuation from last summer’s successful Cultural Olympiad project which exhibited literary objects chosen by curators from the British Library archives. This month, a selection of these literary items are being loaned to the Millennium library to form an exhibition highlighting creative works using Norfolk Broads as a source of inspiration. The exhibition includes two original John Betjeman poems featuring Norfolk locations and Harold Pinter’s original screenplay for adaption of LP Hartley’s Norfolk set-novel ‘The Go Between’.
Arts Council England National portfolio organisation, Writers’ Centre Norwich’s (WCN) popular 'Summer Reads' scheme works with Norfolk Libraries as a partner. From May to July, WCN introduces five carefully chosen books inviting the Norfolk public to engage with the scheme by reading the works or joining a range of activities from book clubs to participating in online forums.
Lisa Elmer, Relationship Manager, Libraries, Arts Council England, East said:
'Libraries are at the very heart of their communities and are centres of knowledge available for everyone to use. The CIPFA figures demonstrate how libraries are very much valued by the public, especially here in the East. Through the British Library project, and other exciting activities available in libraries, I hope that more people will be encouraged to use their libraries now and in the future’
Norfolk and Norwich Millennium library promote a sense of fun from the variety of services they offer. E-books and more recently e-audio-books are available for people to incorporate literature and learning into their lives whilst ‘on the go’. Norfolk libraries recognises the importance of allowing access to services alongside people’s busy lives. In addition to providing weekend and longer opening hours they worked with local employers in Norfolk to devise an innovative project taking library services out to communities through the work place; ‘pop up libraries’.
Barry Stone, Cabinet Member for Cultural Services at Norfolk County Council, said:
‘Our libraries are great places, but we understand people have busy lives so whenever they can, libraries staff will go out to people to show them what being a library member could offer them.
People in Norfolk love their libraries but there are still a lot of people in the county who aren’t members. We want our libraries to be as well-used and well-loved as possible, and when it’s free to join and free to borrow books, magazine and ebooks, and free to use computers and the internet, there are plenty of good reasons to become a member and support your local library.
We’ve worked with employers in the past but this is the first time we’ve offered to take part of the library experience to any Norfolk organisations that request it. It’s a really nice thing for employers to do for their staff, as being a library member can help people save money and give them access to information and options that really can make a big difference to people’s lives.’
Libraries are continuing to adapt to change and meet the needs of the public. To find out more about Arts Council England’s work with libraries click here.