Who's Got Da Skillz? Libraries, that's who!

Yesterday, Sarah B and I attended the opening session of the Digital Skills Sharing initiative, put together by The Reading Agency and The Publisher Association.

My favourite line of the day was from Miranda McKearney, CEO of The Reading Agency: “This project brings together the powerful networks that librarians and publishers represent.”

And it’s so true! Libraries and publishers are the foundation for networks of readers, networks of people who love books — and groups of book lovers are so powerful. They can change someone’s life just by talking about a favourite book; they can spur on political movements; they can steer the course of cultural development and artistic expression. It was so wonderful to be surrounded by people that are passionate about getting people to read — and it’s so exciting to work with libraries on digital strategy, where there are so many opportunities to reach more readers and help bring people together over books.

Before the event kicked off, there was a huge buzz in the room, which turned into the sound of people writing and tapping out nuggets of wisdom from the inspirational speakers like:

Matt Locke from @storythings, who told everyone, very sensibly, not to stress about the technology. It’s much more about people’s patterns of behaviour. Think about how are people are changing, not how is technology changing. New patterns of behaviour, new patterns of the way people “pay attention”: are things like live broadcasts Million Pound Drop, Lambing Live, Planet Earth Live (can’t WAIT for this one!). There is also binge watching lots of a show at once (Mad Men box sets, recording a whole series say of Firefly), or snacking on entertainment for ten minutes while commuting via mobile devices…

@Gatesheadteens, two bright young women, showed us a brilliant and hilarious video promo for Before I Go to Sleep, (Watch it here: which they put together as part of the @MyVoice program. They did the filming, the soundtrack, the graphics all themselves as part of a contest. They didn’t win, but everyone was so impressed with their video and it was clear that people like these ladies are some of the most passionate and most creative advocates for books!

Jim Thompson from Edinburgh Libraries showed what can be achieved through a forward-thinking library strategy. He presented almost a case study for other boroughs of how it can really work to drive up transactions. This is their blog and a brilliant Around the World in 80 Detective Inspector’s Google Maps project that maps books to locations. We love this!

and Stewart Bain from @OrkneyLibrary had us all giggling at old book covers for books about biscuits and blown away by the fact that 25% of their population of 20,000 people are following them on Twitter! Libraries aren’t all about serious things — they tweet about The Voice and also blog about fascinating things from their archives.

Go find them on Twitter! It’s clear that libraries already have bags of digital skills that are benefitting their communities in a big way.

After the talks, our working group met. We’ll be spending the next six months or so working with lovely librarians from Nottinghamshire (@nottslibraries) and publishing colleagues from Penguin. Together, we’ll deliver one or two big projects as case studies, and we’ve already got a few good ideas for what we’re going to do…

When we were in the room it felt like we were part of something important, something that could have big impact if everyone is committed to making it work. We’ll definitely keep you posted.

In the meantime, it would be really helpful if you would share some cool things that your library does, so that we can start to get inspired!