Libraries Innovation Fund – an opportunity for local history and archives?

The Libraries Taskforce and Arts Council announced the new Libraries Opportunities for Everyone Innovation Fund last week. The aim of the fund is to enable library services to trial innovative projects that will benefit disadvantaged people and places in England.  To deliver this objective the fund has two aims:

1. To provide library users and communities with opportunities to remove or reduce their experience of disadvantage

 2. To enable library services to develop innovative practice that meets the needs of people and places experiencing disadvantage

These projects will be delivered within the frameworks offered by the Society of Chief Librarians’ five Universal Offers and the seven outcomes in Libraries Taskforce’s ‘Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016 to 2021.  There is a £4 million pot and more about the fund can be found here.

I went to the briefing session at Manchester Central Library last week. My first two weeks of freelance life since leaving Manchester Libraries had mainly been all archives and I wanted to stay ‘in the loop’ on libraries.

The briefing session was excellent – the aims and criteria for the fund seem very clear. The only challenge is the timescales (deadline is 6 January), but to be fair to the Arts Council they have turned the whole programme round quickly. For those who are working over Christmas it is probably a relatively good time to write a bid – when the phones and the emails get a bit quieter. I expect the fund will be very competitive.

I tried to go to briefing session with a ‘libraries hat’ but as usual the Archivist in me started to think about opportunities for archives and local history. Then somebody asked a question about whether project could be based around archives (not me – I promise!). I did not catch who asked the question., but the gist of the answer from the Arts Council was that the lead applicant has to be a local authority archive service and the project needs to delivered within the framework of the Universal Offers and the seven Libraries Taskforce outcomes. However, archives and local history could be part of a project – especially where they are integrated with the library service.

This got me thinking about what type of innovative archive and local history projects could apply for this fund or be part of a wider project. I do hope library authorities are thinking about this and we see some successful projects with a local history and archives angle. Especially given all the photographs in the publicity of the Innovation Fund feature a certain archive (in a library)! Perhaps more importantly what role do archives and local history have in delivering the seven outcomes outlined in Libraries Deliver?

Here are my potential ideas, but I am sure you can think of better and more innovative ones (tell me below). I have tried to link each idea to one of the Universal Offers and Libraries Taskforce outcomes

  • Increased digital access and literacy – using local history, archives & family history digital resources to run digital literacy sessions with older people or housebound customers. Or using archives for inspiration for creative digital activity with young people e.g. green screens portraits using old photographs, stop animation videos of stories from the archives.
  • Stronger, more resilient communities – working with residents or local groups to curate exhibitions, interpretation, digital interactives or an augmented reality experience in their local libraries about the history of their area or community. For me local history and archives are key to creating a shared sense of place in communities and libraries.
  • Greater prosperity – using the stories in business archives to inspire the businesses and entrepreneurs of today.

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