Curious Blog: Bolton’s ‘Imaginators’ and the Curious Libraries Report

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Curious Blog: Bolton’s ‘Imaginators’ and the Curious Libraries Report

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In 2016 Curious Minds was proud to commission and publish a fully scoped report into the work North West libraries are doing to support the Arts Council’s Cultural Education Challenge.

The Library Publication captures case studies and good practice that illustrates a range of projects, designed to engage children and young people in the arts for participation, learning and enjoyment.

Bolton Libraries’ Louise Window blogs here about the authority’s inclusion in the Library Publication and the local impact of their own cultural projects.

I’ve been asked to write a short blog about Bolton’s inclusion in the Curious Minds publication ‘Libraries and the Cultural Education Challenge’

A little bit of background to the project.

At Bolton Library and Museum Service we have a volunteering programme for young people called ’The Imaginators’.   It’s very similar in some ways to the Reading Agency’s ‘Reading Hacks’, but as we are now a joint Library and Museum Service we wanted a volunteering role that would meet the needs of the young people applying to volunteer across the whole service, hence the development of the ‘Imaginators’ (a name the volunteers thought of themselves).  Interestingly, lots of the young people have come into the role specifically with an interest in books and reading so the majority of the activities and projects they run are based around this.

As the volunteers are with us on a regular basis we wanted them to get something credible for their efforts and commitment, and we thought the Bronze Arts Award fitted perfectly. The training for our staff and costs of the award itself were covered by a grant we received for the Summer Reading Challenge, which was awarded by the Cabinet Office via The Reading Agency. Going forward we see the Imaginators programme as an important core offer for our service so we are continuing with the role after the project grant has gone.

Arts Award gave structure to the volunteer role with targets and some deadlines that had to be met which can really help focus young minds and also makes the planning of the project more important.

So, what makes for a successful project? I think it’s definitely been support from an enthusiastic and outward thinking Learning Team and positive buy-in from staff across our service at all levels. It was importanat as well to encouraging young people to set their own personal goals and to be given a voice of authority, and not just have them turning up and being given something to do. Try something new, be bold, follow your ideas and anything is possible with the support of a positive and creative team.

Lastly but of huge pride to me was recently attending the ASCEL (Ascotiation of Senior Children’s Education Librarians) conference – Darren Henley had obviously read the publication and mentioned Bolton’s Imaginators as good practice in his key note address. Cue lots of texting between me and the team and virtual party poppers! This also goes to show that, although writing case studies ‘on top of everything else’ is sometimes difficult to find time for, the dividends of having your success showcased speaks volumes.

Louise Window

Libraries and Learning Team Leader

Bolton Library and Museum Service

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