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Annual Report 2018


Laura Milligan, Chief Librarian

2018 was an exciting and special year culminating in the opening of the new Children’s Library. 

Building on the support from our four main sponsors, the Skipton Swimarathon, Sarah Groves Foundation, Ana Leaf Foundation and John Ramplin Trust, an amazing total of £136,000 was raised in total.  The community engagement was very encouraging and gave us the impetus to soldier on through the extensive building and renovation work.  At the heart of the project were the basic concerns of the library in promoting literacy, reading for pleasure, lifelong learning and well-being.


Despite all the upheaval, the Guille-Allès Library staff were able to continue to deliver a programme of events and activities with creativity and collaboration, and particularly tried to appeal to our adult members. 


Throughout the year we nurtured existing partnerships and built new ones.  These partnerships will continue to develop and are essential to make the Guille-Allès a place where anyone can learn and grow.


In July, we bid farewell to David Falla, our Managing Director since 1999.  David has steered the library through many changes and challenges.  I am very appreciative of his commitment and dedication to ensuring the success and progress of the Guille-Allès Library and he has been a valued support to the management team.  We all wish him a long and happy retirement.


David’s successor is Richard Hamilton, who runs BIS Operations and BIS Consultants Ltd.  Richard has worked with the library delivering training programmes which has helped him develop a strong understanding of the library and its culture.  We look forward to working with Richard and taking the library service forward to new challenges.


2 Service development


Children’s Library Project 


The focus of the year was the refurbishment of the Children’s Library.  It has been a two-year project from design to completion.  Phase 1 of construction started in January with both rooms being cleared and the children’s service point operating from the reading room. 


This first phase involved essential maintenance works as well as some preparatory work for the new shelving.  Also, the new entrance screen and child-sized door were installed.  This immediately proved to be a great success!


Phase 2 began in September, once the busy Easter and summer periods were over.  The ‘Name a Nook’ scheme was launched in September where brass plaques for each of the shelving ‘nooks’ were sold for a minimum price of £25.  Just under £10,000 was raised from this.  However, around £156,000 was raised in total, which exceeded the amount required. 


There were four main sponsors – The Sarah Groves Foundation, the John Ramplin Trust, the Ana Leaf Foundation and the Skipton Swimarathon.  The entrance to the library displays Sarah Grove’s own artwork and motto, ‘All you need is faith, hope and pixie dust …’


Funded by a donation from the Ana Leaf Foundation, the ‘Tree of Knowledge and Reading Circle’ is the library’s centre piece designed to provide a new and creative space for children to get excited about reading.  The structure was designed to provide a fun, magical area for children to engage with books and take part in story times and other activities. 


We are also extremely thankful for all the other donations we received towards the project.


The vision for the project came from architect and director of CCD Architects, Oliver Westgarth and his team.  The tree was built by inmates of Les Nicolles Prison and the seating area built by R&D de Jersey.


2.1 Events


The library has continued to deliver a wide range of events and activities with creativity and collaboration.  Throughout the year, existing relationships were nurtured, and new contacts developed.  In addition to the regular event and activities, there were some highlights during the year –


One of our new initiatives was ‘Book Bingo’ for adults.  This involved a ‘bingo’ card with several categories such as a book with local connections, a debut novel, a book adapted in to a film etc.  Participants were asked to read a book that fitted with each of the bingo categories and then submit their completed card to win one of several prizes donated by local businesses.  It proved to be extremely popular and it was good to read some of the comments on social media to say that participants had welcomed the encouragement to try other reading genres and push their reading boundaries -


“Awesome idea! I could fill the guilty pleasure box on its own at least 12 times so this will support trying new things”


“Dropped my card in this week, it was tricky fitting my reading to some of the categories, but it made me try different styles.  Here’s hoping for one of those fabulous prizes!”


Harry Potter events were held jointly with the Museum over February half term, which took the pressure off the library.  This was particularly helpful in the light of the refurbishment of the Children’s Library.  It is likely that this will continue to be a collaborative event in the future.


Literary Beards exhibition – As part of the fund-raising activities for the Children’s Library refurbishment, an exhibition of art by Chris Riddell, Children’s Laureate in 2017, was held in March.  A private view was held on the evening of 15th March.  The exhibition featured 10 illustrations of characters from literature, well-known for their beards.  The illustrations were donated by Chris Riddell specifically to raise the profile and fundraise for the Children’s Library Project.  The exhibition was supported by Art for Guernsey, who provided staff time and exhibition/curation resources entirely free of charge.  David Ummels of Art for Guernsey and Oliver Westgarth, the architect who had created the design for the new library, both spoke on the evening and emphasised their ongoing support for the library and its importance as a community service.


Guernsey Literary Festival took place in May with the library staging of 10 of the events including an exhibition about author, Desmond Bagley, who lived in Guernsey from 1976-1983.  Researcher, Philip Eastwood, put the exhibition together.  He also created a website on Bagley and donated materials to the Bagley archive held at the Priaulx Library.  During the festival a blue plaque was unveiled on Bagley’s former residence, so the exhibition was given a lot of promotion and was well attended. The exhibition featured biographical material, particularly focussing on his time in Guernsey, and several framed original artworks created for book covers, which were loaned by his publishers.


Free Comic Book Day was also staged in May in collaboration with Bazinga Comics.  Bazinga offer a wide range of titles for both adult and junior readers and they were delighted that all available copies on the day were taken.


Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – following the release of the film, two public library services in the US approached the Guille-Allès to collaborate in different ways.  A postcard swap was arranged with a library in Plymouth, Massachusetts as part of a range of summer activities Plymouth library had arranged with a Potato Peel Pie theme.


Skype meetings were held with a public library service in Guernsey, Ohio and events are to be planned for 3rd May 2019 when they have a ‘Founding Families’ celebration.  This is to mark the founding of the county by three Guernsey families – the Ferbraches, Ogiers and Sarchets.


Open Mic Night – this event for creative writers was co-hosted with the Literary Festival in November.  Local writers were encouraged to attend to read a piece of work aloud in front of an audience, and to meet and draw inspiration from each other.  The event was sold out and so popular that it was decided the library would hold similar events regularly in the future.


November Write-in – this was also aimed at local authors.  By providing dedicated space from 7 pm to midnight, local writers were given a chance to escape distractions and dedicate themselves to their writing as well as being able to get advice and support from other writers.  There was, of course, the opportunity to promote the library’s resources on writing and publishing and it was timed to coincide with National Novel Writing Month.  Again, the event was so popular, that another has already been arranged for January 2019 and is likely to become a regular event.


Well-being – this has been a key theme for 2018.  Library staff held a stall at the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ Fayre at Beau Sejour.  They used the opportunity to promote specific health resources at the library such as the Reading Well Scheme.  The Fayre was aimed at secondary school children so staff particularly highlighted resources that were relevant to that age group, such as body image and sexuality.


The well-being theme was continued during Libraries Week in October via social media and drop-in sessions and workshops.  These took place in the main library and at the St Saviour’s Community Library.


Charlie Buchanan exhibition – Art for Guernsey organised an exhibition of original artwork by Charlie Buchanan for the release of her new book, “The Invasion of the Wavelets”.  This is a children’s story based on Guernsey Folklore.  The exhibition took place simultaneously in the Market and the library building.  The library housed art alongside a screen showing a short film about the creation and inspiration for the book.  Art for Guernsey were keen to use the library space for this exhibition given that it was story-themed and related to local history.  It gave the library very good coverage in local and social media.


Late night Christmas shopping – although the library now regularly opens for late night Thursday shopping in December with events and activities available, this year we worked with the Guernsey Disability Agency for the first time on 3rd December.  The evening was designed to encourage disabled and vulnerable people to come in to Town to enjoy the late-night shopping experience.  For many of these people the lights and noise can be intimidating so the library was offered as a quiet space for those who needed a refuge.  There was opportunity to read and some activities for those who wanted to join in.


The previous week was the switching on of the Christmas lights in Town when, for the first time, Santa came to Market Square for the occasion rather than Church Square.  The library has an excellent view of Market Square so many more people than usual headed to the library.  Since it was so busy, a last-minute decision was made to keep the library open until after the switch-on so we will plan for this properly next year.


Tovertafel – the library organised a demonstration of the Tovertafel (Magic Table) for the Dementia Friendly Guernsey steering group, of which the library is a member.  The Tovertafel was developed for and with people in the moderate to severe stages of dementia. The interactive games are designed to break through apathy by stimulating both physical and cognitive activity and encouraging social interaction.

The Tovertafel is a small box in which is a high-quality projector, infrared sensors, speaker, and processor that work together to project the games onto the table.  Because the colourful objects respond to hand and arm movements, people get to play with the light itself.  The company also produces games for people with learning disabilities and is currently developing games for children with Autism.


Dementia Friendly Guernsey very generously provided funds for the library to purchase a Tovertafel unit, which the library will manage.  As the unit is portable, brackets to house it are planned to be installed at La Nouvelle Maraitaine Community Library and the new Children’s Library.


2.2 Community libraries and outreach work


Home Delivery Service – from April we were fortunate to have funding from the Pargiter Trust to launch a trial home delivery service.  The Pargiter Trust seeks to fund community initiatives which are aimed at helping older people continue to live independent lives.  The funding allowed us to engage a part-time assistant and, by the summer, visits were being made to eleven care homes and seven individuals – a total of forty users.   Since then, there has been very high demand for this service, but the assistant was quickly working at full capacity.  As a result, it was agreed that the Board of Management would cover the cost of some additional hours from reserves to keep the momentum going until further funding could be requested from the Pargiter Trust in 2019. 


Community Libraries - Use of La Nouvelle Maraitaine Community Library has continued to develop.  The children’s rhyme times have been particularly popular, and, due to high demand, an extra session was introduced aimed at babies.  The ease of parking may well be an important feature.


The library’s long association with Styx centre came to an end due to changes in timetable at the centre.  Instead, the community library is now run from St Saviour’s community centre and is open for an additional session on Tuesday afternoons.  The aim of afternoon opening was to appeal to school children and students, parents and carers as well as the wider community.


Guernsey Blind Association (GBA) – a service to provide e-audiobooks on USB sticks was trialled with the GBA patrons.  This proved to be a great success and a relatively easy service to provide so has been extended to other library users, such as those suffering from dementia, other sight problems and the home delivery service.  In return, the GBA kindly donated five magnifying glasses for use in the library.


Prison – Emily Pailing organised a tour of the library for the Guernsey Caring for Ex-Offenders Group to highlight services which may be of particular interest to their clients.  The mentors gave excellent feedback and were planning to bring their clients to use the library service.


The Shannon Trust Programme is also being run in the prison.  This involves training several prisoners as mentors to work with other inmates who struggle with reading to improve their literacy.  It is quite difficult to run this in Guernsey since most of the inmates are only in for short sentences.  However, there has been some success.


Alderney - Emily has also been working with the health visitor for families in Alderney and was able to visit the pre-school and toddler group to do story and rhymetime sessions.  In 2019 she hopes to set up more regular visits.


3 Children’s Library


It has been a challenging year for the Children’s Team as they have had to be somewhat nomadic whilst the refurbishment was going on.  However, they managed to keep most of the regular activities going and even supported a third Dragonflies toddler group set up by Homestart on a Saturday, aimed at dads and male carers.


2018 saw more contact with the States Early Learning team and this has led to an increase in pre-school loans.  At the beginning of the year 6 groups were borrowing collections from the library and this has now risen to 16.


Sponsorship came from the Priaulx Premature Baby Foundation to provide a new book bag for babies.  The bags contain books, rhymes and library information and are handed out to all babies admitted to the Neonatal Unit. The aim of this is to encourage parents to talk and read to their babies while they’re not able to physically hold them to encourage bonding.


The Children’s Team have formed a partnership with the College of Further Education to run a series of workshops for the Early Learning and Vocational Studies students to complement their Literacy units.  The College is keen for the students to build a relationship with the library as they are the future pre-school leaders and teachers of the island.


A new initiative was Story Walks – the first one took place in June at Bright Beginnings and Delancey park and attracted 62 people.  Subsequent Story Walks based on The Lost Words attracted 144 at Le Guet and 60 at Les Cotils in November.


The last few months of the year revolved around the opening of the new Children’s Library.  Regular activities were suspended at the beginning of the December to prepare for the big move back into the new library, which was officially opened by the Bailiff on Thursday 6th December.  The following day the library was opened to the public to positive feedback, both in person and on social media, where the post on the Children’s Library had reached 21.4K people by the end of the year!  Since then the library has been very busy with many non-members coming back to visit -


                Total footfall

  • December 2017 11,206
  • December 2018 13,821


The project is not entirely complete and there is a snagging list to address in the new year, but, overall, it has been an instant success.


4 Staff and training


Saturday Team


The accepted pattern of working for full-time staff was reviewed towards the end of the year.  This has consisted of a three-week rota, with staff working two out of three Saturdays.  One disadvantage of this has been that, on the week when they are working on a Saturday, staff have one full day and one-half day off.  This has caused difficulties in all areas. 


In order to overcome these difficulties, a team of 5 part-time Saturday Assistants was appointed to start work in January 2019.  Core staff now work only one Saturday out of four which allows for greater flexibility and increases our ability to deal with events, activities and outreach work.




Fortunately, the staff training budget has been maintained over the past few years.  It is important to invest in staff and value their input to the service at all levels.


Staff have engaged in a good range of training, some as a group and some individually -


  • Guernsey Disability Alliance free online training on awareness of the range of disabilities that exist in the community and how to support those people
  • Frontline training for library assistants
  • CILIP Marketing conference
  • Digital and Family learning
  • Rhymetimes for pre-school children and babies
  • GDPR
  • Mental Health First Aid
  • Use of fire extinguishers
  • Making the most of online resources
  • First Time Management Skills



Staff changes


  • Claire Ringland left her post as Saturday Assistant in May.  She was replaced by Phil Wenman, who was also acting as Home Delivery Assistant.  Sadly, Phil had to leave us in October, due to ill health.
  • Kate Harbour resigned as Library, Assistant in September to take up a new career path.   She was replaced by Beth Brown.



5 Trustees


Initially commenced in 2016, the refurbishment of the Children’s Library has been a long process.  The Trustees started out with the intention of carrying out maintenance works to the two rooms, which would also have included upgrading of the lighting, new floor covering, essential repairs and decoration together with some minor modifications.


Having set in motion the process of tender documentation, colleagues of the surveyor approached the Trustees with their idea for the re-modelling of the area together with an offer to carry out the initial phase of their work at no cost.  After much discussion the Trustees agreed to proceed on the basis that a significant proportion of the costs of the conversion would be covered by fundraising from businesses and the public.  Fundraising was successful and the works have now been completed barring the need to carry out some modifications that have become apparent with the use of the area.  The Trustees are grateful to CCD Architects Ltd., in particular Oliver Westgarth, Chris Martel and Stuart Pearce for their efforts; to all the contractors and suppliers who have been supportive in carrying out the work at cost or in some cases no charge and, last but not least, the library staff who have worked in difficult conditions whilst the work was in progress moving the stock four times and still maintaining their enthusiasm and sense of humour.


Following an attempt by the previous Education Committee to get the Trustees to use their reserves to run the Library service, which was strongly rebuffed, the Trustees engaged an advocate to review the Trust Deed both to confirm our position and to review the Deed.  Currently a draft of the Trust Deed is being considered to replace the original and will be presented to the Council in due course for their comment and approval before an approach is made to the Royal Court for formal ratification.


The financing of the maintenance of the Library building continues to be of great concern to the Trustees.  We have engaged the services of CCD Architects Ltd. and WT Partnership to assist in preparing a detailed five-year maintenance plan with an outline extension to ten years.  This information has been used by the Trustees to assess the effect on the Trust reserves and to enable a calculation to be made of the sustainable level of grant that is required to properly maintain and allow for modification of the building to suit the changing requirements of the service.  Using the current grant level of £50,000 per annum, a sum which has been fixed since 2001, the Trustees reserves will be reduced to the minimum level permitted during 2020/21.  To arrive at a reasonable grant level, various methods were considered and a decision was taken that a logical way to proceed was for the grant to be based on a percentage of the building sum insured.  This would then take into account inflation in building costs.  At the time of writing the percentage being proposed by the Trustees is 1%, which would result in the grant increasing from the current £50,000 per annum to £147,000 per annum based on the current sum insured.  This increased amount will allow planned maintenance and improvement of the building to continue and, hopefully, permit the Trustees to build up sufficient reserves to replace capital items such as the boilers and lift at the end of their useful life.  It would be unlikely to reduce the current Maintenance Account deficit of just over £150,000.


Failure to get an increase will result in the Trustees having to decide between three possible scenarios:  a gradual deterioration in the building resulting in a reduction of the service to the public,; or a request for all the artefacts belonging to the Trust, loaned to and held by the Museum Service, to be returned to the Trustees to enable their sale and the generation of capital with the income from the investment of this capital being used, or a public appeal for funds to enable planned maintenance and improvements to continue.  We hope that the States of Guernsey appreciate the value of the Library, both building and service, to the Island and agree to a realistic and sustainable funding procedure for the future.


6 Future plans


The introduction of a new Managing Director has inevitably meant that the Management Team has had to look at the organisational structure and think about whether the service is fit for the future.  It is easy to sit back when all appears to be going smoothly but it is essential that review is an ongoing process.  Having decided to introduce a Saturday Team and update full-time employee working hours, further development of working practice is planned for 2019.  This includes a full review of the Management Team both in terms of roles and responsibilities, but also with regard to succession management.


An unexpected opportunity arose as part of ESC’s plans to establish new secondary school provision for the Island.  An approach was made to the Committee about how the Guille-Allès might work with them to improve schools’ library provision and management.   Response has been positive and a proposal will be put together during 2019.