Annual Report 2021


Read the Chief Librarian's latest Annual Report to find out what we've been up to lately.

2021 was a busy year!


Laura Milligan, Chief Librarian

2021 proved to be another busy year at the Library.

In July we launched The Jodie Knight Fab Lab, a new community workshop providing access to digital technology. It’s all about supporting people with lifelong learning and creative development – two of the core objectives in our Mission Statement.

Another key project this year was the implementation of a new library management system, the IT software that underpins our service. We had been with the same provider, in various guises, since the 1980s – so it was a big undertaking! And vital, of course, to get right. The transition to the new system took place in September, with the staff working hard to ensure that service disruption was kept to a minimum.

In addition to these two key projects there were numerous other developments, challenges, and opportunities in 2021. In the early part of the year we again faced the challenge of a lockdown, responding as a team to operate a home delivery service, promote our digital collections, and generally ensure the library service remained available to the public while the building was closed.

2021 has also been an extremely busy year in the Children’s Library, and a record-breaking year for our Summer Reading Challenge. A total of 1,710 children signed up to become ‘Wild World Heroes’, with 1,025 achieving the goal of reading six books over the holidays. These numbers are respectively up 3% and 6% on 2020, and 5% and 29% on 2019. We’re delighted to see participation continue to grow every year, as more and more children enjoy the benefits of reading for pleasure throughout the summer.

These developments, together with the wide range of events outlined below, ensured considerable coverage for the Library in the local media, and this, combined with our own marketing efforts, have seen our profile continue to grow. The impact of lockdown means usage statistics are difficult to gauge this year, but most indicators show growth compared with 2020, including a 3% rise in footfall, and continue to hold up well against the last pre-Covid figures from 2019. As always, I must thank all the staff who, through their dedication and enthusiasm, have helped the library service continue to flourish.

2021 was my final year in post as Chief Librarian. I retired on 1 January 2022, and Cornelia James, previously Children & Young People’s Services Manager, took over as my successor. Cornelia is the ideal person to lead the Library in the years ahead. I know she will put all her dedication and passion, together with her strong background in Children’s and Outreach services, towards evolving the service and expanding our presence in the community.


2 Adult Services


Fab Lab

The Jodie Knight Fab Lab opened to the public in July.

This new room on the top floor of the Library provides community access to digital technology including a 3D printer, A1 printer, and state-of-the-art graphic design and video editing software.

A busy launch period over the summer saw more than 300 people book in to try out the Fab Lab, while in the autumn we introduced a programme of events, beginning with one-to-one sewing lessons and a film production short course.

The Fab Lab has been made possible thanks to a grant from the Guernsey Community Foundation, and is dedicated to the memory of Jodie Knight, our dearly missed Deputy Chief Librarian, who passed away in 2020. Jodie loved the Library and was particularly passionate about the Fab Lab project. Many people who knew her made donations to the Library in her memory – the funds raised will help us continue to develop the Fab Lab in the future. We like to think Jodie would be proud of it.

“The Fab Lab is the best room of its kind I’ve seen. It has everything you need to produce some quality work.”

"This is absolutely amazing. Just when I think I can't love our library more, they raise the bar again. Thank you for everything you do for the community."



Library Management System

In September we completed the transition to a new library management system, switching from our previous provider Capita to a new provider, Axiell. 

As part of the changeover we were required to go ‘offline’ for several days, meaning the online catalogue was unavailable and some services were interrupted. Meanwhile, as expected there were a few teething problems after launch, notably around reservations, requests, and ordering, which had to be paused for some time. But the staff adapted quickly to the new system and our core services immediately returned to normal when we went back online.

The new system is easier to use and offers a number of improvements for both staff and customers, including a more intuitive online catalogue and some more efficient processes ‘behind the scenes’. We are already seeing the benefits, and we hope these will only become more apparent as the bedding-in process continues.



2021 started in challenging fashion as the island went into lockdown in January.

Drawing on our experience in the previous lockdown, we introduced a number of services to support the community and maintain the library service through this period. Our Home Delivery Service is now a normal feature of our day-to-day offering, but we had prepared for a surge in demand in the event of lockdown. This service proved popular again, with staff delivering to more than 400 households. The delivery service attracted substantial coverage in the local media, including a front-page appearance in the Guernsey Press.

We also ran a campaign to promote our digital services, and saw big increases in usage, with eBook and audiobook loans up 12% on the equivalent months in 2020.

We received excellent feedback on all services during lockdown:

“I’m excited to be able to read my favourite magazines online. What a fantastic area of the library that I never knew existed!”

“Many, many thanks from me as I've had three lots of books delivered to my door. What a brilliant service!”

“Just a quick note to say thank you for a wonderful selection of audiobooks delivered to me yesterday. Wonderful service during these difficult times.”



Health & Wellbeing page

To mark World Mental Health Day, in October we launched a new Health & Wellbeing area on our website, bringing together all the ways the Library can help people with their mental health, physical health and wellbeing. The page includes links to our Reading Well book lists, details of our programme of wellbeing events, and information about the importance of reading for pleasure.

Most of this information existed in various places on our website already, but it’s now concentrated in one place in a more accessible way. We hope this will make it easier for external partners, such as Bailiwick Social Prescribing and other health providers, to signpost to our services, as well as enhancing our overall Health & Wellbeing offer.



Guernsey Literary Festival

After an enforced break in 2020, the Guernsey Literary Festival returned this year with a busy programme. Some events were held at Les Cotils with off-island authors joining via video link, while six in-person events with local writers took place at the Library.

Sally Toynton from the Children’s Team hosted an event at Les Cotils with Horrid Henry author Francesca Simon, and Head of Marketing & Customer Services Adam Bayfield hosted an event with Chocolat author Joanne Harris.

The Schools Team facilitated a number of virtual author visits in schools, while Adam Bayfield and Head of People & Projects Rachel Wyatt also served as filter judges for the Festival’s WriteStuff competition for young writers.

The Festival was a big success this year, with the Library once again playing an integral role. We look forward to continuing and strengthening this partnership in 2022 and beyond.


Life Drawing

In November we hosted our first Life Drawing event, in partnership with local arts collective Drink & Draw Guernsey, who provided art supplies and a model. The Hayward Room welcomed twenty-seven artists, from beginners to the more experienced. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive – in a survey emailed out after the event, 88% of respondents rated it five out of five for enjoyment.

“Such a relaxing evening. Lovely staff and a beautiful building. I can’t wait for the next one!”


Latvians in Guernsey book launch

To mark Latvian National Day, in November we hosted a launch event for the new English translation of Latvians in Guernsey, a book by local author and Honorary Latvian Consul Lilita Kruze. Lilita was interviewed on stage by Guernsey Press editor James Falla, discussing why she decided to write the book and sharing her experiences of life in Guernsey.



To enhance our Health & Wellbeing offer, this year we launched a series of Lunch Break Meditation sessions, in partnership with Beinspired Yoga. Making the most of the peaceful atmosphere of the Story Tower, attendees can start the week with a quiet, guided meditation on a Monday lunchtime. Attendance has grown steadily and the sessions are now fully subscribed with a waiting list.



Tea & Tales

Our programme of Tea & Tales events in care homes and other settings grew steadily throughout 2021. At Tea & Tales, our Outreach Team read aloud a short story or a passage from a novel and encourage attendees to talk about what they’ve heard. There are now regular sessions in eight settings including the Blanchelande, Summerland’s, and Le Platon care homes, along with the Russels Day Centre, the Guernsey Blind Association, and the Guernsey Alzheimer’s Association Centre.

We received this written feedback from the activity co-ordinator at Le Platon:

“I thought that today was probably the best session ever. The number of residents that were encouraged to come and the amount of participation was extremely encouraging. Some of those residents never come out of their rooms, so to see them in a packed room and even speaking is really encouraging to witness.”


Bailiwick Social Prescribing

Bailiwick Social Prescribing is a new community initiative that launched in July. Social Prescribing is the act of referring people to non-clinical activities that may be beneficial for their health – people can be referred by their GP to BSP ‘link workers’, who will prescribe them social activities.

The Library is a BSP Quality Assurance partner. Link workers include Library services and activities in their social prescriptions, as well as conducting some of their client meetings in Library meeting rooms. We continue to work closely with them to facilitate their activities and support the project as best we can.


Sark Community Library

In December we opened a new community library on Sark. It’s based at the Island Hall, and is the first of our community libraries to be open seven days a week. Run by volunteers, its opening hours are Monday-Saturday 11.00-18.00, and Sunday 11.00-15.00.

We have supplied 80 items from our stock, plus 80 items of withdrawn stock.


Prison Library

Throughout the year the Outreach Team have facilitated multiple recording sessions for the Storybook Dads project, which sees prisoners record stories on CD to be sent to their children. This scheme is a really important way to help prisoners stay connected to their families. Eleven parents have taken part this year, which is a high percentage of those eligible.

3 Children & Young People’s Services


Summer Reading Challenge

The Summer Reading Challenge launched on Saturday 10 July.  This year’s theme was ‘Wild World Heroes’ and was all about nature and the environment, run in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund.

The aim of the Summer Reading Challenge is to maintain literacy levels during the summer holidays by encouraging children to read any six books of their choice, boosting reading skills and confidence which have a tendency to dip during the summer break.

We were delighted to see record numbers of children take part this year. In total we had 1,710 participants including 1,025 finishers, respectively up 3% and 6% on 2020, and 5% and 29% up on 2019. We’re very pleased with these figures, which are testament to the hard work of the Children’s Team, the Schools Team, and the entire frontline staff.


Christmas Postbox

Over Christmas we teamed up with Guernsey Post and the charity YBG to house Santa’s Postbox. The postbox was situated outside the Children’s Library, encouraging families – including some who may not have used the Library before – to come up the stairs to post their letter to Santa. More than 1,500 letters were posted – a record year. Volunteers attended the Library before Christmas to read the letters and write replies to the children.



Stories With People Who Help Us

May half term saw the launch of Stories With People Who Help Us - a special programme of story times organised by the Library, the States Early Years Team, and the College of Further Education.

This was the culmination of an initiative by the Communication, Language and Literacy Working Party to raise literacy standards in the early years. Key workers led story sessions in numerous early years settings, while a panel of Jim Cathcart (paramedic), Claire Judd (headteacher) and Ruth Sharp (Head of the States Early Years Team) read stories at the Library to more than 40 children.


Story Time With Dr Brink

To round off Stories With People Who Help Us, we were delighted to welcome back Director of Public Health Dr Nicola Brink for another story time in May. This was a sell-out event with 70 children in attendance. As well as listening to stories, children had the opportunity to ask Dr Brink questions about Covid and her work in Public Health – and various other questions including ‘what’s your favourite colour?’ (blue), ‘what’s your favourite beach?’ (Rocquaine), and ‘what’s your favourite cheese?’ (camembert).



Rhyme Together

After several false starts due to COVID-19, the Outreach Team again worked with the Jubilee Day Centre to run Rhyme Together, a weekly ‘intergenerational’ rhyme time session for 0-4yrs that the older adults at the centre can join in with. The initiative has successfully brought older adults and young families together to enjoy stories and rhymes – we hope there will be no more lockdown interruptions and it can settle into becoming one of our regular weekly activities.



Year 7 Event

In July a total of 428 Year 7 students from the four high schools visited the Library as part of Activities Week. Each group enjoyed a 90-minute session at the Library to find out how we can support both their schoolwork and their wellbeing. The visit included a Fab Lab induction and activity, plus opportunities to learn about our e-resources, comics, and gaming.


Summer holiday activities

The Children’s Team ran numerous activities to tie in with the Summer Reading Challenge’s Wild World Heroes theme, including a Story Walk at Delancey park, stories and activities in the Hayward Room, and a popular story, rhyme and treasure hunt at St Saviour’s Community Library.

The team were also invited to attend the West Show, the North Show, and the Guernsey Street Festival, reading stories to large crowds of children.

Within the Library the Baby Social proved a very popular session, fulfilling the need to continue baby sessions throughout the holidays. All sessions were fully booked, with new parents and their babies enjoying an hour of rhymes, information and chats over cups of tea.


October activities

The Children’s Library was extremely busy during October half term, with all activities fully subscribed. Highlights included a Halloween Story Walk, a much-anticipated event for many children. Children’s Team Assistant Neil Torode led 67 children on a spooky tour of Town, culminating with stories and activities at the Library.

Another highlight was Drag Queen Story Hour, which saw Aida H Dee return to read stories in the Library for a fourth time. 60 children and their carers attended the sell-out event in the Hayward Room and were treated to an hour of interactive stories and comedy. The event received good media coverage, with a piece airing on the Channel TV evening news.

“Aida was flamboyant and hilarious. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!”


Schools Team

Topic-Linked and Reading for Pleasure initiatives

The team have delivered numerous school events in the Guille-Allès Library this year, including Victorian, Stone Age, and Tudor themed visits. Throughout the year the team have also worked hard supporting the recognised national library awards by offering weekly sessions in schools to maximise engagement and introduce children to a varied range of new and exciting fiction and non-fiction.

The team ran a variety of initiatives over the year to boost reading for pleasure, including online author events in schools, book genre tasting sessions, and engaging ‘Breakout Box’ sessions to introduce students to our services.


Outreach support

The Schools Team continued to bridge annual support for the Summer Reading Challenge by maximising the promotion of the Challenge across the island through all-school assemblies, building excitement in the lead-up to the holidays.

Over the summer the team supported Castel School in the refurbishment of their school library, while Alan Nel and Neil Torode continued to help support our off-island schools by offering a comprehensive schedule of sessions during a successful one day visit to St Anne’s School in Alderney.

4 Future Plans

2022 is the first year of our new Strategic Plan. At the heart of our new strategy is a focus on our uniqueness – our unique history and heritage, our unique range of services, and our unique role in the community. One vehicle to achieve this in 2022 will be a special exhibition to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the Library's opening.

Another key project this year is to improve the study space available in the Hayward Room and open two new public meeting rooms, all part of a long-term drive to create a world-class learning environment on our second floor.

Other projects include several new initiatives for teenagers, and an expansion of the events programme in the Fab Lab as we step up our efforts to increase public engagement with our newest space.

Whatever happens in 2022, we will continue striving to grow the library service and do the best we can for our community, and keep looking ahead to make plans for how the service can evolve in the future.