If you asked us to describe 2021 in a single word, it would be ‘busy’.
From launching our new Fab Lab to our most popular ever Summer Reading Challenge, not to mention all the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, it’s certainly been a memorable year...
January gave us a curveball as the island was placed suddenly into lockdown, and the Library’s doors stayed closed for more than six weeks. Knowing that many people were isolated at home – and desperate for a book to read! – we relaunched our Home Delivery Service, which had proven a hit during the first lockdown in 2020. During those long weeks in February our staff delivered books to more than 400 households, including some people who, we discovered, would benefit from the service anyway, and are now continuing to receive deliveries all year round.
Many, many thanks from me as I've had three lots of books delivered to my door. What a brilliant service! Guernsey Together!
Hitting the road with our home delivery service during lockdown
In lockdown we also concentrated efforts on a big expansion of our digital collections, including eBooks and audiobooks, and saw a significant increase in usage. Digital loans rose 34% in the first three months of the year, with some people discovering our online library for the first time.
After lockdown we were delighted to welcome everyone back to the Library, and all services returned as normal, including the resumption of in-person events. In May we were once again delighted to play our part in the Guernsey Literary Festival as it made a triumphant return for the first time since 2019. The Library hosted six events with local authors including Trudie Shannon and Gerald Hough, as well as a sold-out event with Guernsey-born children’s author Kate Gilby Smith (hosted by nine-year-old bookworm Beatrix Buchanan!) Library staff also chaired hybrid events at Les Cotils with renowned authors Joanne Harris and Francesca Simon (of Horrid Henry fame).
A full house in the Hayward Room to see children's author Kate Gilby Smith
Meanwhile, throughout 2021 our events programme continued to diversify. New additions this year include Lunch Break Meditation, an extremely popular first Life Drawing class, and our wonderfully uplifting intergenerational rhyme time Rhyme Together.
Other events for adults have included a Write In for creative writers as part of National Novel Writing Month in November; a book launch for the English translation of Latvians in Guernsey by Honorary Latvian Consul Lilita Kruze; and art exhibitions curated by Art for Guernsey and the Sovereign Art Foundation.
Meditation in the Library is such a lovely idea. There is nowhere else in town to experience this kind of peace and quiet. Thank you...I’m really enjoying these sessions.
Rhyme Together with tots and seniors at the Jubilee Day Centre
In July we launched our brand new Fab Lab on the top floor of the Library. This suite of thirteen digital fabrication machines is all about providing community access to the next generation of technology, including a 3D printer, digital sewing machine, and film, music and graphic design software. It’s a place to learn, to create, and to have fun – a place where anyone can make almost anything! It’s free and anyone over the age of 11 can use the Fab Lab, provided they’re a Library member and they have a health and safety induction.
Trying out the music production software in the Fab Lab
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. These events are run by talented and knowledgeable volunteers – if you or someone you know would be interested in sharing knowledge with others in the Fab Lab, do get in touch.
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. Many people who knew her have made donations to the Library in her memory, and in August her good friend Paul Gosling raised over £7,000 by swimming from Guernsey to Herm – no small feat, especially on what turned out to be a choppy day! We’re supremely grateful to Paul for his efforts - the funds he raised will help us as we 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 that I’ve seen. It has everything you need to produce some quality work.
The Fab Lab launched in July
2021 has also been an extremely busy year in the Children’s Library. 1,710 children signed up to become ‘Wild World Heroes’ in the Summer Reading Challenge, with 1,025 achieving the goal of reading six books over the holidays. These numbers are respectively up 3% and 6% on last year, and 5% and 29% on 2019. We’re delighted to see participation continue to grow every year, as more and more children enjoy all the benefits of reading for pleasure throughout the summer.
Roar-some fun at the launch of the Summer Reading Challenge
Meanwhile, in May we joined the States Early Years Team to deliver Stories With People Who Help Us, a special programme of story times with key workers and other people who have helped us during the pandemic, including ambulance drivers and teachers. The week finished with Story Time With Dr Brink, the island’s wildly popular Director of Public Health. Dr Brink read stories and answered questions from the children in the audience – amongst other things, we learned that her favourite food is mushroom risotto, her favourite cheese is blue cheese, and her favourite colour is blue (and her favourite dark colour is dark blue).
Other highlights included a spooky Halloween Story Walk during October half term as well as Drag Queen Story Hour, which saw the fabulous Aida H Dee delight a huge audience in the Children’s Library for the fourth time.
Spooky tales on the Halloween Story Walk
This year our Outreach Team continued to work hard to take the library service out into the community, from the ongoing success of the Storybook Dads project in Guernsey Prison, to our programme of Tea & Tales events in care homes, which this year has grown and grown to now reach well over 100 older adults per month.
Thank you very much for your last Tea & Tales visit, some of my residents were still talking about it even days later. They really enjoyed it so much.
As part of the Heritage Festival, in May we hosted a special Tea & Tales at the Library devoted to The Book of Ebenezer Le Page, which this year celebrated its fortieth birthday. That event certainly produced some of our favourite photos of the year!
A special Tea & Tales celebrating Ebenezer Le Page at the Heritage Festival