In this month’s PLIF blog, Jenny Murdoch from High Life Highland Libraries reflects on their successful ‘High Voltage’ project!

High Life Highland Libraries wanted to take the lead in reaching out to young people (aged 11-25) and helping them to achieve their potential and improve their prospects.

The young people are encouraged to support or lead some of the existing activities in libraries such as Bookbug, Code Club and Lego Club. They can also run with their own ideas, like Minecraft club. They were actively encouraged to sign up to accredited awards like the High Life Highland Leadership Programme, Saltire Awards and Duke of Edinburgh Awards. We have now adapted the signup process to fully integrate High Voltage with the High Life Highland Leadership Programme.  This programme gives young people the opportunity to develop their leadership skills in their community and schools whilst giving them valuable experience for future education and employment. By building up their volunteer hours they earn much coveted hoodies!

Rolling Out

It quickly became evident that it was a huge project due to the numbers of libraries and the geographical spread of the area. So we extended the timeline to December 2017 to reflect this.

We started by appointing a part-time temporary Assistant Youth Worker to help kick start the project. This enabled us to consult young people who were not already library users and to also offer youth appropriate training. Our young volunteers were recruited by both the Assistant Youth Worker through existing youth groups, through Network Librarians based in schools and through local library staff. 

Volunteers had the opportunity to attend local training workshops and then, later on, a celebration day.  The celebration was an opportunity for volunteers to meet peers from across the Highlands. Participants came from as far afield as Ardnamuchan in the West coast and Thurso in the North.  They all enjoyed leadership training, craft and Technobot sessions. The latter was an opportunity to try out the new tech kit including bots, iPad applications and Anki Overdrive. All this activity was fuelled by an endless supply of pizza!

Project Outcomes

To date we have recruited 89 young people, across 23 libraries with over 450 people participating in the events. One of the activities introduced has been Technobot drop in events which could not be run without volunteers. This has been very popular with young people as they love demonstrating the equipment and assisting the public. We’d like to say thanks to the North Ayrshire team for sharing their experiences with their DigiDabble sessions.  

As well as the positive outcome of volunteer numbers we’ve also produced promotional banners, videos and a recruitment pack to support staff.

Future Plans

As more young people come on board we plan to take it to the next stage by tying in with the Reading Hack model from the Reading Agency. We will encourage volunteers to think of other contributions they can make to the library in addition to existing activities, like planning their own events.

The success of the project has enabled us to set up a sustainable model which we will develop in consultation with our young volunteers as well as in partnership with Youth Work and the High Life Highland Leadership Programme.