This week Outreach Librarian Alison Nolan from Inverclyde Libraries talks about their innovative Pop Up Inverclyde project which is helping to extend the reach of the Library Service throughout the Inverclyde community.


Librarians are educators. We teach users how to navigate databases. We help them discover new books or magazines. We invite them to author events, showcase Bookbug sessions and hold Code Clubs. When we do these things we also teach users the value of libraries and librarians. We help them discover the roles we can play in their lives.

Since June 2017, I have been working in a unique role - Outreach Librarian (Attainment Challenge) with Inverclyde Libraries. The £750m Attainment Scotland Fund is a targeted initiative focused on supporting pupils in Scotland’s local authorities with the highest concentrations of deprivation.

Inverclyde is one of those authorities and alongside new interventions being implemented to ensure educational equity, a number of small pilot projects have been scaled up. The Pop-up Library at the Summer Lunch Club is one such initiative.

The Pop-up Library

So here I am, working alongside partners in Early Year Centres, Barnardo’s Nurture Service, Community Learning & Development Adult Services and Inverclyde Property, Resources & Facilities to provide families with library access and support. The scheme is aimed at families with children in Primary 1 and/or 2 in Attainment Challenge schools which could benefit from a pop-up library service offering fun and active play sessions as well as a lunch during the holiday period.

After an initial 2016 pilot in two venues, the Pop-up Library has proved very popular and now covers seven different venues. This year we reached 154 families and 302 children. The Summer Reading Challenge was also promoted throughout and by the beginning of August we had signed up 82 readers, with 46 already completing the challenge.

Part of the success of the Pop-up Library has been on providing relevant, appropriate and appealing book stock which is immediately accessible to families who attend. We ran Bookbug sessions, informal story times and craft activities, witnessing multiple examples of informal family reading and learning sessions taking place. Families always had the opportunity to borrow books and bring them back to the centre the following week. This in turn led to increased library membership and the renewal of those which had lapsed.

Community Engagement

Through this we discovered some of the reasons why families, that clearly wanted and engaged with a library service, were not accessing branches. Geography, timing issues, busy lives and administrative barriers in terms of fines and lost books were all discussed. Once identified, all these issues can be addressed.

Having Pop-up Libraries across our communities provides further possibilities for engagement and the promotion of new services or underutilized ones. It helps us reach the people who need these services the most but don’t necessarily know they exist. Making personal connections is an integral part of demystifying the public library experience.

Next Steps

In the coming months my role will be about ‘adding value’ to the Inverclyde Library Service offer for Attainment Challenge schools and families. This will involve extending and enhancing the delivery of national reading promotions like Bookbug, Read Write Count, the First Minister's Reading Challenge and Book Week Scotland, with a particular focus on family involvement.

Outreach does not just entail programming and awareness; it encompasses people’s perceptions of and feelings about libraries. It’s a serious business with big returns, especially when it comes to engagement, education and raising attainment.