Every Child A Library Member

The Every Child A Library Member project was designed to introduce automatic library membership at key stages throughout the early years. The project was launched in August 2015 by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, with all of Scotland’s 32 Local Authorities signing up to take part. 

In 2016 £80,000 of Scottish Government Funding was made available through the Public Library Improvement Fund (PLIF) to trial different membership methods. A total of 24 Local Authorities applied and were granted funding through the Scottish Library and Information Council.  

Various pilot schemes throughout the country were introduced to encourage automatic library membership for children from birth onwards.  

ECALM and the National Strategy for Public Libraries

The ECALM project directly links to Strategic Aim 1 of Ambition & Opportunity, the National Strategy for Public Libraries in Scotland

The aim focuses on the promotion of reading, literacy and learning – ultimately working towards tackling the significant inequalities in Scottish society.

The ECALM project demonstrates that libraries are strategically placed to work with the Scottish Government in closing the attainment gap and promoting the equality of opportunity for every child. It also builds on the Government’s existing commitment to encourage reading and improve literacy standards through initiatives like PlayTalkRead and Read, Write, Count.

ECALM Pilot Methods

Local Authorities adopted three main approaches for registering children as library members. These were:

  • Registration at birth
  • Registration during Early Years
  • Registration at Primary School

Most Local Authorities decided to focus on one method however some adopted a combination – targeting a variety of different age groups. Registration at birth utilized a cross government programme known as Tell Us Once. This simple method allowed the opportunity to train Registration Staff on the benefits of library membership and the promotion of library services at the point of registration.

Early Years Registration allowed many Local Authorities to use nurseries as access points. This not only tackled barriers to library membership but created the opportunity to link the ECALM project with other initiatives such as Bookbug and Reading Rainbow.

Other Local Authorities targeted library membership at Primary School using a variety of schemes. This included using active school groups and clubs as well as scheduled library visits. Allowing school children to have direct experience of the library was particularly relevant as it encouraged active membership. 

The Benefits of ECALM

A number of Local Authorities have found collaboration with Registration Services particularly beneficial. In many instances this led to the direct promotion of library services and the removal of unnessesary paperwork.

Partnership working within the community can also help break down barriers to library membership and encourage active participation amongst children and families.

2016 Review of ECALM

During 2016 an evaluative review of the ECALM project was undertaken by the Department of Information Management at Robert Gordon University. Conducted by Professor Peter Reid and Caroline Hood, the review examined ECALM methods carried out by the 24 Local Authorities who received Scottish Government funding for the project.

You can read the ECALM 2016 review for more details on the methodologies used, recommendations made and challenges faced by the funded Local Authorities.

The launch and subsequent delivery of Every Child A Library Member has been widely supported throughout Scotland’s library community. Based on the positive results of the project ECALM is likely to become standard approach to automatic library membership.