As a library serving a community care trust, the Leeds CCG, two local hospices and the council’s public health staff, we struggle to reach most of our users because they work all across the city. Maria was aware of pop-up libraries from her days working in the academic sector and suggested they made perfect sense in our circumstances, since they basically consist of taking a selection of materials and resources out of the library to where its users actually are. As a result, about a year ago, we started organising Leeds Community Health (LCH) Library Pop-Ups at our staff bases all over Leeds.

Leeds Pop-Up Library

We began by getting in touch and asking if we could spend an hour or two somewhere where we would be visible to staff (but not in the way of patients), so that we could interact with them with a view to promoting our services. This first contact was made through our health centre’s reception desks, with the exception of a few places where we already had contacts and library champions.
The response was mixed – some places didn’t understand what we were wanting to do or maybe there really wasn’t a natural place for us to do it; others loved the idea and arranged a location and a time slot for us relatively quickly. We were quite excited once we had a few bookings.

We then considered what to take along with us. For example, if we know there are going to be student nurses around, we can bring along nursing and study-skills books, promote nursing journals through Browzine, and encourage them to come to our training; if we know there will be dentists around, we’ll pack our trolley full of books about teeth. You get the picture. But this can be a great way to reach out to a specific group of users, and that was definitely something we learned.

Our most successful afternoon was at the Reginald Centre Community Hub in Chapeltown. We emailed beforehand to let everyone know we would be there and the staff kitchen area across lunchtime was crammed – not because of us, admittedly, but everyone really engaged with us. People were registering for library accounts, borrowing books, signing up to our current-awareness service, requesting literature searches, or simply just having a lovely chat about books. At one point we had quite a queue, as each person kept sending their colleagues our way. We even left with an empty trolley as we lent out all our books! But, unfortunately, not every time was this successful. At Burmantofts Health Centre we were stuck in a meeting room at the very back of the building and were lucky to have seen the three people we did. We’ll definitely have a rethink how we approach a pop-up library in the more straightforward health centres again. But we often seemed to bring a smile to our colleague’s faces, as we provided some respite in the middle of a busy working day.

Other lessons learned:

• a good time to arrange a pop-up library is when there is a team meeting – be set up about half an hour before, as staff start to arrive
• make sure you do not book a day when there is a PAT dog around too because no one will notice you, let alone talk to you
• one might think that being placed in the middle of the kitchen at lunchtime would be ideal, but if that kitchen is fairly small it can all just get a little too intense for everyone (us included, to the extent that that day we left having had only about two bashful conversations). The staff basically wanted to have their lunch in peace...
• hook people in with freebies. Pens, Post-it™ notes, notepads – anything works really
• pick books with attractive, eye-catching covers and good titles. These will be the ones which grab people’s attention as they’re microwaving their lunch or having a chat about last night’s telly

We don’t just limit ourselves to workplaces, we are bookable for team celebration events and conferences too, so we did about 15 pop-up libraries in six months.
When we first spoke to some health centres they told us a pop-up library wasn’t for them, or that we had a better chance elsewhere, and, as we said, some pop-ups haven’t been the most successful, but we are going to keep doing them and are in the process of booking a few more appearances. We’ll be back with smiles on our faces, leaflets, banners, (sometimes sweets) and a trolley full of colourful books.

So don’t be surprised if you’re ever in the city and you find us telling someone about how wonderful Leeds Community Healthcare’s library services are.

Maria Simões (Assistant Librarian) and Ryan Ford (Library Trainee)
Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust