This week is the third week of my residency at Hastings Library, where I've been welcomed warmly by staff, the public and local organisations.
My first day in residence coincided with Storm Eleanor (the night before) and the Christmas decorations being taken down around the library. Neither of these two upsets got in the way of me getting straight to work engaging with local community organisations.
The library service is keen to offer the opportunity for disadvantaged groups to try something new and creative, so I've been reaching out and meeting with local organisations in order to organise a programme of creative writing workshops. So far I've been in touch with or contacted by over thirty local organisations, and had numerous meetings and phone calls to lay plans with some of them for a series of workshops over the coming months.
Everyone I've met with is incredibly keen to help facilitate the library's programme. I've been a little surprised (pleasantly surprised) that there's been no resistance at all to the idea of encouraging people to write. The discussions have focused more on logistics and practicalities. Local organisations have told me that they are keen on offering creative writing workshops because they are something a bit different from the norm. They don’t have the chance to offer their audiences things like this very often, and it’s likely that many participants won’t have had the opportunity to attend a creative writing workshop before.
Although Hastings Library is squeezed into the Children's Library until the new building opens, I've been very encouraged by its bustling community of users. No one can deny that the building in Robertson Passage is rather drab, and the staff here are of course looking forward to working in the renovated space just up the road when it opens in the spring. Despite this, every morning at 10am when the library opens there is already a queue of people at the door waiting to come in. The computers are very popular (Tuesday mornings see a volunteer here to help novice users), as are the newspapers. I sat in on a Rhymetime session organised by the library with no fewer than 19 babies in attendance!
The community around the library is also feeding into the creative writing workshop schedule. After meeting with a parent at the heart of the home school community in Hastings to plan some workshops for that group of young people, I overheard two other mums talking about homeschooling whilst I browsed the shelves of the library. I dived right in to tell them about our plan. One of these mums had been homeschooling her child for about six months, and hadn’t met any other home school parents in that time. She’d just got chatting to this other mother in the library, and made her first connection to the local community because of that chance meeting.
They both seemed really up for attending the workshops, and the fortuitous meeting I witnessed is an example of why the library is such an important place. For a whole range of diverse reasons, not all children have a school library. Hastings Library can be a meeting place, social space, and fosters the coming together of the like-spirited. It isn't just a place where books are stored and shared, it's a space where exciting things happen.