Bromley online library use soars as lockdown creates ‘Libraries Without Walls’

Published Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Lockdown has made media stars of Better librarians in Bromley and is creating growing new audiences for library activities online.

With all Bromley’s physical libraries shut since the end of March, as part of the government guidelines, libraries and leisure operator GLL (the social enterprise that operates under the Better brand) has moved much of its services online, providing support and relief for families enduring 6 weeks in lockdown.

A major success is the number of people now tuning into Facebook and Twitter for Bromley library activities which are normally provided in library buildings. In some cases, audiences have grown by 2,000 per cent.

Librarians have shown their creative sides, taking producer/director/actor credits when turning their gardens, kitchens and living rooms into ad hoc broadcasting studios for story times, rhyme and sign, and craft sessions for children. Receiving up to 2,900 views per video, individuals are gaining a loyal fan base amongst viewers who are getting familiar with their Bromley librarians on screen.

For adults, there are more craft sessions, alongside virtual walks, poetry readings and even a podcast.

Since lockdown, Better librarians in Bromley have made 53 Facebook videos which have been viewed an astounding 52,960 times.

The full programme is available online.

Diana Edmonds MBE, Head of Libraries at Better said, “Of course it’s sad that our physical libraries are shut; we miss offering that all-important friendly social setting for people to meet and providing services face-to-face for our lovely Bromley library users. But their safety is our priority at this time – and we know the safe option is to stay at home.”

“Harnessing the power of social media means enabling people to attend their favourite library activities at home, at a time which suits them - and of course videos can be watched again and again.

“Online content enables us to reach many more people per video – averaging 500 - than we ever could in a traditional programmed library setting – around 10-50.”

“We know that not everyone has the opportunity to access our online content at home, so we are really looking forward to the day we can welcome all our library users through our doors In Bromley again.”

Councillor Peter Morgan, Executive Councillor for Renewal, Recreation and Housing said, “The library service was already adapting and using technology to do this before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and this work will continue. It remains important to share knowledge and the joint experience that this helps bring about as well as the understanding it also brings.  Our libraries are open for virtual business and I thank librarians for their creativity at this time in what continues to be a much valued service by many residents as the viewing figures show.” 

Bromley Library online customers can choose from audio books, E-books, E-newspapers and E-magazines - all for free - spanning everything from popular fiction for adults, children and teens alike to non-fiction including cookery, gardening and technology publications.  Also on offer are free music downloads and streams from a choice of over 15 million songs and playlists ranging from opera and classical music to jazz, rock and pop.

To record the borough’s lockdown stories, Bromley Libraries are asking for residents to share their contributions for a valuable record to be preserved for future generations. Send photographs and diary entries to Historic.collections@gll.org

The full online programme: Better has put together an online offer - ‘Better at Home’ - that covers a range of free health and wellbeing activities, including craft clubs and virtual exercise classes at https://www.better.org.uk/exercise-at-home

For families looking for activities to enjoy together at home, see: https://www.better.org.uk/lp/fun-activities-for-kids-at-home

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