Youngsters invited to help design new children’s library
Published: 30 October 2023
Children and young people are being asked to help design a new Children’s Library in Exeter.
The plans for a new area have been announced by Libraries Unlimited and Building Greater Exeter.
It is hoped that work will begin next year, with support from Building Greater Exeter – an initiative supported by Exeter City Council - to create a modern, innovative, and inclusive space for children and families, subject to funding and support from local partners.
The current children’s library, located within the thriving city centre hub of Exeter Library in Castle Street, has more than 6,100 young members, borrowing almost 94,000 books each year. Last year it hosted over 450 children’s activities, attended by almost 9,500 children.
Libraries Unlimited, the charity that runs libraries around Devon and Torbay, have teamed up with employability and skills initiative Building Greater Exeter to give children and young people a say in what they would like changed and improved in the space.
Callum Elliott-Archer, Exeter Library’s Centre Manager said: “Anyone who’s ever visited our children’s library knows it’s incredibly popular and a hub of constant activity! We run a myriad of family events for all ages including Bounce & Rhyme, Storytime sessions, gaming, dancing, coding workshops and STEM clubs.”
“But it could do with a facelift and some changes in the layout and facilities so we can expand the range of activities we offer. There is a large floor space which would allow us to create a small soft-play area to appeal to an even wider range of people. Using sensory soft play equipment as an indoor activity to support children's development is a great gateway into reading.”
“We also want more specific space for parents to take part in activities whilst they are with their children. For example, we partnered with ‘Mothers Who Make’ to host a series of adult music sessions which were very popular. This summer the library also ran a busy series of accessible and inclusive events around the Summer Reading Challenge on a sports theme, and we also trialed a children’s sensory session on Sundays which has been very popular. We’d like to be able to do more of all this, and redesigning the space is going to allow us to. The opportunity here is huge.”
Libraries Unlimited will be working on the project with Building Greater Exeter, a partnership of companies working in the built environment sector overseen, by Exeter City Council. Other partners on the project to date include We are Progressive, Willmot Dixon, Exeter City Council and Liveable Exeter.
Rachel Payne, Business Development Manager for Libraries Unlimited is leading the project in partnership with Building Greater Exeter. She said: “We would love to see this area redesigned in consultation with Exeter’s young people. We are also excited that Building Greater Exeter Partnership apprentices will be involved in the construction and delivery of the project.”
Despite being a thriving city, Exeter, like the rest of Devon, faces its challenges. There are areas of deprivation, low attainment levels and poor wellbeing outcomes that have all been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis. Within the Exeter City Council area, only 42% of pupils achieve at least five A*-C grades at GCSE.
The Reading Agency identifies reading for pleasure as “more important for children's cognitive development than their parents' level of education and…a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background” and notes that “creating safe inviting spaces within libraries and encouraging reading can really make an impact on attainment levels”. The project aims to enhance the library space to support the children of Exeter to develop a love of reading that will support them to achieve their potential.
Libraries Unlimited is hoping children and young people, through their parents and carers, will have their say on what they would like the re-design to feature. To find out more or provide feedback, visit buildinggreaterexeter.co.uk/the-exeter-childrens-library-of-the-future-design-project/