Innovative Partnership at Palmer Park Library Provides Opportunities for Young People

AN INNOVATIVE partnership between Reading Library Service and Reading College, starting the end of April, will offer valuable work experience for young people with learning difficulties.

Following a comprehensive review of the Library Service and an extensive two phase consultation, the Council proposed entering into a partnership with Activate Learning, the group that operates Reading College, to deliver library services from Palmer Park Library.

Initially, the Palmer Park Library partnership will be for period of 15 months starting in April 2017. This could then be potentially extended by a two further years.

The new way of delivering the library service at Palmer Park will offer work-based placement opportunities for young people with learning difficulties through the College’s supported employment programme.  The partnership will strengthen the connection and role of the College in the life of the local community.

During term time, for 36 weeks per year, Reading College will provide a tutor to support students to provide the library service. The Council will also employ a member of staff throughout the year to work along-side the tutor, supporting the students on placement, and to ensure the smooth running of the library.

The Council will provide an additional member of staff to run the library outside of college term-times, one evening per week and on Saturday mornings.

The partnership will allow the Council to achieve necessary savings, whilst maintaining a service level at Palmer Park library in line with other ‘community hub’ libraries.

Michelle Parks, Director for the Lifeskills faculty at Activate Learning, said:

“Our work with learners with learning difficulties is focused on equipping them to lead independent and fulfilling lives. Finding and sustaining meaningful employment is a huge part of this, and we already work with a network of employers and other partners to provide work experience placements and supported internships.

“As with any employment, what is important is matching the right learners with the right roles and this partnership with the Council’s library service will provide even more opportunities. Our learners will develop important customer service skills and other key skills needed for employment.

“We look forward to getting the partnership underway and expanding our links with the local community.”

Councillor Paul Gittings, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Culture and Sport, said:

“I’m delighted to see this innovative partnership with Reading College realised. We believe this may be one of the first of its kind in the country. Not only does it help secure the future of Palmer Park Library, it also offers valuable work experience for young people in Reading. This is an excellent example of how partnership work can benefit the whole community.

“People who use libraries continue to value them and in Reading we have done everything we can to make the best possible use of limited resources in order to make our library service sustainable for the future.”

Under the agreement with Reading College, the Council will remain responsible for the infrastructure at Palmer Park Library such as the self-serve kiosks, IT support and purchasing the book stock, as well as offering professional advice and retaining overall management responsibility.

There will be a celebratory event to mark the partnership in June.


Notes to Editors

In July 2016, Policy Committee endorsed a new library service offer to deliver a £290,000 saving and to modernise the service.  Changes include new ways of working in partnership, reduced opening times reflecting customer preference and usage patterns; better use of buildings; making the best use of technology and saving money through re-negotiating with stockists.

Customers can now access a new catalogue website, designed with enhanced functions and a modern, user-friendly look and feel. New self-service kiosks have been introduced across all Reading libraries; offering a quick and efficient way of issuing, returning and paying for items.

Since the beginning of April, there have been new opening times across all libraries. To view the revised times, visit here:

In autumn 2017, Whitley library will relocate to a new home at South Reading Youth and Community Centre and in winter 2017, Southcote library will relocate to a new home at Southcote Community Centre.

The full report to Policy can be viewed here:

Victoria Nickless

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