Libraries column: New activists for reading

Genevieve Clarke
Opinion - Libraries 17 Jun 2009

With the Six Book Challenge, libraries can reach new audiences, Genevieve Clarke writes Books were a hot topic at last week's TUC learning conference. John O Farrell regaled 400 delegates with tales from his Utterly Impartial History of Britain ; Lola Jaye talked about her Quick Read, Reaching for the Stars ; and The Reading Agency launched a booklet about a successful partnership between libraries and trade unions to promote its Six Book Challenge scheme, run in association with Costa Coffee, in workplaces as diverse as Corus Steelworks, Fox's Biscuits, a Royal Mail depot and Tesco in Yorkshire. Judging by the enthusiastic response of delegates, reading is likely to feature at future conferences as well. The trick has been to recruit union learning reps to the cause, people who have caught the learning bug and now promote learning to their peers.

There are now 24,000 trained union learning reps across the workforce in England, keen to find ways to entice colleagues into learning centres and on to courses to improve their skills. They re aware of the Quick Reads through support from the TUC. and many run book swaps or small libraries. Schemes such as the Six Book Challenge are ready made as a catalyst to get people talking about reading and learning in the workplace.
The idea has already been picked up by the TUC in the North-West, where Merseytravel, Warburtons and Jobcentre Plus are trying it out. Individual unions such as the Communication Workers, the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers, and the Fire Brigade are also coming on board in different parts of the country. Now that the Six Book Challenge has caught their imagination, there's no stopping these new activists for reading. And for libraries there's a fantastic opportunity to work with new partners and reach new audiences.

Read more about the Six Book Challenge and .

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