Bromley House Library, founded in 1816, is a flourishing independent lending library situated in the centre of Nottingham and is one of the few remaining subscription libraries in the country. The building houses nearly 50,000 books and the library has a large and enthusiastic group of members, many of whom were already volunteering for the library in running guided tours and promoting and organising events. Library staff were keen to rethink the role that volunteers could play, in particular in terms of developing the library’s digital presence within and beyond the heritage building.
Beginning with two workshops for staff that provided opportunities for structured reflection on the organisation’s strategy for digital engagement with members and the wider public, the Citizen Scholarship team ran a series of sessions with staff and volunteer members.
A workshop on storytelling and research offered tips and templates to help volunteers develop short narratives about their areas of interest, and explored ways in which narratives could be linked to create library treasure hunts or walking tours.
A workshop introduced Artcodes – visual designs that can be scanned (using the Artcodes app on a smartphone or tablet) to reveal hidden web pages. Artcodes can be embedded into indoor and outdoor spaces to provide an intriguing way for visitors to find appropriate digital content: volunteers explored how they might be located in particular books or areas of the library to link to research stories generated by volunteer researchers.
A workshop on making and tagging 3D images of the building, hosted by the Mixed Reality Laboratory at the University of Nottingham, led to a collaboration between staff and volunteers that enabled Bromley House to capture the studios at the top of their unique building just before a major renovation project began. See the films here.
Library Director, Bromley House Library, says:
We’ve found the input from Citizen Scholarship really helpful as we begin our first steps in designing an innovative new project, which we hope can attract funding in the future. It has transformed the way we think about volunteers as researchers and has given us ideas about using technology to bring the library to a new audience.