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Veronica Gordon

As we’re in the depths of another lockdown, you might be wondering how your organisation can connect with and serve your community in new and safe ways. Upper Norwood Library Hub in south east London has done just that. They’ve been able to move much of their busy event schedule online. So today, we’re going to be hearing their story and top tips about how to adapt in lockdown.

This is a special bonus episode of “Then One Day”. In these shorter episodes, we’re hearing specific advice from different community businesses that will hopefully be really helpful if you run a similar business, or if you’re looking to start one. I’m Veronica Gordon. Let’s meet today’s guests.

 

Margaret Adjaye, Upper Norwood Library 

So, my name is Margaret Adjaye. I’m one of the hub directors of the Upper Norwood Library Hub.

 

Galina Rina, Upper Norwood Library Hub 

Hello, my name is Galina Rin, and I’m the technical manager at the Upper Norwood Library Hub.

 

Veronica Gordon  

I’ll let Rin take us to the library.

 

Galina Rina, Upper Norwood Library Hub 

Upper Norwood Library Hub is a community-run library in the centre of Crystal Palace, which is south east London. And it was closed by the council a number of years ago, and the community decided that they weren’t going to let that happen. So, they came together and created the charity which is the Upper Norwood Library Hub. So, Lambeth Council provide the books and the librarian, and we are responsible for the building and maintaining this beautiful old Victorian building.

 

Veronica Gordon   

Rin mentioned there that the community saved the library and I just want to focus on their incredible achievement for a moment. The library has been a fundamental part of the community for over 100 years. When the library was coming close to being shut down in 2012, determined local residents came together. After protests, many meetings, and much campaigning, in July 2016, Upper Norwood Library Trust took on the running of the hub. As well as this, when the country isn’t in lockdown the library hub generates income by letting out space for community use for arts, cultural and performance events, wellbeing initiatives, organising music events and other projects.

 

Galina Rina, Upper Norwood Library Hub 

The library does house a bar, a recording and green screen live-streaming studio. It’s got the Library of Things, which is an organisation that hire out objects. So, it’s like you can hire a carpet cleaner, or a pasta maker, or any number of other things. We have children’s classes; we have an in-house choir; I’m trying to think of all the things we have, and we’ve got so much stuff.

 

Veronica Gordon   

From everything you’ve heard so far, you can probably imagine how much the place means to the community.  Over to Margaret.

 

Margaret Adjaye, Upper Norwood Library 

The library has been in the community for many, many, many years. It’s sort of a local treasure. And a lot of the people who campaigned to save it said, “Look, I grew up in this library. I came here as a baby; I came here as a child”. So, for them, they’ve got a strong affiliation, because it’s been part of their history, their family’s history, many, many generations. And so that’s what it means to them. But also, I think there’s a huge passion for books in our community. People do not want to see the library disappear because of that. And it’s also a safe space for a number of people; you know, people who are vulnerable, isolated, lonely, they can come in here. So, it is a significant presence and an important building in the triangle in Crystal Palace.

 

Veronica Gordon

Which is why it was all pretty devastating when the first lockdown was declared earlier this year. But the hub’s team weren’t going to just put their feet up; they came up with a great way to reach and serve the community.

 

Margaret Adjaye, Upper Norwood Library 

As soon as we sort of found out that we’re going to lockdown, Rin and all of our trustees, basically made the decision that look, we need to move some of the services online.

 

Galina Rina, Upper Norwood Library Hub 

We had a team meeting just before lockdown and I was like, “Right, we’re livestreaming now. That’s what we do.”

 

Veronica Gordon   

Livestream? What is that?

 

Galina Rina, Upper Norwood Library Hub 

That’s a good question. What is livestream? Livestreaming is doing whatever it is you do in front of a camera and a microphone of some description and putting it on the internet live. No, there’s no editing; usually, you know, it’s just whatever comes out of your face at that time of the day is what goes on live. And it’s warts and all, essentially. And it is a different medium. It’s not a podcast; it’s not a live gig; there has to be an interaction between the audience and the person on the live stream. Maybe that’s just like saying the odd comment or sometimes having a full-blown conversation, or sometimes taking like a poll or something like that. You know, just taking something to make the person engaged with the person that’s on the stream.

 

Veronica Gordon   

So, just to recap. The hub started filming and then broadcasting over the internet, events and activities they’d previously held in their building. For example, their first livestream earlier this year was a choir class. The leader recorded the class and choir members join the live stream to watch and learn. And it was a huge success.

 

Galina Rina, Upper Norwood Library Hub 

The singing basically was our biggest livestream because they had a ready-made class. You know, they had an audience already. And that snowballed from just our choir to multiple choirs across south east London all meeting on the same night.

 

Veronica Gordon  

They also started a daily livestream called “The Library Lunch” that focuses on providing local news.

 

Galina Rina, Upper Norwood Library Hub 

It started off by only really interviewing folks that are on the triangle in Crystal Palace so that we could tell people which businesses were open, and who was doing what services and what charities were doing things, and whether the market was going to be open. So, it was really hyperlocal to start with. And then that has expanded into doing performers. And you know, other charities have come on there. We had a charity from Sheffield come on and have a chat about how they use livestreaming, and we use livestreaming,

 

Veronica Gordon

They were running “The Library Lunch” pretty much every day, Monday to Friday, as well as livestreamed events for other activities they run. Now back to Margaret, to hear her top tips about how to achieve livestreaming success.

 

Margaret Adjaye, Upper Norwood Library 

Top tips is having someone like Rin in your organisation. Left to us, we wouldn’t know where to start from, I’ll be honest. So, you need someone like Rin, who obviously has that understanding and knowledge. What Rin and Barbara and others were doing, is we’re all volunteering basically. We volunteered, and you know, through the volunteering, we got more people from the community come to tell stories, read books online; we’ve got a lovely lady who does a mediation…is it mediation? What does she do again?

 

Galina Rina, Upper Norwood Library Hub 

…humming bowls, and she did like five minutes every day in the morning, just so people have a calming place to go at 9am every morning.

 

Margaret Adjaye, Upper Norwood Library 

So, it’s that sort of thing. But also, you need to have a very good relationship with your community. That’s really paramount. And I think because people love the library, and as I said, because they campaigned to save the library, they were interested in seeing those things happen online.

The other thing as well is that we’ve got partnerships. So, I talked about ?, who does the digital literacy and obviously somebody else who is very technologically minded, more than me. So, he moved the service from in-house, online, and he’s still hooked up to seniors and vulnerable people and people with mental health conditions as well. He’s still training them and supporting them.

The other thing as well is money. I mean, one of the things we did very quickly is that we applied to the Arts Council for funding because we recognised that the performance arts sector was struggling. And we wanted to make sure that the artists in our community were supported and could actually use the livestream service. So, we applied for funding; we got the money. You know, collectively, we’ve been able to help a number of artists to perform online, which is fantastic. And so, it’s kept the spirit going.

 

Veronica Gordon

The hub sometimes asked for donations during their livestreams, which has helped. But luckily, as Rin points out…

 

Galina Rina, Upper Norwood Library Hub 

People don’t need to spend a lot of money to livestream. I mean, there’s a programme called OBS, which is Open Broadcast Software. And it’s free, and it’s what all the kids on Twitch and all the gamers and all these people who are just livestreaming all the time, they use this programme, and you don’t have to pay for it or anything. And the only investment is really in time.

 

Veronica Gordon  

And time is something Rin is willing to give.

 

Galina Rina, Upper Norwood Library Hub 

My whole idea was just to keep the library’s brand in the community’s mind. And you know, I just wanted us to be there for our community when things were hard.

 

Veronica Gordon   

While libraries all over the country are having to close as they struggle to be sustainable, it’s been brilliant hearing how Upper Norwood Library Hub has adapted to lockdown.

If you’ve been inspired by anything you’ve heard in today’s episode or want to learn more about the library head to www.powertochange.org.uk for further information.

This is a Pixiu production brought to you by Power to Change. I’m Veronica Gordon. And make sure you join us in two weeks’ time when we’ll be heading to Devon to talk to the people who are putting care work back into the arms of their local community.