Celebrating National Libraries Day: My visit to Witham Library

February 04, 2015

At Miles Kelly we are celebrating the services that local libraries provide to the communities in Essex. I decided to visit two libraries in Essex, one in Maldon and the other in Witham, to discover what they do for the people of their towns.

At Witham Library

My second library visit took me to Witham Library, which is housed in an old cinema, and I observed their great Baby and Toddler Rhyme Time session. Witham Library runs this event on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings every week. The session filled up quickly and even ended up with parents having to share the colourful rug with the excited children. As spaces were going quickly, it was clear that this was a very popular sessions with parents in Witham – I counted a total of 28 children!

National Libraries Day 2015 – Witham – Miles KellyWhen everyone was ready, Sue, an enthusiastic library staff member, began with a cheeky monkey puppet saying hello to all the children to get their attention. Next on the agenda was a round of rhyming songs, which all the children seemed to enjoy – some even asking for Sue to sing them again. The Shake Your Sillies Out song was also a popular hit, just as it has been at Maldon Library when I visited. Once again I found myself itching to join in and sing along, especially when my childhood favourite The Wheels On The Bus was sung. As I looked around at the parents and grandparents of children gathered round, I felt like they were having just as much fun as their children were.

The Baby and Toddler Rhyme Time lasted half an hour and by the end I had a feeling that the children where just as exhausted from singing and dancing as Sue was! These rhyme time sessions are great for children, not only because they’re having fun but also for them to have a positive association with the library, develop language skills and interact with other children. These free events are also a fantastic way for parents and grandparents to meet and socialise with others.

After most of the children left, I had the chance to talk to Sarah, the Library Supervisor, who has worked at Witham Library for two years.

A chat with Sarah:
She began by telling me why she thinks libraries are important and explained that libraries are focal points in communities as they are accessible to everyone, they are a valuable resource and a safe haven for those who need them. Libraries offer a wide range of services to local communities and Witham Library is no different. Sarah reeled off an impressive list of everything they provide to the people of Witham, such as language courses, free Wi-Fi, home delivery service and book clubs. She also tells me that they are partnered with the local Braintree District Council, so people are able to get help filling out paperwork for things such as benefits, without them having to go to Braintree itself.

The Summer Reading Challenge is an important event in libraries’ calendars and Witham also takes part in this scheme. Sarah explains that they get a lot of children coming in throughout the summer to participate in the challenge. The library also runs a cup competition as an incentive for schools to encourage their pupils to read; the school that has the highest percentage of participating children wins.

Dylan the Dragon – Given to Witham Library by a local school as part of a Summer Reading Challenge

As Sarah was talking to me, there was always hive of activity in the library and I could see that the library is a well-used service in Witham. With events like Baby and Toddler Rhyme Time, books festivals, school visits and long opening hours (9am – 7pm), Witham Library has placed itself in the middle of the community and offers a great deal more than I think most people in the town may know. Both Sarah and Sue talked enthusiastically about the work they do and are very positive about what they can provide to the public.

After both my visits to Essex libraries, it’s apparent that modern libraries offer so many different and unique services than they have done in the past. From what I have seen, I believe that children are being encouraged to visit their local libraries, whether it’s through story events or reading challenges. I think it’s important for them to learn positive associations with libraries at an early age, so as they grow up they learn to love their local library and in turn help libraries remain a vital resource to communities.

Through all of the great work that librarians do and everything that libraries provide to the local community, libraries should be celebrated and that is what National Libraries Day is all about!

The post is part of a blog series celebrating National Libraries Day; please click here to discover more of our posts about National Libraries Day 2015.

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