Travels have ended but library adventures continue!

Well I have come to the end of my Travelling Librarian study tour. I’ve had an amazing time and consider myself extremely lucky to have been given this opportunity. Along the way I’ve seen some fabulous libraries and places, I’ve met some awesome librarians, found an American library soul-mate with whom I hope to plan some international co-working and made some great contacts to share best practices with.

I will be taking back some great ideas, some will be:

  • Wow! If only we had the space or the money!
  • We could definitely look at that model and adapt it to suit us.
  • We could build relationships like these.
  • That is so obvious – it’s a no-brainer!
  • Next year’s team plan!
  • Maybe not for us but other libraries may find this useful.

I also know that we have a great team at North Somerset and we have lots of fantastic projects and developments on the go, which I have enjoyed sharing with colleagues overseas. I hope that what I have discovered and learnt will help inform future developments, I know that colleagues in the States will also be looking at some of our processes and projects to adapt for their libraries. Sharing is the best way forward, it’s not necessary for any of us to re-invent the wheel, libraries, after all, are about open access to information – free for all!

I will be writing a full report and will post it here when it is published. I am happy to help and give guidance or support to anyone who may be applying for the Travelling Librarian bursary or similar in the future. Please do get in touch email: or Twitter: @FrancesTout. I look forward to writing articles and delivering presentations to share my findings and experiences over the coming months.

Most of all I would like to thank the English Speaking Union and CILIP for giving me the opportunity and funding this amazing library adventure. Also North Somerset Library Service and North Somerset Council for supporting my application and letting me go. Lastly, but by no means least, I would like to thank all my colleagues at work, who have had to cover my workload while I’ve been away, they have been extremely supportive and not one of them has moaned at me!

in front of Lincoln memorial

Accommodation, conferences and bedtime reading!

The planning side of my trip is really coming together now. I feel like I have spent days poring over hotel and B&B websites. In the end I have decided to go with Airbnb all the way. There are lots of choices but I have managed to find a whole variety of rooms in people’s homes with excellent reviews and all really central in the cities I am visiting. Hopefully I will be a short walk away from most of the main libraries. I’ve had very friendly emails from all of the hosts I’ll be staying with and they seem happy to give me tips and advice on where to go in any spare time. I think staying in people’s homes will really add to my experience and it is significantly cheaper than staying in impersonal hotels.

New York

Boston Washington










Some of the bedroom window views I can look forward to!

Interest in the study tour has also been building in the UK. In the last couple of weeks I have been asked to contribute to a blog article about the future of British Libraries for the Professional Associations Research Network (PARN). I have also been asked to deliver a lecture to University of West of England (UWE) MSc Information Management students later in the year covering the study tour and funding/sponsorship applications. Lastly CILIP Publicity and Public Relations Group (PPRG) have asked me to speak at their conference in November to share my experiences and findings. It’s all getting very exciting!

Bedtime reading!

Bedtime reading!

Finally today I wanted to share with you this morning’s post – the Royal Mail kind! These may well be my bedtime reading so I can make the most of any free time in evenings and at weekends.

Lunch at The English Speaking Union

Today I travelled up to London to have lunch with Melanie Aplin, Senior Education Officer  (ESU), Will Stileman, Education Officer (ESU) and Guy Daines, Head of Policy (CILIP).

We had a very pleasant lunch in the grand setting of the ESU’s dining room at their Mayfair headquarters Dartmouth House, in Charles Street. I would have taken my own photos of the building today but it was very drizzly!

It was good to catch up and fill them in on the tour plans so far. Melanie has been in touch with her counterpart Alice Uhl at the ESU offices in New York and we hope that there may be an ESU event during my trip. Guy also talked about giving a presentation after the tour in London, hosted by the CILIP International Library and Information Group (ILIG).

It was a great opportunity to thank the ESU and CILIP for their generous funding and to find out some further details about the ESU, the award and other projects.

Congratulations must also go to Abi Alayo who is a Health Librarian at Barts. Abi was shortlisted for the Travelling Librarian award and has been offered sponsorship by CILIP ILIG and two London regional groups of the ESU to undertake her study tour of Health Libraries in the Greater Midwest Region of the States. Abi’s tour blog can be found here.



Plane tickets booked – Library appointments made

CILIP and the ESU have issued a press release on this year’s Travelling Librarian Award so it’s a good time to give an update on my tour plans – plenty has happened in the last few weeks.

I have now managed to arrange my dates and meetings with the libraries I plan to visit and my plane tickets are all booked. I have decided to fly from Bristol via Amsterdam to Boston. Although this makes the travel time slightly longer it is far more convenient for me than flying from Heathrow and was significantly cheaper.

I will be arriving in Boston on the evening of Saturday 19th September, this will give me a day to look around and then I will be visiting the Central Library on Monday 21st September where my contact is Michael Colford, Director of  Library Services. The Central Library in Copley Square has been undergoing a major renovation project which includes a new teen area called Teen Central  – here’s a taster from The Library as Incubator Project and the Library Journal

From Boston I will be travelling by Megabus (bargain $5 ticket) to Hartford. Hartford Public Library is one of the LTC cohort. My contact here is Matt Poland CEO of Hartford Public Library. He has recently announced that he will be leaving at the end of the year but hopefully not before September. Here is Matt talking about some of the library’s community engagement projects.

Joining me in Hartford will be Erica Freudenberger, Library Director at Red Hook Public Library which is also one of the LTC cohort. From Hartford I will travel with Erica to Red Hook and the Hudson Valley. Erica has very kindly offered to put me up for a few days at her house in Catskill, she tells me that it is a perfect time to visit the Hudson Valley as it will be the fall, the leaves will be changing making it incredibly spectacular. Red Hook Public Library has been given five star status by the Library Journal and was also named as the first finalist for the 2015 Best Small Library in America Award, given by Library Journal and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. You can read more about this amazing small library and their engagement projects here. Erica is also arranging for me to give a talk to the Mid-Hudson Library System of 66 member libraries. It will be exciting to share information about our own library service, volunteers, community and outreach projects with colleagues overseas. While I am in the Hudson Valley I hope to look round some other local libraries as well.

From The Hudson Valley I will travel by train to New York. On 28th September I will be meeting up with Michelle Misner, Acting Director at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the main branch library for New York Public Library. Michelle has arranged for me to meet with Carolyn Broomhead (Research Community Manager), Maura Muller (Volunteer Manager) and Susan Rabbiner (Assistant Director of Exhibitions), she has also put aside some time to give me a tour of the building to see their work in action. On 29th September I will be visiting the Bronx Library Center and meeting Chief Librarian Michael Alvarez. Whilst in New York I also hope to drop in on the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library and the Mid-Manhattan Library.

The next part of the tour takes me to Philadelphia. My contact at the Free Library of Philadelphia is Donald Root who is Chief of Central Public Services Division. The Free Library is undergoing a transformational initiative called Building Inspiration: 21st Century LibrariesNew areas include Central Senior Services designed to serve Philadelphia’s growing population of older people.

From Philadelphia I will travel by train to Washington DC. I will be meeting Kim Zablud, Assistant Director of Public Services at DC Public Library. We will be touring round Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (Central Library), I’m particularly interested to see the new “Labs” and Kim has also arranged for me to visit some of the branch libraries. I have a weekend in Washington so hope to make some time for some tourist activities and also take a public tour of the Library of Congress – can’t really go all the way there and not do that!

The last leg of the study tour will see me flying to Chattanooga on 6th October. There are lots of exciting things happening at Chattanooga Public Library. There’s The 4th Floor, Camp Etsynooga and Makeanooga for starters. Maker spaces, community collaboration, knowledge sharing and the sharing economy have become the order of the day at the Downtown Library.  I hope to spend some time with Executive Director Corinne Hill, Library Journal’s 2014 Librarian of the Year who has been re-inventing the public library. My contact is Mary Barnett, Public Relations Coordinator and 4th Floor Ops, Mary is also making arrangements for me to meet with community partners and key staff during my visit.

The next step is to arrange accommodation. As most of the libraries I’m visiting are in city centre locations the nearby hotels are quite pricey for a long trip. Wherever possible I’m going to look for AirBnB, this will give me a great opportunity to stay with people and find out more about local areas.

Welcome to my Travelling Librarian 2015 blog!

In April I applied for the Travelling Librarian annual bursary jointly run by CILIP and The English Speaking Union (ESU). The award is an opportunity for a UK library and information professional to build professional relationships with their counterparts in the United States or a Commonwealth country through a study tour.

My application was fortunate enough to be shortlisted and last week I travelled to the ESU’s Mayfair offices for an interview. The interview panel asked some tough questions about my proposal and while I could answer them I was not entirely sure that I had managed to get all of the right messages across. I was therefore delighted and amazed to receive an email the next day to say that I had been chosen as this year’s recipient of the award.

I have decided to start this blog early in the process, partly as I have a couple of days off work so it is a good opportunity to build the blog but also to capture some of the planning processes of the study tour.

I will be visiting the United States for three weeks in September/October 2015, you can find out more about the proposal and itinerary in the About and Itinerary tabs. I will be visiting public libraries, both large and small, to learn about their innovative community engagement programmes. I intend to visit some diverse communities to find out how different projects meet the needs of different communities. I am interested in The American Library Association’s ‘Libraries Transforming Communities‘ (LTC) initiative. The work of the programme is designed to support librarians to become more connected with their communities, build stronger relationships and work collaboratively to improve learning, health and well-being through a ‘turning outward’ approach. I hope to visit three of the ten libraries from the LTC cohort. The other libraries I will visit are larger city libraries which have all made recent innovative changes to their buildings or developed new services to meet the changing needs of their communities.

I have been delighted with the welcoming and enthusiastic responses I have had from the libraries I have contacted so far and I am looking forward to firming up arrangements with them over the coming weeks.