Library refuge up for award

12th May 2000 at 01:00
THE ROLE of libraries as safe neutral spaces in divided communities has been recognised in the short-list for this year's Libraries Change Lives award.

Newry library in Northern Ireland is in the running for the award which goes to the library that has done most to make a difference to its community. The library is one of the few public buildings in Newry, just north of the border with the Republic of Ireland, which do not have Protestant or Catholic connections.

Library staff worked with colleagues in Dundalk, Co Down, on a cross-border literacy project, The Extra Mile. This included a Books Across the Border programme which led to schools in the north and south forming joint reading groups.

The short-list moves swiftly from conflict resolution in Northern Ireland to punch-ups in north-west London. As part of a Youthboox after-school programme, Peter Pavement, of Slab O'Concrete Pubications, staged a scrap between teenagers at Kensal library, took digital photographs of the action and helped the group turn the images into a picture story.

Youthboox (formerly Boox R Us) supports libraries which are working with the youth service on projects to tackle social exclusion. It targets groups of young people who traditionally have been perceived as more likely to hang around outside the library than make use of it.

On Merseyside, adults with learning disabilities are taking part in the Westvale Literature Project, a venture between Knowsley Library Service and the borough's Learning Disabilities Service.

Library and social services staff use tactile materials including a live guinea-pig, as well as poetry, prose and music.

The winner will be announced on June 7 at the Library and Information Show at the NEC, Birmingham. The winning library gets pound;4,000.

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