Beyond Shelves: How a pandemic is challenging libraries to reach out to new audiences

Kingston Libraries, working with Libraries Connected and second year students from Kingston School of Art, have created a programme of events entitled “Beyond Shelves”.

Beyond Shelves poster


Based on the BBC’s The One Hundred Novels That Shaped Our World festival, the first event is an immersive, interactive zoom call with protagonists from the book V for Vendetta, taking place on 2 April from 7 - 9pm. Participants will be able to explore the themes and drama from this award winning graphic novel, as well as propel the story forward through decision making and interaction. 

Cllr Rebekah Moll, Portfolio Holder for Culture at Kingston Council, said:

"Libraries are so much more than just places to borrow books. Through this pandemic, Kingston Libraries have shown that there is a wealth of different opportunities for everyone to be involved in at your local library and, even in a lockdown, they can be accessed from your home. Throughout the last year, we have brought our library services online to support more residents than ever, from our digital book clubs, escape rooms, online workshops, e-books and virtual job clubs.

“The restrictions COVID-19 imposes on a book based event has meant thinking outside the box. Therefore, being awarded this grant has been an excellent opportunity to do something fun and creative, to promote the library service and put on an event that engages local residents and builds partnerships with local creatives.” 

Simon Savidge, Project Manager for the Novels That Shaped Our World Libraries Program at Libraries Connected, said:

“Libraries Connected are excited to be working with libraries across the country, in partnership with BBC Arts and funded by Arts Council England, on many amazing projects responding to the 100 Novels That Shaped Our World list. Libraries in lockdown have demonstrated that they are a vital source of support for the community, they have also shown their adaptability, creativity and resilience. Like all the events on this program, Beyond Shelves truly shows the powers that books have to resonate with us and the way libraries - even when buildings are closed - have the power to reach people and how stories connect us all.”

Ash Temple, Lecturer at Kingston School of Art, said:

“I am really proud of the students who have engaged professionally. The students have been fantastic, a lot comes down to their creativity and hard work. They have absolutely relished the chance to work with a real client on a real life event building a rapport with Kingston Libraries has been invaluable. 

“COVID-19 has brought with it a background of stress and asked tough questions we have had to answer through creative thinking and technology. We have all had to work in new ways, sometimes with technology that is challenging. Some of our students have been working from home - and when I say home I mean Indonesia and France, attending lectures at 2am. I’m excited to see the final performance.”

Claire Selby, Commercial Projects Manager at Studio KT1, said:

“Studio KT1 supported by Kingston School of Art are delighted to work in partnership with Kingston Libraries on this exciting project over lockdown. The students have been able to showcase their creative ideas utilising technology remotely to bring the 100. Thank you to the libraries team for letting us work on such an exciting live brief!"

The project is funded by libraries think tank Libraries Connected through a national grant by the Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants programme. Following the first event, titled “From the Pages of V for Vendetta”, two more student events will follow in April and May this year. The ticketed events will be hosted online and will be free, made available through Kingston Libraries’ Eventbrite page.

Published: 16th March 2021