Just what do youth have to do to be heard and valued in Croydon?
As a parent, an educator and library campaigner I am beyond frustration at the on-going situation in Croydon. I’m raising this publicly in the hope this will help to resolve the issue, to the benefit of Croydon youth and our libraries.
The history to the situation is detailed on the Save Croydon Libraries blog and on Inside Croydon for anyone unfamiliar with the erosion of Croydon library service, but suffice to say we found ourselves having to look further afield when the usual activities available to my teens dwindled. I found out about the MyVoice project on The Reading Agency website, quite by chance, and not via the Croydon Council website or any official promotion. With no information forthcoming from any Croydon source I scoured, I contacted The Reading Agency to find out more, and how to get involved.
It really was unbelievable to learn that MyVoice, aimed at 11-19 year olds, was running in Croydon Libraries, and had been for some time, yet it was not being advertised.
The sessions run on a monthly basis at Ashburton Library. My daughters and their friend went along to find out more and get involved. We were disheartened to see how few attended, but given the lack of publicity it was not a really a surprise.
Not long after joining, the group got involved in the planning of the MyVoice celebration, which was a great event, with a performance given by LoveLife6958 run by Chris Syrus, a real highlight of the event but, like the monthly sessions, relatively poorly attended as not widely advertised.
What possible motive could there be to skimp on advertising when Croydon had so many avenues via its many websites, network of libraries, own Your Croydon magazine, billboards and its Twitter account to let the public know and get teens involved?
Some of the group were even given the opportunity as part of the MyVoice project to be trained in using social media by attending an excellent day in London, facilitated by Sound Delivery, to explore how Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Audioboo worked and how they could be employed to promote libraries and youth engagement. But, unlike other local authorities, Croydon would not allow the Croydon MyVoice youth who attended to share this training in a session with other Croydon MyVoicers, or to set up a Croydon MyVoice facebook or Twitter account to use their skills.
Word Fest Planning in Croydon!
The latest planned event is a Word Fest, again poorly advertised, that is, until Teens4Libraries, who are involved in the project, asked that the council twitter account @YourCroydon help spread information by giving a retweet. Not a lot to ask, was it?
The council account @YourCroydon and then @CROYDemocracy started promoting particular activities as part of the event, which may not seem a problem, but the whole point of the project is to engage youth in the decision making process, empowering them. Does it not seem more than a little strange that, given the information by the youth involved, the council accounts would continue to tweet about just three areas of focus? Again, what possible motive could there be for this and why not re-tweet or link to the fuller information provided by the youth involved?
In the last few days the council website has finally added details about the MyVoice project and the Word Fest event, I suspect in response to this request from the Teens4Libraries bloggers that the council retweet the information that had been put on the Teens4Libraries blog.
The work of Teens4Libraries has received more attention of late, with local Croydon Radio Arts programme host, Janet Smith, offering to publicise the project and reading information from the blog on several of her programmes, and their follower list on twitter is growing, week on week.
I’ll leave it to you to decide which is more informative and inviting: We have this from the council
and this from Teens4Libraries
The tweets sent by the council narrow the activities down to just three, not yet agreed with the youth. The poster advertising this event was again produced without the input of the MyVoice youth but by an adult or adults within the council. It was meant as a starting point to engage youth.
Can YOU help support this excellent project in Croydon by promoting it, and give the youth involved and the library staff putting so much time and effort into it, the support they deserve?
In a public meeting of the Croydon Communities Consortium I raised the concern that this valuable project was not being effectively promoted in Croydon and the head of youth services gave his assurance to look into it. To date, six weeks on, he has been unable to gain the information for himself to come back to me on this. If senior council officers are left in the dark, no wonder the public are unaware!
The information on the Teens4Libraries is the correct, agreed information discussed at the first planning meeting, and anyone is able to post to the blog.
Teens4libraries, in the absence of an official facebook or twitter account, are trying to promote the MyVoice events and particularly the Word Fest planning event to get more 11- 19 year olds involved to make a difference.
The MyVoice Project is a positive project, aimed at engaging youth in libraries and should be promoted, even if no funding was being taken for running it but to take funding for a project but fail to advertise it, or to disempower the youth involved by taking decision making out of their hands is a travesty in my book.
The library staff running this project are keen to make it a success, as are the youth involved. Let’s get the proper promotion of this project that it deserves.
Please make comments and suggestions on the Teens4Libraries blog but above all spread the word to ensure that the information gets to those who would benefit from this great project - the youth of Croydon!
All 11-19 year olds welcome.