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Armagh Robinson Library: A Case Study of Inclusive Engagement Robert Whan

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Armagh Robinson Library is an independent reference library and, with its second building at nearby No. 5 Vicars’ Hill, is an accredited museum. It is the oldest publicly accessible Library in Northern Ireland, older by seventeen years than the Linen Hall Library in Belfast. Founded by Archbishop Richard Robinson in 1771, and incorporated by an Act of Parliament of 1773, it still contains its original collections, in the Grade A listed building purpose-built to house them. Based in an eighteenth-century building, with manuscripts dating back to the twelfth century and books to the 1480s, there is a perception that the Library is only for ‘serious scholars’. This paper will demonstrate how the Library has been challenging this assumption as staff combine the continuing care of collections with the engagement of a diverse audience, including very young children. In particular, it will focus on the Library’s dementia friendly initiatives and participation in the Northern Ireland Museums Council’s Playful Museums Initiative. During recent years the latter has involved the Library welcoming parents and their under five-year-old children. They have also worked with young adults with autism. Staff have tried out different events, experimented with new activities, and worked in partnership with organisations for the first time, including local Early Bird and Sure Start Groups, the Southern Health Trust of Northern Ireland, the Alzheimer’s Society and Armagh Memories Café and Carers’ Group. This paper will provide a synopsis of staff learning, obtained through undertaking activities to enrich access for everyone to enjoy the Library and its collections.

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Armagh Robinson Library: A Case Study of Inclusive Engagement Robert Whan

  1. 1. Armagh Robinson Library: A Case Study of Inclusive Engagement Dr Robert Whan (Director, Armagh Robinson Library & No 5 Vicars’ Hill) Email: director@armaghrobinsonlibrary.co.uk
  2. 2. Armagh Robinson Library & No 5 Vicars’ Hill • Library established 1771. • No 5 built 1772. • Mission: “To safeguard and share the treasures of the past for the enjoyment, enrichment and enlightenment of the city [of Armagh] and the world forever.”
  3. 3. Treasures to Share • c.43,000 books • c.4,500 prints • c.300 manuscript collections • Antiquities • Numismatics • Artwork
  4. 4. Researchers
  5. 5. Education Activities
  6. 6. Playful Museums: Engaging the Under 5s and their Carers AIMS • Improve attractiveness as a destination. • Develop new audiences. • Improve educational outcomes & learning. • Increase staff knowledge & confidence.
  7. 7. Activities & Feedback • ‘My first time in Library/No5. I’ll be back’. • ‘Child-friendly, relaxed’. • ‘Well-paced to keep Under 5s engaged’. • ‘Good to see the young ones [teenagers] from the theatre company working with the younger children’. • ‘A high five from a little boy and a smile!’
  8. 8. Learning • Training & Planning. • Partnerships. • Consultation. • Times. • Hands-on, participatory activities. • Something to take home?
  9. 9. Dementia Friendly Activities • Training. • Partnerships & Consultation: • Southern Health & Social Care Trust, Alzheimer's Society, Armagh Memories Café & Carers’ Group. • Professional facilitators (at least at start). • Tactile activities. • Refreshments. • Evaluation & Feedback.
  10. 10. CONCLUSION Promoting Engagement for All within ‘The Healing Place of the Soul’.
  11. 11. Armagh Robinson Library: A Case Study of Inclusive Engagement Dr Robert Whan (Director, Armagh Robinson Library & No 5 Vicars’ Hill) Email: director@armaghrobinsonlibrary.co.uk

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