CENL Event

7th December 2023

Webinar “Libraries: Unlocking Non-Visitor Potential” on 11 December 2023

Register here

BANG! – the CENL Books and Audiences Network Group – has organised its fifth webinar for researchers, collection keepers, curators, designers, educators, and other professionals whose daily work is related to exhibitions and public engagement with documentary heritage, mainly various types of books.

This year’s webinar will explore the theme of engaging with diverse library visitors, including those not typically part of the library’s target audience. We will identify the current challenges and delve into the strategies libraries use to attract these individuals and overcome participation obstacles. It’s a question that has gained increasing attention: how can we effectively bridge this gap? What positive approaches can be adopted from art museums?

The keynote and presentation sessions will be followed by Q&A, encouraging interactive discussions.


11:10-11:30 CET

The webinar will open with a keynote conversation between Dr Diana Walters – the facilitator of the webinar, consultant and project manager in the fields of museology and cultural heritage – and Li Li Chong (BE) together with Alexia Jacques-Casanova (FR).

  • Li Li Chong (BE) is an outreacher at the Concertgebouw Brugge (concertgebouw.be ). She is responsible for connecting the non-visitors of the Concertgebouw with the building and its activities. She’s in the field and will share with us what works and what doesn’t from within her experience.
  • Alexia Jacques-Casanova (FR) is founder of Artizest (www.artizest.fr). She helps museums and cultural institutions with defining their public, to get to know them better and helping them to reach out to the people they don’t reach yet. She can tell us more about pitfalls and opportunities from her expertise working with and in the museum sector.


11:40-12:40 CET

The British Library and Beyond: The impact of the Living Knowledge Network on public library exhibition programmes

Rhian Isaac, Leeds Libraries

Krisztina Lackoi, British Library

The Living Knowledge Network (LKN) is an ambitious partnership between public and national libraries in the UK, created by the British Library. The network celebrates libraries and creates memorable experiences, through collaborative event programming and exhibitions. Since 2017 LKN has enabled public libraries across the country to curate their own exhibitions inspired by major exhibitions at the British Library in London. Audiences who would not normally be able to visit London have been able to engage with high quality content produced by the British Library and public libraries have used this opportunity to showcase their unique collections. The LKN model differs from typical touring exhibitions in that displays are launched simultaneously across multiple venues. Each library has the same core freestanding interpretation panels but creates very different experiences using their own special collections and tailored to local communities.

This paper will use Leeds Libraries as a case study to demonstrate the impact of the LKN exhibition collaborative model. The exhibition programme has been a catalyst to develop partnerships, generate media interest, commission new artwork, raise the profile of their collections and reach more diverse audiences.


Realities of Accessibility

Inga Surgunte, Interreg project “Arts on Prescription in the Baltic Sea Region 2023-2025”

The project “Arts on Prescription in the Baltic Sea Region 2023-2025” unites 7 countries around the Baltic sea who intend to improve mental health and well-being of local communities by involving them in long-term art programmes. Cēsis municipality in Latvia, one of the piloting partners in the project, is running an initiative Museums on Prescription, offering museums (including 2 literary museums) as safe spaces for social inclusion and emotional recovery. In this initiative, museums are welcoming audiences that are not regular museum visitors or who have never even visited a museum. Started with great enthusiasm, the task has turned out to be more challenging than expected. The presentation will offer insights from the first lessons learned in the project.


Curating an Inclusive Art Experience for Individuals with Vision Impairments in Latvia’s Arts and Culture Space – Reconsidering Curatorial Practices

Adele Bērziņa,  PhD. Student at The Art Academy of Latvia

The study examines the curatorial research space as a platform for synergy between artistic activity and the ability of individuals with visual impairments to experience visual art. The Master’s Thesis addresses the question: How and in what formats to create accessible and experiential visual art experiences for individuals with impaired vision and blindness? The aim of the research was achieved, and its results are described in theory and integrated into proposals for curators of socially inclusive art projects. The research was conducted by acquainting with the audience and jointly surveying art exhibitions, exploring the model of inclusive curating, identifying examples of good practice, interviewing curators from different institutions, as well as modelling an example of a multisensory art mediation tour, testing and discussing it in focus group discussions.


Small exhibition, big impact: using tours to measure and improve library exhibition engagement

Sarah Pipkin, UCL Special Collections

UCL Special Collections has traditionally hosted free public exhibitions in UCL’s Main Library, but accessibility issues and a lack of entry statistics and feedback prompted a shift. In response, 1-hour tours of the 2023 Main Library exhibition, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Liberating our Library Collections,” were introduced. Trial runs occurred in May and June 2023, followed by regular public tours from August 2023. The guided tours immediately boosted attendance and feedback. By November 2023, 88 individuals, 51 of whom were external to UCL, participated. Notably, 16% of attendees provided formal feedback through an online form, marking the first instance of such data collection. Despite challenges in advertising and feedback collection, the tours elevated internal visibility and fostered connections with colleagues for future collaborations. Attendee interactions underscored interest in upcoming exhibitions and digital collections. This intervention is expected to persist as a valuable tool, enhancing access to exhibitions and collections broadly.