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Introduction to public engagement with research in libraries
    What is public engagement?

    Public engagement is a two-way process that shares the activities and benefits of higher education and research with the public, generating benefit for both parties.  

    Public engagement as a two way process

    To find out more about the definitions of public engagement, visit the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement?

    Why should we do public engagement in libraries?

    Engaging Libraries supported public libraries to work with higher education institutions to develop and deliver public engagement activities with research on health, society and culture. The next few videos are of some of the Engaging Libraries projects describing the benefits of public engagement  in libraries in their own words.

    Clare Nestor, Calderdale Libraries talks about the Something in the Air? project
    Fiona Hill, Newcastle Libraries talks about the Death Positive Libraries project
    A member of the public talks about Calderdale Libraries’ Something in the Air? Project
    'I was surprised at how much parents were absolutely enthralled by the brain development research... I think it is something that we can use and we can promote to other library services… It’s a tool for getting parents to come in and share their stories and join the library'
    Janette White, Glasgow Libraries
    Staff member
    'Very informative and interesting. It has made me want to research further as subjects discussed only scratched the surface'
    Member of the public
    Key messages to get support for public engagement activities in your library service
    Public engagement activities can enable public libraries to build upon and explore their civic role as safe spaces for debate and participation in research.

    What's the evidence?

    Three quarters (75%) of those who participated in public engagement in library spaces via Engaging Libraries agreed they felt more comfortable exploring topics in a ‘library held space’ than elsewhere

    ‘That sense of libraries really being communities, community… centres almost, I think is a really important thing.’

    Dr. Vanessa Beck Associate Professor in Work and Organisation, Bristol University

    Public engagement activities can bring in new audiences who are more likely to try other events or activities at, or organised by the library afterwards.

    What's the evidence?

     A quarter (24%) of participants in Engaging Libraries were non-library members.

    ‘Something I have never done before and it’s not a conversation I’d usually have if it weren’t for this event.’

    Member of the public

    Public engagement with research can also attract new sources of funding and partners through project activity which has a direct impact on people’s lives.

    What's the evidence?

    88% of staff who participated in Engaging Libraries reported they feel better equipped to articulate the value of their library service as a direct result of the programme.

    ‘We have far more contacts, far more widely in the community than we ever used to. Now I have named contacts across different associations all over the Western Isles. It’s been significant, really significant.’

    Kathleen Milne, Western Isles Libraries

    Public engagement activities in libraries can help people learn something new, inspiring them to be curious and think differently about topics.

    What's the evidence?

    84% of members of the public who participated in public engagement in the Engaging Libraries programme agreed that it had made them more curious and 89% said it had made them think differently about a topic.

    ‘I didn’t really like science very much - I would always see the boring and the serious side of the subject, but after this amazing experience I feel that I’ve come to enjoy the fun side of science and really enjoyed coming together and learning from different scientist researchers.’

    Member of the public 

    Public engagement activities can develop library staff skills and confidence in working with higher education institutions and engaging communities with research and new ideas.

    What's the evidence?

    88% of staff who participated in the Engaging Libraries programme said they have increased their confidence in working with universities and 92% agreed that they can more readily see the potential of different library spaces to deliver public engagement activity.

    ‘It has given us the confidence to say we can do more ambitious things, longer ranging things.’

    Wendy Cole, Treorchy Libraries

    Public engagement and strategic priorities for libraries