Crime Writing Fest and Library Conference Join Forces
by Sarah Morgan
Just when you thought the world-famous Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival couldn’t get any better, its organisers up the ante once again by having the event coincide with the inaugural Library Conference.
The festival has a long tradition of working with libraries as part of its year-round outreach and educational work. Ten years ago, the festival invited Ann Cleeves to become its first Reader-in-Residence. This year it will deliver its 11th annual Big Read, supported by the Arts Council, with current Reader in Residence, author Mari Hannah – who is also the chair of this year’s festival.
The Library Conference runs at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate from 10am until 3:30pm on Friday, July 19, and features a wealth of lectures and discussions, including training on marketing and social media to attract new audiences, led by Stewart Bain – the man who became famous for his tweets during his tenure as senior library assistant at Orkney Library.
He helped put the establishment on the map attracting more than 28,000 followers and luring authors such as JK Rowling. He won Librarian of the Year in 2016.
Stewart Bain said: “Crime fiction is the most borrowed genre in libraries. It is accessible, popular and offers a gateway into reading, so hosting the Library Conference at the biggest festival for the genre is very exciting. Having a vocal ambassador like Ann Cleeves, a champion of libraries and their importance to our communities, is a real morale boost for those working in a sector that’s increasingly under pressure.”
Panels will also look at engagement in the modern world, and how libraries can engage with publishers and build relationships.
Beth Walker, Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Harrogate International Festivals, who organise both the crime writing festival and the Library Conference, adds: “We’re passionate about promoting reading, and the importance of libraries within communities.
“One of the things we discovered with our work with libraries around the Big Read was how much pressure is on librarians to deliver so much with so few resources. Despite the enormous challenges at a time of brutal cuts in the last decade, library professionals have enormous passion for their vocation. We wanted to give them a platform that showed they were valued in the literary community, and to use learning from the conference to build on our outreach work to help support and safeguard their future.”
With libraries facing difficult times in recent years, it’s encouraging to see such a major event come up with something that may help boost their usage and development for years to come.
Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival takes place in Harrogate, 18-21 July