Lambeth Libraries Fun Palaces in all 10 libraries (and an archive)

12 April 2016

Zoey Dixon is a development librarian dealing with social media, information and all things digital. Outside of work she can be found playing netball, being a bit of a geek, occasionally playing dress up at comic conventions and playing with gadgets. Fun Palaces helped Zoey get to know her colleagues more, like the one of who is training to be a doctor and helped the kids paint their bones on their hands or the balloon modelling colleague who learnt about molecules so they could help create them.

How did you hear about Fun Palaces?

I first heard about Fun Palaces on the wonderful world of Twitter in 2014 and I thought it sounded like an excellent idea to have in libraries. However it was already September, and I thought a bit too late to do anything besides host a Fun Palace, which is not how I wanted libraries to get involved. Luckily in 2015, I met with Stella Duffy who was kind enough to not only explain the whole concept behind Fun Palaces (it was even better than I originally thought) but also put in contact with the amazing Matt Finch, a creative producer. Together we were able to produce Fun Palaces in all 10 libraries (and an archive) across the London Borough of Lambeth!

"tapping into our talented community in a joined up national way"

Libraries as Fun Palaces

I think it’s important for libraries to be Fun Palaces as we develop on the already wonderful work that we do with our community. As more libraries introduce coding and other STEM activities into their libraries, it’s a great opportunity to showcase the work we currently do, and present new activities through partnerships and by tapping into our talented community in a joined up national way.

What were the challenges? 

Trying to organise 10 libraries (and an archive) was a very big challenge, and I’m glad I had Matt on hand to help out. The Fun Palaces concept, of interactive and participatory can be quite a difficult for some people to get, but staff here really embraced it, and were so enthusiastic. On the day it was amazing to see such a range of makers and participants and I couldn’t be prouder how everyone came together, in just a few months to organise a day that saw more than 2000 extra people visit our libraries.

"I couldn’t be prouder how everyone came together"

What impact has Fun Palaces had on your community?

Fun Palaces is an opportunity for some to visit a place they’ve never been to, see another side of the library, learn something new, have fun and meet their community. Because we are creating these new links with makers, it means we can invite them back not only for the next Fun Palace, but to help us run activities throughout the year. So Movement Works have run a dance course at Brixton and there’s now a permanent games club at Upper Norwood Library, none of these would have happened without Fun Palaces.

Any advice for people wanting to get involved?

Organising a Fun Palace is lots of work, and it will keep you very busy, but I would definitely recommend running one, even if it’s just for a few hours. You’ll be inspired by the amount of people who will give their time for free, and the reaction of the community who participate will make it worth it. If you’re a maker and you want to get involved check the website to see what’s near you. All in all, don’t hesitate. Just do it!

Vegetable sculptures at Streatham Library

Guitar lessons