Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Latest and maybe last bit of fieldwork, Manchester and Stockport

So, it has been just over a year since I started going out on vehicles and although I am doing qualitative research (stuff that cannot be counted or measured), here are some figures. I have observed over 700 children, I have talked to at least 29 staff and 40 parents and carers. I have undertaken observations in 13 vehicles over 9 library authorities and informally spoken to the staff of two more. If I have missed you out, I apologise. I still hope to contact everyone by the end of the PhD, so if you are part of a Children's Mobile Library service and have any burning issues to tell me, please be in touch. I have made friends all over the country and I hope that mobile libraries and library services can exist for the next year so that I can report back!

So, the last two bits of fieldwork were a Saturday morning with the Reading Voyager in Manchester, gosh, the traffic was hectic, and a Thursday afternoon with the Stockport Storybus.The Reading Voyager visits 10 mainstream schools and 5 special schools regularly on a three week rota. This is to fit in with the main library service borrowing period for books. They also visit children’s homes, a travellers site, a fairground site and street stops after school. They mainly issues books and don’t generally tell stories apart from during special events. They have collaborated with Manchester museum to produce a board game about books which is still played in the schools they visit.

The vehicle is currently run by Diane and Lynne. They always work with a driver who could be one of a pool of seven,the drivers circulate like Lincoln. The driver of the day during my visit was Karen. She has worked in Libraries for the past 30 years and has driven a mobile library for the past 15. Both of the staff I saw today love their jobs and are dedicated to the service.The aim of the service as far as Diane is concerned, is to break down barriers. She feels there is more to their service that just giving out books, part of it is being a role model and another caring adult in the children’s lives. She has taken over the post from the woman who set the service up. The vehicle is a “Leicester coach builders” vehicle. The inside is pleasant enough, the shelves are pinky purple and the carpet blue. There are two padded seats at the back and lots of shelves that go up to head height only. The shelves are all face on, and there are a number of spinners. It has a public laptop, the only other one that I have seen since my days in the Reading Rocket, The outside is cream with illustrations by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell.

The Stockport Storybus is quite different. It's target audience is children under the age of five. It operates with a team of three people, Christopher, Carol and Alison and it is managed by Sarah.

This service was started in 2001 as part of the sure start service. It still has a sure start logo on its livery. It specialises in under fives and visits under fives groups, schools and nurseries, children’s centres and has community stops, Alison and Christopher also deliver Bookstart books, tell stories in clinics and work with parents and children. Much of their work involves modelling storytelling for parents, so that they can do it with their children at home. The team also train Sure start staff who have little confidence in storytelling.Today was the last day of term and I had the privilege to meet the whole team.
The vehicle is on the road three days a week, and has eight stops a day. The community stops are usually very busy with parents and grandparents bringing their children and grandchildren on board. The interior is colourful, decorated with nursery style scenes, only a few book shelves and a number of kinderboxes on the floor. It is a large space, dedicated to storytelling activities. It was a lovely end to some very fruitful fieldwork.

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