Hilary Chittenden & Victoria Foster
London College of Communication, Graphic Design/Book Design Crafts, 2012
Creative Enterprise Award Winners 2012 – Enterprise or Ethical Business
Hilary and Victoria's project 'Celebrate my library' encourages libraries to become a community hub rather than just be seen as book lenders. They work with a variety of regional libraries in seven councils. They are also collaborating with schools running workshops in the local public libraries.
What inspired you to start up a project that highlights the work of libraries?
Quite simply we love our public libraries. The books, the librarians, the free wifi, the place to shelter when it is raining: these spaces are the heart of many communities and are something worth celebrating. With the budget cuts facing many public services we felt there was space for a project to help motivate people of all ages through library doors and celebrate what is truly unique and great about these spaces.
We have so far been focusing our work on Key Stage 2 children, teaching them to take ownership of their local library and see it as a free, fun and exciting place through a series of interactive creative writing workshops.
What have you found most rewarding about the project?
The most rewarding part of the workshop by far has been all of the feedback from the kids, teachers and librarians following our workshop series.
Following the most recent workshop we ran in Brompton Library, we received an email from the librarian about a child who took part. She said “He comes in most days after school and, to say the least, his behavior is challenging – boisterous, noisy, but on Saturday we saw a different side of him. Just goes to show the benefit of having high expectations and something to focus on.”
Neither of us comes from an education background, so to hear that what we are doing is really touching people gives us a huge buzz. It was also pretty cool being on TV earlier this year.
What’s the difference between setting up your own company and setting up a not-for-profit?
For us, the most difficult thing about running a not-for-profit is being able to draw the line between when something does not make financial sense, and when it does. We get so caught up in wanting to do every project we can we very often agree to things we can’t really afford, just because we REALLY want to do it.
Also as a non-profit it takes a lot longer to produce that profit making ‘product’, so you are on the constant-time-consuming hunt for funding. This means that we are both working, balancing Celebrate My Library with our full time work.
What advice would you give current students hoping to set up a social enterprise?
Find something you genuinely believe in. Corny I know but very, very true. When you find yourself topping up funding with your own money it does not matter when you love the cause you are fighting for. And be persistent (but nice about it.)
You both studied at LCC – how did that prepare you for the work you’re doing now? What else could UAL have done to help you get your career started?
The multi-disciplinary nature of LCC was probably the biggest thing that has prepared us for what we do now. Turning our hand to whatever comes up, whether teaching children (which neither of us had ever considered before), commissioning illustrators or writing funding proposals; LCC certainly prepared us with this vital ‘get in and get one with it’ attitude.
The main thing we would have appreciated knowing were skills such as bookkeeping, accounting (that area we both actively avoid at all costs, until we actually HAVE to do it) and business planning: How to turn a project into a real life viable ‘venture’. These are things we have had to pay for (or beg borrow and steal for) – so the opportunity for a deeper prior understanding during our time at UAL would have been amazing!
What’s coming up next for you?
Next we have just received funding from vInspired to run a series of intergenerational workshops, which we are really excited about. This involves teaming up a group of older folk from the local community with children from their local primary school, and encouraging them to share stories about their childhood, teaching the children about the local history of the area in a fun, interactive and creative way.
These workshops run in a library and are something we hope not only encourage young and old to mix, but for both to see the library as a hub for the community as well as the traditional place for reading and learning.