Full name: John Rylands Library Address 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH, University
Area of activities Library
Kind of activities Research library with 1.4 million items in its collection
Background information The John Rylands Library (JRL) is part of the Library of University of Manchester, in 1900 it was founded by Enriqueta Ryland by a large donation in memory of her husband, John Ryland. Although it is now part of the University, it maintains the public service and in recent years has significantly changed its approach, making a deliberate effort to engage with a wider and more diverse public. The library is famous for having a Gutenberg Bible and the earliest known copy of St John’s Gospel. JRL is especially interesting in its AD because of the transformation over 7 – 9 years, progressing from a prestigious but rather dusty and old-fashioned institution to a well loved public organisation. On Trip Advisor JRL is now one of the most attractive place of Manchester. Its long-term AD plan was focus on identify audiences and on ensure that these audiences can access and understand the collections. This was part of ‘John Rylands Interpretation Strategy’ based on an audience point of view.
They segment their audiences:
- Core Audiences, identified by Audience Spectrum
- Occasional users
- Developmental Audiences, those who have a propensity to engage but are not currently engaging much or at all
This helped them to a proactive ‘strategy of engagement’, an important part of this strategy is engage schools. This means 4000 visits from school children each year. In 2007 they redeveloped and built site using an audience centric approach.
They made many changes, one of the main changes being the new funding policy by the Research Council for the Arts and Humanities (AHRC), this led to staff changes. All staff have to own the same knowledge, working within a ‘nonhierarchical’ spirit and with the ‘permission to think differently’, sharing four main goals:
• Offering an inclusive welcome and access for all
• Stimulating connections between people, ideas and knowledge
• Inviting audiences to engage in a way that has a meaningful impact and empowers them to access culture and knowledge
• Using innovative approaches to evoke responses which enrich and educate our audiences and our staff
They try to recognise how people think about books or documents. They planned experiments event about modern and popular literature (as Harry Potter and A Clockwork Orange), it was indicative of an approach that was accessible and open but which still has educational value and depth. There is an ‘engagement team’ that is responsible for the liaison with the audience, including the programming, exhibitions, retail, communications, public events and education operations. They developed a ‘journey mapping’ – tracking how people moved through and used the space. They understand that the AD’s goal goes through the interpretations, and by interpretation they mean the stories and significance of their collections and building, allowing visitors to learn about the world and themselves. They received advice and support from an external agency, which provided guidance about what to do, who to target and how.
They use to describe JRL in this way: ‘we are a working library’, which means using its assets, being accessible and public. It could be said that they are one of the rare organisations that works successfully in the difficult quartile of New Product for New Audiences in the Ansoff Matrix.