Guest Post: By Ciara Eastell – Head of Libraries, Culture and Heritage

Guest Post: By Ciara Eastell – Head of Libraries, Culture and Heritage

We’re now in June.  The weather has taken a turn for the better; I’ve just had a terrific week off work and we’re at the start of Devon County Council’s Create and Innovate month.  I thought I would use these three elements to set the scene for Create and Innovate by writing a personal reflection on creativity and what it means to me.

For most of my life, I would have thought about myself as essentially not a creative person.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why but I do recall a very strong memory from my childhood, when, at around the age of 8, I was actively discouraged by a parent from drawing pictures to accompany the stories that I loved to write at school.  I don’t recall the exact words but, as academic success was highly prized in my family, I think it was because drawing pictures was not viewed as integral to academic success.  As a result, I never drew seriously again and consequently I have never developed any confidence as an artist.  I worked hard academically as a child and teenager and consequently have a raft of very good qualifications…… But until about 8 or 9 years ago, I never felt creative and didn’t really value creativity as a skill or value that I should seek.

My feelings changed during 2004/5 when I was lucky enough to be selected as a Fellow on the Clore Leadership Programme for leaders within the cultural sector.  For the first time in my professional career, I found myself learning alongside dancers, theatre directors, musicians and a range of other people from across the cultural sector – people who, for the most part, saw creativity as an enormous part of their individual identities.  What I learned from them and from the programme as a whole was that creativity and creative thinking is one of the most important skills I could possibly acquire – even more so in an era when you can’t pass an exam or learn something by rote to enable you to fulfil a useful role within society.

I learned that creativity isn’t about something being right or wrong; it is about the space to think and reflect on the world; your role in it and the value of the work you are doing.  None of us are robots, going about our jobs with pre-programmed rules of what’s right or wrong; good or bad – all of our work, at whatever level we work, is about making judgements.  For me, creativity is about being alive to what’s going on in interactions between yourself and others and always learning; always reflecting and always being open to new influences and ideas.

Create and Innovate is such an important opportunity for us in libraries.  The future of libraries is not determined – there are huge challenges ahead as our communities change; as technology changes how people consume and create knowledge and, inevitably, as existing funding continues to shrink.  If we can use Create and Innovate to stimulate some new ideas, try out some different ways of doing things, develop some new partnerships or collaborations, we may be able to start an important new discussion on how our libraries can develop still further over the next few years to be as vibrant and valuable as we all want them to be.  I don’t expect we’ll crack this in a month!  June is about starting a process for us all and to share what we’ve learned so we can use the coming months to go still further.

I feel particularly excited about Create and Innovate because, as I say, I’ve just had a week off.  Probably like most of us, I find that my own thinking is refreshed from time away from work; giving my local government brain a bit of a rest and the other parts of my identity a chance to flourish.  In the past week, I’ve spent several happy hours playing with play-doh; been rockpooling in Exmouth; gazed out the window at the White Horses of Wiltshire on a long train journey; reconnected with my own childhood by sharing ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ with my eldest daughter; danced in the glorious sunshine at the Exeter Respect Festival.  What will you be doing during ‘Create and Innovate’ to give yourself the chance to refresh your thinking  – about yourself, your library or your community?  Let me know!

Have a good week.


P.S.  If there is only one thing you do during Create and Innovate, I strongly recommend you watch a 20 minute TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson on creativity


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