Over the last 5 years Gateshead Library Service has developed of a series of successful engagement groups across the borough, catering for a wide and diverse range of young people’s interests as part of the national Reading Hack initiative. The groups are led by young people aged 13 to 24 who plan and take part in creative and reading activities and volunteering, to gain skills and experience. The programme is co-ordinated by The Reading Agency and Gateshead is a key partner, helping to guide the strategic direction of the programme. Gateshead Libraries have developed Reading Hack groups in Central, Birtley and Blaydon libraries.

Reading Hack Kimono Group

Our major Reading Hack successes have included

•             Birtley Reading Hack group winning a national competition for funding to host a book-based silent disco event. The group beat off competition from around the country with their innovative, fun and creative bid.

•             Central Library group made a successful bid to Keyfund for funding to support  a Young Adult book convention.

•             One of the Central Library group members was awarded “Gateshead Young Achiever of the Year 2018” at the recent Gateshead Awards for her work with Reading Hack.

One of the highlights is the development of a highly successful programme of Anime and Manga activities culminating in the annual Anime Attacks Convention which takes place in the Central Library. The success of the Anime groups led to me being invited to represent the Council on the International Youth Exchange visit to Japan .

In 1991 Gateshead was twinned with Komatsu in central Japan and this led to the creation of a youth exchange programme. The exchange took place in the UK from the 28th of July 2017 and we visited Japan from the 14th to the 29th of July 2018. The exchange involved 8 Japanese school children and 8 British children plus the adult group leaders of which I was one.

The aim of the programme was to promote understanding between our two nations, giving our young people an insight into Japanese culture and differences in everyday life. The young people got to experience each other’s education, culture, heritage, food and language.

 Reading Hack Sports Group


We visited several elementary and junior high schools, our young people gave talks on their life in the UK and taught Japanese children how to dance the hokey cokey! It was interesting to note the differences between Japanese and British school libraries. We had an intense action packed tour of the Komatsu and the Ishikawa region with visits to Kyoto, Kanazawa castle, Natadera Buddist Temple, Hiyo Moss Garden, Osugi nature School, Motorcar Museum of Japan, Komatsu Kabuki, Tea Ceremony at the Senso Yashiki Tea House, Ataka Sumiyoshi Shrine and much more. Our Youth Exchange young people also worked with our Anime Attacks group on a Library Japanese Culture night and the 2017 Anime Attacks event.

Our young people’ work is a true collaboration between young people, the library service and external partners, encouraging the development of creative and personal skills by working with artists, authors , schools, colleges,  universities and larger festivals.

About the library: Gateshead is a small borough, serving both urban and rural communities. Gateshead Council's Library Service consists of a combination of seven Council run libraries and seven volunteer run libraries. Gateshead Central Library opened in its current location in 1926. While it retains many of its historic features, it was refurbished in 2011 thanks to a Big Lottery grant, creating a new children’s library, a library garden, a separate library space for young adults and meeting rooms. Gateshead Central Library is the busiest library in Gateshead and is open 52 hours a week. The Library has 52,162 items for loan and 18,000 CDs, and 9,000 DVDs.

Author: Andrew Hodgkinson, Central Services Librarian, [email protected]