In 2024 Explore York Libraries and Archives is 10 years old and we are excited to kick off our celebrations over the weekend of May 18-19.

You will find a host of activities from plant sales to face-painting to community singing at your local library.

The weekend reaches an unforgettable climax on Sunday May 19 when acclaimed local band Bull play a benefit gig Live at the Library at York Explore.

And of course there will be lots of cake!

The story of Explore begins more than a decade ago when we were a department based within City of York Council.

Like others in the public libraries and archives sector, we wanted to attract more people, more often, bring in new audiences and give them new experiences.

We could see the amazing potential of our unique library spaces and archive collections and were ambitious to use them better to achieve more for the people of York.

But as we developed the Explore model, we realised we could take things further.

In 2014 we stepped away from the council and created a different kind of public service - an independent not-for-profit mutual society owned by our staff and community.

That sense of ownership made all the difference.

Our public libraries and archives service would be shaped by the vision of individuals and communities – communities defined by interests as well as geography - reflecting their diversity and meeting their needs.

Explore has had much to celebrate over the past 10 years.

In partnership with the council and local people we have developed new Explore Centres in Tang Hall and Haxby and Wigginton, with a new home for Clifton Explore due this autumn.

New Earswick library was relocated to the Folk Hall where it goes from strength to strength, we opened a new library at the Community Stadium and more Reading Cafés to make libraries accessible to all.

Explore has been recognised nationally and awarded funding for innovative cultural and archives projects.

In 2023 we were one of only sixteen library services in the country to become an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, acknowledging our contribution to creative people and culture.

Last year alone we had 821,837 visits to our libraries and held 3,134 events attended by 46,835 people of all ages.

Rosemary Cook, community director and Vice-Chair of Explore’s board sums it up: “I’ve loved libraries all my life.

"There’s so much going on and its brilliant to be involved.”

Looking to the future

Explore has come a long way in the first 10 years.

As we move forward together, communities will have even more opportunities to shape Explore.

We have a contract to run public libraries and archives for the council, but Explore is so much more.

Supporting Explore strengthens your community and we need your help.

We need to raise extra funds so we can continue to offer an innovative and enriching programme, shaped by our communities.

At a financially challenging time for all of us, it matters now more than ever.

Please spend some time at your local Explore library or Reading Cafe this weekend and join in with the fun.

Over the last ten years countless memories and moments have shaped our shared story and you can be part of the next chapter.

Stay up to date and sign up to Explore e-newsletter as a supporter so that we can keep in touch with news and events.

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Barbara Swinn is the head of audience development and engagement at Explore York Libraries and Archives