Living Knowledge blog

2 posts from August 2021

30 August 2021

Libraries (gradually) out of lockdown

While the pandemic has brought adversity, it has brought out the best in people too. The Libraries Under Lockdown episode of our podcast, Anything But Silent, highlighted three examples of this. We heard from the British Library team ensuring crucial documents were delivered to public health services, the Toronto Public Library, who exchanged books for food parcels, and a bridal studio, supported by our Business & IP Centre, which pivoted to ‘something new’ when the crisis hit.

Listen back to the episode here.

Inspired by these compelling stories, we spoke to Pam, Sabina and Jo to find out what happened next.

‘TPL really stepped up to serve the community. It really spoke to our Mission: “Toronto Public Library provides free and equitable access to services which meet the changing needs of Torontonians.” It just so happens that the “changing needs of Torontonians” during a pandemic require different approaches and different thinking to maximize the social infrastructure of public libraries.’

In May 2020 we found Pam Ryan and the Toronto Public Library system packing and delivering food hampers to households in need around the city. By the end of the year, library staff volunteers had distributed over 14,000 hampers to over 42,000 people. They also provided new, free books for children and teenagers of food bank clients – particularly welcome when access to physical library materials was limited.

One of TPL’s branches prepped for food bank service dayOne of TPL’s branches prepped for food bank service day

TPL’s central distribution hub repurposed as a food bank packing facility
TPL’s central distribution hub repurposed as a food bank packing facility

TPL’s involvement in the food bank programme has really cemented their position in the heart of communities. As Pam says in the podcast, ‘the best thing a library can be is open’. And Torontonians clearly agree – there has been a huge increase of people joining TPL as new customers since their gradual reopening from March this year.

‘I used this time, when time felt like it had completely stopped, to fast-track an idea I’d had….’

During the height of the UK’s first lockdown, Sabina Motasem used her expertise, staff and contacts from managing a busy bridal studio to produce scrubs for medical staff. Her Scrub Hub made just under 1400 scrubs for 20 hospitals, care homes and medical centres. Sabina also helped to project manage bulk-cutting thousands of PPE for Imperial Hospital through her production contacts.

Sabina talked in our podcast about her hopes that the world will emerge from Covid kinder, and more sustainable – and her own work on her bridal business has seen this come to fruition. When not running her Scrub Hub, or meeting brides virtually to discuss their wedding plans, Sabina has been working on an ethical ready-to-wear fashion range. ‘Every business will need to evolve and adapt to have sustainability at its heart, and every consumer will be expecting this too from every brand in the future. This pandemic has really raised awareness of the effect our modern lifestyles and fast-fashion are having on our planet and communities.’

A dress in Sabina’s new green collection, which launched in 2020
A dress in Sabina’s new green collection, which launched in 2020

She also started regularly donating specially made tops to several women’s charities and women’s refuges, including Smartworks. ‘For every single dress we make, all of the leftover and off-cut fabrics are being transformed into beautifully-made tops and masks from the beautiful plant silk and the couture silk too. They’re donated to marginalised women and in turn their communities who really need them. Our hope is women will love wearing our dresses, which not only reduces waste, it goes beyond and helps women and their communities too.’

Sabina, photographed by Elliot Wilcox
Sabina, photographed by Elliot Wilcox

‘I think the pandemic has made staff working for the Library appreciate how relevant the British Library is in the current world. Whether we were sat working from our kitchen table or scanning items on site I think we were all much more aware of the service we were providing than before.’

British Library On Demand in Boston Spa enables remote access to parts of the British Library’s collection via digitisation. Staff retrieve the requested collection item, digitise it, and send it out. But in lockdown, this wasn’t possible, so the team had to find new ways of working – particularly when it became clear that many of the documents being requested were being used in COVID-19 research by institutions like the NHS, PHE and NICE.

‘Having to think out of the box gave us an opportunity to provide more material, whether it was a manuscript or an online event, to a far wider audience than might previously have been aware of our services,’ explains Jo Cox, part of the team that kept the service going throughout the lockdowns.

As our physical spaces reopen in London and Yorkshire we’re still open for everyone online, with digital events, resources and access to our collection available wherever you are. Whether via pixels or IRL, we’re so excited to see you.

(And if you’d like to see what podcast host Cleo has been up to, she talks about her day job, alongside Exhibitions team colleague Susan, in this Behind the Scenes blog.)

You can listen to all episodes of Anything But Silent and the follow-up season accompanying our Unfinished Business exhibition at and on all the usual podcast platforms. Listen out for our third series coming in 2022.

25 August 2021

Meet the Maker: Pavilion

In our Meet the Maker blog series, we profile the independent creative businesses behind some of our product ranges in the British Library Shop (both online and at our St Pancras, London site). This month, we meet Jan Vincent from Pavilion, a design-led studio producing colourful greeting cards, gift wrap, notebooks and more.

Pavilion Design Process 2

Pavilion was launched by Jan Vincent and Robert Wood in January 2018, after 18 months of designing and building their first collection of cards. Since then, they have expanded their ranges by adding new product types such as notebooks and gift wrap, and launched new partner brand affiliate:107 in January 2021.

'The inspiration for both Pavilion and affiliate:107 comes from far and wide, I think that’s really evident when you look at the products – our backgrounds are in fashion and womenswear print design so we love pattern making and floral prints, but we also love modern graphic and abstract art which is a huge influence too.'

Pavilion Raspberry Floral Card Double

The business is run from their home in Norwich, where they have a room for designing and admin, and have recently converted a spare bedroom into a stockroom – as Jan says, ‘with lots of shelving to keep us organised’! Each season they launch three-four new ranges so there’s lots to keep track of, and they’ve also added new products such as pencil sets, which are one of Jan’s favourite items:

'One of our latest products is a six piece pencil set which we are really proud of – this was a big leap of faith for us to add to the collection as it was designed and developed during lockdown, and we had to work remotely with our manufacturers to create the set.'

Pavilion Design Process 3

As with so many independent makers and creators, Covid-19 has impacted Pavilion’s business with sales quickly dropping, as well as work outside of the brand going on hold, so they took the decision to close temporarily. This gave the duo time to focus on developing their partner brand affiliate:107, which they’d wanted to do for a long time. They’re now seeing business pick up again, and are looking forward to attending a trade show in September, as well as launching more new designs.

Pavilion Design Process 1

'We feel very honoured to be included in the selection of products available at the British Library Shop. We knew that the shop was an award-winning store that sold many brands that we love, so to be stocked there makes our hard work worthwhile.'

Although Jan confesses he is more of a creative mind, and Robert is the business mind behind Pavilion, he offers this advice for anyone starting out with their own small business:

'Plan and research before you set out on your business venture. Use every resource that is available to find out as much info as you can about how to set up and how to go about launching.'

Pavilion You've Got This! Swatch Zoom

Browse our Pavilion range

Visit the Pavilion website

Follow Pavilion on Instagram