Who’s going to wash the tea towels? Lessons from the Cook2Learn pilots

We have now completed the four planned Cook2Learn, Library Lab, pilot sessions. There are 19 people involved in the delivery of the Cook2Learn project so holding four pilot sessions gave everyone the opportunity to test out the practicalities of the venues, facilities, equipment, resources and session plans.

Generally the pilot sessions were successful. We were able to overcome a number of concerns that had been raised in earlier planning and demonstrate that the practical side of the workshops would work.

Here are the successes:

  • Venues – It really was not a problem to run a food workshop in a library space and not a kitchen!
  • Equipment – Feedback was very positive about the equipment purchased, we had everything that was needed and more.
  • Library resources – These were described as excellent, the large range of book stock ordered to support the project provides a Cook2Learn collection for each library. In the workshops these are on display and the library staff explain about the collection and demonstrate additional eMagazines available for library members on Zinio.
  • Session plans – Feedback was that these worked well and we have identified a few areas that need to be tweaked slightly.
  • Icebreakers/activities – These were fine and we have identified some more to add in. They do need to be hands-on and quick to do so they don’t impact on the time available for food preparation. Activities such as Change 4 Life’s Sugar Smart app and identifying healthy food swaps were particularly successful.
  • Recipes – These were good, about two different recipes were completed in each workshop. The food was very tasty, attendees were able to try new foods at the session and were able to take their creations home. Only cold food recipes were tried at the pilots which was interesting as there had been much discussion from the team beforehand about the limitations of cold food. This led to a microwave and kettle being provided along with a range of recipes that could utilise these.

These were all of the main areas that we were testing so the fact that they were successful is great. However, as expected, the pilot sessions also raised a number of new issues and areas that need to be addressed.

Key learning points:

  1. The equipment boxes need to be re-sorted and clearly labelled to make it easier to find items and pack away afterwards.
  2. The pilot sessions with real clients were far more successful than the two pilots where our Cook2Learn volunteers stood in as the customers. Although the volunteers’ role in these two sessions was supposed to be customer and ‘critical friend’, the health trainers, particularly, found this too challenging, partly because the volunteers were too well informed, this meant that the team roles and dynamics became confused.
  3. Be clear on everyone’s roles in the delivery of the workshop and expectations before and after the session (setting up and packing away). Build in time for the team to discuss session delivery and who is doing what, prior to customers arriving.
  4. Keep activities and icebreakers simple, ensure that these are adaptable depending on the abilities and levels of knowledge of attendees.
  5. Laminate recipe sheets, have a clear, simple and consistent format, include nutritional information and add a list of equipment needed for each recipe. This will help the team get out the right equipment before the start of the workshop.
  6. Ensure customers have the opportunity to weigh, measure and divide ingredients and follow the recipes, step-by-step, to help build confidence in numeracy and literacy skills. In these type of workshops there is a danger that the leader of the session will demonstrate and customers will follow, missing out these vital learning points.
  7. Provide checklists for the  delivery team, one for the beginning and one for the end of the session.
  8. Put together a simple ‘Top Tips’ sheet of things to consider, to be used as a helpful reminder for the team.
  9. Shopping:
  • Purchase ripe fruit! So much of it in supermarkets isn’t!
  • Where possible buy food, especially fresh food, on the day.
  • Keep a note of store cupboard items that have already been purchased to avoid unnecessary duplication.
  • Buy smallest or cheapest items for workshops – be aware of waste.

And who’s going to wash the tea towels? Well it’s always the little things that are easy to forget and can cause great consternation, this is one that looked like it would be a real sticking point.  After putting it out there to the team without any appropriate suggested solutions, I have suddenly discovered that you can purchase disposable tea towels – they are now at the top of my shopping list, solving the problem in an instant!

Cook2Learn launches in Weston-super-Mare on 10th January 2017






Manchester Partners’ Meeting

Our Library Lab journeys kicked off in May with a couple of inspirational days at the fantastic Manchester Central Library. It allowed us some time to meet and get to know each other a little, find out about the learning programme, have an initial meeting with our mentors and have a tour of Manchester Central Library.

Fellow partner Harriet Hopkins has written an excellent blog post on the Manchester meeting for the Carnegie Blog.

Neil MacInnes, Head of Libraries, Information and Archives at Manchester and current President of the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL)  gave us a tour of Manchester Central Library and a presentation about the transformation of  the main library and the innovative renewal programme of Manchester Libraries.


L to R Partners and projects cohort 2 of the Carnegie Library Lab programme:

  • Caroline Mackie, Library Manager, Herne Hill Library – Skills training in IT & coding
  • Naomi Kenny, Librarian, Bonnybridge Library – History in Action
  • Natassia Reilly, Branch Manager, Dungiven and Limavady Libraries – A Sense of Place
  • Frances Tout, Community Librarian, North Somerset Libraries – Cook2Learn
  • Joanne Cousins, Senior Supervisor of Resources, Exeter Library – Adopt a Book
  • Harriet Hopkins, Manager, Pyle Library – Art In-formation

Andy Wright, Libraries Manager, Wakefield Libraries is working with me as my mentor. Andy has recently completed a six month secondment for SCL as Public Libraries Project Lead with The Wellcome Trust. Andy has a particular interest in the relationship between libraries and health, so with his experience and knowledge he is an ideal mentor for me and my project.

It started here…

In January this year I sent off my application for the second round of the Carnegie Library Lab programme, which is designed to support and develop innovation and leadership in the public library sector across the UK and Ireland.

My idea, Cook2Learn, was inspired by the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Culinary Literacy Center, which I visited on my Travelling Librarian study tour last year.  The Cook2Learn project proposal was to improve healthier food and lifestyle choices and increase confidence in numeracy and literacy skills of adults through learning about food and food preparation. I would be working with council partners (health trainers, Public Health and the Community Learning team), alongside library staff and volunteers to deliver workshops and short courses in libraries across North Somerset.

After a few weeks I was delighted to receive a call from Jenny Peachey at the Carnegie UK Trust to tell me that I had been selected as a Carnegie Partner.