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Library staff create community time capsule

North Ayrshire Libraries has recently completed it’s work on an audio time capsule which serves as an exploration of shared and unique community experiences from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Supported by the Public Library Improvement Fund, the project invited North Ayrshire residents – aged 18 years and over – to be part of a shared community project.

Called ‘What’s Your Story?’, audio recordings of residents were recorded in our libraries and now their stories, memories and reflections experienced over the last few years have been collated together to form an interesting audio playlist.

Part of Scotland’s Year of Stories, the project was led by William Poulter, former Library Development Officer at North Ayrshire Council – who has now moved on to develop the digital offering at Troon Library in South Ayrshire.

He shared previously: “The pandemic has changed us all and our experiences, both positive and negative, will remain for us for many years’ to come.

“Library colleagues were hearing so many uplifting stories from local people sharing things they experienced during the long time we had apart so we wanted to create our own library-based community project for North Ayrshire. Our aim was to capture examples of strength, community spirit, resilience and real lived experience from this unique time in history.”

And the team did just that, with 18 stories recorded overall…

Listen to all of the recordings on the North Ayrshire Council YouTube Channel: What’s Your Story? – YouTube

Anyone living, working or studying in North Ayrshire can join the library for free. Find your nearest library via the webpage here: Find a library (

If you would like to host a team event at your local library or have a good idea for further community engagement projects via our libraries, please email Alison Mcallister:

Jen Law, William Poulter and Alison McAllister share the recordings at Irvine Townhouse launch event – March 2023

Of the stories recorded, two featured colleagues from North Ayrshire Council – Danny Sweeney from the Sensory Impairment Team and Jen Law from Communications. Hear a little about what they had to say below…

Team Manager in the Health and Social Care Partnership, Danny Sweeney (pictured yellow) is part of the Sensory Impairment Team, responsible for carrying out sensory impairment assessments for those with acquired hearing or sight loss as well as maintaining a register of sight impairment across North Ayrshire.

The pandemic was a challenging time for him, but an unlikely two-saddled tandem bike sourced by our Active Travel team was a game-changer for him.

Danny shares: “The difficult thing for me, being registered blind, was that I didn’t have a laptop, so I was one of the few people who still worked in our office at Saltcoats Town Hall over the pandemic.

“It was really strange as you’re used to have a buzz, but overnight we went from Windows 7 to Microsoft Teams and it was a shock. It was a completely new environment for me and it took me some time to get up to speed.

“The main highlight of the pandemic for me was when the amazing David Reid from the Active Travel team managed to to source an electric Tandem Bike for me. When the gyms shut, I instead got out on the electric tandem to have my daily exercise.

“It really was a game-changer. My friend John (also pictured), a semi-retired taxi driver agreed to be my cycling companion and we managed to clock over 2,000 miles and counting…

“When the bike came along it was incredible to have the freedom and the banter of riding with someone instead of my usual gym fix that I was missing.

“I don’t only talk about the tandem in my story, I reflected upon socially distanced family anniversaries and get-togethers too.

“If you listen to my recording you’ll hear about one of my most memorable experiences as lockdown restrictions eased – a trip over to Arran with David and some other colleagues. Although we didn’t realise that most of the hotels over there were only offering food to guests and cafes hadn’t reopened yet.

“Thankfully my wife had made enough pieces to go round! You’ve seen four guys nearly fighting over chicken sandwiches, we’d cycled 40 miles and were starving. Good times!”

To this day, Danny is still using the tandem and going on cycles with his friend ‘John the Pilot’ to coastal routes between the Three Towns.

Danny adds: “I’m really glad I had the chance to contribute towards the project and I am so grateful to the Travel Smart team and to everyone else in the HSCP as well as my PT buddies over at KA Leisure for helping me get my independence and confidence back.

“Thanks to Alison too for shortlisting my recording. I hope it will provide a unique glimpse into what lockdown was like for someone who is visually impaired.”

Joining the Council just before Christmas 2019, Communications Assistant Jen Law also volunteered to offer a unique perspective to the project.

Now a toddler mum – even though hardly anyone saw her bump in real life – the young mum found out that she was pregnant in early 2020, and being pregnant when Covid hit was an experience that she will never forget…

She shares: “Thank you to North Ayrshire Libraries for this unique opportunity to share my experience of the pandemic. As a new (first-time) parent who was pregnant and shielding at the start of 2020, the initial few months of the pandemic were a really daunting time for me.

“This project has been a really cathartic and healing experience however as I take stock of everything that happened good and bad, and appreciate just how lucky me, my family, friends and loved ones have been to have come out the other side of some really difficult times, relatively unscathed.

“As I struggled with my post-natal mental health, I hope that my What’s Your Story contribution will give hope and raise awareness for future mum’s-to-be and others experiencing mental health struggles, providing them with an uplifting account of finding light at the end of the tunnel.

“I’ve also shared some positive recollections of life in lockdown – such as the daily walks we had, appreciating North Ayrshire’s beauty. Hopefully my contribution will provide those looking to reflect on this profound and unprecedented time in history with an understanding of some of the fonder memories experienced as well as the feelings of sacrifice and loss felt by so many others.

“William and all the team have done a fantastic job in creating this audio time capsule. It has been a privilege to be involved.”

Alison McAllister, Information and Culture Manager said: “Thank you to the Public Library Improvement Fund, administered by the Scottish Library and Information Council,  and to each and every North Ayrshire resident who has contributed to our What’s Your Story audio time capsule.

“The moments we were able to capture give a unique insight through life in lockdown and how we all adapted together.”

“Our project not only gives people the chance to remember friends and family lost to the pandemic, but critically serves as a beacon of light to uplift our communities by hearing the lived-experience of resilient people who kept community spirit alive over the last few years.

“Special thanks to Danny and Jen who gave up their time to share their recordings too as they help to mark unforgettable moment in history for us all.”

Jen making the most of restrictions easing with Hana (then aged 11 months)

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