- The volunteering activities which staff would ordinarily engage with have been severely curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, employees took the initiative to volunteer virtually and within their local communities during this challenging time.
- A significant number of our employees worldwide, both through a Bloomsbury coordinator and privately, are usually involved in formal volunteer reading schemes and regularly attend schools in the UK and the US. These provide supervised reading support to young readers, often from disadvantaged backgrounds where their opportunities to develop reading skills may be hindered. During the pandemic however, due to restrictions on socialising, employees were unable to attend schools to do so.
- Bloomsbury employees provided virtual talks to schools and colleges on careers, such as in digital publishing and IT, publishing in general and on reading skills required in the workplace. They have also assisted young people with interview practice, career mentoring and school magazines. They are unpaid public speakers at presentations, have published articles and hosted discussions on publishing topics and are volunteers for literary festivals and societies for young publishers. Bloomsbury employees also support primary schools, e.g. by giving online classroom talks on writing.
- Many employees worldwide are involved in their local communities typically promoting literacy, literature and education, such as by sitting on committees, as governors of schools, by supporting special interest groups and as trustees and supporters of publishing industry and arts voluntary organisations. For example, one UK employee volunteers for a local charity and attends the local primary school to help young children with their reading. US employees also support various organisations, for example by mentoring at a not-for-profit organisation connecting self-identified people of colour who are interested in publishing and literature to publishing professionals. An employee in our Australia office has, for many years, been a volunteer at ILF, mentioned in the Corporate Donating section, donating an hour each week at ILF’s head office to support ILF outreach initiatives and fundraising activities. Much of the activities would have either been conducted virtually or when social distancing restrictions were relaxed during the financial year.
- The main Board Directors commit significant spare time outside of work to book-related charities, not-for-profit organisations and higher education.
In previous years, Bloomsbury employees worldwide would often call on their colleagues for fundraising sponsorship such as with marathons, cake sales and many other employee-inspired activities. Due to social distancing restrictions and the closure of Bloomsbury offices worldwide, there were limited opportunities for employees to collectively raise money for charity. However, as part of Bloomsbury’s virtual Christmas celebrations, through a fundraising raffle, employees made donations to the Book Trade Charity, a charity that provides care and support
to people working in the UK book trade industry. Usually, our US office would participate in food, coat and feminine
hygiene product drives, and donate these to the homeless and vulnerable communities in New York City. In 2020, in
light of the pandemic, staff were invited to make donations online to Food Bank for New York City, which campaigns to
end food poverty in the five boroughs of New York. These donations were matched by Bloomsbury, and a total donation of $4,000 was made, which provided 9,700 meals to the people of New York.
Events for the community
Bloomsbury’s public events series, The Bloomsbury Institute, produced 14 virtual literary and publishing-related events during the year and welcomed over 1,600 writers, editors and publishers into virtual event sessions with Bloomsbury authors and staff. Successful events included a brand new series of talks around “A Career in Publishing”, which featured Bloomsbury editors, producers and publicists sharing career advice and mentoring tips to students and
professionals from other industries who want to work in publishing. The Bloomsbury Institute hosted five events in
this new series in 2020.
Further initiatives in response to the coronavirus pandemic
In addition to the activities mentioned in the preceding pages, Bloomsbury undertook a number of initiatives to help
support and inspire the community during the coronavirus crisis:
- Recognising that many people would be combining working from home and looking after children, we made our Bloomsbury Education online product Bloomsbury Early Years free to all. While the activities are aimed at children aged up to five years old and tied into the curriculum in England for that age group (the “EYFS”), there was plenty of inspiration for children who were a bit older too.
- We gave free online access to textbooks to support school and university students and instructors with remote learning, both through partnerships with Kortext, Vitalsource, BibliU, Redshelf and Classoos, and direct to customers. This also included additional online resources and activities for home learning, including videos, lesson plans and teaching tools. We also allowed for free licence upgrades on a temporary basis so that institutions that had purchased a single user or three users licence could upgrade their access to unlimited usage, free of charge.
- The National Theatre Collection on Bloomsbury’s online resource Drama Online was made available for free to pupils and teachers at UK state schools and state-funded further education colleges via remote access from home. Over 2,600 state schools and colleges signed up to the National Theatre Collection in the first two weeks of this offer going live to access these resources at home. Bloomsbury also extended the free trial period for academic institutions, including universities, libraries and independent schools, until the end of May 2020 to continue to support the educational community across the globe.
- In response to the nearly immediate migration to online classes, Bloomsbury Digital Resources launched a three-month expanded access initiative to present Bloomsbury as part of a solution to the educational issues created by this unprecedented crisis. This initiative allowed libraries to gain free access to all of our online resources so their faculty, staff, and students could take advantage of our rich trove of scholarly databases, ebooks, and historical archives during this time of rapid transition to digital learning, research, and teaching. In addition to extending gratis access, we conducted outreach via email, social media, and other channels to our author base, library contacts, faculty, and many more to ensure that those with new access had the information they needed about the features and tools to make best use of our resources. The response was significant. Many of these institutions had not purchased from, or subscribed to, Bloomsbury previously. In addition, in response to the high number of requests for extending the free access period, Bloomsbury offered short-term subscriptions for the first time.
- The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic made us, our authors and illustrators very aware of the challenges for families, schools and young people processing the sudden changes in the world around them. Two books were created to offer a window of hope in this challenging period, as well as raising funds for two important charity partners. In April 2020, Katherine Rundell launched The Book of Hopes: Words and Pictures to Comfort, Inspire and Encourage Children in Lockdown with the support of Bloomsbury’s editorial and publicity teams. Curated by Katherine, this extraordinary collection has contributions from over 110 children’s writers and illustrators – “professional hunters of hope” – including Lauren Child, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Sophie Dahl, Emily Gravett, Anthony Horowitz, Greg James and Chris Smith, Catherine Johnson, Michael Morpurgo, Patrick Ness, Axel Scheffler, Danny Wallace, Jacqueline Wilson and of course, Katherine Rundell herself. Dedicated to “the doctors, nurses, carers, porters, cleaners and everyone currently working in hospitals“, The Book of Hopes is available to read for free in full on the NLT website. A gift edition of the book was published in October 2020 in support of NHS Charities Together. A proportion of the proceeds from each copy sold is donated by Bloomsbury to the charity, raising £47,389 during the year. Also in partnership with NHS Charities Together, Bloomsbury published Portraits for NHS Heroes, which showcases a remarkable collection of portraits from artists around the world arising from artist Tom Croft’s #PortraitsforNHSHeroes project. A proportion of the proceeds from each copy of the book sold goes to NHS Charities Together to fund vital projects. To date, sales have raised £24,000 for the charity.
- Bloomsbury also worked with BUPA and the NLT to donate 5,000 copies of The Book of Hopes title to primary schoolchildren. To date, we have sold over 25,000 copies. Furthermore, inspired by the rainbows children made in lockdown, The World Made a Rainbow by Michelle Robinson and Emily Hamilton was written to help children navigate their way through the complex emotions of the past year, with Bloomsbury donating a proportion of the proceeds to our charity partner, Save the Children. The book has sold nearly 40,000 copies across all markets and has raised over £21,000 for Save the Children.
- We have granted schools permissions to create free readings from our books to share with their students and support learning during school closures.