Public Library Apparel is making a fashion statement for libraries

Lottie Begg has turned her love of libraries into a fashion brand during lockdown in a bid to draw attention to their plight and raise vital funds

At The Big Issue, we love literacy and libraries – now you can show off your own passion thanks to a library assistant’s lockdown labour of love to launch a fashion brand.

Lottie Begg, a senior library assistant at the Lord Louis Library in Newport, Isle of Wight, has been hard at work creating Public Library Apparel since the building closed its doors due the Covid-19 pandemic.

Initially her bid for a creative outlet turned an idea to sell the stylish, book-inspired t-shirts at her library to raise vital funds for the service.

But now her plans have evolved to help libraries all over the UK with 20 per cent of the profits from each garment sold going to a library of the customer’s choice.

Lottie is now plotting a Kickstarter campaign to kick off in September in a bid to raise £2,500 to cover printing, postage and promotion of the new brand.

She said: “Our aim is to raise awareness and funds for public libraries and if that gets done then great. I hope it gets people talking about libraries in a positive way. We’ve had our funds slashed, everything’s stretched – it’s a bit like the NHS in that we love it but there is so much complaint about it. I just want to make people more aware of everything that is there for them to use.”

Lottie has been theming some of her collections around classic books, starting with Nineteen Eighty Four. She created a mood board to inspire her own interpretation of George Orwell’s novel and chose the book because of how its themes interplay with what libraries offer to communities. “In the book, information is repressed and manipulated and the library is there to help you get the quality information you need. It’s all about empowerment through information,” she added.

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There are currently around 2,000 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.

The library where Lottie has worked for three years is still not fully open following the easing of lockdown measures and is currently operating an order and collect service.

And that has had a profound on the Newport community who rely on the library, inspiring Lottie to step up the project.

“It’s the central library for the island and coming through the doors we see a real mix of people in the community we serve. We have quite affluent people but we’ve also got a lot of poverty,” she told The Big Issue. “We just don’t have enough resources to help. We’ve got a lot of frustrated people coming to us, there are people who have not had internet since lockdown and they rely on the library. It’s so many things that you don’t even think about: applying for parking permits, getting information about charities and applying for jobs or benefits.

“I want to raise awareness because I still don’t think people know how much the library does for the community and with other services being cancelled we are trying to fill holes where there is lack of training, lack of time, lack of staff and lack of money. It would be good if people realised we are there for them.”

Images: Public Library Apparel