This months young, gifted and Brummie is championing the new Library of Birmingham as the perfect venue for old and young alike
Libraries have had a hard time of it recently. Many are plagued by public perceptions of them as dusty, out-dated and potentially, better for nothing more than the occasional book club or OAP activity day. Nineteen-year-old Shaun Baxter is determined to change this view. Recently announced as one of the 26 ‘faces’ who will act as ambassadors for the new Library of Birmingham in the run up to its opening next September, Shaun’s passion and unrelenting commitment to our city, and his deep connection with libraries as a social space, stand him in good stead to achieve his dream.
Shaun’s foray into politics came in 2008 when he decided to become an executive group member of The Birmingham Children and Young People’s Parliament, after meeting another member at a conference in Birmingham. “I went to a series of workshops and then stood for election. I was successfully elected by schools and colleges across Birmingham as deputy member of the Youth Parliament. I represent Birmingham, UK and the West Midlands,” he says. He takes his role seriously, conducting surveys, meeting MPs on a daily basis and attending political events across the city. He was also heavily involved with the Parliament’s ‘Zero to Hero’ project which aims to promote healthy living across the city.
As well as running many workshops across the area, Shaun also helped to organise a debate with Labour councillor Wasseem Zaffar and members of the police force. The debate challenged the police to change some of their strategies to improve relations between the police and young people. His focus has always been to voice the concerns of young people, providing them with a voice which is heard, and hopefully, raising aspirations of young people in relation to their status in Birmingham. “I aim to inspire young people by telling them to take every opportunity they get. Looking back at the projects I have done in the past, and the ones I’m involved in at the moment, it worked for me to be open to new things and take any opportunities that came my way.”
YOUNG PEOPLE IN BUSINESS
As with many young people trying to make their way in business, Shaun admits that it isn’t always easy. “I find that young people get labelled. People say ‘they cannot do that’ or ‘they’ll never get that far’. I think if you give young people a chance, they can connect with any business. In the current economic situation, more and more young people are starting businesses, so it’s really important to take them seriously.”
LIBRARY OF BIRMINGHAM
Handsworth-based Shaun is now facing possibly his toughest challenge yet in his new role as ‘face’ for the Library of Birmingham. He certainly appears to relish the task. “I know that when I was in secondary school, I disliked libraries, but after going to college, I began to like them again. I think they’re really handy for day-to-day activities. It’s important to remember that libraries are not just for books, but also a place where you can surf the net, meet up with friends and study.”
“I decided to become a ‘face’ of the library after seeing that it was becoming the iconic new building for Birmingham. I found out they were looking for a young person, so I applied, had an interview and took it from there. I think it’s great when a young person gets to represent a project,” he says. His role will involve finding out how young people can benefit from the library and spreading the word through representation in social media and speaking to friends and members of the general public. He aims to encourage more young people to use libraries. Construction of the £188.8m library is progressing rapidly with the building still on target to open as planned in early September 2013. Shaun says: “I went on a tour to see the infrastructure recently, and I was blown away by the potential it has.”
Since 2010, Shaun has been volunteering at KIC FM in Wolverhampton as a radio presenter, as well as presenting two radio shows broadcast in Birmingham. His fellow volunteers at the station voted the Shaun Baxter Show the Best New Show in 2010 and his show gained the most hits on their website. He’s now set to begin studying radio production at Staffordshire University as well as “taking every opportunity I get.” Pull out quotes: “I’m proud to be a Brummie because we are a growing city, always thinking of new ideas and innovation.”