We are thrilled to reveal the Reading shortlist for our inaugural Libraries Connected Awards. Each of these entries has gone above and beyond expectations during the past, challenging year-and-a-half to maintain and expand upon their library service's offer to the community - below you can read short descriptions of their inspiring work. Huge congratulations to all!
Vicky Logan - Gloucestershire Library Service
Vicky started an online Facebook Book Club in August 2020 called Your Book Club as an extra service attached to Gloucestershire Library Service.
Her idea was to create somewhere where members could chat about books and post book reviews. Libraries could show off new book stock, people could post about books that they did and didn't like. She started the group with 24 members. Nine months on there are more than 1,200 members averaging three to six posts posts per day.
A member commented:
Thank you for this site and the sharing of book reviews - it has helped me so much and it has got me back into reading which I love now!
Chris Bertenshaw - Derbyshire Libraries
Chris developed a library eNewsletter during the pandemic as a means of promoting reading, keeping customers engaged and up-to-date with library developments and highlighting activities that they could do whilst national restrictions were in place. He tailored content to suit various reading tastes, ages and needs, highlighting audio and eBooks and digital magazines. The newsletter also promoted library support in accessing digital resources and the library's commitment to providing valuable and authoritative information.
The service has seen a massive increase in subscriptions to the newsletter, from 3000 subscribers in March 2020 to nearly 7500 to date, with clicks and interactions posts strending upwards month-on-month.<
Laura Smith, City of London Libraries
Laura recognised that during lockdown, people were searching for new and meaningful things to do and took the opportunity to promote reading as a worthwhile and rewarding activity. She realised that while people may want to start reading, many non-readers have no idea where to begin and she worked on a way of filling this gap.
Her response was to develop 'What Next...?: A Book Recommendation Quiz' using Opinionstage. All titles featured in the quiz are available from Barbican and Community Libraries, both as physical stock and eBooks. The quiz asks readers to input their particular fiction preferences: genre, length of book, geographical setting, time period and date of publication and based on these preferences, it generates reading suggestions. It went live in January 2021 and she is planning to update it later this year, in order to promote other titles. During this time, eBook downloads increased by more than 600%.
Clare Forsyth, Portsmouth Library Service
Clare leads delivery of Portsmouth BookFest which takes place in February and March. None of the scheduled live events could take place in venues as planned in 2021. Faced with cancellation, Clare drove the process of moving the entire festival online. This entailed setting up a Zoom events facility, staff training for all who would be required to facilitate the various events, negotiation of an amended booking and ticketing system and work with the Council communications department.
Clare had a clear impact in successfully delivering the programme, establishing new ways of working which will continue to be employed. Due to her efforts over 1,000 individuals were able to participate in BookFest 2021. This is only slightly less than the previous, pre-Covid year. She introduced the technology to many speakers and audience members and facilitated access for those who were more confident. She enabled all to benefit from all the cultural benefits of a book festival at a time when there was very little literary stimulation available.
Facebook Book Chat team, Staffordshire Libraries
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Staffordshire Libraries’ Facebook Book Chat Group was established by Stock, Services and Activities Officers Hilary Riley and Liz Gardner.
This group saw people who loved reading come together on social media to talk about the books they were reading, to make recommendations and to chat about books they would like to read. The establishment of the group also provided an opportunity to promote the electronic library. The group grew quite quickly and Hilary and Liz decided it would be an ideal place to pilot online author talks for adults. Liz applied to West Midlands Readers Network for funding for authors to appear live online in ‘A Season of Reading’ from September to December 2020. The talks were planned for the first Wednesday of each month via Microsoft Teams. To access the talks, attendees had to first join the free Book Chat Facebook group.
Liz already had connections with the Romantic Novelists Association, the Crime Writers Association and the Historical Writers Association. She also successfully pitched through the Reading Agency to host an online event with Ruth Ware and Jane Fallon with freelance journalist, Sarah Shaffi, interviewing. These connections have enabled the Library Service to continue online author talks in 2021, all on zero budget. The Book Chat Group has 506 members and the last author to feature, Martin Edwards attracted an online audience of over 300. In future, author talks will continue to be online via the Book Chat Group, where people from all over the world can enjoy a conversation with a new or favourite author in the comfort of their own home.
Home Library Service Team, Hampshire Libraries
In April 2020, Hampshire's Home Library Service had to cease operations. To support these customers remotely the HLS began to organise ‘buddy calls’ using volunteers from the Library Service who were unable to work in branch. HLS coordinators identified the customers who were most likely to become isolated, because they were living alone with limited social contact or personal support.
In the first quarter of 2020, 913 calls were made by library staff. The 'hantshelp4vulnerable' helpline number was given out over 60 times. Others were signposted to further support or assisted in accessing online library resources. When the opportunity to apply for funding to help set up Reading Friends befriender was sessions offered to the service, they saw it as an opportunity to develop these ‘buddy calls’ into part of the HLS offer. The HLS coordinators contacted volunteers who were unable to make physical visits to customers but willing to make calls.
The project launched in February 2021 and was funded until the end of March by a grant from DCMS. Between February and April 2021 48 volunteers made 127 calls to 76 participants. Since April the service has been incorporated into the HLS offer and a further 73 volunteers have made 122 calls to 105 customers.