Reading Award 2023: Shortlist

Michelle Jackson, Staffordshire

Michelle is nominated for her innovative work around the use of the Universal Reading Offer to support the needs of local communities in North Staffordshire, with a particular focus on supporting those families participating in the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Working with local community groups and Staffordshire County Council colleagues, Michelle has delivered ""Getting to Know You"" events for Ukrainians to meet up with each other at Leek and Newcastle-under-Lyme libraries.  Books and reading have been at the heart of these sessions together with an opportunity to register for a library card.

From April to September 2022 book issues in Staffordshire County Council Libraries in the north of the county where Michelle has focused her work increased by 64%.

Michelle's offer has been a best practice example that has been eplicated across other libraries in Staffordshire. At a strategic level, Michelle's work has demonstrated the crucial role of libraries in adding value to the Staffordshire County Council Homes for Ukraine scheme.


Joe Shooman, Library Assistant at Shrewsbury Library, Shropshire Libraries

Joe is nominated for his work in starting a peer support group for local writers at Shrewsbury Library.

This work which has greatly benefitted the local community of writers and readers. Meeting every 2 weeks in the library, Joe invites and coordinates guest speakers including writers, poets, and illustrators to share their experience and knowledge on working, publishing and all things writing. Members found these sessions invaluable in helping them to shape ideas and find new inspiration. Members can send work to be shared amongst the group for peers to give feedback and readings at meetings help to build confidence and spoken word skills.

Members of the lab have had several successes with getting work published. One member has won a year's membership to the Retreat West community with access to several courses and professional feedback after feeling encouraged from the group feedback to submit their work.

The writer’s lab has been a lifeline for me pre and post Covid. Writing can be so solitary – it’s so nice to meet and be part of a community. I have confidence and friends


Michelle Dunstan, supported by Libraries and Culture team (special mention also to team member Ann Penn), Inspire: Culture, Learning and Libraries, Nottinghamshire

Michelle is nominated for 'I Am A Reader', a project that aims to inform and revitalise the way Inspire and the wider libraries and literature sector engage with readers.

By placing readers at the project’s heart, and with a motivation to bring writers and readers closer together, Michelle set up six reader groups – three public groups where readers were invited to apply to ensure a wide audience, a neurodiverse reading group, one working with women who have survived domestic abuse (these all met online), and a library-based group in an area of low arts engagement.

The groups worked with six selected writers over three sessions. The first covered topics including what it means to be a reader, whether reading is creative, and what we each see, hear and feel when we read. The remaining sessions focused on the co-commissioning of an original story by the writer.

The stories were published in an illustrated anthology which is available to borrow. The team is looking at new ideas for 2023, including a guide for libraries to run I Am A Reader sessions with regular groups.


Tracy McKechnie and Liz Gunn, Kent Prison Libraries (Kent Libraries, Registration and Archives)

Tracy and Liz are nominated for their use of technology to expand the prison library offer.

Liz and Tracy are Library Assistants at HMP Swaleside. During the pandemic, prison libraries were forced to shut, and we had to quickly implement a remote service. Tracy and Liz offered a request service for prisoners to ask for particular books they would like to read and started up a 'Lucky Dip' DVD club so that DVDs could be borrowed in a fair way. They produced a regular newsletter promoting new stock and encouraged prisoners to take part in reading and family initiatives. The prisoners began sending in requests, and the service started to expand.

Liz and Tracy stand out for their dedication to improving the lives of their customers. When the customers are unable to come to the library they have gone above and beyond to create a link with them, and understand their needs.


Liz Sheppard & Jess Jones, Cambridgeshire Libraries

Liz and Jess are nominated for working collaboratively with Royal Papworth Hospital to deliver an outreach offer of 'Read a Little Aloud' where stories and poetry are read aloud to a small audience by library staff or a volunteer.

From initial discussions, Liz and Jess developed an online shared reading programme that would fulfil the hospital’s need to improve the wellbeing of patients in critical care and increase their opportunities for social interaction, while also extending the reach and scope of Cambridgeshire Libraries.

Liz and Jess developed training and oversaw delivery of this twice weekly programme of live listening sessions for critical care patients, responding to the needs of people removed from their usual family or community environment to receive expert medical treatment. RALA has a positive impact on their wellbeing at a time of significant challenge and change.


Libraries Development Team (Curtis Fulcher, Aimee Lewis, Andrew Shapcott, Sally Williams), Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire’s Development Teamis nominated for bringing to life an immersive storytelling centre which will become an interactive, unique community resource. 

The Oakley area in Cheltenham is one of the most deprived wards in the UK and has low access to education and skills training, it is one of the least engaged communities with reading and literacy in the Gloucestershire area.

Oakley Immersive Storytelling Centre, a concept born from community engagement, is believed to be the first of its kind in the country to be delivered by a library service to meet the unique needs of its local community. It will be an engaging, inclusive, and accessible community hub in the heart of Oakley and will provide a variety of clubs, groups, and events, a sensory and reading garden and a digital immersive space.