Information and Digital Award 2023: Shortlist

Libraries Innovation Lab Team & Ask Us, Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire's Innovation Lab Team is nominated for an initiative designed to connect the local community, businesses, schools and entrepreneurs with digital technology of the future. 

As they are based in libraries, the Innovation Labs are uniquely placed to be accessible to all ages and abilities. They also build on the existing community and network. Libraries position' within local communities enables the team to reach those with hidden needs who do not have the confidence to venture into a more formal setting.

The first Lab was opened in Coleford, an area of deprivation and lack of opportunity in the Forest of Dean. On the back of its success, a second Lab opened in Gloucester in 2021. Based on the success of the first two Labs, the County Council invested in the rollout of the Lab to a further four locations. 


Liam Garnett, Senior Librarian – Digital, Leeds Libraries

Liam is nominated for crafting a nationally recognised digital inclusion programme delivered in libraries across the city.

Whilst the Leeds digital sector is thriving, more than 50,000 adults in the city have never used the internet or do not use it regularly. Embedded within communities across the city, libraries are the perfect welcoming spaces in which local people can find the digital support they need.

After beginning his role in 2021, Liam has worked hard to develop the First and Next Steps with Digital programmes of digital skills training to address the city’s skills gap. He works closely with the team of community librarians to ensure the training reaches the people who need it most, and constantly reviews and improves approaches.

Alongside targeted activities and skills training, Liam works hard to ensure people have access to a range of digital resources from Leeds Libraries such as tablet lending, public access PCs and free SIMs from the National Databank.

Liam has developed an equivalent online offer for people in Leeds, creating and promoting a wealth of online resources and tutorials on the Libraries Online website, hosted by Niche Academy. Niche Academy recently nominated Leeds for an excellence in community engagement award at the EDGE 2023 conference.


Stefano Battaglia, Assistant Library Manager at Southwark Heritage Centre & Walworth Library, London Borough of Southwark

In Spring 2022, as part of a wider consultation process, Southwark Library service conducted a survey of residents about their use and perceptions of the library service. Over 400 people responded. Stefano is nominated for his use of data skills in interrogating the survey responses by race, age, gender and other characteristics, contributing to the Southwark Stands Together initiative to identify and tackle entrenched and persistent racism and injustice. 

Through Stefano’s data analysis the library service have been able to see important differences in the needs of residents depending on their race, age, and gender. One of the most important findings from Stefano’s work was about the times of day when users need libraries. His analysis showed Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic respondents were far more likely than white respondents to want to use libraries during evening hours.

The ability to see beneath topline results is essential if library services are to ensure they treat the needs of all users equally. It can also help break vicious cycles where some residents are assumed to not want to use libraries only because their needs are not prioritised in decisions about how to direct resources.


Jamie Rowe, supported by Libraries Technology Team and CreatorSpace Out of the Box working group, Hertfordshire

Jamie is nominated for his work in building the confidence of Hertfordshire library teams to run CreatorSpaces and associated pop-up events.

These are dedicated, tech-enabled rooms that provided a host of digital kit from VR and green screen technologies to digital embroidery machines and iMacs. CreatorSpace Out of the Box, a pop-up CreatorSpace offer launched at Hitchin Library in 2018, giving residents a chance to get creative with a range of technology in a relaxed and supportive environment.

The willingness of local library managers to try something completely new has meant drop-in CreatorSpace Out of the Box events have attracted hundreds of participants, many visiting the library for the first time. There are also more structured activities devised by staff across the service who are encouraged to share their ideas and get involved.


Katy Vaughan, Library Assistant, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Libraries

Katy is nominated for using her artistic talent and skills in video editing to develop both digital and physical activities for children, at Bournemouth Library and across the whole library service.

During 2020 and 2021 Katy worked with Liam, a former colleague, to develop the library service’s video content from scratch, using their pre-existing experience in video editing and their own equipment. In late 2021 Liam moved into the council’s corporate communications department, leaving Katy as the only member of library staff with the appropriate skills to produce video content. Katy has worked tirelessly to continue creating content, especially working closely with literacy officers in creating promotional videos for the Summer Reading Challenge and the offer to schools.

Katy wrote a strategic plan for the library service video content creation, recommending a pivot to short form videos on TikTok to enable a greater number of staff to produce videos. In April this year Katy set up a BCP Libraries TikTok account as a way of engaging with teens and young adults. She was instrumental in providing guidance for a successful bid for the CILIP Marketing and Communications Group Bursary to develop this social media channel and start groups of young content creation volunteers.


Michael Davis, Senior Library Assistant, Maria Reguera, Development Librarian (Digital & Innovation), Vision Redbridge Culture & Leisure (Redbridge Libraries)

Michael and Maria are nominated for their work with Lab Central, Redbridge's digital makerspace programme which includes the Tech Ilford Festival.

Tech Ilford is an annual festival celebrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths (STEAM). It was developed in 2017 as part of the Lab Central digital arts programme, to engage & inspire young minds and innovators of the future.

Maria and Michael created the festival as response to growing demand for affordable STEAM activities in the borough. Access to local opportunities was limited, with courses & equipment being out of reach of many families using the libraries.

Both Maria and Michael are passionate about their work and consistently go the extra mile. Their ideas and projects have reinvigorated the library offer for young people, with an estimated 10,000 taking part in one of the projects.