We are thrilled to reveal the Children's Promise 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!
Elizabeth McDonald, Wokingham Borough Libraries
Elizabeth has worked during the lockdown periods since March 2020 to provide a fantastic virtual service for children and families in and around Wokingham.
In 2020 she worked in partnership with the Town Council and a local arts organisation to deliver an 'Authors into Schools' programme in the run up to the annual Children's Book Festival in October. 'Authors into Schools' involved her setting up and running multiple sessions virtually in schools with authors from all over the country, reaching and engaging with large numbers of children over several days.
in 2021 Elizabeth ran another 'Authors into Schools' programme with funding from the BBC Novels that Shaped our World Project and more arts, reaching similar numbers of children of all ages. During this programme she was also able to successfully engage with a local school where the children have special needs and behavioural challenges. The Children's Book Festival is planned to run again this October as a hybrid physical and virtual event, with another set of 'Authors into Schools' sessions planned.
Shaun Doyle, North Yorkshire Libraries - Ripon
Shaun joined the library service as a young volunteer before securing a job as a library assistant. He is passionate about the opportunities libraries offer, particularly those for young people, and he has researched, devised and suggested numerous ideas to better engage young people in libraries.
As a result of Shaun’s advocacy and lobbying of senior managers, North Yorkshire Libraries has now established a Young Adult Library Team (YALT), with youth engagement as its focus. The team is made up of younger members of library staff, none of whom have a management role. This team has the freedom to suggest ways in which the service can reach out more effectively to young people. It has made recommendations contributing to stock policy, promotion strategies and new services aimed at young people, particularly in supporting their mental health. Shaun is an advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusion, feeling that the service needs to do more to reach out to young LGBTQ+ people, many of whom live in rural areas and may feel isolated. Whilst the team as a whole is worthy of a nomination, it was Shaun’s vision and his determination to make a difference that led to its formation and which has helped to make young voices impossible to ignore.
Pre-loved Uniform Market, Staffordshire Libraries
Before the pandemic, Kerry Hutchings was increasingly concerned about family poverty in the community in which she works as a Stock, Services and Activities Officer. Always looking for innovative ways in which the library service can support the local community, she approached the Salvation Army and local Councillors to establish a pre-loved school uniform market.
The market enables families in Cannock Chase District to access free recycled school uniform, reducing the amount of clothing going into landfill and supporting family budgets. Since August 2020 twenty market sessions have been held and twelve sessions are planned for August 2021. Funding from local Councillors has enabled the purchase of new underwear for children in need.
Kerry stores the uniform at Cannock Library and any excess is stored in her garage at home. Kerry washes the uniform herself. From September 2020 to June 2021, 408 children received two items of uniform. Two refugee shelters received uniforms and support. The estimated cost of savings to families in the Cannock Chase District against the cost of uniform purchased new is £20,400. More market days are planned for August 2021.
Emma Fisher, South Gloucestershire Library Service
Emma Fisher is an outstanding Children's Librarian who has delivered one of the best children’s library services in the country. The results speak for themselves. South Gloucestershire has one of the highest participation rates in the Summer Reading Challenge. Children’s fiction issues are 39% above the national average and 41% of children in our most deprived areas are library members. She has achieved this despite being the only Children’s Librarian in the authority.
Among Emma's many achievements is setting up a partnership with the Women’s Refuge Unit. This has ensured they get collections of children’s books to help support them in very difficult circumstances. This has been recognised by the unit as having a major impact on their clients. Emma demonstrates that in authorities where funding is very limited, with a positive attitude and a willingness to work in partnership you can make a huge impact. She is role model to Children’s Librarians of the future.
Tony Maryon, Greenwich Libraries
Tony has developed a number of programmes to encourage young people to use libraries in Greenwich. He has introduced rhyme times in a number of languages, responding to changing community needs.
Most recently, Tony developed the 'Feed and Read' programme in Greenwich with colleagues and secured funding to provide food for children and families from the local area. This had a major impact on the local community which had been struggling prior to the pandemic. During the pandemic, Tony encouraged staff to volunteer to give out food and provide reading materials for members of the community.
Tony worked above and beyond during the pandemic to ensure that libraries in Greenwich provided excellent online events. Tony delivered a number of these himself and worked well beyond epectations to ensure that Greenwich Libraries supported communities through the pandemic even though theirlibraries were closed.
Kamahl Brown & Lindsey McFarlane, London Borough of Sutton
Kamahl and Lindsey worked tirelessly following library reopening to set up 'Outside Rhymetimes' in local green spaces. Kamahl led on the operations, identifying spaces, securing equipment, gaining permissions from Parks and working with Health and Safety and Public Health colleagues to risk assess. Lindsey role modelled delivering the Rhymetimes and provided training to both staff and volunteers.
'Outside Rhymetimes' offer families who have been denied social experiences in safe spaces the chance to develop confidence outside the home. The learning and success gained from Kamahl and Lindsey's efforts his year means that delivering these sessions on this scale next summer is something the service knows it can accomplish.