We are thrilled to reveal the Vision and Print Impaired People's 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 adapt and expand their offer - making sure that visually impaired customers had vital help and contact during lockdowns. Below you can read short descriptions of their inspiring work. Huge congratulations to all!
Kirklees Transcription Service
The Kirklees Transcription Service (KTS) team have regularly gone beyond what is expected, always looking for ways to widen the reach of the service and be inclusive. The impact of the team was demonstrated during lockdown by conducting frequent welfare calls, assisting particularly vulnerable visually impaired customers who otherwise had little to no contact with the outside world. The team offered customers comfort when anxious, answered questions and triaged support. They advised VI customers and referred them to other support services and organisations relevant to their needs. KTS also recorded an audio lockdown announcement, which was broadcast by Radio Sangam to their listenership.
They adapted many of their usual working practices by liaising with other council services and external organisations. The team also demonstrated joint council department partnership working with Revenues & Benefit and Document Solutions. This included putting new systems in place to enable council tax bill transcription to be carried out at home. This enabled vulnerable customers to continue to receive essential information in an accessible format as soon as possible.
Helen Cunningham, Derbyshire County Council
Helen Cunningham has transformed Buxton Library Listening Group for people with sight loss to an online listening group accessible to people anywhere in the county.
Lockdown meant that the listening group was unable to meet up in the library. Helen maintained telephone contact with members but some were really missing the group dynamic and social contact. Helen initially provided one to one telephone support to help group members download Borrowbox onto their devices and start successfully borrowing e-audio. She then moved on to providing further support to help members set up Microsoft Teams on their own devices.
The group now enjoy meeting up every 6 weeks to discuss their reading, share relevant information about living with sight loss and chat about life in general. The online nature of the group has allowed people from across the county to join the meetings, break down geographical barriers and make new friends. It has been an important means of maintaining social contact for members, some of whom were shielding.
Derbyshire County Council Library Services Home Library Team
Derbyshire County Council Home Library Service is a specialised library service, available free of charge to customers who are unable to access libraries. These can have health needs, limited mobility or require specialised library stock. The pandemic resulted in a temporary suspension of the Home Library Service, which in turn left thousands of vulnerable housebound customers without access to reading materials.
Recognising the invaluable contribution the home library service can make to these customers, the team immediately initiated a temporary service to keep in touch with their vulnerable customers. Library staff would phone on a four-weekly basis to ensure customers were well and gave them the opportunity to keep in contact with our service.
This service was welcomed and extremely successful. Due to this positive experience Derbyshire have used this model to inform theirapproach to Reading Friends and have successfully been awarded funding to connect staff and customers together for the foreseeable future.
Shetland Library Talking Newspaper Team
Shetland Library's staff and volunteers record Shetland newspapers and periodicals for visually impaired customers. In 2016 they changed from tapes to digital, achieved through partnership and funding from the Ulverscroft Foundation, Vision Shetland and the RNIB. They post users USB sticks and loan them simple players. The British Wireless for the Blind Fund also hosts their recordings for an online listening option. Going digital therefore improved sound quality and accessibility. It upskilled staff and volunteers and made the service more resilient – key during 2020.
Staff have helped users learn the new technology, giving individual attention and reassurance because they did not want to leave anyone behind. Admin assistant Pat Leask left her office during the project and spent hours driving round Shetland doing home visits, helping people use their new players.
On lockdown in March 2020, Senior Library Assistant Kaye Riise took the equipment away and read the Shetland Times from home, uploading it to our website as usual by Friday afternoon. They never missed an edition over the whole pandemic. Once allowed back in the library, Kaye posted ‘back issues’ to customers who had no internet access.