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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Knowledge sharing conference: Libraries Pay, plus Award winners

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Case study, Library news, Library workforce, Outcome: prosperity

[Editors note: this guest blog post was written by Jacquie Widdowson, Chair of CILIP’s Public and Mobile Library Group following their annual conference and award ceremony]

Libraries pay: public libraries supporting economic prosperity -
notes from an amazing day of knowledge sharing

It is no longer a common occurrence to get 50 public librarians in one room. When you do, something remarkable happens, the conversation explodes into a whirlwind of commonalities meets contrasts! We are all in the same game, but everyone plays it differently. Every authority has its own remarkable stories, every individual has their own triumphs and trials, but learning from each other we all progress more quickly. The PMLG Teachmeet mixed inspirational speakers and special guests with the space to really open up and talk about what we are doing in our libraries today.

For those of you unable to attend, the event presentations and workshop write-ups are available on our website, but below are just a few of the highlights from the day.

“Libraries have a market share that most organisations would kill for” was the sentiment echoed by both opening speaker Nick Poole CILIP CEO [see below] and closing speaker PMLG Chair Jacquie Widdowson. An undeniable truth when considered in the light that over half of the UK population has a current library card.

Jonathan Ebbs, Service Development Specialist, talked about the set-up and running of Manchester Business and Intellectual Property Centre. The fundamental success of the BIPC lies in connecting business and entrepreneurs with the crucial information they require via either online resources, well informed staff or advice from successful business leaders.

‘Panel of experts’ based events seemed especially replicable even for a small-scale library based project designed to stimulate local economic growth: simply set up a forum and allow the conversations to flow.

The assembled delegates discovered between them that public libraries have a rich and varied past of sponsorship and partnership working. Some highlights included: negotiating local discounts for library membership holders; inviting charities such as animal rescue centres to stage free events in return for raising awareness of their organisation; prize donations of various size and scale; and Hugh Bonneville donating his Lego collection to a public library construction club.

The common denominator between all the sponsorship success stories was having the courage to ask and selling an opportunity rather than begging for charity. Public libraries are well placed to offer great returns on partner and sponsor investments.

Gareth Hatton, the innovator behind BusinessLine in Wrexham, led a workshop on supporting SMEs and business start-ups that explored available resources such as subscription databases and networking sites.

Representatives from the Tinder Foundation led a session on the benefits of digital literacy initiatives and demonstrated that ‘For every £1 spent on channel shift £6 of savings were made’.

To read the full presentation and write-ups visit our website :

CILIP have published a transcript of chief executive Nick Poole’s opening remarks.

PMLG Awards winners

The 2016 Public and Mobile Library Award winners have been announced! There are so many outstanding, vibrant, enthusiastic and downright heroic library employees out there, that it is hard to award just a few of them each year. No librarian works in isolation, however, so the recipients of these accolades share their honour with their colleagues, their constituencies and their communities. Congratulations to them all!

Award winners (from left to right): Thomas Colloff, Elizabeth McDonald, and Julie McKirdy. Photo credit: Jacquie Widdowson/PMLG
Award winners (from left to right): Thomas Colloff, Elizabeth McDonald, and Julie McKirdy. Photo credit: Jacquie Widdowson/PMLG

Public Librarian of the Year 2016
Presented by  sponsors: Lorensbergs, provider of netloan PC booking, printing and WiFi solution range
Name: Elizabeth McDonald (pictured centre)
Job Title: Reader Development Officer: Young People and Families
Library Authority: Wokingham Borough Libraries
Elizabeth McDonald understands the value of partnership working and outreach. She is a vociferous advocate for library services and actively pursues engagement from hard-to-reach groups such as the most deprived families from the Community Houses and young people dealing with mental health difficulties. Her inter-departmental collaborations with the Community Development Team and Berkshire Adolescent Unit have helped to push the reach of her activities into much needed areas. Her efforts have helped to empower young people in the modern world, providing volunteer opportunities, digital skills through Code Clubs, and recognition through Arts Awards. As well as being an inspiration, Elizabeth is also a professional leader, having held various offices – including the Chair – of the Youth Libraries Group South East Region. An all-around exemplary modern Librarian, Elizabeth embodies the dynamism and social importance of the public library sector today.

Public Library Champion of the Year 2016
Name: Julie McKirdy (pictured right)
Job Title: Library Supervisor
Library Authority: Sandwell
Julie has turned the local library into a community and cultural hub, giving locals access to arts and creative events, transforming her branch library into a vibrant venue of choice. Her varied programme includes live music; performance storytelling; a charity quiz night; daily free hot meals for anyone in the local community with need; and the ‘Thimblemill has the Wow Factor’ talent contest. Julie has achieved so much through making connections; she has connected with other organisations to help deliver the events programme; she has connected with charities like the local food bank and Acorns Hospice to help those in need; and above all she has connected with the community she serves, to place the library at the very heart of local life.

Mobile Library Champion of the Year 2016
Name: Thomas Colloff (pictured left)
Job Title: Mobile Library Supervisor
Library Authority: Essex
The mobile librarian is uniquely placed to offer a bespoke and personal library service for those otherwise disconnected from community centres. It takes a special person with strength of personality and extraordinary warmth to balance the versatility required to maximise the mobile service’s impact, with the strong connections required to tailor it to the users’ needs. Tom Colloff is one such person. Always willing to step up to the plate, Tom has shown remarkable flexibility and proactivity in the face of changing circumstances. Simultaneously, he has ensured that service changes have not disrupted the important work of the mobile and has continued to grow those all-important community connections, such as with his work with the Women’s Refuge. One inhabitant of the refuge explained that “This is so great for my children. I really thought they were going to miss out being here but coming to the mobile library really gives them something to look forward to”. Tom and his mobile library service are a lifeline to many, and it is only through the unfailing commitment of local heroes like Tom that public library services can really reach every corner of their constituencies for the greater good of all.

To learn more about the awards visit:


Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce

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