21 No. 4 — Jul/Aug 2007
‘Welcome to Your Library’ Program Wins 2007 Libraries Change Lives Award
By Scott Koerwer
Each year, the U.K.-based groups CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and the Library + information Show (LiS) join to recognize a library project that is working for positive change in its community by presenting it with the CILIP/LiS Libraries Change Lives Award. This year, the honor went to “Welcome to Your Library” (www.welcometoyourlibrary.org.uk), a U.K.-wide project that seeks to engage local libraries with refugees and asylum-seekers who have fled to the U.K.
The project, which is funded in part by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and coordinated through the London Libraries Development Agency, began as a pilot project in 2003 with five London boroughs participating. They began mapping out refugee communities and organizations in their areas and forming partnerships with them to get the refugees involved.
Two years later the project received £250,000 (almost $500,000) from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and was able to spread to the rest of the nation. Now, instead of short-term project staff carrying out the work, library staff members themselves operate the project at a local level.
CILIP and LiS recognized the Leicester library system and the libraries in the London borough of Camden in particular, applauding them for successfully creating employment and volunteering opportunities for refugees.
Camden’s library system offers refugees 12-week work placements of 15 hours per week, helping the refugees integrate with the larger community and providing them with an understanding of workplace rules and regulations. In Leicester, 22 refugees have taken part in the project, and 13 of them have gone on to find employment.
Welcome to Your Library was announced as the winner during the Library + information Show on April 18. The project received a check for £5,000 (about $10,000) and a trophy.
Details About the Other Finalists
Although Welcome to Your Library was the recipient of the top Libraries Change Lives Award, two other projects were recognized as finalists.
The Read Yourself Well program at the East Ayrshire Library (www.east-ayrshire.gov.uk/comser/libraries/Bibliotherapy.asp) is a bibliotherapy program that launched in October 2005. It seeks to help people with mild mental health problems overcome them through reading. The person seeking help makes an appointment with a bibliotherapist, who will recommend appropriate books after a discussion. There are one or two follow-up sessions. The service also offers a self-issue machine at East Ayrshire’s Dick Institute for those who do not want to meet with library staff. The machine determines which library material will be helpful based on information provided by the user.
The books in the program cover many topics, ranging from anxiety and stress to more serious depression. The service is confidential, but the participants must be members of the East Ayrshire Library to become involved.
The aim of the program is to give those involved a feeling of empowerment as they use what they have learned in the books to help themselves, instead of relying on the medical advice of a therapist or on medication.
The other project that was a finalist, called “LARGE” (Leeds Always Reading Group for Everyone), began in September 2005 and is a service that provides large-print books for visually impaired students who are enrolled in public schools in Leeds. The Visually Impaired Team of the local education authority, Education Leeds, identifies the children in need of materials. There are 42 children in 33 schools currently involved in the service. Each participating child receives a box of materials once a term. In January, the service provided 390 large-text books to those children.
These two finalists each received checks for £2,000 (about $4,000).
Nigel Thomas, chair of the judges committee for the award, said of the finalists, “[A]s a panel of judges, we have noted how well all the projects have done in providing evidence of the impact that their work is having on the communities that they serve. It is more important than ever for library services to demonstrate their value . . . most importantly to the customers they serve. All of this year’s projects have been exemplary in this respect.”
Video footage of all of the finalists is available at www.myspace.com/librarieschangelives.
About the Libraries Change Lives Award
CILIP and LiS have been presenting the Libraries Change Lives Award since 1992. Its purpose is to recognize any library- or information-related project that meets several criteria outlined by CILIP and LiS. The criteria include “demonstration of sound financial planning,” “a well defined target user group and involvement of individuals from that group,” and “a clearly defined statement of objectives,” among others.
To be eligible for entry, the project must be based in the U.K., have offered service for at least 12 months by the entry deadline, and have “a partnership of two or more groups, one of which is a formal library or information service,” according to CILIP’s Web site.
The site also notes that the award also honors “those individuals and teams whose desires and abilities have overcome difficult conditions and budgetary constraints to touch the lives of the people they serve.”