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Derbyshire librarian wins prestigious national award

Published: 2 November 2021

A Derbyshire librarian has won a prestigious national award for her work supporting people with sight loss and helping to combat isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.


Libraries Connected Award - Helen Cunningham
Helen Cunningham, winner of the Vision and Print Impaired People’s category of the first national Libraries Connected Awards 2021.

Our access and inclusion librarian Helen Cunningham beat off stiff competition to win the Vision and Print Impaired People’s category of the first national Libraries Connected Awards 2021.

The awards were launched earlier this year with the aim of celebrating the achievements of people working in libraries, recognising good practice and acknowledging excellence.

The national Libraries Connected charity, which is part-funded by the Arts Council, was looking for individuals or teams working in public libraries who have had a positive impact on the library service, library users or the local community.

Helen won the award for her work transforming the 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 in the library so Helen kept in contact with members by phone, helping them to download Borrowbox and borrow e-audio books, and then provided support to help them set up Microsoft Teams.

This support meant that members, including new members from across the county, were able to meet to discuss their reading, share information and chat, which also helped to combat isolation during the lockdowns.

Helen said:

“I’m really grateful to receive this award and must give thanks to the council’s Digital Champions Network for providing training and support on learning to use MS Teams at the start of lockdown.

“I was also helped by our supportive library staff as we all adapted to working remotely. And special thanks to the members of the listening group, because without their enthusiasm and determination the project couldn’t have happened.’’

“It’s a great morale booster to the library service to have this award. It’s an opportunity to showcase the wonderful work libraries do to support their communities and enhance people’s lives, and it gives encouragement to staff to continue to develop more successful projects.”

Derbyshire County Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Leadership, Culture, Tourism and Climate Change Councillor Barry Lewis said:

“We’re very proud of all our library staff and it’s wonderful that Helen has been recognised in these prestigious awards which highlight excellence, innovation and dedication to the library service.

“The work carried out during the pandemic really made a difference to people of all ages and across all communities.”

As well as Helen’s award, another one of our librarians, Chris Bertenshaw, was shortlisted for his development of a library eNewsletter during the pandemic, and our Library Services Home Library Team made the shortlist for their work to support thousands of vulnerable customers during the pandemic.

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