Library of the Year: Ten UK libraries heralded as Liverpool Central triumphs

Library of the Year: Ten UK libraries heralded as Liverpool Central triumphs

Liverpool Central Library has won The Bookseller’s Library of the Year Award 2018.

The library (pictured below) triumphed in a field of over 40 entries to the award, including prison, school and professional libraries, and both large flagship libraries and smaller branch operations that serve their local community.

The judges felt Liverpool Central Library, which reopened in 2013 following major refurbishment, was continuing on a strong upward trajectory and providing an example that other libraries could look to for inspiration. They picked out its major success in increasing visitor numbers, running cultural programmes relevant to the community, offering excellent opening hours and a good ratio of professional staff, as well as working with local businesses, including booksellers. While the library acknowledges that it has still more work to do, it is demonstrating such ongoing progress that it deserves to win Library of the Year, the award judges concluded.

Liverpool won out on a 10-strong shortlist which recognised success in a wide range of libraries. The other contenders were Storyhouse in Chester, Macclesfield Library, HMP Thameside in London, HMP Ford in West Sussex, Colliers Wood Library in London, Lochee Library in Dundee, Newham libraries in the capital, Royal College of Nursing Library & Archive Service and the East Lothian Council Library Service.

There are also two prison libraries: one at the privately run HMP Thameside in London—where residents describe an "oasis" from the challenging environment of prison, and the pleasure of travelling into fictional worlds—and another at resettlement prison HMP Ford in the West Sussex town, which has been skilled in building links between its residents and the community outside.

Cheshire has two libraries on the shortlist: the very handsome Storyhouse library-cum-arts centre in Chester, recently given a formal opening by the Queen; and the high-achieving Macclesfield Library, with its stellar library loan figures.

Scotland also scores a double on the shortlist, with Lochee Library in Dundee an example of a local library that has put itself at the heart of its community, while on the other hand East Lothian Library Services is able to support school reading by maintaining a full-time, professionally qualified librarian in each one of its secondary schools—it is one of only a few Scottish councils to do so.

Meanwhile, the dementia-friendly new Colliers Wood Library is shortlisted for its work helping the large numbers of its users from the older demographic feel comfortable in its building. Newham Libraries is recognised for its good work in an area of economic deprivation to engage with schools and bring schoolchildren into libraries to read for pleasure; while the Royal College of Nursing Library & Archive Service is notable in opening up its service to public engagement, as well as serving the needs of health professionals.

Read full profiles of the 10 shortlisted libraries here

The award is run in partnership with The Reading Agency and was judged by the charity's publisher relations manager Karen McPherson, alongside Johanna Brinton, Scott Smith and Hope Mendy of sponsor Overdrive, and a team from The Bookseller.

The Bookseller's deputy editor Benedicte Page
"In previous years, the Library of the Year Award has been presented as part of The British Book Awards, with winners ranging from Camberwell Library (last year) to Dagenham Library (2016) and Orkney Library & Archive (2015).

At this year’s Nibbies in May, some trade figures may have wondered why libraries—such a vital element of the wider reading landscape—no longer featured on the roster of awards celebrating the brightest and best in the industry. Had The Bookseller simply lost interest in the library sector? Were we ignoring what libraries had to offer? Of course that was not the case. The truth is that with the struggles so many library authorities have been facing, with significant closures or cutbacks in staff and services, the glitzy environment of the traditional awards evening was feeling inappropriate. Fewer libraries were entering for the award as it stood, and it was clear that a new approach was needed.

This week we profile all 10 libraries on our Library of the Year shortlist to highlight to the entirety of our readership the best work that a range of libraries do, in a way that’s appropriate to the challenges many are facing. A record 44 libraries—school libraries, public libraries, institutional libraries—made brief submissions on their key achievements. Pretty much every library that entered had its fans among our panel of judges; each had its own character and served specific communities; and certainly the shortlist could have been filled at least twice over.

Congratulations to the 2018 winner, Liverpool Central Library, and the other nine shortlistees. We hope the energy and inventiveness they display shines through here, and that other libraries will find tips for approaches that could work for them too."