Author Matt Haig, chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty and librarian Amy McKay have been awarded CILIP honorary fellowships for 2021.
The trio were described by the UK's library and information association as “three very different individuals recognised for their contribution to this sector in the face of unprecedented global challenges”.
Whitty was awarded a fellowship in recognition of his services to the role of evidence in public health. He has been at the forefront of health information, keeping the public informed throughout the pandemic as the UK government’s chief medical officer and head of the public health profession. He is an NHS consultant physician and represents the UK on the executive board of the World Health Organisation.
Whitty said he was “very honoured” to receive the fellowship. He added: “The role of library and information professionals in the NHS, government and the academic sector during the pandemic has been superb, and a clear demonstration of how information and data should underpin decision-making at all levels.”
Haig, the author of The Midnight Library (Canongate), was awarded the fellowship in recognition of his services to literacy, mental health and wellbeing. “His style is highly readable, switching seamlessly between humour and poignancy, but this conceals his pursuit of deeper literary concerns,” CILIP said. “In his adult fiction, in particular, Matt employs a succession of unusual narrators to dissect family life and dysfunction, exploring notions of anxiety, suppression and control in the context of familial relationships. He advocates reading for mental health and actively supports public libraries.”
Haig said: “I am absolutely honoured to receive this. This means so much to me, as libraries are more important now than ever. They are one of the few public spaces where we are seen as people more than as consumers, and for me they were always a place where I would discover books I would somehow not come across elsewhere.”
McKay is a school librarian has been an active member of CILIP’s Youth Libraries Group for more than a decade. She was recognised by CILIP for her services to readership and mental health. As well as judging the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals (CKG) and being the national co-ordinator of the awards, she has recently taken up a new position at Ullswater Community College, Penrith.
“Against the challenging backdrop that Covid-19 has presented, she has transformed the library into the heart of the school, securing new funding for stock and layout and encouraging use and integration of the setting by staff and students alike,” CILIP said of her contribution.
“She has worked tirelessly on the CKG Awards organising regular virtual meet-ups and additional training for judges. This has resulted in an incredibly close-knit group who were supportive of one another’s wellbeing through a particularly challenging year and felt supported to adapt the challenge of virtual judging.”
McKay said: “I was overwhelmed and absolutely delighted to hear I had been awarded an honorary fellowship. School libraries have played a huge part in my life, and it has been a privilege to be involved in the Youth Libraries Group, the delivery of the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals and being part of the team adapting the awards to a virtual event. The past couple of years have been extremely challenging and I would like to thank those colleagues who have put me forward for this honour.”
Honorary fellowship has been awarded by CILIP and its predecessor the Library Association since 1896. It is the highest recognition given to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the library and information world.
CILIP c.e.o. Nick Poole said: “This year’s honorary fellows all demonstrate in different ways the powerful role our sector can play in health and social care. Whether it is leveraging evidence to support informed decision-making in the NHS and public health or exploring the role of reading in building empathy and improving mental health – the pandemic has truly shown the power of libraries as the ‘hospital of the soul’."