Inspirational library assistant wins national award

Ruth Peterson | September 20, 2021

She has supported students through the most challenging times of their lives, creating friendly online communities and uniting people in the love of reading.

And now Bradford College Senior Library Assistant Emma Luby has achieved the Jeff Cooper Inspirational Information Professional of the Year Award.

She received the recognition from the Council for Learning Resources in College (CoLRiC), a national organisation representing librarians and learning resource professionals across the UK.

Recognition for Bradford College reading groups

In addition, Bradford College Library was commended for its Online Readers groups. Through the groups, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students developed their reading skills via Microsoft Teams.

Library manager Lakshmi Banner, leader of the team who nominated Emma for the top award, praised her “Enthusiasm, resourcefulness … commitment to staff development, and … focus on student achievement.”

She said: “Emma has been creative, dedicated and has provided opportunities to our students which otherwise may have been unavailable to them this year. Very many congratulations to Emma.”

Emma became senior library assistant in January 2020. Since then, much of her time has been spent finding innovative ways to support students and colleagues during the pandemic.

Lakshmi said: “These challenging circumstances have brought her talents to the fore: enthusiasm, resourcefulness, a commitment to staff development and a focus on student achievement.”

During lockdown, Emma asked library assistants to identify online resources, websites and videos on activities such as photography, crafts and cooking. These resources, which encouraged students to explore their creativity, were uploaded to an online guide and promoted through social media channels.

To support the college’s students during the pandemic, Emma co-managed the library’s postal loan service and the on-site reservation service to retrieve books for students who were back on site and also studying from home. 

Exploring adventures through books

From March this year she began managing the online reading sessions for ESOL students. Together with the library assistants, the students, ranging from 16 to adults, read adventure stories and detective mysteries among other tales over Microsoft Teams. At their busiest peak, the library was producing 12 hours of reading sessions per week.

In the award submission, Lakshmi said: “From April, we were asked to host some work experience students which raised challenges regarding social distancing. Emma managed this by creating projects that students worked on independently, with support when needed.”

Offering opportunities to students

The placements offered opportunities to a variety of students, including those with additional learning needs. One of them even asked if he could come back to the library as an apprentice. ESOL students also had half-day placements. Lakshmi added; “As well as other tasks, we asked them to run marketing projects to promote the online readers. Emma assigned each student with a library assistant who trained them. She said she felt this gave library assistants an opportunity to build on their own skills and knowledge.

Emma said: “I’m so proud of the support my manager and the team have shown in taking on tasks that have been asked of them. The students have been unbelievable. We all get so much out of working together.

“The response we have had from students has been overwhelming. They have talked about how much we have helped them.”

Helping to combat isolation

She said she wanted to use her skills to help students who had felt isolated or unsupported in lockdown. She said: “Without that day-to-day contact, I started to think how we could carry on that contact. I wanted to fill in those gaps.

“I could really feel, from talking to students, they were missing each other so much. It was nice to share ideas and have discussions every week and help them with their reading.

“I’m looking forward to what we can do this year and know we can go even further. There’s lots of things we can do.”

Currently Emma is working with students from Project SEARCH. This provides young people with learning difficulties the opportunity to gain work experience. The project increases their chances of securing meaningful paid employment.

About our libraries

Bradford College students have access to our state-of-the-art library resources. They include dedicated work spaces and computer rooms for independent study. They also have a vast collection of educational books, magazines and online resources. Library Services are here to help students find resources both physically and online to help with their course.

Visit www.bradfordcollege.ac.uk

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