‘Emma helped thousands of people access libraries during lockdown’

·3-min read
Emma Noyce
Emma Noyce

A council employee who made sure thousands of vulnerable people could access books during the pandemic has been awarded a British Empire Medal in The Queen’s Jubilee Honours.

Emma Noyce, 45, had only been in her post as Head of Hampshire’s Library Service for a year when Covid hit.

After overseeing the closure of 48 libraries in just 24 hours, Emma quickly organised a team of staff to phone 500 vulnerable residents who would normally use the home library delivery service.

She then convinced senior leadership to invest in £100,000 worth of ebooks which resulted in an 84 per cent increase in daily loans.

Emma, who lives in Lee-on-the-Solent, also inspired the digital library team to create an online timetable of events and activities including Baby Rhymetime, Story Time and bedtime stories, created on video by library staff.

These were being watched more than 1,700 times a day.

Daily Echo: Emma Noyce
Daily Echo: Emma Noyce

Emma Noyce

She developed a new concept called Ready Reads, whereby residents tell the library service the sort of books they like to read and a member of staff then selects the books from the shelves and leaves them in a bag for them to collect.

This service, which has been copied across the country, was used over 3,500 times between the end of June and November 2020.

Emma was asked by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to work with consultants on the government guidance for the reopening of libraries which came out in June.

Hampshire was one of the first local authorities to fully reopen its libraries on July 6 and Emma spearheaded the work to ensure libraries were Covid secure.

The council employee, who is now Assistant Director of Culture and Information Services, said: “I am proud to accept this honour on behalf of all my colleagues in Hampshire County Council who have worked so hard over the last two years to support and protect our communities.

“Throughout the pandemic, colleagues across the council have been united by a common purpose; to do everything they possibly can to support Hampshire’s residents – particularly the most vulnerable.

“Hampshire County Council is a fantastic place to work, and I am privileged to be surrounded by such talented and committed people – I dedicate this award to all of them and particularly my colleagues in the Library Service for all they have achieved.”

Leader of Hampshire County Council, Cllr Rob Humby, added: “Many congratulations to Emma for this Jubilee Honour, which reflects the vital role that Hampshire’s libraries played during the coronavirus pandemic under her leadership. Our public libraries continuously adapted to the changing circumstances.

“Emma and her team ensured that residents in Hampshire could continue to access books, magazines and other popular library services whether in digital form, or by using the popular Ready Reads initiative at their library’s front door.

“They also provided support to our most vulnerable residents, through the hundreds of befriending calls made by the Home Library Service and by providing safe access to public IT so that people could still access vital information, find employment or apply for benefits.

“Libraries even adapted to offer space for testing and vaccination centres in their buildings. The support they provided was an inspiration - and this is a very well-deserved award for Emma, who led the way.”

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