ASSOCIATES (2004, November, v. 11, no. 2) -

*“Innovative Ideas” Awards to Library Staff*


Jim Jackson
University of Exeter

Have you ever thought that your good ideas or best practice systems never seem to be appreciated? YES – of course you have, but this is not another long moan about how unfair life is. This is more about what happens when someone thinks you and your ideas are innovative and worth rewarding. There are throughout the world a large number of awards, certificates, even bursaries which are awarded on a regular basis to library staff. If you enter a search question on Google, “awards to library staff for innovative ideas”, there are about 221,000 results. This can then be refined by adding “in 2004” to the question. This reduces the total results to 106,000. The trouble is that you don’t know which ones are relevant to the area you work in, let alone your country. Sadly, I can only offer a glimmer of hope here, as adding a further search question such as “in europe” does not help that much. So you might miss out on the chance to apply for one of the awards or how they work in terms of nomination. I would like to ask the Associates Editorial Board if they would consider adding an extra feature to their web site--that of a list of library staff award schemes. Readers can then select one appropriate for their place of work, and see perhaps comments or reviews on what readers think of the awards.

I would like to tell you about one award scheme that I am involved in here in the UK, called the Robinson Medal. This is awarded on a bi-annual basis for excellence and innovation in library administration. The award is administered by the Affiliated Members Group of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) with a view to rewarding front line staff in library and information services for their novel and innovative ideas. The ideas have to show how an idea or procedure has been carefully thought out, perhaps in reply to some market research, and then developed into a working idea. This idea then becomes part of the service structure, enabling a better service to be provided. It does not need to be a hugely expensive idea, as the innovation side of it is more important. Full details can be found at the following address:

The last winner of the award can explain what she did to win better than I can, and why she was so pleased to do so.

Christine Stevenson comes from the University of Sunderland, UK, and won the award for the development and administration of an Off Campus Library Support Service for the University’s distance learners.

The service includes postal book loans, access to electronic databases, an online enquiry service and mediated literature searches. Christine has also conducted a detailed survey to assess the learners’ needs. This identified information skills support as a key area for development, and led to improved induction visits and a library guide for off campus students.

Christine is the Distance Services Co-ordinator at the St. Peters Library, University of Sunderland and since 1998 has been working with academics, IT Development Staff and the Site Librarian to provide services for distance learners across all academic areas. Christine has written a library guide for all students, which is included in their course pack and has worked with the IT development team and reader services staff to develop a web site specifically for distance learners:

"A portfolio of services was set up and the following year was rolled out to all off campus learners. This role has given me great satisfaction, and with the help of a team of library staff we are now able to offer a library and information service to off campus students, which comes as close as we can to the quality of service our students on campus can expect," Christine said.

She also admitted, "I really hadn’t expected to feel quite so thrilled and excited. It is such a pleasure to be recognised in such a way by your peers and I would like to thank the CILIP Affiliated Members’ National Committee for this award."

So, you see you can enter. For the latest news on the 2004/2005 Robinson Medal look at The prize for this award is an educational bursary of £250 which can be used for any training course you might want to take part in, which will assist your career development. In addition you will be invited to attend the Umbrella Conference at Manchester in June 2005, with your registration fees paid for you.

"The medal is specifically aimed at library and information staff working at para-professional level," says Nina Whitcombe of CILIP's Affiliated Members' National Committee, which administers the Award. "The judges are looking for evidence of individual initiatives carried through effectively."

Development of services for distance learners, writing and producing a training manual and planning a new library layout are just three of the initiatives that have earned entrants a Robinson Medal in recent years. "We're on the look-out for innovation and original thinking, practical application, adaptability, cost-effectiveness and value for money," Nina Whitcombe continues.

I don’t want to appear to claim that this is a new idea, or only limited to the UK-- far from it. I know that several awards have been in existence for a long time. For example, if you are in the U.S., there are the CAL awards where the Colorado Association of Libraries are looking for great ideas. (see While on the other side of the world at the Australian Library Association has a long list of awards. I would not want you to think that your ideas are not wanted, they are, and they are the true ‘life blood’ of any organisation. Having got these ideas to some sort fruition needs to be recognised and rewarded, and the Robinson Medal in the UK goes some way to matching these ideals.

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