Jennie Wins Local Studies Librarian of the Year

Jennie Cartwright, a Development Officer for Lincs Inspire Libraries, was recently awarded the McCulla Award for Local Studies Librarian of the Year at the CILIP Local Studies Group Conference at the University of Leicester.

Jennie won the Award for the range of projects she has been involved with, and her innovative ideas to improve access to the local studies collection at Grimsby Library. Jennie was nominated by Nicky Dillerstone, an artist who had worked with her on the Threads of the Past project, which mixed heritage with creative skills to create memory boxes in care settings.

When asked how it feels to have won the award, Jennie said: “It’s lovely to have been nominated for this Award and winning it feels like a great achievement for what has been a long career in the public library service. I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Nicky Dillerstone for nominating me. Nicky has worked on a number of library projects over the years with us and has always been supportive of the work we do.”

It was a special day for Jennie collecting the award, particularly as Jennie had studied in Leicester 40 years ago for her first Degree in Modern Languages. 

When asked what it means to be recognised for her fantastic work, Jennie said: “Winning this Award feels like recognition, not only for me, but for my extremely supportive colleagues, and for the Local History Collection itself.  With over 30 years’ experience working in the public library service, I have experienced many different attitudes to local heritage and culture.  Some might say that collections such as these are a thing of the past – just Google it, Wikipedia has all the answers! I would disagree… local history material that has been collected by our predecessors in libraries since the middle of the  19th century has an intrinsic value which is often only apparent when the library user browses the shelves and dips into books, newspaper cuttings, pamphlets, maps etc. sometimes finding things they didn’t even know they were looking for.  But we also need to look to the future, finding ways to preserve the material and make it more accessible via digital formats as well as in traditional formats.”

Jennie is highly regarded with colleagues and customers alike and says the two things she enjoys most about her job are people and local history. Jennie explained: “I have great colleagues and have met and been in contact with many interesting people over the years, both locally and through the research work we do for people around the UK and on an international level.  We never know what we are going to be asked next – it might be something very straightforward, or a subject that requires more in-depth research and knowledge of the resources we have in the Local History collection.” 

She added: “When I give talks to local groups, I always explain that the Local History Library is a living and evolving collection. It is not a static piece of history but rather something that is being developed and added to all the time.”

When asked why she thinks the collection at Grimsby Library is special, Jennie replied:  “I think it offers a window into our past whether it be by a piece of writing, a photograph, a historical map, or an advert from the mid-19th century letting people know when the boat trips ran from Cleethorpes Pier to Spurn Point.  I feel that the current staff who work with the Collection are custodians of the past, it’s our own time trap or Tardis enabling people to travel back in time whether it be for academic research, family history, a hobby or just having the curiosity to find out more about local history. The resources have a versatility that can be adapted for many different uses – this is highlighted particularly in recent times with how we are now helping people with early stage dementia remember what life used to be like using local historical photographs and other material as prompts for conversation and the sharing of memories.”

It is clear that Jennie is very passionate about local history and she would strongly encourage people to visit their local history library. She explained: “If anyone has an interest in their local towns/villages/counties, local history collections around the country are repositories for all manner of historical gems.  We get enquiries about histories of houses, streets, schools…..questions about what the town used to look like.  Where was the Bull Ring? Why did Cleethorpes Pier get shortened?  What sorts of lives did the local fishing community have?  The resources in the library can help to answer all of these questions and more.  We cannot guarantee that we will always find the answer ourselves, but there are many knowledgeable people with whom we have built up connections and who will always offer advice.  Some have written what I call ‘anecdotal’ histories of specific subjects – they lived through a particular time in history, or had experience of working in  a particular industry or area.  Others have studied a particular subject for an academic qualification and a copy of the work they produce is often donated to the Collection.  All of these resources combine to build up a picture of our local past.”

Steve Hipkins, Head of Cultural Services for Lincs Inspire, said: “This award is thoroughly deserved. Jennie has spent her career promoting and developing the wonderful collections we hold, and inspiring others to access and appreciate them. She has more recently found new and innovative ways to use the collections, particularly her work using local studies materials to support people affected by dementia. She is held in high esteem by her colleagues and the many local heritage groups and societies in the area, and it is great that has now been recognised nationally.”

For more information on the Local History Library in Grimsby call (01472) 323635 or email Jennie Cartwright on:  jennie.cartwright@lincsinspire.com.