Library Staff Win National Award for Creating Teen Social Space in Hayes

Library service staff receive prestigious national award | Hillingdon Today
Gemma McCaffery, centre, and Franka Aichour receive their award from Libraries Connected / Hillingdon Council

Hillingdon Council’s library service is celebrating after two of its staff members received a prestigious national award for their innovative work in creating a dedicated social space for teens at Botwell Green Library in Hayes.

Gemma McCaffery, the area manager for the south of the borough, and Franka Aichour, the branch manager at Botwell Green Library, were honoured with the Libraries Connected Award at a ceremony held at Chesford Grange Hotel in Warwickshire on Tuesday (4 June). These national awards highlight the exceptional achievements of library workers who make exceptional impacts on their services and communities.

McCaffery and Aichour were recognised in the Children’s Promise category for their outstanding efforts to improve services for young people. They provided a safe, engaging space where teens can relax, socialise, and participate in various activities.

The initiative began after consultations with local teens to determine their needs and preferences. An under-utilised office space at the library was transformed last spring into a vibrant teen area. This project was made possible through a successful bid for a £10,000 community grant from the Greater London Authority.

The newly created space is equipped with music and recording equipment, art and crafts supplies, board games, virtual reality headsets, and a Playstation 5 games console. The area has been a hit among local youths, with more than 430 visits recorded in April alone. Additionally, sessions are specifically held for girls in collaboration with the council’s youth detachment team.

Since its opening in April 2023, the teen space has attracted over 2,700 visits, demonstrating its popularity and the positive impact on the community. The recognition from Libraries Connected underscores the significant contribution of McCaffery and Aichour in fostering a supportive environment for the youth in Hayes.

Gemma said: “I’m really pleased to receive this award. I’m passionate about engaging with young people and improving the opportunities available to them.”

Franka added: “I feel absolutely thrilled that we’ve been chosen to win this award as it validates the hard work, we, as a team, have put into the project. We engaged with the local community, learned what the issues were and came up with a solution.”

Cllr Eddie Lavery, Hillingdon Council’s Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services said: “My congratulations to Gemma and Franka for receiving these awards. This is an extremely important initiative, meeting the needs of young people in the area using their feedback, and is part of our work to create safe, strong communities.

“This project, and Gemma and Franka’s dedication, has truly made a difference to the lives of young people in Hayes by providing a safe space for them to meet, relax and enjoy themselves.”