Retford man honoured with ‘unexpected’ BEM in Queen’s Honours List 2022 for services to public libraries

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Services to public libraries has led to one Retford man being awarded a British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours List.

Nick Partridge, head of libraries archives and information services at Sheffield Libraries, was ‘very pleased’ to accept the honour.

The 58-year-old, who lives in Retford, was ‘pleasantly surprised’ with the award, despite first wondering whether the email was a scam.

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Following in his sister Christine Kent’s footsteps, a former librarian in Retford, Nick left his manufacturing background and began working for Sheffield Libraries in 2014.

Nick Partidge BEM, head of Libraries Archives and Information Services for Sheffield LibrariesNick Partidge BEM, head of Libraries Archives and Information Services for Sheffield Libraries
Nick Partidge BEM, head of Libraries Archives and Information Services for Sheffield Libraries
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Since then, Nick has helped to carry Sheffield libraries forward to face government cuts, the national decline of service users - and then the pandemic.

Nick Partridge BEM said: “It is a team effort. I have some really brilliant, brilliant people that work for me that do a lot of this; so I can talk about it, but I couldn’t do that without them.”

While hundreds of libraries across the country have been forced to close, in order to save Sheffield’s libraries, 16 of the 28 libraries have now been moved to be volunteer-run so they can remain open and continue to benefit the community.

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In 2018, Nick continued to help local people connect with their community and heritage by creating a walking tour app of Sheffield’s historical football sites, Sheffield: Home of Football.

He was then chosen to travel with a British Library delegation to China and speak at a national library leaders conference about the technology they use in libraries in Sheffield and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Since the pandemic, Nick has helped to move the libraries online with e-books and virtual events which attracted more than 22,000 people to them in 12 months from mid-2020 to mid-2021.

Nick said: “A lot of people stop using libraries at a certain point in their life and usually when they have kids they come back, and they rediscover the joy with their children, but there's so much for people at whatever age.

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"My own brother Anthony used Retford library to attend adult literacy classes to help him with his reading after leaving school.

“Libraries are a great place to connect, to give back and also receive, and people love the library ethos. There's nothing expected of you, and they are open to anybody.

“I couldn't believe when I went to Retford library as a kid that I could get Tintin and Asterix comic books.

“I thought it was like magic, it was like Christmas, I could take them all home - and that, for me, is libraries.

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“There’s just such a lot that libraries do which I wasn't aware of, even though I use libraries myself. It's been a privilege really to be able to tell people about it.”

The free Sheffield: Home of Football walking tour app can be downloaded for IOS and Android here:

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Sam Jackson, editor.

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