Portsmouth librarian shortlisted for prestigious national award


Portsmouth librarian, Julie Duffy, has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award for the innovative work she has undertaken in Portsmouth City Council’s libraries for over 20 years, making them more accessible to people who are blind or vision impaired.

She has been nominated for the Vision and Print Impaired People’s Award in the Libraries Connected Awards 2023. The awards recognise individuals or teams that have had an exceptional impact on their library service, library users or their local communities.

Julie is the vision impairment services officer for Portsmouth City Council’s library service. She also happens to be blind. For over 20 years she has been using technology to support disabled adult learners in Portsmouth’s libraries and has developed a comprehensive range of services for visually impaired adults, both long term and newly diagnosed.

She also supports two information and support group weekly meetings at Central and Southsea libraries. Often guest speakers come in to inform attendees on new technologies that are available to improve their quality of life. The group is often consulted by the local authority and external agencies when they need to take the needs of visually impaired adults into account in the planning and delivery of services.

Julie has also worked with the wider Portsmouth community, providing disability awareness sessions for children and young people in schools and has worked on an intergenerational project where local secondary school pupils helped older blind and vision impaired adults download audiobooks, newspapers and magazine articles to an accessible MP3 player.

Cllr Steve Pitt, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure, and Economic Development said: “I am delighted that Julie has been shortlisted for this award. She is a valued member of staff who has supported visually impaired residents in the city for 20 years. Her nomination recognises all that is great about libraries and how they offer so much more than books to our community.”

Julie Duffy, vision impairment services officer at Portsmouth City Council, said: “I feel very flattered and surprised to have been shortlisted for this award. Through my work I know just how vitally important libraries are. They are a lifeline for so many people in our community and if I’ve made access to books, information, help and support just that little bit easier for people who live with vison impairment, then I am very pleased.”

The shortlisted nominations will now be considered by an expert panel of judges including celebrated crime writer Priscilla Masters and children’s author Cathy Cassidy. They will be joined by judges from organisations including Arts Council England, The Reading Agency, BBC Arts and library app developer OverDrive, creator of the Libby and Sora reading apps, who are again generously sponsoring the Awards.

The winners will be announced in June at a ceremony during the Libraries Connected annual seminar in Bedfordshire.

The council’s libraries offer a wide range of services to anyone who is visually impaired. Contact visual impairment telephone advice line (VITAL) for advice on any aspect of visual impairment on 023 9282 9923 or email libraries@portsmouthcc.gov.uk.