Deborah McGill - Assistant Librarian, Live Borders

Hearts for the Arts 2022 Shortlist – Deborah McGill

Live Borders' Deborah McGill has been shortlisted for Best Arts Champion - Local Authority or Cultural Trust Worker in the 2022 Hearts for the Arts Awards

Deborah McGill works as Assistant Librarian at Live Borders, serving the communities of the Scottish Borders. During the pandemic, at a time when she was the only person in the library service, Debbie spear-headed the creation of two key projects: Creative Writing for Wellbeing, and the Connecting the Borders Digital Champion Programme.

The Creative Writing for Wellbeing Programmes was started from scratch by Debbie, who developed the concepts, supported in the process of securing funding and then adapted to national restrictions by enabling everything to run online. Creative Writing for Wellbeing is for those who have self-referred with mild/moderate mental health needs and is a way to self-support and manage mental health issues. The programme was delivered in partnership with the NHS and integrated into the local referral pathway through the GP services and other mental health signposting groups. As a result, a very practical and new way of managing mental wellbeing has been developed and the online delivery has ensured that it is accessible to a wide range of people across a very rural community.

The Connecting the Borders Digital Champions Programme saw digital devices distributed in the local area and training provided for over 200 people. The Programme partnered with 14 local Community planning Partnerships to ensure that each individual had a Digital Champion and were able to ease isolation.

Debbie was vital to the recovery in the library service and has been a significant part in the foundations of recovery in the area, and has supported managers and colleagues with generosity as teams began to be able to return to work.

What the judges said:

“The positive impact Debbie has had on the Live Borders library team and wider Scottish Borders community is very clear. She delivered a new, entirely online programme that effectively partnered with the NHS to combat mental wellbeing at a time when this has been particularly challenging to the population. Debbie sounds like a true champion of library services – well done!

“Debbie’s work has made an enormous difference to her community, helping hundreds of people to be connected and benefit from creative activity during the pandemic. This is an excellent example of the difference one determined and energetic person can make.”