Library staff win national award for creating space for teens in Hayes to socialise

Thursday 6 June 2024: Two members of staff from Hillingdon Council's library service have been recognised for their work in creating a dedicated space for young people in the Hayes area at Botwell Green Library.

Gemma McCaffery, centre, and Franka Aichour receive their award from Libraries Connected
Gemma McCaffery, area manager for the south of the borough, and Franka Aichour, the library's branch manager, were presented with a Libraries Connected Award at a ceremony at the Chesford Grange Hotel, Warwickshire on Tuesday 4 June. The national awards celebrate the achievements of library workers who have had an exceptional impact on their library service, users, or their local communities.

The pair were recognised in the Children's Promise category for improving services for young people by providing them with a safe space for activities and socialising.

After speaking to young people about what they would like to see, last spring an under-utilised office space at the library was transformed into an area for teens to relax, socialise and take part in activities. This followed a successful bid for £10,000 community grant funding from the Greater London Authority. 

The room contains music and recording equipment, art and crafts, board games, virtual reality headsets and a Playstation 5 games console. In April this year alone, there were more than 430 visits to the space, and sessions are also held specifically for girls in partnership with the council's youth detachment team.

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."

The space has proved popular and since opening in April 2023, there have been more than 2,700 visits by young people.

Adam, 16, said: "I like the relaxed environment after school. It's chilled and I can meet my friends."

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."

For the room's opening times, visit

Page last updated: 13 Jun 2024