Head of libraries receives New Year honour from the Queen

The head of Merton council’s library service has been recognised by the Queen in the New Year Honours list.

Anthony Hopkins has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM), for services to libraries. This honour is for people who have given a hands-on service to the community that has made a significant difference.

Anthony’s dedication to Merton libraries goes back to his childhood. From early visits to Pollards Hill library as a toddler, Anthony went on to do work experience at Mitcham library, which led to a job as a Saturday assistant. Two decades later, Anthony is still working for Merton council, now as head of libraries, heritage and adult education.

Anthony said: “I am very surprised to have received this honour and want to thank all the wonderful people I have worked with during my career. I am proud to work for Merton council and I am delighted with the way we have managed to develop our library services in challenging times.

“While I am very grateful for the personal acknowledgement I would like to dedicate this honour to the staff and volunteers of the library service who continuously go the extra mile to provide excellent services.”

Anthony has seen the transition from paper library cards and book stamps to self-service technology. Despite challenging financial times, Anthony has been instrumental in ensuring that all seven of the council’s award winning libraries have remained open. His hard-working staff are supported by a committed team of volunteers and library opening hours have been extended.

Anthony oversaw the planning and construction of a brand new building for Colliers Wood library, which was officially opened last year. Anthony has expanded the reach of the libraries into the communities they serve, overseeing initiatives including two arts spaces, which stage cultural activities and performances in Wimbledon and Mitcham libraries, and Wimbletech, a hub for entrepreneurs in Wimbledon Library.

Anthony is dedicated to introducing as many people as possible to the libraries – increasing library membership through schemes for schoolchildren and organising pop up libraries to visit areas where there are low levels of library membership.

Earlier this year, Anthony’s team successfully bid for £95k of Arts Council funding for themed sensory areas in each of the libraries for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

In addition to his work in Merton, Anthony is the past President of London Libraries, the association of London library heads of services, and has worked on a number of regional and national projects to improve libraries. He led a public library advocacy campaign and established the annual London Libraries Festival World of Possibilities.

The Leader of Merton council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis, said: “On behalf of everyone at the council, I would like to congratulate Anthony on his New Year honour.

“This is a very well deserved honour, recognising the enormous contribution Anthony has made to library services in Merton and beyond.

“While other local authorities have been forced to close libraries in these tough financial times, Anthony’s hard work and innovation has helped to ensure that Merton has kept all of our award-winning libraries open and established them as thriving community hubs.”

Anthony is due to receive his honour at a presentation in the new year at Buckingham Palace.


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