A former chief librarian who helped save libraries in Kirklees from decimation in 2016 has been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List.

Huddersfield-born Carol Stump, 63, who spent her whole career in the library service, was chief librarian at Kirklees Council when her budget was slashed from £6 million to just £3 million.

Back in 2016, the council looked set to close 24 of the 26 libraries across the district, leaving just two main libraries in Huddersfield and Dewsbury.

Amid a huge public outcry, protest groups were turned into ‘friends of’ groups and libraries were saved and put back at the heart of local communities, supported by teams of volunteers.

Carol, who retired from the council in 2022 after steering libraries through the Covid pandemic, received the MBE for services to public libraries.

Carol, who lives in Lindley with husband Jeff, said: “I am so proud and humbled to receive the honour. It’s for everyone who works so hard in our libraries.”

Carol, who grew up in Dalton, attended Dalton Infant & Junior School and left Greenhead High School with just three O-levels.

She always loved reading and “just by chance” got a job as a library assistant at Huddersfield Library aged 16. She gradually rose up the career ladder, taking a break to have her children Jean-Paul and Laura in the 1990s.

Carol became the first librarian in Kirklees to be appointed without a professional qualification. She held various management roles before becoming chief librarian in 2011.

Carol recalled the time in 2016 when library budgets were slashed and it was feared all but two libraries would be shut down.

“It looked like only Huddersfield and Dewsbury libraries would be left and we had night after night of public meetings and there were protest groups everywhere and people threatening to chain themselves to railings,” she said.

“But we were able to turn it around and we turned the protest groups into ‘friends of’ groups and we managed to convince the decision-makers that libraries were really important places for the community.

“With the help of volunteers working in our libraries we didn’t have to make anybody redundant. There were voluntary redundancies but these were people ready to go. No-one was forced to leave the service.

“It was difficult and very challenging and there were many sleepless nights. That’s why I am really pleased that my efforts have been recognised in this way.”

In 2020 Carol became president of Libraries Connected, a national organisation representing heads of library services across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“I became president in June 2020 and, of course, we locked down in March so I was known as the ‘lockdown president,’” said Carol.

“All my plans for visiting libraries went out of the window and I did everything online. However, that was rewarding in itself as I got to meet a lot of people, if not face-to-face. Trying to get people through the pandemic was just as rewarding.”

Another of Carol’s key achievements was the scrapping of fines for overdue library books. Kirklees was only the second local authority to scrap fines in 2018.

“It was an outdated system and I didn’t want people to be put off borrowing books,” she added.

Carol retired from the council in 2022 and left her role at Libraries Connected in 2023. She is proud to see libraries in Kirklees as thriving community hubs as much about meeting places as books, and also officially designated ‘warm spaces.’

“Local libraries are so valued and so needed and to think we could have lost them all…”

Carol, who has two grandchildren Connor and Kyra, is still a regular library goer but now has a ‘semi-retirement job’ as house manager for the McCarthy Stone complex in Lindley.

“It’s something completely different but I love it,” said Carol. “I’m glad I left the library service when I did, on a high.”

Clr Paul Davies, Cabinet member for corporate services at Kirklees Council, sent his congratulations and said: “I am delighted to hear that Carol is on the New Year’s Honours List.

“Carol was a much liked and well-respected chief librarian and her team’s efforts in the Covid-19 community response were phenomenal.

“Under her leadership, Kirklees Libraries also won numerous awards including becoming Libraries of Sanctuary for people fleeing conflict and persecution, once again highlighting how important our libraries are in supporting residents.

“It’s great to see that even after retirement, her service and dedication is being recognised nationally.”

Isobel Hunter MBE, chief executive of Libraries Connected, said: “I can’t think of a more worthy recipient of this award than Carol.

“As president of Libraries Connected during the pandemic, Carol was an inspirational leader – showing kindness and courage in equal measure.

“Thanks in no small part to Carol’s vision and dedication, public libraries emerged from the pandemic stronger and more resilient than ever.”

Other Huddersfield people to receive honours include Tajinder Banwait, founder of perfumes, fragrance and candles business Urban Apothecary London.

Tajinder (above), who received an MBE for services to business and the beauty industry, is a beauty entrepreneur who set up her company from her kitchen table 11 years ago.

She now has a factory in Leicestershire and supports British manufacturers and promotes female entrepreneurs and South Asian businesses.

Tajinder said: “Congratulations to everyone named in the 2024 New Year’s Honours List for your outstanding achievements.

“I am privileged to be among so many admired, respected and accomplished individuals. I can’t think of a better way to mark the end of one momentous year and the beginning of the next.”

Prof Rachel Cowgill, of Huddersfield, also receives an MBE for services to culture, education and the arts. Formerly of the University of Huddersfield, she is now Professor of Music at the University of York and has worked on culture and regeneration projects in the city.

Prof Cowgill (above) said: “I am delighted to receive this award, which recognises the value of culture and the arts at a time when the performing arts in particular are being undermined by funding cuts.”

Melanie John-Ross, of Holmfirth, receives an MBE for services to children and families in Barnsley. She retired as director of children’s services at Barnsley Council in 2022.

Jayne Clarke, of Holmfirth, receives an OBE for services to further education. She is executive principal of the Pinnacle Learning Trust and principal at Oldham Sixth Form College.

The honours will be presented to all recipients in the next six months.