THE KING’s New Year Honours list 2024 has revealed that a librarian from Oswestry has received a British Empire Medal for his firm commitment to voluntary public service.

Richard Charles Fowler, aged 70, is a founder member and trustee of the Community Managed Libraries National Peer Network (CMLNPN), a body that advocates for community-led libraries in England and Wales.

Mr Fowler said he is thrilled to have been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM), although he was not expecting it.


“About a month ago I got a letter from the Cabinet Office – and it was complete surprise to me," he said.

“It’s something I really wasn’t expecting but it’s nice to be acknowledged for the things that I have done.”

Mr Fowler moved to Oswestry when he was 10 years old and attended Oswestry Boys High School. He went on to study for a degree in Library Studies, the practical part of which saw him working on the mobile library running out of Oswestry and in the library of the Rubber and Plastics Research Association in Shawbury.

Mr Fowler continued: “I ended up working in a number of non-library related businesses until I retired and became involved with the library in Harbury, a community managed library in Warwickshire, developing it, along with a team of other volunteers, into a vibrant village hub.

Border Counties Advertizer: Richard Charles Fowler BEMRichard Charles Fowler BEM (Image: Richard Charles Fowler BEM)

“I've recently moved back to Shropshire and am living in Morda with my wife Julia.”

Harbury Village Library (HVL) is now a nationally recognised example of a community hub. They provide a focal point for their local communities and many, like HVL, are now nationally registered Warm Welcome Spaces.

Mr Fowler added: “Like other libraries, it provides a neutral space for people struggling with the cost of living crisis to come for free tea, coffee and biscuits, to sit and chat or just rest, to get access to the internet so that they can apply for jobs and find out what benefits are available.

“We provide a range of materials about the local communities and what Parish, District and County councils have available.”

The 70-year-old will be awarded the medal by His Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of Shropshire, Anna Turner, next year.

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Together with his wife he will be attending the ceremony and also a garden party at Buckingham Palace.

Mr Fowler said: “I feel really positive about the future of libraries – in particular community-managed libraries have become much more than just a place to borrow books.

“Almost every library has become a Warm Welcome place – and I think that is important because they are neutral spaces, making it easier for people to drop in.”