Tributes have been paid to Fiona Williams, former Chief Executive of Explore York Libraries and Archives, who has died at the age of 60.
Fiona moved to York as Head of Libraries in 2004 where she developed a new vision for libraries and archives in the city.
Under her leadership, in 2014 Explore York became the UK’s first public library mutual owned by its staff and the community.
Explore is now recognised nationally for its innovative, experimental approach showing the continuing value of public libraries in the 21st century.
Fiona was proud to receive the British Empire Medal for her service to libraries in 2022. She retired from Explore last year.
Chris Edwards, Chair of Explore, said: “I had the privilege to work with Fiona over the last four years as we continued to refine and develop Explore as a key player in every aspect of the City’s life.
“Fiona’s passion, commitment and vision always shone through in everything she did. She was looking forward to her retirement and watching Explore further develop into the extraordinary organisation she had always dreamed it would become. She will be sadly missed by all of us who knew her well.”
Jenny Layfield, Chief Executive of Explore, said: “We are all deeply saddened to hear about Fiona. She was the driving force behind the creation of Explore and was an inspiration to many of the team here. Professionally, she pushed boundaries, took risks and innovated. She was supportive, kind and a good listener. Our thoughts are with her friends and family at this time.”
Ian Floyd, Chief Operating Officer at City of York Council, said: “Fiona Williams was a passionate and dedicated champion of libraries in York over the course of nearly 20 years. Her work was recognised nationally and resulted in her receiving a British Empire Medal in 2022.
“Among her stellar achievements was to set up Explore, the UK’s first public library mutual in 2014. Under her leadership, Explore won a 15-year contract to deliver library and archive services to the city from 2019.
“That York’s libraries are thriving hubs at the heart of communities across York is testament to the dedication of Fiona and her colleagues. With so many people visiting, meeting in, learning, finding support and reading in so many libraries across the city is an amazing legacy.
“We will be forever grateful for Fiona’s contribution to the city and its libraries. Our thoughts and good wishes are with Fiona’s friends and family at this sad time.”