Today I read the news that libraries in my hometown of Peterborough will have their hours cut in order to make savings to the council budget. Following Ange Fitzpatrick’s lead I thought I’d write about my own public library experience.
My story begins in Werrington Library which is sadly one of those affected by the cuts in Peterborough. When I think back I can paint a pretty life-like picture of the library in my mind. We’d arrive and lock up our bikes under the overhanging brick entrance. I always thought the main entrance to the building was rather sinister, no matter what the weather it was cold and dark, but once inside there was a homely smell of tea and biscuits coming from the community centre on the left. We would turn right though into the library itself, through the metal swing gate. From there it was just a short hop and a skip up the steps to the children’s area where Captain Pugwash, Asterix and TinTin were awaiting me.
When we were small my sister and I would go to story time (Michelle Obama was not one of the readers in Werrington) and as we got older we took part in the summer reading scheme. I was a slow reader and so never managed to fill up my sheet, my sister however ate books and I’m sure my parents valued the savings they made by taking her to the library rather than a bookshop for her fix.
By my teenage years I had caught up with my sister in the reading stakes. I’d progressed from the Hardy Boys to Point Horror and from there to Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski series. As soon as I was done with one, there was another in the series to read. This is where the library really came into its own for me, there’s not enough money in the world, or space on my bookshelves for my crime fiction habit.
Now, although I’m a long way from those days in Werrington, I’m still using my local public library in the same way. I very rarely buy books any more. I prefer to borrow from the library because it’s more opportunistic; you take your chances on what will be on the shelves when you go in. Sometimes though if I’m really keen to read something I’ll place a reservation and I don’t begrudge the 85p I have to pay if it means I don’t have to go to the central branch to pick it up.
Image by The U.S. Army. Licenced under
Today I have been in my current job – Academic Support Librarian for Business at the University of Warwick – for one year. What better way to celebrate than with a cake?
I’m in quite a reflective mood and so decided to write this blog post about what I’ve done this year and where I am professionally one year on.
Starting at this point in the academic year proved to be really helpful. Enquiries die down a bit in term 3 so I wasn’t too overwhelmed during the first couple of months and then I had the summer vacation to get to know people in my department and plan for the new year. Having come from a very similar job previously I didn’t have a lot of work to do familiarising myself with the resources and so answering enquiries was fairly straightforward. My main priority therefore was building relationships with both support and academic staff at the business school.
First up were the programme managers and I think I can say at this point that these are my strongest relationships – they keep me in the loop with activities on their courses, we have procedures in place for reading lists and have an open communication channel about training, especially for new starters.
I have found it more difficult to build relationships with the academics. 6 months ago if you’d asked me how I felt I was getting on with this I’d probably have said poorly. However, in the past few months a couple of projects I’ve been working on have helped to change this. The hardest part is making that first contact. But once it’s established and you’ve shown how you can help it’s really about keeping the momentum going.
One of the reasons I particularly wanted to move to Warwick was the fact that it has one university library. I was previously at Oxford where the library services are fragmented. I love the fact that all library staff are in one building (with the exception of the small team in the Learning Grid). I think this goes a long way to help build a sense of community. I was able to meet most people within my first few weeks just walking around the building. Getting to know so many people helped me to immediately feel that I belonged.
People have been asking me today whether the year has gone quickly. It’s absolutely flown by. All at once I feel like I’ve been here forever, in that I’m settled and involved in work and projects across the library, but also that I can’t quite believe it has been a year already.
Recently I have come to realise that I can’t go on holiday without visiting a library in the area that I am staying. What can I say, I’m drawn to them. I find it’s always a useful experience to see what is going on in different libraries.
I’ve just come back from a few weeks in New Zealand and my library of choice on this trip was Wellington Central Library, one of the Wellington City Libraries.
One thing that I was immediately impressed with was the use of space. It is fairly open plan but the choice and placement of furniture creates natural zoning. This is especially evident on the ground floor where there’s a multimedia area, comfortable reading lounge and childrens space all interspersed with the library collections, issue and enquiry desks. It sounds cluttered but it really doesn’t feel that way. It defintely had an atmosphere that made me want to stay all day.
The second thing that jumped out at me was the signage, and in particular the Path Finder navigation leaflets covering a range of topics including Searching the Catalogue, My Library, Business Information and Government Statistics. These were prominently displayed on stands around the entrance to the library, the catalogue PCs and staff desks. Crucially they were also placed in relevant positions on shelves.
The last thing I want to comment on was attempts to engage different user communities. This poster in particular stood out to me:
So, if you happen to find yourself in central Wellington with some time to spare, I’d thoroughly recommend a visit. And if you can extend that visit to include a Flat White and an Afghan in Clark’s Cafe (situated on Floor 1) you definitely won’t be disappointed.