Tag Archives: services

Guest post: The Travelling Suitcase Library: why I will always support public libraries.

Today’s guest blog post is from Jess Haigh.  Jess has worked in FE libraries for the past three years. She runs the Travelling Suitcase Library (feel free to link to me blog), which facilitates book swaps around Leeds and at various events. You can contact her through twitter @BookElfLeeds or email her bookelfleeds@gmail.com

I’ve been working in libraries for three years now. Nothing can undermine the importance of libraries to me. I have seen women my age who have never read a book before in their lives become avid readers in a matter on months because of the work librarians do. I have seen young fathers learn how to bond with their children, refugees learn the language that allows them to stay in their country, and teenager’s faces light up when I slip the brand new copy of the latest popular series onto a shelf.

Yes, the libraries I’ve worked in have been in FE, but we work in partnership with the excellent public library service in Leeds, and I personally promote the public library whenever possible (though a part of me wishes they’d desensitise their books more!).

I once had a student who was permanently had her phone strapped to the side of her head, which goes against out House Rules, so you can imagine we got on like a house on fire.  She was bored one day waiting for her friend and her eyes drifted across to the Quick Reads display. She picked up a book and casually flicked through it before appearing to read it.  Just before she left she sidled up to the desk and borrowed the book; nothing was said between us but for the first time in over a year I didn’t feel like the mean bad tempered library assistant. She came in the next day to return it, I asked if she’d enjoyed it and for the next ten minutes gazed in joy as she started praising the book, and explaining how it was the first time in a long time she had turned her phone off; her friends kept interrupting her when she was trying to read!!!

This would never have happened had it not been for libraries. Were it not for libraries, thousands of people would have no access to computers, to books at a suitable level for them, to dedicated book lovers who want to help in whatever way they can on someone’s quest for knowledge.

On a typical day at the issue desk I can be asked literally anything, I dread to think how my partners sitting on the issues desks in public libraries cope! From people looking for ‘books about stuff’ (also known as That Pink Book You Know With The Thing On It), to the mature male student who was looking for both a book about wood and Princess Di’s biography (I think the first book was a cover), we are here to make people’s dreams come true.

Last February I started the Travelling Suitcase Library. This has grown in the last year from me sitting on my own in a pub with a suitcase full of books trying to engage fellow drinkers in a dialogue about their reading to a monthly book swap event that is also touring the country this month. I would never want to usurp public libraries, and if they had the funding then I would not need to do the TSL myself, because they’d be doing it already. Much is said about ‘volunteers’ making society what it is, but if we valued out librarians as much as we value our businesses and bankers, then we wouldn’t need to have people working for free, and everyone would be much happier.

Although I love running the TLS, and have received a very positive response to it, I’d give it up in a second if I thought I was contributing to the demise of the status of the public library. However, whilst the libraries in Leeds are shut on a Sunday evening, I’ll continue to haul my tomes to my local pub once a month, in the hope of spreading the word about how great reading is to more people.

Guest bloggers are not affiliated with VftL, and all views and opinions are their own.

Sophie’s story

My love of public libraries!

From a very young age I remember the thrill of being taken into my local library (Coxheath library in Maidstone) and having access to a multitude of books. Not only that but welcoming staff were on hand to advise and help me choose from the wide range of books. As I grew older it was still a thrill to be able to choose whatever book I wanted and being able to access so many different worlds and cultures. I do believe that was my first chance to choose for myself and make my own decisions, but even better I could make those decisions within the safety and comfort of the library.

As a student I discovered the other side of libraries and began using non-fiction for the first time. This was like a whole new discovery and just led me to rely on libraries even more! It was due to my early love of libraries that I eventually ended up working in one. I dallied in both medical and academic libraries before realising that public libraries were of such valuable importance and I wanted to contribute to their vital functions. I have now worked my way up to a Community Librarian post and am grateful that every day I am still learning. The impact that libraries can make on the local community is incredible. This is achieved not only by bringing people into libraries but the invaluable Outreach work that is done by many library staff. From a visit into a Children’s Centre or preschool right up to a visit to a nursing home – every age range is reached and the input from the library is invaluable to them.

For me there is nothing more rewarding than visiting a school and then a few days or weeks later meeting a child that was part of that visit – who after the visit has come into the library. It means that the simple act of storytelling can have made an immense difference to that child. To the point that the child has now gone from the confines of the school and ventured into the library and even better they have bought their parent or carer with them. If I can instill the love of the library that I have into the next generation then I feel as if I am doing my job successfully and reaching out to those who may not know how special public libraries really are.

Jonic’s story

Mid afternoon last Friday I conducted a catalogue search for books on
literacy to help me prepare a course I’ve been asked to deliver and placed some
reservations.  At 6.30pm that day I received a call from Caerphilly Library
telling me that one of the reserved items was ready for me to pick up.  I
arranged to collect it the following morning.
When I arrived in Caerphilly to pick up my reservation I was told that another
reservation had arrived for me, from Risca.  I can’t fault the pleasant and
cheerful help given by the staff in Caerphilly.  This service has been such a
pleasure to use, as well as being a lifesaver at times.

I first registered with Caerphilly Library in primary school and it has been a
boon to me over the last fifty-umpteen years.  In 1964 I was inspired by example
of the staff there to seek employment in a academic library – absolutely the
best job ever!  Although I worked in several libraries over the years, I now
work in adult education and find it so disappointing that many young people (and
older ones too) would never dream of using a library and find reading ‘boring’.

Thank you, Caerphilly Library staff (in all branches) for all your help and also
for the pleasure I’ve received from using your service over the years.

Kristin’s story

I left college in May, and now armed with qualifications, I’m out on the prowl for work. I have been actively applying for work, however since the start of the recession I’ve been very aware of the scarcity of jobs and the abundance of applicants and that actually setting up my own business would be the way forward. Being mentally prepared for this has meant I’m now in the process of starting up as a sole trader – providing photographic services to commercial clients and also to brides-to-be.

Its not easy setting up and photography is an extremely competitive business. Being a new graduate and still working on building my client list, I have limited financial resources at my disposal. Every penny I spend is carefully and cautiously considered.  So of course I love having free access to resources that can help me.

I recently attended a Business Gateway networking session for women into business. During the event, there was a five-minute introduction from the local library, talking about what services they could offer to new businesses. During the coffee break, there was a crowd gathered around the library representatives, asking questions and everyone signing up for a library card. I queued patiently, and was provided with fact sheets and a new library card.

With my new library card, I can access information not just by visiting the library, but also remotely via the internet using Cobra (Complete Business Reference Adviser). It’s an absolute treasure chest to me, with information helping me with the day-to-day obstacles I have to overcome to set up my business. In addition, I also have access to valuable marketing information, which I’m using to help plan how to market my business effectively and make the most of my limited financial resources.

At a time when banks are closing doors to new and small businesses, the library has become a haven of information to help me work around that. My library card is probably as valuable as a credit card. What it gives me in information, I am going to be able to use to target customers effectively and allow my business to grow. By providing this service, libraries contribute directly to positive local economic growth, something we shouldn’t forget particularly in the middle of a recession.

Fiona’s story

Aren’t public libraries brilliant?! What has prompted this sudden rush
of feeling? A trip to the library with my 14 month-old twins. We
recently moved to Hove and a visit to Hove library has become one of our
weekly outings. The girls love it. They like to rummage through all the
baby books in the easily accessible boxes, look at all the shelves, all
the pictures and all the other children. I love it because it keeps them
happy and occupied in a safe, calm and friendly environment.

Best of all it’s free and the enjoyment continues when we get home and
examine our spoils. It’s great to be able to try out lots of different
books to see what really takes their interest. We’ve found authors we
might not have otherwise discovered – current favourite is Lynley Dodd
<http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writers/doddlynley.html>  and her lovely
Hairy Maclary books.

When I was busy working full time, it was easy to take public libraries
for granted. I had so many entertainment options open to me and books
were readily available to buy. I’d duck into the library, pick up a few
books and head straight back out. Now I’ve been spending a bit more time
there, I’ve really come to appreciate it as a community space. The
children’s library is always busy and is much enjoyed by mums, dads and
kids alike.

I for one am profoundly grateful for the public library and the services
it offers – after all there really aren’t that many places you are
welcome with a pair of energetic and curious 14-month olds on a rainy
day! And hopefully, it will be the start of a lifelong love of reading
for them…and that really is priceless.

Fiona’s story was originally published on the Sue Hill blog.

Mary’s story

I have been the Music Librarian for my local choral society for six years now. Over the years we have sung such diverse pieces as Bach’s St. Matthe Passion and Jonathan Dove’s The Passing of the Year, as well as choral works by Pizzetti, Widor, Langlais, Schumann, Handel, Mozart, Brahms and many others. We have used one particular public library to source the music, because not only have they themselves got a large range of music sets available for local music societies, but also their music librarian is extremely knowledgeable about classical music (as a good amateur musician himself) and how to obtain sets for us.

Unfortunately, his post is under discussion at the current time (September 2010) and he has told us that if he were to be made redundant we would not get the same level of service that we have enjoyed up until now. The libraries in our area are currently selling off vast amounts of their music stock as well – and they are not replacing it. We would find it very hard to obtain music without the help of a public library. Music publishers do have hire libraries, but they are run more like businesses and charge a lot more for the use of their music. This would have an obvious knock-on effect for our members and our choir.

The UK has this extremely rich resource of music in public libraries, which has been built up over the last 50 years or so – not to mention the extensive knowledge of some music librarians – which local communities, churches, music societies and organisations have been lucky enough to tap into at a relatively low cost. As far as I see it these valuable resources – both music scores and knowledge – are being destroyed in our current economic climate.

Gateshead’s community websites

Gateshead Libraries works in partnership with a variety of local community groups, to help them establish a web presence and build links with other organisations. Here are some of the community groups they have worked with to set up a web presence.

Avenues Community Centre – The Avenues project works with young people. It operates a detached youth work service and a daytime service which provides information and advice to young people. Sessions cover health and alternative education information and a separate young women’s group is also held. Different Communities are involved with the Project, including the local community and young people, the Muslim Community, Jewish Community, Visible minority ethnic community, Bangladeshi Community, as well Asylum seekers. The Project’s main aim is to include through community cohension and break the barriers of age race and gender.

Gafricom – Gafricom is an organisation of African people living in Gateshead and its surrounding area. They are working towards our vision that the African Community can become an integral part of community life and contribute effectively to a better Gateshead. They undertake projects, which enable Africans to obtain skills necessary for their future livelihoods.

Gateshead Arts Association – Gateshead Arts Association is an organisation that represents the interests of Amateur Arts groups in the Gateshead Council area. These groups cover the range of disciplines in the Performing, Literary and Visual arts. Often the Association hosts events which involve many of these groups in the same programme, which allows those groups who normally work on their own to meet with groups of another discipline, often to mutual benefit.

Gateshead Young Women’s Outreach Project – Many people, particularly women, lack confidence and self-esteem for a vast range of reasons, and this can have a major impact on their lives. The Young Women’s Project offers empowering learning opportunities where skills can be developed and built upon, enabling young women to value themselves and make confident decisions about their lives.

Stag Project [Update: this site no longer live] – The STaG Group provides an opportunity for gay men to meet other gay and bisexual men in a safe, relaxed and supportive environment. There is a range of activities, including social evenings, quizzes, a variety of talks and discussions on topics chosen by the members, outings, walks.

The Book Station – The Bookstation is the place to stop if you are looking for something good to read. Each month we will review a title that has been read at our young adult readers group which meets monthly at Gateshead Central Library. All the reviews on this site have been produced and input by them. You can send in your own book review or story. [Note. This site is no longer online. Links to archived version, April 2012]

The Lawnmowers Independent Theatre Company – The Lawnmowers Independent Theatre Company is run by and for people with learning difficulties.