I love the variety in my work – no two days are ever the same, and there is no such thing as an average day; and I love the huge mix of people you meet, all with their own tastes & opinions. I think we tend to select friends who have similar outlook and values to ourselves, and who are often at the same stage of their lives, so it’s easy to become closed to different attitudes & experiences. When you spend your days talking to the huge range of people who come through the library, you really do get exposed to so many more ideas.
We have an informal book swap – it started when the library put our some of the books no longer needed in the collection for people to take. People really enjoyed sorting through them and taking what interested them. We noticed that some would reappear a few weeks later, as the first reader finished them and bought them back to swap for something else. Now people are adding their own books, we often get people dropping off unwanted books when they are moving, or have just had a clean out, and they all go there for people to share and enjoy.
The main change I have found over my 20 years as a librarian is the technology – members can access a much wider and deeper collection via their local libraries than they could previously, often from the comfort of home.
I read mostly fiction, across just about all genres. I love the feeling of getting lost in a different character, experience, place or time. Recently I’ve enjoyed Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch novels (space opera), Tana French’s psychological/crime series set in Dublin, Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests, Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread and Ben Aaronovich’s Rivers of London (police procedural with magic).
My book collection at home is huge! I love to have books around – to dip into, to savour, to revisit and comfort – read. I collect the books I know that I’ll want to re-read at some point, or have that quirky bit of information I’ve never found anywhere else. My collection is a real mixture of practical instruction – cooking, gardening, craft and great fiction, ranging from kids board books to genre to more literary.
Susan Hill wrote a wonderful book “Howards End is on the landing”, about a year of re-reading her own books. I’d love to poke around in a collection like that – one that had grown organically over a lifetime love or books and reading.
I was showing a group of very senior council people including the CEO and various directors around my branch library – and trying to impress them with my professionalism, competence and charm, when a crocodile of around 20 toddlers from a local preschool arrived for their weekly library visit. This particular group happened to include my daughter, who cheerfully waved and called out “hello mummy” as she toddled past. All her friends– trained to chant “please” and “thank you” in unison – chimed in with a “hello mummy” too, and a friendly wave to the senior managers, who looked a bit surprised, but did (mostly) wave back.
Libraries are gateways—they are open to all, allowing us to step beyond what we have and who we are, to learn and grow and become who we want to be.