In Praise of Library Staff

One of the qualities I admire about so many of my colleagues is the quiet steadiness. Sometimes its fuelled by bloody-mindedness, and often without even realising just how creative and caring they are. Libraries work in the heart of our communities and hear people’s stories day in and day out – often struggling through transport and bad weather themselves to provide warm welcomes and activities for all.

Even when times are tough and we’re stretched thin, there’s a resilience that keeps people smiling and turning up. The reasons vary from person to person in their particulars but the overwhelming majority cite helping people as a major reason to do what they do. Sharing their love and knowledge of books can sometimes feel far away from the grind of making sure that people can do their printing, but its a rare person working in a library who doesn’t light up when someone is excitedly telling us about a new book they’ve discovered. It doesn’t matter how old or young that excited discoverer is, a library person will listen with a broad grin on the face.

Being at the heart of our communities we’ve seen a natural call for schemes aiming to raise quality of life. Whether that’s warm banks or trading standards testing equipment; firefighters advising on alarms and prevention, or offering space to Citizens Advice to meet their clients there’s a growing realisation that libraries are continuing to provide safe and neutral spaces. More importantly its becoming clear to a wider audience that these actions and interactions are nothing new. Libraries have been doing this for decades, quietly supporting and boosting local groups and being spaces for growth.

As a manager I occasionally field complaints about how libraries should be quiet spaces and all this bustle should be dismissed, and depending on the context of the conversation there are a number of responses that I find useful. In essence, there’s a world of difference between academic libraries and community libraries. Public libraries are firmly in the latter camp, and have been for many years – with ebbs and flows in the focus of activities of the day to provide a rich variety of ways to use the space.

We couldn’t do it without the staff. They bring enthusiasm and delight, along with steady professionalism and a spice of gossip. I continue to count myself very lucky to be working in libraries – there’s no job like it

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