Dear Brother, You have no idea what I do!

Dear Brother,

After a few librarian jokes at Christmas I told you that you have no idea what I do. I realise this is because we have never really spoken about my work and I know that your joke ‘shushes’ are just what most people think librarians spend their time doing! So lovely brother it is time I tell you the truth. I have written down my favourite projects from 2014 – these are some of the things I have been doing at work over the last 12 months.

Shouting about libraries
I chair the LibrariesWest Marketing Group as I know we need to be better at promoting what we do – to get the word out that libraries are vibrant places where people come to learn, get support with their health, work and life and to enjoy diving into other worlds through reading. I want us to shout about how important libraries are!

Social media
After writing a successful business case for using social media we launched our library Facebook and Twitter in January 2014. You can see a Storify board I’ve compiled which shows how much is going on in libraries.

I also took over the @LibrariesWest Twitter account in December 2013 and have taken it from 12 tweets and 70 followers, to over 900 followers and more than 850 tweets during 2014.

BBC Radio in the library
In early 2014 we arranged a BBC Radio Bristol/Somerset tour of libraries in the area. The Laura Rawlings Show was broadcast live (with well-known authors) from a different library everyday for five days, and the libraries held community events with partners to celebrate all that libraries offer.

Visits and volunteering
Myself and a colleague visited the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter and National Trust Tyntesfield to meet with managers responsible for volunteer recruitment and management. Ideas for communication and processes were taken back and implemented.

With over 200 volunteers supporting our 13 libraries our volunteering team works hard to continually develop the volunteering offer.

Digital inclusion
In 2013/14 105, 624 computer hours were used in our 12 static libraries and there were 282, 425 virtual visits to our services. Dear brother you know how important it is to be online.

And yet there are around 11 million adults in the UK who lack the skills to get online (49% of these people have a disability, 61% are aged 65 and over). Our libraries, all with free computer facilities and WiFi, are well placed in communities to help people take the first steps to get online.

In 2014 I have been a regional trainer, supporting the national programme to train all library staff as Digital Champions – reinforcing the role libraries play in helping communities to access life essential information and services, which are increasingly online.

I have compiled an infograph: Digital Libraries – Innovation, Partnership and Digital Inclusion

Libraries are constantly changing – during 2014 we launched our library App, free downloadable eMagazines, a children’s eBook service (to go with our existing eBook and eAudiobook, online newspapers, and online reference library service).

Innovation is a hot topic for libraries – during my Summer holiday I went to Exeter Library (which has a FabLab) and heard the amazing award-winning librarian Corinne Hill from Chattanooga Library, Tennessee talk about her library developments.

I supported a colleague to apply for the CarnegieLibrary Lab (to enhance innovation and leadership in libraries), and although she didn’t get a space this time, we will be working to implement her fab ideas in 2015. Colleagues are also involved in the council 50 days of digital, tech geek project – to develop and roll out new digital projects in 2015.

Home Library Service
The Home Library Service is for anyone who finds it difficult to leave their home, either because of their own ill-health or responsibilities as a carer – books are delivered by volunteers on a regular basis.

During 2014 we surveyed our Home Library Service customers and we’re delighted that there was 100% satisfaction and some fantastic statistics about the value of this service:

91% said “It gives me confidence to remain at home”
91% said “The service is a lifeline”
88% said “It reduces my feelings of isolation”

One customer summed up this important service: “It gives one contact with other humans, which one would otherwise not have”.

Since this survey we have recruited over 60 potential new volunteers so we can extend the service to more people who need it.

Memories Shared : reminiscence tablet project
I secured £5k funding for us to invest in 30 tablets. We designed a project to break down barriers to ICT and build confidence in using technology by stimulating interest through reminiscence – old photos of the local area from our local history collection are loaded on to the tablets, along with example eBooks, eMagazines and information about services available to support people to stay independent in their own homes.

We trialled this at an Age UK group, where older people spent the afternoon talking to their friends and remembering the past decades. One participant who is living with dementia ‘lit up’ in a way her carer had never seen before. This was one of my most rewarding and moving working days in 2014.

A hard-working team
I feel really privileged to work with a team of librarians and library staff who go the extra mile every day to support people. You will never get shushed! – quite the opposite as those working in libraries will listen, guide and help.

Digital Leadership
There is a lot to look forward to in 2015. In particularly I am really exciting to be part a the cohort of 17 library leaders participating in SCL’s Digital Leadership programme. It is critical that we continue to develop the library workforce at all levels in this fast changing digital world so that we can deliver better and more innovative library services. It’s great to be part of that!

So dear Brother these are my highlights from 2014. I hope you have read this far! And I hope you can see that my libraries are very much about helping people and communities. I don’t mind the shush jokes, in fact I would be disappointed if they stopped. But now I hope we can laugh about how funny and outdated the stereotype is!!

[Update: It turns out my dear Brother does know what I do and I love him for that! But I am keeping this blog here for all the people who ask me what I actually do when I say I’m a librarian].

One thought on “Dear Brother, You have no idea what I do!

  1. Dear sister, I’ve always known what you do and always explain this to people when I tell them what you do. I’m very proud of my sisters career, but when it comes to mocking my sister…….. sshhhhhhhh………. These books are late.


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