Adventures of a retired librarian: 2014

Happy-New-Year-Card-562975Year 2 of retirement and I’m still enjoying life – even though nothing very much has changed over the last year. That, and the fact that I was slightly better at writing things up as I went along in 2014, makes an “annual reflection” post more difficult to write. I’ve just read over what I wrote this time last year, and it bubbles with joy and enthusiasm. That’s still there – it’s just no longer such a novelty.

So what has stayed the same in my library world?

  • I’m still volunteering with Glasgow Women’s Library in multiple capacities. What has changed, though, is that I now get paid occasionally for training new volunteers – I’m proud to be a “senior” volunteer!
  • I’m still organising tweetups (though not so many – just two this year, Travelling Librarians and Cornton Vale.)
  • I ran a second Library Camp Glasgow.
  • I’ve done a few more talks / guest posts / articles – I keep a list of these on the “About” page.

What has changed?

  • I’m really proud to have started 23 Librarians which has proved a valuable resource documenting what librarians actually do, has inspired similar blogs in other parts of the UK and featured recently in CILIP Update. I think this is my major achievement of 2014, and it’s still going strong.
  • I’m sad to say goodbye to being a chartership mentor, but when the system changed last year I felt I had done enough. I gave my two remaining candidates a deadline – to submit their portfolios by the last possible date under the old regulations or find a new mentor. One submitted on time and we await the results, though I’m quietly confident that I can add her to my tally of four successful charterships and one revalidation.

What’s the plan for 2015?

  • I intend to keep going with GWL and tweetups (I have three ideas, already one better than last year.) I’m less sure about Library Camp and 23 Librarians – I think the former would benefit from a change of location to another city and the latter will maybe have run its course soon. I’ll keep publishing it as long as people are willing to write for it, but the stream of volunteers is slowing down.
  • I have one more idea for providing library CPD which I can pursue if some of the other things become less time-consuming.
  • I’d like to do more to advocate for libraries. The culture of cuts which has been pervasive in England for some time is spreading to Scotland – so far, I’ve responded to several consultations and sent some material from the Library A to Z campaign to politicians, but I need to follow that up. CILIPS’ advocacy pages are a good place to start. (To anyone reading this before 10th January, you could consider responding to Falkirk Council which proposes to cut its School Library Service. Nicola Morgan’s blog post will fill you in on the details.)

Finally, what do I wish for you?

  • A Happy New Year!
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Adventures of a retired librarian: 2013

What a year that was! 2013 was my first full year away from work and I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed life more, with any worries about being bored or lonely swiftly despatched. The start of a new year is a good time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t and to plan for the future.

The most joyous discovery has been volunteering at Glasgow Women’s Library.  I started as a tour guide for their Women’s Heritage Walks but soon got involved in the library side of things. I’d never really been interested in cataloguing before, but I now find I enjoy it and have recently been training new volunteers. I’ve also done social media training for them, written book reviews, helped with a Scottish Women on Wikipedia day, staffed stalls and pop-up libraries at events and packed and cleaned when they moved premises. Never a dull moment! I’ve written about some of these things, but I always meant to do a more general post about the Library itself and what it did – a library, archive and museum collection which holds and celebrates the cultural, historical, political and social achievements of women across the UK. I was going to call the post Would you like a cup of tea? because that’s the first question you are usually asked when you walk in the door – it’s such a friendly place. As with many other posts, I’ve now accepted that this is one which is never going to make it outside my head, so you’ll just have to check their website instead, and see the montage of photos below.

Less successful was the other regular volunteering I took on, with the Scottish Refugee Council where I spent three months with the Media and Communications Team. Again, I meant to write a full post about the organisation and the wonderful work it does and, again, I never got round to it. I certainly learned a lot – I went in thinking I had some idea of how hard life was for refugees and came out knowing it was far worse than I had thought. I also learned things about myself – I agreed to work a day and a half per week , but found it too much and I now steer clear of anything that requires such a formal commitment. I also discovered that you can take the girl out of the library, but you can’t take the library out of the girl. I work best in places where information is ordered and structured, and was frustrated when that wasn’t always the case. Finally, I banished any notion that I might be interested in going back to study because I was also not very keen on doing the research necessary to write blog posts on issues that I didn’t know very much about. This maybe makes me sound very shallow, and maybe my views will change and I’ll start wanting different things after I’ve been retired for a couple of years, but for now I’m happy with the flexibility of working with GWL. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy working at SRC – everyone was lovely and the fact that it didn’t work out as expected was entirely my own fault. Here’s a shot of a very happy day – the press launch for Refugee Week Scotland which I live tweeted and Storified for them.

Lajee Dancers from Aida Refugee Camp in Palestine perform in Glasgow
Lajee Dancers from Aida Refugee Camp in Palestine

But that’s not all! I’d already started Glasgow Library Tweetups while I was working and continue to organise them. This year we had Library Camp Glasgow which was a huge success and, I think, the greatest single achievement of my year, although the greatest honour was being made an honorary member of CILIPS. If you look at the About page of this blog you’ll see a list of talks, training sessions, book reviews and guest posts that I’ve done and I’m also still involved with SALCTG (Scottish Academic Libraries Cooperative Training Group) which counts as real work because they are actually paying me! I’ve gone from knowing mainly academic librarians to knowing people in all sorts of libraries throughout Scotland. I feel liberated, I think that’s the only word for it.

What next? More of the same – my calendar is starting to fill up pleasingly – and I also have several new plans afoot for providing informal library CPD. If I’m going to keep this blog up as a sort of diary I need to post more regularly, so I’ve changed its name from A New Library World to Adventures of a Retired Librarian in the hope of prompting a fresh start. Watch this space!

Continuing adventures of a retired librarian

This blog has been sadly neglected – because I have been BUSY! Never need I have worried about filling up my time after leaving work. Most of the activity has been social media related – notably the eighth in the series of Glasgow Library Tweetups that I have organised. This was a behind the scenes tour of Glasgow’s Mitchell Library, one of the biggest reference libraries in Europe. The highlight was undoubtedly seeing the Leningrad Album, which is not normally on view, in Special Collections. During the Siege of Leningrad in the Second World War, the women of Airdrie and Coatbridge, near Glasgow, sent an album of solidarity and support to the women of Leningrad, who, despite living in dreadful conditions, managed to reciprocate. It’s a beautiful piece of work and the stories attached to it are very moving. You can read more on the GLTU blog.

I’ve been asked to speak about GLTU at the MmITS AGM next month – in fact I’m quite busy speaking, having already given talks on using Twitter to engage with users to Glasgow Women’s Library, Amina Muslim Women’s Resource Centre and Glasgow University School of Engineering. I never used to do talks beyond my own organisation, so this is quite a surprise.

I’ve also done a couple of guest blog posts for Glasgow Book Groups and Glasgow Women’s Library – you might notice a certain overlap of content, but, hey, who doesn’t recycle material. I’ve mentioned GWL twice now – I volunteer there regularly, and fully intend to write a complete post about it soon. It’s a wonderful organisation.

Before we leave the subject of blogs, I’m very proud to say that I have also got my 83 year old Dad blogging! He’s a retired minister who recently gave up preaching after 60+ years, and a blog is an ideal way for him to continue to share his faith. He supplies the content and I post it – find him at John Mitchell – called and sent.

Coming up next week? I’m volunteering at Aye Write!, Glasgow’s Book Festival. I’ll be on the door at nine sessions and, assuming there aren’t too many latecomers, get to listen in. I’m particularly looking forward to Patrick Ness and Jackie Kay. I’ve also got an induction session as a media and communications volunteer at the Scottish Refugee Council, and there are other opportunities in the pipeline which are not yet formed enough to write about.

So I realise, as someone who used to work full time, that this may not sound all that busy, but I do have a serious point to make. When my job disappeared, I thought I would have to sit down to plan my future to avoid sinking into lethargy. That would no doubt have worked, but actually I never did it. I kept an eye open for suitable openings, and one thing led to another. Before I finished work, I spotted a request to help Glasgow Libraries with Book Week Scotland. Doing that, and proving I was reliable, led directly to Aye Write. I saw a request from Glasgow Women’s Library for new members of their Women Make History Group – after joining that, I got involved in many more aspects of their work (really must write that blogpost). I spotted the Scottish Refugee Council opportunity on Twitter, and using social media generally has given me lots of connections. The skills and knowledge I have built up over many years in work are in demand, and I can concentrate on the interesting ones without having to worry about the dull stuff, such as invoices or statistics. So to anyone else contemplating retirement, assuming the financial situation is right, I would say, go for it. There’s a new world out there waiting for you.

A new library world? Joining cpd23

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Why cpd23, why now?

I thought about joining this CPD programme for libraries last year because, although I knew quite a bit about some of the things, others could do with polishing and some were new altogether. Even though I am in the latter stages of my career it is always good to learn. I decided I didn’t have time because my library was a year from closing and I thought all my energies should be put into making sure that was a smooth transition for the staff concerned.

This year, things are very different. My library is at Jordanhill, the smaller campus of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. You can see Jordanhill in the picture above (although that is the attractive 1920s building and not the rather hideous 60s edifice which houses the library). We are now about a month away from closing – the university is becoming single campus – and I feel my work here is almost done. This week, after months of ups and downs, I have taken the momentous decision not to move with the library. I hate to use the term “retirement” because it makes me feel ancient, but that’s what it is – though I hasten to add it is as early a retirement as it could possibly be. I squeak into the category by 2 weeks.

So what better time to start learning something new and meeting new people, even if only virtually? As several people have remarked, once a librarian, always a librarian, and I certainly agree in my case at least. I have various plans for keeping in touch with the library world and starting new activities. If I find new roles, I will certainly need new skills so a new library world indeed – here I come!