I started this blog four years ago; initially as a place to share my senior thesis research, which looked at adult education programs offered by public libraries, but the blog evolved to focus more on sharing articles that related to how public libraries connect with their communities in general (hence the name). During this time, the situation for public libraries in the UK, where I currently live, has become pretty dire, due to severe funding cuts from the government, and my interest shifted more to being an advocate for public libraries, and supporting various library advocacy groups and campaigns.
Public Libraries vs. Academic Libraries
I worked for over two years in a public library in the US, and when I relocated to the UK, it was my goal to find a similar job here, as a library assistant, but those kinds of jobs are few and far between. Instead, I have spent the last couple of years working in an academic library. There have been unexpected benefits to this; I have had more opportunities for training and development than I would probably have had in a public library, and I only work during semester, so I am fortunate enough to be able to spend the whole summer taking care of my young children. I work in a small library that holds book stock relating only to a few subject areas, and primarily serves the students that are studying those specific subjects. This is, naturally, vastly different from working in a public library, where both the users and the book stock are more varied.
Recently, I have been sharing more personal pieces of writing on this blog, that traced my career path from working in a bakery at age 17, right up to my current position. The idea behind it was to try to make sense of my apparently jumbled work history, in an attempt to see how all my experiences led me to wanting to work in libraries. The story doesn’t end here, of course; I have a passion for working in libraries, but I am not a qualified library professional, and I am unsure what the next steps in my career will be. For now, I remain a library assistant.
Sharing articles from external sources on here feels a bit hit and miss; I’m not sure how much I am actually contributing to the library advocacy movement by doing that, and indeed, there are other people blogging far more effectively about libraries than I am. For me, it is far more rewarding to write original pieces that somehow relate my personal experiences to the context of libraries; in a way, connecting myself to libraries through sharing my experiences of them, whether as a library user, advocate, or as an employee.
Libraries Connect Communities
The library in which I currently work is going through a period of great change, and I think that will become the focus of some of my writing on here for a while, as I try to contextualize and make sense of my experiences. An academic library serves a different kind of community than a public library, but I believe that libraries connect communities regardless of the kind of libraries they are or the kind of communities they serve.
Thank you for reading; we’ll see how this blog changes and develops over the next four years…
I only stumbled across your blog a couple of weeks ago, but have been enjoying tracing your library journey. Your conclusion about libraries connecting communities is central to our own recent strategy document: Libraries Deliver: Ambition and the more I hear about the challenges and activities in different sectors, the more I think there is less and less that divides them.
I look forward to continuing to read your thoughts.
Julia Chandler (Comms lead for the Libraries Taskforce – also former library worker)
Thanks for your comments, Julia. I have been following the findings of the Libraries Taskforce with interest, and have read the Ambition document. I met Kathy Settle briefly and heard her speak at a libraries conference held at CILIP in 2015, I think. Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read my blog, I really appreciate it. – Matthew
Ahh, I like the more personal writing. Learning who you are as it relates to what you do and the paths you’ve taken in life read much more rewarding, in my opinion. Change is good. Keep sharing you.
Thank you, Julia. Stay tuned!