This week’s Sector Spotlight is on the Leisure and Sport Industry. Today we hear from Karen Walker who is the Principal Librarian for Orkney Library and Archive.
Karen didn’t know what she wanted to do when she left school. She joined a Youth Opportunities Programme and was offered work in the Laing Street Library. She loved this work and continued training in her role and worked her way up the ladder.
Can you describe a typical day in your job?
The first thing I do is say hello to my colleagues, then check emails and deal with any urgent queries. I then check my diary for any meetings.
We often have to deal with requests for interviews/articles/podcasts on our successful social media presence and the services we offer which differ from other mainland libraries. These different services include our mobile service and Box service to islands without roll on-roll off facilities.
Email communication is very important now - there are professional library related email groups to monitor which informs me of upcoming national campaigns what funding opportunities and projects are available to apply for. These mail groups also provide help and advice when required.
I check out funding opportunities for specific projects (a recent successful application and project was Orkney Story Stack, a digital storytelling project).
Book ordering is done on a weekly basis, and requests from customers are always considered.
I have regular communication and meetings with OIC colleagues regarding HR issues, reports, etc.
There can often be IT problems to report/fix as we provide free interest access and WiFi to all service users and our library management systems are hosted on the internet. Any building problems are also reported. I then need to chase up any outstanding issues.
There are regular author events to organise throughout the year, where I have to book venue, flights, accommodation, staff cover and advertising.
Finally, I regularly check out training opportunities for staff – professional development is essential so that we can offer the best service.
How did you end up in your current role?
My journey to Principal Librarian was almost accidental really.
I left school with Highers but hadn’t decided what I was going to do. In 1980, there was a government scheme – YOP (Youth Opportunities Programme) which offered me the chance to work at the Library in Laing Street for 6 months – I thought why not?
Luckily for me, another member of staff was taking a break from work to start a family in 1981, and I was able to take on her post. After a couple of years, the Chief Librarian asked me if I had thought about further training as a Librarian, so I applied to Robert Gordon’s in Aberdeen and was accepted to start my BA in Librarianship and Information Studies in 1983.
After 3 years, I qualified and started as the Children’s Librarian in Sep 1986. I have been the Principal Librarian since 2004.
What is the best thing about your job?
The variety of work, the wonderful team working here and meeting people from all over the world. The number of visitors we have because of our Twitter feed is unbelievable.
Making a difference by offering a great service to all in Orkney – we are a free service and do our best to be welcoming, friendly and helpful. It is widely recognised that libraries are a safe & trusted space. We can offer space for community groups to meet.
The building is really great too, bright and spacious.
Our brilliant Social media presence – especially Orkney Library Twitter which has over 67K followers!
Being part of the national library community in Scotland which offers staff training and advice.
What is the worst thing about your job?
Not having enough time!
I miss being able to engage with customers at the front line – I am office based so don’t get the chance to meet our customers very often.
Managing the service under financial pressures is challenging but this is the same for all Scottish libraries now. I’m glad to say the job is mostly good.
What skills do you need to undertake your role?
You really do need to be organised, able to work as part of and lead a team.
Communication skills are essential but can always be improved.
You are always learning in this post so must be keen to learn and keep abreast of local and national promotions, ideas and opportunities.
Being open minded and adaptable to change is essential.
What qualifications do you have?
I have a Bachelor of Arts in Librarianship & Information Studies.
You would also be expected to have your MCLIP (Chartership).
Would you recommend this job to young people, if so why?
I would recommend this job – being part of the community and appreciated as such is a great feeling. Libraries are a valuable place for culture, heritage and learning – and best of all most services are free.
You can visit Orkney Library and Archive on their:
Website - www.orkneylibrary.org.uk
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/orkneylibraryandarchive/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/OrkneyLibrary
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/orkneylibrary/