So this is it: my last day at work and it feels very unreal. Please indulge me in a little reminiscence.
I have been lucky enough to have the unique and fantastic job of coordinator of a regional reader development network for the last 13 years. It grew out of a training programme led by Opening the Book, which I was lucky enough to attend back in 1996.
I was lucky in 2 ways. Someone else from Manchester was supposed to attend that course but at the last minute decided she didn’t have time and asked me. Also lucky in that the course seemed to finally confirm my real professional enthusiasms; reading led me into libraries from an early age and wanting to extend a love of reading of all sorts of books, was always why I stayed working in public libraries for so long.
On the course we discussed Readers Groups as a model which did exist, but in nothing like the numbers they are now. I started one not long afterwards and am still with it!
We discussed reader-centred activities, using feedback as a means of promotion and how to help readers browse, through improved, imaginative and smarter display. All of these, through staff training, became core to improved contact with readers. I owe Wendy, who should have been on that course rather than me, and Rachel and Olive who led the course, a huge debt of gratitude.
From there, a core number of key people in the region kept us working together, until, supported by the then Arts Council NW, a post was created back in 2002 and I was lucky enough to be appointed.
Here I must publicly thank Manchester City Council and its various Heads of Library Service, who over the years not only agreed that I could be initially seconded into the post but who have continued to host it, made it possible for me to stay permanently in it and who are even now working for its continuation. Without their support it may have disappeared years ago.
I have loved many things about the job, chiefly the opportunities to be creative and to work with some really enthusiastic and imaginative practitioners. Regular meetings meant that, as far as I could tell, a warm team spirit existed and the more experienced members helped newcomers generously.
I loved the travel, around the region and beyond. I had 2 fantastic opportunities to go abroad to speak at conferences in Melbourne and Helsinki where I saw libraries using the best library traditions and developing them in new ways.
An expectation of new projects to work with meant that I had to try to come up with creative ideas. Ideas don’t often come out of a vacuum so I had to listen hard and pick up what people might be suggesting or wanting. Thanks to everyone who over the years made some really great suggestions.
Shaping new projects was occasionally worrying but more often enjoyable. There have been too many projects to list, but some real high spots for me were: networking with lots of NW writers to help promote their work, The Big Gay Read when I stood on a stage with Sir Ian McKellen and Armistead Maupin, Pure Passion when we really did have lots of sponsorship to enable us to hold many events and a glitzy award ceremony and Try Reading which saw us working with the “other side of the Pennines” to link reading to the Rugby League World Cup. There were some other biggish events- a sports reading day at LCC County Cricket Club, a History launch in The Bluecoat Liverpool and most recently an evening with comedian and broadcaster Robin Ince. For someone who doesn’t always have nerves of steel, its been as exciting as I could wish for at work!
I couldn’t have done any of it without good people on the frontline of service and I want to give big thanks and acknowledgement to all of you still hard at work . I toast you all and wish you all possible luck for the future!
Clearly there will be a bit of a gap now in updates to this section of the website. Best of luck to whoever comes after me. I really hope you enjoy this job as much as I have done.
Goodbye from me!