"It’s hard hanging out with celebrities and acclaimed authors, but someone’s got to do it."

Posted 21 May 2018 by Samuel Thornley in Opinion

Oldham entrance

Libraries are an exciting place to be in 2018, no longer are they a place of “shush” or “be quiet”, but we all know this by now. By all accounts, I am still new to libraries, having only joined Oldham’s Library Service two years ago, and I am incredibly guilty of having those same old and tired misconceptions. “Libraries are quiet, full of books and not much else”… how wrong was I? Very.

Following my Master’s Degree in Archaeology, I viewed libraries as a stop gap, a place to bide my time before going onto my PhD. There was nothing wrong with libraries per se, I just didn’t view it as a viable career option for myself, I was destined for a career looking at history. I couldn’t be more wrong, I was actually destined for something much more exciting.

"I was destined for a career looking at history. I couldn’t be more wrong, I was actually destined for something much more exciting."

Whilst I had always enjoyed books, reading and writing, my chosen academic career turned the act of reading into a chore. Reading wasn’t an escape, it wasn’t something to look forward to, it was a task, a challenge, something needing to be done in order to achieve something more important. This often results in very dry sessions and a total distain for the written word. I’m sure this isn’t the case for everybody, but it certainly was for me.

"Reading was fun and exciting again, the reason why? Libraries."

My time at Oldham Libraries has revitalised that spark that had so sadly dissipated in recent years. Reading was fun and exciting again, the reason why? Libraries. My two years spent with Oldham’s Library Service has allowed me to focus upon different development areas from volunteers to digital, children’s to books & reading. Each area has given me a fresh perspective on the joys of reading, the best part is that the ideals of Books & Reading always remain at the core, informing what activities we choose to programme. Through events and activities we are able to enhance the primal joys one gets from reading a story, we can bring a story to life or bring you a behind the scenes look at the writing process. The possibilities are endless.

"The possibilities are endless"

logo impression of books side by sideLong gone are the days of tired book collections and even more tired looking readers. As I see it, libraries are a place of fun, excitement and community interaction. Hubs for events, entertainment and much, much more. This brings me to Bookmark Festival 2018, my first literature based festival and my rite of passage back into the world of books. Oldham Libraries are a dab hand at running events by now, from Comic Festivals to Writers Workshops, Coding Clubs to brunches with authors; we’ve got it all. What could I add to this? Not much I imagined. What I could do however was aid the running of a landmark calendar event and in doing so, maybe I would get back into something I had sadly long since forgotten.

Excited, keen and green in my new role, it was going to be blast. It was going to be easy. It was, but not without its hurdles, and it’s here that I realised how much our libraries do for the community. Whilst many only see the end result, I truly got to appreciate all the hard work and effort every library service across the UK puts into their events and activities, ensuring a level of excellence that anyone would be proud of. I’m certainly proud of my library service, and I imagine many of you reading this feel the same way about yours.

Oldham BookMark Festival 2018Bookmark was a big event for myself, we managed to book a favourite, Simon Mayo, to headline and close the festival. Score! What a great individual he was, whilst high profile for our humble library service, he was truly down to earth. I have the signature and photograph to prove it! Being able to get a name like Mayo’s proved two things; 1) Libraries are still the place to be and 2) Libraries are as relevant as ever. If authors are asking to visit a library as part of their book tour, we’re certainly doing something right. Needless to say Bookmark 2018 was a resounding success, we had great attendance and even better feedback. This is where it hit me, books are fun! Who knew?

"Being able to get a name like Mayo’s proved two things; 1) Libraries are still the place to be and 2) Libraries are as relevant as ever. If authors are asking to visit a library as part of their book tour"

GNWR logoIt wasn’t straight away that I got back on to reading, Time to Read played a major part in that as well. My, admittedly brief, time working as a representative and partner of Time to Read has been pivotal in getting me back on the reading wagon. Fantastic initiatives such as the Great North West Read have inspired me to get back into stories, as I realised I was missing out on so many adventures and undiscovered worlds. It also helps when you get to read exclusive books, before their even published, bragging rights are a big perk! Deliberations and discussions over books made me realise that not only is this fun, but reading can be enjoyable. I was firmly back on the path to absolution. As I returned to my old friend Stephen King (don’t judge me), I felt at home. This felt right.

Oldham Library Sensory roomI suppose you can say I realised that I have a great job, work within an amazing field and this is only the start. I wasn’t waiting for anything, I just needed to realise I was already here. Libraries continue to be places of excellence for the community, a safe space of learning and caring, constantly innovating and inspiring. Did I mention we have a Sensory Room and 3D printer? Stories for another time. We inspire the community and encourage reading in so many innovative ways that it is a crime to call libraries anything lower than exciting.

When you’re next in your library, I implore you to stop for a second and take it all in. Despite how you may feel on some days, we really do have the best job going and, for me, it’s only getting better. Each day is a new adventure, each event a new world and experience to explore. Who knows what’ll happen next? I’m certainly looking forward to finding out!

It’s hard hanging out with celebrities and acclaimed authors, but someone’s got to do it. If it has to be me, I’m not going to complain. Maybe I’ll return to archaeology in the future, I might finally complete that PhD, but for now I’ll remain quite content, and perhaps a bit puzzled, as to how I found myself in such a privileged situation.

With thanks to Samuel Thornley, Library Development Officer & Volunteers Coordinator of Oldham Libraries

North West Libraries

Librarians in the North West have pioneered partnership working to encourage new readers into libraries. Time To Read is a partnership of librarians engaged in reader development activity in public library authorities in the North West Region. 22 public library authorities in the region currently support Time To Read.

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