In celebration of Libraries Week 2017 SRB chats with Wendy Kirk & Hannah Wright of Glasgow Women’s Library about what makes their library tick.
Tell us a little bit about your library.
Glasgow Women’s Library is based in Bridgeton in Glasgow’s East End, although we work all over Scotland. We’ve been providing information, resources and services since 1991. GWL developed from a broad-based arts organisation called Women in Profile, which was set up in 1987 with the aim of ensuring the representation of women’s culture during Glasgow’s year as the European City of Culture in 1990. Now we have almost 5,000 borrowers and a huge range of books with everything from fiction to women’s history and politics to sexuality and gender.
What makes your library stand out?
As well as being a lending Library, GWL is also a Museum and Archive. We’re the only Accredited Museum in the UK dedicated to women’s history and we have seasonal programmes packed full of public events and learning opportunities that celebrate women’s achievements. Our Story Café, where we read stories aloud together, has just been shortlisted for the CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award and we’re really proud of all the ways in which we try to engage with readers. All items in our collections are donated, meaning that our Library’s books have been curated by the public from the books they thought important enough to donate to our shelves.
Who works there?
From its origins as a wholly voluntary organisation, GWL has grown into a thriving 20-woman team, working on our learning programmes, our National work, with the collections, and keeping the Library running. Our paid Staff Team is supported by a dedicated team of volunteers. Volunteers are very important to the Library and we are keen to encourage women who wish to support the Library in this way to contact us. Each individual woman donating her time to Glasgow Women’s Library brings with her unique skills and abilities that combine collectively to create a valuable and positive resource for volunteers and users alike.
What one food/drink could your librarians not survive without?
Tea and cake. We have tea and cake at every Story Cafe and at lots of other GWL events. You’ll also often be offered a cuppa if you come in to visit as we pride ourselves on our warm welcome.
What other library do you secretly admire?
I visited Liverpool Central Library last year and it was totally buzzing! I love how they’ve mixed the old and new and created a space that’s bright and wondrous. I also adore my local library – Langside – because the staff are unfailingly cheery, chatty and helpful to all who come through their door.
What is the most enjoyable event you’ve had in the library?
Yikes! We have so many events happening most weeks at the library, so that’s a tricky question! I must say our Herland salon nights are particularly spectacular though…
And our inaugural Open the Door Women’s Writing Festival was incredible.
I couldn’t possibly divulge this….a good Librarian never reveals her sources….
Most rewarding moment?
Working here is packed to the brim with rewarding moments. A recent one that sticks in my mind is a going to the Edinburgh Book Festival with women from our Story Café group, to see the amazing Turkish author Elif Shafak. Some of the women had never been to a book festival before, so there was a lot of excitement and anticipation. Everyone was blown away by Elif Shafak. We talked about it for weeks afterwards!
We couldn’t have just one – all our readers are our favourites!
Biggest librarian bug bear?
In a previous job, someone returned a book with the pages stuck together with lashings of korma sauce – so I would say leftover takeaways tucked inside a book kinda get my back up.
In one sentence persuade someone who has never been in your library why they should go:
If you’re looking for bookshelves brimming with eclectic books, a packed programme of events and activities, and the warmest welcome in town, Glasgow Women’s Library is the place for you!