In celebration of Libraries Week 2017 SRB chats with Sheila Campbell and the staff of Elgin Library about what makes their library tick.
Tell us a little bit about your library.
Moray is a diverse area of natural beauty, a microcosm of the best of Scotland, boasting the Cairngorm Mountains, rolling hills, salmon rivers, the rich coastal plain – the Laich of Moray – and a string of fabulous beaches, cliffs and attractive coastal villages.
Elgin Library is the central library for Moray serving a direct population of 23,128 but also attracting users from across the region. It is situated in the beautiful Cooper Park in the centre of Elgin. The library, in its current location, was opened by the late MSP Margaret Ewing and welcomes over 300,000 service users each year.
What makes your library stand out?
The central location in the heart of the community with stunning views over the pond and to Elgin cathedral. The provision of ample car parking, on site café, leased to Cobbs and supporting our many and varied events, meetings, conferences and library users.
The commitment of staff, many of whom have served the library and its community for more than 30 years, as well as many new, enthusiastic and energetic young staff who bring new ideas and perspective to the service.
Our consistent great performance also makes us stand out. We believe that we punch well above our weight and this is due to a fantastic team of support staff, library assistants, service development team and senior management all working together to deliver the best possible service for our library customers.
We are becoming particularly well known for two things: the Spirit of Moray Book Festival and our continued innovation.
Elgin Library offers a range of varied services from Bookbug for parents and their babies/ toddlers, accredited learning as well as ‘taster’ sessions aimed at all ages, Digital drop-ins, code clubs,3D printing, reminiscence boxes, Playlist for Life hub, local heritage, family history research, book groups for children, adults and older people, bespoke reading challenges for young people and adults, Tesco Bank Summer Reading Challenge and many and varied programmes targeted at different ‘communities of interest and need’.
Elgin Library is also a tourist information centre working in partnership with Visit Scotland and attracting thousands of visitors to the area each year from a multitude of diverse countries. This is especially challenging during one of Moray’s many festivals or NATO exercises (with Lossiemouth air base only 6 miles away) when vacant accommodation is non-existent. Staff have often joked that they should set up alternative careers in B&B!
I believe we are unique in that we are a remote passport office, working in partnership with the Identity and Passport Service and offering video linked interview with one of their city offices. This provides a local service to those who would otherwise have to travel to Glasgow and generates welcome income for our library service coffers.
Meeting and conference space is at a premium in the Elgin Area and offering our rooms and services for hire to local community groups, clubs, charities, private hire and businesses provides us with much needed additional income.
Who works there?
Absolutely great, enthusiastic and innovative teams of staff. Teams include Lending Services, Learning Centre, Records Management & Local Heritage, Support Services who deal with acquisitions, requests and inter-library loans, stock exchanges to the other 11 libraries, repairs and systems, Essential Skills staff who deliver basic literacy and numeracy skills to adults and ESOL staff who offer English language lessons to adults whose first language isn’t English and families of Syrian refugees and last but not lease the service development team who manage libraries across Moray including our one remaining mobile.
What one food/drink could your librarians not survive without?
Probably chocolate… it is often the first port of call during stressful times and equally used to celebrate success.
However the opening of a Cobbs café did bring the bonus of the best bacon rolls you have ever tasted. These entice our ICT officers to respond to our pleas for support more quickly than may otherwise have been the case. Is this a form of bribery, I wonder?
What other library do you secretly admire?
The National Library of Scotland. How wonderful to be surrounded with so many jewels in their national collection and to have access to the archive material of so many of our national greats.
The NLS has become so much more accessible and are so keen to work with library services across Scotland! We really do appreciate their support and leadership.
What is the most enjoyable event you’ve had in the library?
It’s pretty impossible to choose the most enjoyable event; there have been so many and so diverse! We’ve had many excellent author events for adults with Sally Magnusson, Kirsty Wark and Ann Cleeves eg during our annual book festivals. Equally, some of our children’s authors have enthralled audiences and libraries staff. In particular, Chae Strathie, Barry Hutchison, Debi Gliori and Pamela Butchart.
Playlist for Life, sponsored by the local Rotary Club ran a workshop for libraries staff, carers, charities and local community groups to highlight the benefits of personally meaningful music in the fight against dementia. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when we watched Sally Magnusson’s video clips demonstrating personal experiences.
At the other end of the spectrum, we run an annual festive fun day to encourage families to participate in library activities and we even convince Santa to share the fun.
This is another very difficult question to answer as the enquiries and requests received on a daily basis are so diverse.
Possibly the request to ‘unstick’ a duck from the layer of ice that had formed on the pond in Cooper Park. I can just see the headline – “Libraries Staff on Thin Ice”.
Most rewarding moment?
Every day brings its rewards but reading the feedback from parents on the difference that reading or libraries have made to the child’s reading ability or enjoyment is extremely satisfying.
Equally, the Celebration of Learning that has now become an annual event in our calendar has produced some amazing stories of learner journeys and the difference that learning to read, use a computer/ipad or being able to handle money has made to an individual’s ability to participate in normal everyday life, bring immense satisfaction to our team.
We don’t have favourite customers! All customers are created equal (although some are more equal than others!!).
Biggest librarian bug bear?
The attitude of a minority of people that libraries are no longer needed because everyone can afford to buy books, have internet access at home and can use Google.
Do they not know what a modern library service can and does provide?… rant over!
In one sentence persuade someone who has never been in your library why they should go:
Whatever your need, we’re here to listen and support you in a friendly, relaxed community facility that guarantees you’ll want to come back.