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From the Library- Orkney Library – Scottish Review of Books
by Anna Marshall

From the Library- Orkney Library

October 9, 2017 | by Anna Marshall

In celebration of Libraries Week 2017 SRB chats with Louise Graham and the staff of Orkney Library about what makes their library tick.

Tell us a bit about Orkney Library.

Our library serves the population of Orkney. Our headquarters are in Kirkwall while the branch in Stromness forms part of the multi purpose council facility in the town.  We have a mobile service which serves our rural areas and outlying islands, plus a book box service for the smallest islands which are inaccessible for our mobile vehicle. We also run a home library service for our users who find it difficult to access the library buildings.  We are both the smallest and the oldest library service in Scotland and we’ve been providing books, and more, since 1683.

What makes your library stand out?

One of the things that really makes our library service stand out is our popular twitter account @orkneylibrary.  With more than 35,000 followers the account means we have library users all over the world who join in the conversation every day.

Who works there? 

The library team is probably the best bunch of hard working library lovers you could ever put together.  Although we’re a small team we are perfectly formed.  It’s the range of skills and wonderful personalities within the group that makes for such a great library service and such a fun place to work.

What one food/drink could your librarians not survive without?

We have a sweetie jar in the workroom – if it were ever to run dry I would expect the entire staff would walk out immediately.

What other library do you secretly admire?

Very, very, very secretly we do admire our friends at Shetland Library.  Another tiny rural island community, they face the same challenges placed by geography and social isolation. They do so with creativity and enthusiasm, and a great deal of good humour.  But of course you can never EVER tell them that.

What is the most enjoyable event you’ve had in the library?

Our most enjoyable event was a recent all day take over for Japanese Children’s Day.  We had Japanese crafts,  music and karate upstairs, origami downstairs, Japanese fiction and film in the main library and manga in the teenage section.  Truly something for everyone and a very lively library day.

Most rewarding moment?

I’ve been working in libraries for more than 30 years and in that time there have been countless rewarding moments.  For me libraries are the business!  If I had to pick one out recently it would be the day I was able to help a lady in her 80s access the online booking form for her graduation.  She had completed her degree in her twenties but at the time was unable to graduate.  Unfamiliar with the internet and unable to remember her email account details she was struggling to get involved.  Using our public access computers we managed to track down the ceremony details and a telephone contact for her to make arrangements to finally receive her degree.

Favourite customer/reader?

My favourite customer is another older lady who reads enthusiastically using our audio collection.  She marks each book out of ten and keeps all the information in a notebook.  She joins in with our book groups and authors visits and always has something insightful to add to our discussions.  She also comes along to our popular knitting group and is happy to pass on her skills.  A breath of fresh air every time she visits, she’s an absolute delight.

Biggest librarian bug bear? 

My greatest bug bear is constantly having to demonstrate our value to decision makers who choose not to use the library whilst our library users are so grateful for the service we provide.  But we also get a bit excited when people put the magazines back in the wrong order. They should of course be strictly alphabetical.

In one sentence persuade someone who has never been in your library why they should go:

“This is your library, use it in the way you want to , whenever you want to, for as long as you want to – and enjoy it”

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