CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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60 seconds with… Karen Walker, Orkney Library & Archive

Category: 60 seconds with..., Blog, Librarians During Lockdown

In 60 seconds with… PMLG Scotland ask senior figures in Scottish libraries for a short, sweet introduction to what the future looks like for their services post-pandemic. Enjoy!

Logo for the Public Libraries and Mobiles Group Scotland

How have your library staff contributed to the local authority’s pandemic response?

Staff at Orkney Library & Archive have really stepped up to the mark and gone above and beyond to get books, any format of reading material and jigsaws to those who needed them. Staff contacted elderly customers prior to restarting our home library service. When we were closed entirely, non-contact deliveries were carried out via our Home Library Service. This was expanded to include Home Library customers from the mobile service until the Mobile Library Service resumed in September 2020. Several staff were also redeployed to work at the Community Support Hub between April and June. Staff embraced a new way of working to accommodate library & archive services restarting during August and September.

What role will your libraries play in their communities’ economic recovery?

Library services can highlight any financial help or expertise offered locally and nationally to help economic recovery. This may be via social media or by offering free internet access and allowing space for small business groups to meet. We don’t currently have staff expertise to help but can direct to those who can.

What about social recovery: will your libraries make a difference to the social wellbeing of their communities, post-pandemic?

We would be aiming to once again be the centre of our community by offering a friendly service to all. Approachable staff and resuming events/group activities will help with social recovery. Craft groups, storytimes, author events and so on all contribute to social wellbeing. Being able to come together (even if at a distance) helps each other.

As a result of the past year, will you change anything about the way things used to run in your service?

Yes – we are currently exploring expanding Home Library Service to more rural areas in our islands by working with Island Link Officers/Island Development Trust and local hauliers. We also expect Request & Collect to become part of our core offer. More digital offerings if we can.

If money was no object, what would be your top priority?

More Mobile Library visits – this would require more staff and funding to do so, but we need to get out to our customers rather than expect them to come to us… More outreach programmes. Longer opening hours (which needs more staff) and especially for us – more management staff. Holding more STEM activities for children and young people. An enhanced digital offer for customers (very expensive at present). Opportunities for staff training and development from Library Assistants upwards

In the future, how will you promote what your libraries do?

Promotion by social media, local press and word of mouth works well.

Do you have plans to renovate or alter any of your libraries?

Not at present.

What do libraries mean to you?

Community space, open and friendly available to all in as many formats/ways as possible. Great staff.

Bonus Question: you’re stranded on a desert island and can only have one book with you. Which one do you choose?

This is such a hard question for a librarian – an anthology with lots of different stories and information…to keep you occupied for a long time :)

Optional: Add a photo of yourself or one that sums up your library service!

a composite image combining pictures of Orkney library, its bookshelves, its mobile library and a book with pages shaped like a heart.

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