CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Alison McAllister, North Ayrshire Libraries

Category: Meet our Members

This blog is part of our Meet our Members series, focusing on different members and their careers.

My name is Alison McAllister and I am the Library and Information Service Manager with North Ayrshire Libraries and have worked in a variety of roles within the service for 18 years. I have responsibility for: public and school libraries; support services; Education Resource Service; Greenwood Conference Centre and our Lifelong Learning Team. I work with fantastic, innovative and caring teams to help the communities of North Ayrshire realise their aspirations.

Like the other CILIP’s Members, my days are wide and varied and often I will say ‘I don’t remember learning this at library school’. I have an interest in how we can promote libraries to support health and wellbeing and have been involved in several PLIF-funded projects with library colleagues and health professionals; I am also keen to encourage our colleagues within the Council and HSCP to become library members and the team run regular pop-up libraries in council buildings. Partnership working is a key highlight and have excellent relationships with several partners to mutually benefit both organisations in terms of footfall and awareness. Over the next few months I will be working with all the teams to see how we can work more collaboratively together. There are challenges within the public sector, but many bring opportunities to work more collaboratively across the council and Community Planning Partners to keep library and information services at the heart of communities. For several years I have been involved in the Cosla Awards long-leeting which gives me an understanding of service improvement and innovation in all Council departments. I have previously been a judge for the ‘Libraries Change Lives’ award which gave me the opportunity to travel across Scotland and England to see excellent library services.

My interest in libraries, as a career, started when I was in 4th year studying ‘O’ grade Modern Studies (yes, that was a while ago!) where I had to study a community resource and I chose Kilbirnie library. Each summer for 5 years I worked as a seasonal library assistant with the, then, Cunninghame District Libraries and studied at Strathclyde University obtaining a joint Honours in Administration and Librarianship. Whilst at University I worked in the Business Information Service of the Business School one evening per week. I went back to Cunninghame District as a Trainee Librarian and worked in all the departments, from dressing up as Alice in Wonderland for a children’s event, to travelling in the mobile around the countryside, to classifying the non-fiction stock. I then took up a post as a School Librarian at Belmont Academy in Ayr where I put all my experience, to date, encouraging more departments involved in using the library and gained my Chartership during my short time there. I have been a member of CILIPS throughout my career and the support and mentoring they give to Chartership candidates nowadays is excellent.

Before I came to North Ayrshire, I worked at the Daily Record and Sunday Mail newspapers in Glasgow for 7 years, in the picture library where I catalogued photographs, transparencies and answered queries from journalists – this was all before the Internet! I was attracted to librarianship because of all the different types of organisations and people you can work in and, I think that is key – look for as many opportunities as you can, and you will always find out who the librarian is in the room!