CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Julie Smith, Community Librarian, South Lanarkshire Leisure & Culture

Category: Meet our Members

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

Photo of Rutherglen Library provided by Julie Smith

I have worked in my role as Community Librarian for the Rutherglen/Cambuslang cluster since November 2017 and I have always been proud of the fact that I have worked from the bottom up. I have over 32 year’s library experience. I started as a library assistant in Pollokshields Library in February 1988 progressed to a senior assistant, then a Library Team Leader and then to my current role as a Community Librarian. I’m currently working towards my Chartership.

My job today is so much different to when I first started in public libraries. We have so much more now to offer than just books. I enjoy working with and being part of the local community. Partnership working is vital now within local libraries.

I have worked in all the 3 different sizes of libraries which we class as small, medium and large. My longest position was 16 years in Halfway Library which is a small branch situated in the heart of Halfway. It was whilst working here that I did my ACLIP.

At the start of Covid times, we were initially closed and staff were working from home. I lasted a week and then volunteered to work with the Wellbeing line. I ended up working full time with the community engagement team and this made me realise how transferable our library skills are. I engaged with lots of members of the public via the phone to arrange dietary packs, emergency food packs, collection of prescriptions, sanitary provision, toiletries and hearing aid batteries. I also used this opportunity to promote the libraries digital offer in the form of press reader, EBooks and EAudiobooks. I had to call on my library skills and knowledge when dealing with some of the other queries and enquiries which came through the wellbeing line. I still also managed my branch checks and remained in contact with my cluster staff. I did this from March to July.

Photo of Rutherglen Library provided by Julie Smith

I really enjoy my job as no two days are ever the same. At the moment I’m in charge of 6 cluster libraries and each one is completely different in how they’re set up and run. Currently, I only have 2 branches open. My branches are run by Team Leaders but we all work together as part of a cluster and then along with the East Kilbride cluster we form the South Area for South Lanarkshire.

One of my favourite library community events so far is for the past 2 years we have opened Rutherglen Library on Christmas day from 11am to 2pm. It was arranged to help those who were either homeless, lonely, isolated or just wanted some company. People could also borrow books or go on our Active IT. Both times have been very successful, we have had families reunited via the internet for the first time ever on Christmas Day and a couple from USA joined us last year before heading off for a drive to Loch Lomond. They said it was their best Christmas Day ever. We have a poll to pick which Christmas movie to show and every person can have a bite to eat and a hot or cold drink. A local Italian supplied us with free pizza last year which went down very well. So far we have also been able to give every person who comes a small gift to take away with them. The local childminders made Christmas cards with the children to pass on to people who attended and this was a firm favourite with the public. Sadly due to Covid, we have taken the decision not to open this year.

Despite all the highs and lows, I would recommend a career in libraries to anyone. You never know what you’re going to experience from one day to the next. It is very rewarding and I promise you will never have a dull moment.

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