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Libraries Week x Meet our Members – Geordie Cryle

Category: Blog, Librarians During Lockdown, Libraries Week, Meet our Members

The regular Meet our Members blog you know and love is enjoying a Libraries Week special edition for one week only, during which we’ll be learning more about how our dynamic and diverse CILIPS membership base is Taking Action, #Changing Lives.

The Libraries Week 2021 logo, showing a group of young people celebrating while waving flags and the caption 'Taking action, changing lives'

Today, we’re hearing from Geordie Cryle, Librarian at Highland Theological College, University of the Highlands and Islands. Thank you for being part of #LibrariesWeek, Geordie!

My name is Geordie Cryle. I have been librarian of Highland Theological College UHI since September 2019, my first professional posting. We are a specialist constituent college of the University of the Highlands and Islands, based in Dingwall, Ross-Shire. I unintentionally ended up as a career librarian. In 2014, I started as a Saturday assistant at Montrose Public Library in Angus. From there I progressed to work part-time at the University of Aberdeen while studying music. I came to the Highlands on a whim in 2019 and have never looked back. I am the sole member of staff for my library, the largest by volume in the university, and study a part-time MSc in Information and Library Studies with RGU.

Due to the pandemic, I have been longer without users in my library than with. The average day went from it being a busy college library to some days being the only staff member in an otherwise empty building. It was deeply challenging yet rewarding being new to library management to consider and implement strategies to ensure service provision was uninterrupted. Closing the library doors led to a comprehensive re-think of how the library could operate. Alongside other UHI libraries, we rushed to implement click & collect and postal services, and started an eBook purchasing drive. Digital provision was reviewed, bolstered and new induction materials created to support students at a distance.

The campus tree in blossom brings a splash of colour to Dingwall high street in spring. The building behind the tree houses the library on the ground floor.

The thing I have missed most is the rapport, the conversations with library users. In our small community the staff know all the students, and many become friends. It was the best part of the day when somebody would come to the library with a thesis or project idea looking for resources and recommendations. I still do these reference queries but there is no substitute for browsing a library shelf to see what titles jump out at you. I have been very privileged to have a supportive network in my UHI colleagues, CILIPS and in ABTAPL (The Association of British Theological and Philosophical Libraries) from whom I picked up advice and encouragement from conversations and workshops. Without these networks I would be a lone worker with little in terms of a professional sounding board. Exploring issues of collections advocacy with a closed library has been at the forefront, and I have been promoting our special collections throughout through various means including creating an online exhibition featured in our LibGuide. The library was also discussed in a recent institutional blog post. Moreover, I had an opportunity to kick start our digitisation project. One exciting primary source recently digitised is this handwritten book of sermons from the 18th century, kindly hosted by a colleague at Spurgeon’s College, London.

I have little idea what the future will bring for small libraries such as ours in ever changing circumstances, but it has been an invaluable experience to adapt and develop management skills as a librarian, considering how to tackle issues and experiment with ideas to serve our users. A chance stumbling on a job application led me to this post and I have loved the autonomy that it has given despite the challenges. I am optimistic about the role and future of our library. I feel small academic libraries play an important role in fostering research and academic community, and particularly the personalised user experience small libraries can offer will always be invaluable.

Thanks so much to Geordie for sharing this inspiring and uplifting insight into life as a new professional, finding reasons to be optimistic even in the most challenging of circumstances! Click here for more on our exciting Libraries Week plans, or why not send us your very own Meet our Members blog post?

The Libraries Week graphic with 'Taking action, changing lives' in front of a black and white photograph of Geordie Cryle and a library building/pink blossom tree background

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