CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
Navigation Close

Making the move from urban life to rural school libraries

Category: Blog, Branches and Groups, Professional Development, SLG Scotland

The SLG Scotland logo, with blue text at the heart of a Saltire-style flag

Moray school librarian Erin Quigley reflects on making the move to rural school libraries.

My knowledge of Moray prior to accepting my new post as the School Library Resource Centre Co-Ordinator (AKA Librarian) for Lossiemouth High School and Speyside High School was entirely vague. My practical experience extended to one week’s holiday in Findochty (pronounced:  Fin-ech-ty), too much time spent in the Deans of Huntly gift shop, a morning spent wandering the Biblical Garden in Elgin, and an afternoon getting a tour of the public library in Cooper Park (also Elgin). The furthest north I had ever been for any considerable length of time had been the year I spent in Aberdeen whilst I undertook my postgraduate studies. However, I had travelled for work before: my first professional post after completing my master’s degree was the librarian post for a high school in Argyll and Bute, and where I was employed for almost two years before budget cuts eliminated all school librarian posts in the district. (An interesting parallel, and hopefully the only one, between then and now: I knew nothing of the area before I moved there either!)

Making the move

So, while I had my trepidations about moving back into the education sector, not least among them being working in a viral haven (AKA high school, home to every variation of the common cold at any one time) during a pandemic, the four-hour drive from home was not an insurmountable obstacle. I think one of the most enduring impressions of the North is that it is sparse and isolated, and while it is less densely populated than the Central Belt, this is certainly not the case where Elgin is concerned. Elgin is a vast and sprawling town, and arguably much better provisioned than many areas of the Central Belt, my home a mere nine miles outside of Glasgow included. The only true effort exerted in the move up (outside of the actual move itself) was in finding accommodation. Rental properties are in high demand and are off the market practically as soon as they are advertised but I finally got lucky, in time for my start date, and my application for a flat in New Elgin was accepted.

Books and ice cream

Covid procedures being what they were in November/December of 2021, I essentially secured my home sight-unseen (because you can really only learn so much from a video tour) but in actuality, I likely couldn’t have managed better had I tried. I live a few minutes’ drive from the town centre and I am on the right side for easy access to the retail park, Asda, Lidl and the Tesco superstore. I have my pick of restaurants, cafés, and takeaways in Elgin or in any number of the surrounding towns and villages, if I feel like treating myself. There are sports facilities, endless opportunities for outdoor activities (in town, rural, and coastal), a cinema, and a Waterstones (I checked for this one before I even started house-hunting). A significant discovery, when my family was visiting one weekend earlier this year, during a lovely sunshine-filled trip to East Beach in Lossiemouth (whose nickname, ‘the jewel of Moray’, is well-earned), was a fantastic gelato shop right at the waterfront. As a fan of quality ice cream, this is a discovery that will be re-visited with easy regularity. There is no shortage of divertissements locally but Inverness is a one-hour drive and Aberdeen is an hour and a half if the pull of a big shopping centre becomes too much (it hasn’t yet).  Additionally, I am ideally located for an easy commute to work. It is a 15-minute drive to Lossiemouth and a 25-minute drive to Aberlour – which, in contrast to my commute at home (often 40 minutes +), can be among the most relaxing parts of my day because my journeys are scenic, the roadside verges are now full of gorse blooming with vivid yellow flowers, and the roads are not riddled with pot holes!

A good book, a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate…

That’s not to say it has been all sunshine and roses – I moved up in winter, there was barely any daylight never mind sunshine! Winter is unarguably the worst time of year to do anything besides snuggle up with a good book, a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate (skooshy cream and mini marshmallows, optional). This is especially true of moving, regardless of whether it is five minutes down the road or four hours cross-country. I also moved up two weeks before my stuff which meant I was driving to and from work in the dark, and going home to a flat with a cold air mattress on the floor to watch Netflix re-runs on my phone. In truth, after two weeks, the arrival of my home comforts was almost more welcome than the family members bringing them!

One of the most memorable occasions of my first week was the return journey home from Aberlour on, I think, the Thursday. I had only done the drive three times (in the dark, of course) and nature decided I had to level up and introduced a new hazard: snow. Now, we do get snow in Glasgow. It’s not a concept I am unfamiliar with (Beast from the East, anyone?). However, I had never driven in snow before. In the dark.  On a country road I had been on precisely three (three!) times before in my life. Inexplicably, I had also landed myself ahead of the traffic heading back to Elgin, and was leading the queue of cars, traveling at a snail’s pace, as wave after hypnotic wave of snow flew into my windscreen. Without a doubt it was one of the longest afternoons of my life. Happily, both my car and I got home in one piece (it wouldn’t be for another 3 months that my car decided it needed major repair work).

Putting aside my issues with the season, I didn’t have the most auspicious of starts either. Just days before I was due to start work, I fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle which meant I had to delay my move – and then hobble about on my healing foot for the first week or so when I did take up my post, a week later than planned. How fortunate for me the library in Lossie is on the ground floor, and Speyside is a small school!

Life in the new libraries

I am now five months into my new post and well-settled, and my time is equally divided between Lossie High and Speyside High. Lossie is a brand new school with a school population fast approaching 600 pupils; the building turned one at the end of April, and the library is a community library. So, when I am there on Mondays and Wednesdays it is a school library, and when I’m not it is a public library. I have worked in school libraries and I have worked in public libraries but I have never worked in one that served dual functions. Good communication on both sides has made what could be a difficult situation frictionless. Speyside is a smaller, older school with a school population of approximately 400 pupils, the library is exclusively used by the school, and I am there on Tuesdays and Thursdays. One of the highlights at Speyside has been planning the library refurbishment. I also alternate Fridays at each school, which is outside my contracted hours and paid for by each school. Covid-19 has made things difficult but the effort made by the staff of each school to welcome me has really helped me feel like a valued member of staff who is performing a valuable service, and I am excited to further embed library services into school life.

So, if you find yourself entertaining the prospects of a job opportunity in Morayshire, do not dismiss it, it could be one of the most rewarding decisions you make!

For more on why School #LibrariesAreEssential in urban and rural Scotland alike, check out SLG Scotland’s full series of brilliant blog posts.

Skip to content