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

Meet the Shortlist – Wendy Kirk

Scotland's library and Information Professional of the Year Shortlist. Wendy Kirk, 2023. CILIPS blue and grey logo. White paper background with mixed blue confetti around the outside.

Wendy Kirk, Glasgow Women’s Library Librarian. 

Working in a special library (the only of its kind in Scotland!) means that Wendy tends to collaborate across a range of different sectors, particularly schools/education and the cultural sector. Here are some recent examples of her work:

Wendy recently hosted a visit for a school librarian from St Mungo’s (a local school), with a view to organising student visits. In October last year, in response to an enquiry from a school, she welcomed a group of Advanced Higher students, along with their English teacher, to their regular, read aloud group, Story Café, choosing a range of texts to celebrate Black History Month. The intergenerational aspect worked really well, and is something she will look to build on with other schools. You can read about the session on the GWL blog.

Alongside this work, Wendy is in the early stages of discussion with SQA about encouraging/promoting diversity in reading by (mostly) secondary school learners. GWL has previously been involved in discussions around the gender imbalance in the Scottish curriculum, so it will be good to continue this momentum.

Over the past year, Wendy has been working on the 3 Decades of Changing Minds project, reflecting on the 30 year history, with a particular focus on ’30 years of radical reading’ and ‘Donor stories’ (all of the GWL collections are donated). This has included a panel event and exhibition exploring people’s donor stories and our experiences of building a library collection from donations. On the blog, Wendy has been highlighting the brilliant work of volunteer Elaine, who supports the library to get new books.

Reader development is a major joy within Wendy’s work, as is working with international partners, so it makes her particularly happy when she can combine these two things! For the Open the Door Women’s Writing Festival, which has the theme of activism, she has been working with new international partners, Woman Zone in South Africa, and African Writers Trust in Uganda: running collaborative digital events, bringing new voices and fresh perspectives to the programming (you can find out more here).

Wendy has been diligent in supporting one of her volunteers (who is just about to turn 80!) to blog regularly about Story Café. This is the first time the volunteer has tried her hand at blogging. It has been great to have more content about Story Café on the website, and she has been thrilled to have her blogs spotlighted in the monthly newsletters. Here is an example of the volunteer’s latest blog, about women in journalism, and Wendy has also been blogging about her own highlights from Story Café, as part of the 30th anniversary project.

A continuing commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is at the heart of everything she does in the Library in terms of reader development and engagement, and collection development. Wendy is continuing (with no budget!) to build a collection of books in languages other than English, and to programme bilingual Story Cafes e.g. English/Urdu, and Story Cafes that forefront writing by women of colour e.g. Story Café Special with Trishna Singh, founder of Sikh Sanjog. She really welcomes opportunities to learn from other organisations in terms of their best practice approaches to EDI. For instance, as a team, some of the staff had a brilliant visit to the Curating Discomfort exhibition with Zandra Yeaman.

A key commitment that Wendy has to the profession is through hosting and welcoming other libraries at GWL, to share experiences, expertise and spark ideas for collaboration. Over the last year, some of these have included:

• National Library of Scotland reciprocal staff collaboration days – working in partnership with Andrew McDougall at NLS, they organised staff visits for approx. 20 staff to each other’s libraries, with a view to developing ideas for collaboration.

• Welcoming international libraries, museums and archives, such as Helsinki public library network and Smithsonian Institution (American Women’s History Initiative)

• Welcoming Oksana Boiarynova, a librarian visiting Glasgow from Ukraine

• Welcoming the Assistant Librarian at the Institute of International Visual Arts, part of the Stuart Hall Library in London

• Welcoming the new Graduate Trainee and student placement at CILIPS

• Wendy is about to support at Library and Information Studies (LIS) student placement from University of Strathclyde

Over the last year, Wendy has presented at the following digital events:

• NLS ‘Learn more at work day’, when she shared her experiences of working internationally

CILIPS Banned Books Week event, where she shared experiences of running book events to celebrate Banned Books Week and raise awareness of censorship

• Book Week Scotland All-In Day, when Wendy shared her experience of running Bold Types Creative Writing Competition, with a focus on how to create an accessible, inclusive book event.

In terms of advocacy for the profession, working at GWL gives Wendy lots of opportunities to do this, as GWL are often asked to take part in radio and other media interviews. For instance, one of her Story Cafés was recorded as part of a BBC Radio Scotland programme.

Other things Wendy is involved with is being a recipient of CILIPS Research Fund, and she will be working with inspirational, international libraries as part of this project (Helsinki Oodi Library and Book Bunk, Nairobi). Finally, Wendy was pleased to be asked to share our experiences of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers with John Vincent, when he was researching his book, Libraries of Sanctuary. She is hoping to take forward her own application to become a Library of Sanctuary in the very near future.

Skip to content