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Thursday, 14 April 2016

A-Z: I Remember ........Libraries

I Remember When......
Recalling Memories of My Childhood & Beyond

LIBRARIES  have played a large part in my life.

From an early age, after school visits to the local library, I played at being a Librarian.

I remember one Christmas being delighted at getting in my stocking a date stamp. I made up issue labels for my books, and dragooned my family into being customers, so I could enthusiastically stamp away.

So what did I become? A Librarian - and yes I did conform a bit to the stereotyped image - the glasses did it!

Does anyone remember the Smirnoff vodka advert where the librarian (dowdy clothes, hair in a bun and of course wearing spectacles), whips off her glasses,  loosens her hair shaking it into a tousled look, shortens her skirt, undoes her top buttons  - and gets a new look and new life?    I can't say that was me, though I did have a spell at  wearing contact lenses.

Instead,  I spent my time trying to counteract the image that all librarians did was a boring task of stamping  books!  The following episodes come to mind. 

Stuck in a Snowstorm - As a student I had various Saturday and holiday jobs in Edinburgh City Libraries, most memorably getting stuck in a mobile library on a hill in a snowstorm!   

An American Adventure: I had the chance to work in the USA for a year as part of an exchange scheme for trainee librarians and my placement was at Radcliffe College, the sister college to Harvard in Cambridge, Mass. I loved Boston and New England, and took advantage, with another British girl I met, of taking the Greyhound bus offer of "99 dollars for 99 days of travel" around the States - a wonderful time.

At the Cutting Edge - My second professional job after library school  was as Information Officer at the  Edinburgh's College of Education in Edinburgh  with a remit to set up a Modern Studies Information Resource. This was long before the Internet, and the role involved setting up project files of ephemera - mainly press cuttings, and compiling source lists for students. I got to look though all the quality daily papers - a great job and nothing boring about it.    I had always fancied working as a newspaper librarian, or as a BBC researcher, though jobs are few and far between, so this was coming close to it. 

Dumbo to Dinosaurs  - I was a stay-at-home Mum, when a newsletter from my daughter's primary school announced that a school auxiliary had been asked to set up a library in the school. My professional hackles arose - obviously a job that the head teacher felt anyone could do! So I got in touch, took on the role,  and I was back classifying the school collection  and creating a catalogue. As it was a voluntary task, I could take my time and have a good look through all the books, with dinosaurs seeming to be the most popular topic - not one I could relate to. 

Was the Abbey Bombed?  This was one of the very many quirky queries I faced  when working in the local tourist information centre network for over 20 years.  It was never dull as we helped visitors get the most out of  of their holiday and was a source of many  humorous anecdotes.

And the  answer to the question?   Well - the 12th century Jedburgh Abbey was destroyed in 1544 by Henry VIII's army which invaded south Scotland in what was known as the "Rough Wooing" as Henry  tried to enforce the marriage of his son Edward to the young Mary Queen of Scots  - some 400 years before World War Two fighter planes.  I loved this job - meeting people from all over the world, answering questions, preparing displays and compiling fact sheets. 

Back to my Roots - Following redundancy, and a spell of free lancing in tourism,  I went back to my academic roots of history and librarianship,  working in the Library Service's Local Studies Dept. Not quite a full circle, but almost. 

My final role was as Family History Researcher at the Heritage Hub, Hawick - and how many people can say they found a job linked to a hobby - and we all know that family history can be exciting, adventurous and never boring!

So   -  being a librarian has served me very well!

The Heritage Hub, Hawick, Scottish Borders
Home of the region's Archive Service 


Copyright © 2016 -  Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved 


  1. I was a librarian at a home for abused and neglected kids. The local public library gave a crash course in cataloging. LOVED it! But then, being a book worm helps. :)

  2. Loved this post! I always thought that being a librarian would be a wonderful experience. Teaching is good too, though! ;) I feel like libraries always make me feel safe and secure.

  3. What a wonderful post. I also wrote about libraries for the challenge L day, but from the point of view of a patron. Nice to read a librarian's much more extensive rendition.
    Molly of Molly's Canopy

  4. I can spend all day in a library. I love the smell and feel of books, as well as reading them. A Librarian is a job I would have enjoyed.

  5. I was a lay librarian a few times. Never a dull moment!

    Finding Eliza

  6. I always wanted to be a librarian. On career day I shadowed a librarian; heaven. But marriage and children happened first so I have been content to sniff the old books and haunt the libraries as a patron. Heaven.

  7. I always wanted to be a librarian. On career day I shadowed a librarian; heaven. But marriage and children happened first so I have been content to sniff the old books and haunt the libraries as a patron. Heaven.

  8. You are living proof that being a librarian is never boring.

  9. Thank you all for your lovely comments on libraries - they are not quite the dull boring image that people often think, but are places that offer so much pleasure.

  10. Always loved libraries and thought I'd died and gone to heaven when I became a librarian five years ago.

  11. Libraries are heaven. I don't know why it didn't occur to me to have a career as a librarian.


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