Travelling Librarians

We librarians like to get out and about, and since summer is upon us (apparently) we thought that now would be the perfect time to start our new series of blog posts on travelling librarians, where we’ll share our adventures to libraries and other cultural places visited on our travels. Our first post comes from Christine Strachan, Faculty Information Co-ordinator.

I have a confession to make. I am a serial library tourist. No matter where I am or who I am with, no holiday is complete for me without a recce round the local library. The purchasing of a library tote bag is of course mandatory.

My most recent sojourn was to the Orkney Islands – famous for their Neolithic landmarks, seaweed-eating sheep and Highland Park whisky. But Skara Brae would have to wait. For there was somewhere else I was being impulsively driven towards and no amount of standing stones would stop me in my tracks.

That place was the Orkney Library and Archive in Kirkwall – the oldest public library in Scotland and a place that has been at the top of my “list of libraries to visit before I die” ever since the brilliant Orkney-Shetland Library Twitter Feud hit the headlines.

And the library certainly lives up to its fame. As soon as you step through the doors it’s instantly apparent that this is a well-loved and well-used space. Folk are sitting in the foyer drinking coffee, reading the papers and talking about the St Magnus arts festival that’s just about to kick off. And it’s not just local people either – tourists have made their way off the cruise ship in the harbour and straight through the library doors. Maybe they’d heard that a certain famous writer likes to hang out here too.

So what makes Orkney Library such an awesome library? Well amusing tweets and celebrity endorsements aside, the library teaches us all a lesson in how to be inclusive. It goes beyond books on shelves: it offers free music streaming and download for all members, a library knitting group, a free weekly podcast of news from the local paper read out to those with visual impairments, story time for children, study guides for teenagers and an excellent mobile library service for those living in the remoter islands off the mainland. Orkney Library loves its community and the community loves Orkney Library back. This builds wonderful PR…..and also makes the purchasing of a tote bag entirely justified.

So tell us, what do you think makes an awesome library? How can we make our library more inclusive? But more importantly, how can we get J K Rowling through the door? Please share your thoughts!

Follow Orkney Library on Twitter @OrkneyLibrary and the Orkney Archive blog Get Dusty.