In the first of an occasional series of guest blogs, one of our PenCLAHRC colleagues from Plymouth University, Amanda Wanner tells more about what she got up to on her Christmas break.

How did you spend your holidays? Hopefully curled up by the fire, reading a lot of books, eating delicious things… Perhaps, like me, you were dabbling in a career-that-could-have-been?

That’s right — I spent my winter holiday break masquerading as a small town public librarian! Visiting my partner, who runs the Bancroft Public Library in northern Ontario, Canada, I had the opportunity to learn a bit about the nuts and bolts of public librarianship.

I’d thought I might spend my time sitting in a corner reading, but I was sorely mistaken. The Head Librarian was not kidding when he said I’d be put to work. Thus, my holidays were spent training and working with new staff, cataloguing video game and DVD donations, working with archival newspaper records, attending the Tuesday afternoon library knitting club, and generally getting to know the townsfolk. There was also a scary moment when I was told I’d be running a children’s program at the last minute (!!) but luckily I managed to evade that one. I wasn’t quite brave enough to handle a group of 2-8 year olds yet!

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I don’t think I’ll be going into public librarianship any time soon, but from my experience this holiday season, I learned a lot of lessons. Public librarianship – especially in a small town – is no easy thing. It requires managing a lot of details and constantly reevaluating your town’s needs; not unlike the health care profession! Though I’m sticking with medical librarianship for now, I’ve come away with renewed respect for public libraries, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll visit again for another “pro bono vacation”.

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