Award gives life-changing reconnection
Scotland’s first Library and Information Professional of the Year delivered an impassioned speech about the life-changing impact of the award at CILIP Conference 2018.
Sally Walker, Children’s Librarian, Orkney Library and Archives, told delegates that she had suffered from “imposter syndrome” for many years and that winning the award helped her reconnect with the profession.
She said: “I talked to lots people, even high up people who said that they also suffered from this” adding that she was able to share these experiences as a result of reconnecting with the profession.
“It’s only recently that I’ve come to conferences like this because I thought I really wouldn’t have much in common with most other librarians. So, I feel like I’ve really missed out by not coming to these events because they’re wonderful and everyone is so supportive.
“When I say it was life changing to get this award I seriously mean it.”
She said it had reignited her interest in CILIP and caused her to reflect on her work: “It made me feel all of a sudden that I need to be a voice for libraries.”
Not only has the award given her the opportunity to communicate directly with delegates at CILIP Ireland’s conference and CILIP Conference 2018, but it has been a catalyst for a new-found confidence in social media.
Sally said: “I felt before, that because I worked for a council I had to watch what I said on social media and you do kind of get in trouble for it sometimes, but once I won this award I thought I could use it to say some stuff, and so I have tried.”
During her talk she acknowledged that social media had played an important role in her career. After a stint in various schools in England she got a job at Huddersfield University where she was encouraged to set up a Twitter account to network with other engineering librarians. It was through this Twitter account that she started following @OrkneyLibrary and saw the job advertised.
She said it was a case of “Perfect time, perfect job, perfect place.” But the road has not been without its bumps: “We’ve suffered really big cuts, we lost our library manager and we fear for the future but we have very dedicated staff very innovative and passionate.”
She described some of the rewarding pieces of work she had done, ranging from Code Club to Teddy sleep overs. She also explained how the libraries can capitalise on local idiosyncrasies, for example a significant number of people visit the libraries while waiting to catch ferries.
However sometimes the effects of the most rewarding and valuable work are not obvious or immediate. The example she gave was working with Home-Start Orkney. “They approached me because they were trying to encourage families to go out and use services in the community.”She said that the families didn’t want to join the larger Book Bug groups so she set up small groups. At first she thought that these weren’t working: “I found them extremely challenging and I came out feeling quite deflated and questioned whether they were getting anything out of it. In my normal sessions people are joining in but in these ones parents didn’t say anything and they didn’t interact with their children, they didn’t know any of the songs, were on their phones and the children were running riot and didn’t know how to listen to stories but, over time, I spoke to the Home-Start staff who said “No, no, we’re getting good feedback.” So we carried on and, over time, it’s really grown and there about 30 people” with full interaction between parents and children during the sessions and some feeling confident enough to join the big groups.
As a children’s librarian she wanted to end her talk with a quote from a children’s book and used one from Pax by Sara Pennypacker: “I’m exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing, and that is peace.” She said: “That kind of sums up where I am in Orkney…. If anyone out there feels like I did, that you’re not good enough, it’s not true… if you’re somewhere where you don’t feel your worth, then I suggest you move. I did and I know you can too.”