To shoogle: intr. To shake; to swing about, to dangle; to shake or settle down.
1724 A. Ramsay Vision in Ever Green I. v, A braid-sword schogled at his thee.
1896 S. R. Crockett Cleg Kelly xxix, I’ll juist lock them in and they’ll [soon] hae shuggled doon as quaite as a session.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
Last Saturday morning (4 February) found me hasting to the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow’s city centre to meet some fellow librarians. I pause here to ask you, dear readers, what collective noun you use to describe a group of librarians? The purpose of our meeting was to embark upon a library crawl, using the local subway map as our guide, to celebrate National Libraries Day.
Our itinerary had us shoogling from the GOMA Library, to Hillhead Library in the West end of the city, followed by Partick Library, and ending up at Govan Library; this last promised us biscuits. Never underestimate the power of the biscuit. But I digress (ahem). Our great leader in this enterprise was Myra Paterson of Cardonald Library, and Anabel Marsh of the Jordanhill Campus Library at Strathclyde University organised the event. My thanks to them both!
Back to the GOMA, ten of us huddled round a table in the GOMA Library cafe with our coffees to get to know each other and defrost in the warmth. I was quite thrilled – and a bit startled! – to be identified by my blog pseudonym for the first time. Is this how authors feel? The chat about the evolution of the Glasgow library card aesthetic broke the ice quite nicely and has given me a few ideas, or embers of ideas at this early stage, for future art projects. You heard it here first!
We were a diverse group: law librarians, PhD students (researching the library field), charities librarians, higher education librarians, former librarians, all based in and around Glasgow. I was the only librarian from further afield, as I am usually based in London. In addition to supporting National Libraries Day, this was a great opportunity for me to keep up to date with my profession in a wider sense, and to see public library and librarianship practices firsthand in my home country. We were later joined by local children’s author, Lynne Rickards.
I am currently working towards my CILIP chartership qualification. Chartership puts an emphasis upon learning through evaluation; my blog is in part a way of practicing my evaluation skills and writing. The “In the Loop (another name for our day out) gave me the opportunity to study and evaluate the librarian aesthetic. Claire and I bonded over our Pepper Tree cat dresses. We were thus able to have the stereoptypical librarian familiar of the cat with us despite the refusal of Cathy’s cat to join us because of the wind and rain. I was also very taken with Lauren’s t-shirt, available here, unfortunately not in my size (waaa!). If you are interested in learning how to recognise a librarian (in libraries and beyond), I recommend looking at the Tumblr blog This is What A Librarian Looks Like here, created and maintained by Librarian by Day and the Hybrid Librarian.
Teas and coffees finished and ice most decisively broken, we moved into the GOMA Library proper to meet the librarians. Our first task was to get ourselves a Glasgow Libraries card if we didn’t already have one. Having been living in London for the past four years, I had disappeared from the system, but celebrated National Library Day with added glee by getting a new account and a new card. It is probably that I say as little as possible about my subsequent thoughts of creating a new avatar – Library Phoenix – to guide me through my New Year’s attempts to make life simpler. The first rule of the Library Shoogle was to borrow at least one book from each library we visited. To this end, Glasgow Subways had supplied us all with “shoogle bags”; I was somewhat perplexed as to what such a bag could be. If you share my confusion, you can see us modelling said bags below in Buchanan Street Subway Station.
I have mentioned in this blog previously that I have not been reading at all for some momths now; it’s something I will come back to in another blog entry, but it’s a scary thing when all your life you’ve read and read and read. In terms of the Library Shoogle, I did wonder what I could borrow that wouldn’t be too daunting, and borrowed the two books pictured below.
I chose the Beaton diaries in anticipation of a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibition Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton. Carmina Gadelica looks back to my days studying medieval Celtic literature. In terms of my reading difficulties, I reasoned that it would not be too difficult to read one poem or one diary entry at a time – it would at least be easier than reading whole books, even whole chapters.
We were given a tour of the GOMA Library, and I was very impressed by the use of the space. I remember when Stirling’s Library occupied the whole building, back when I was at school – Glasgow was then our nearest town for shopping, and it was a treat to drop in to the Library for a browse and a break from the crowds. The Library is now in the basement of the building and looks considerably different – it has been organised into smaller areas, the bookshelves acting as walls, and with comfortable seats and tables in each area – it’s like a series of living rooms. I would love to see the furniture and decor in each section reflect the books therein, but that just isn’t practical. I liked the children’s area having its own distinctive aesthetic, remembering how much I loved going to the separate children’s room in my small local library, where all the furniture was scaled to fit us. It was one of my first experiences of independence. There was an open plan computer area on one side of the bookshelves and the cafe on the other; books are thus kept spatially central to the Library experience.
Our next stop on the Library Shoogle was Glasgow’s most heavily-used Hillhead Library, on Byre’s Road in the West End. It was here I joined Glasgow Libraries when I started at Glasgow University as a fresh-faced, err, Fresher, and I was a regular visitor and book borrower for more years than I care to mention, until I went to London. In some respects, it hadn’t changed at all, which I actually liked, but I was impressed with the changes I noticed: the creation of a separate section for Graphic Novels was great, and it introduced me to an Audrey Niffenegger book I had not previously come across: The Adventuress. During our visit, led by the branch’s Librarian, we found out about Glasgow Libraries’ new initiative – an App which lets you check the barcode of any book that you come across to find out if it’s in one of the city’s libraries. It’s free to download, and is a great innovation to help people save money as well as to help libraries. This App is part of Glasgow Libraries’ “Freadom” campaign:
The visit to Hillhead Library ended with us choosing our books for borrowing. I took Scotland as my theme, and borrowed a collection of short essays and a collection of poetry:
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the whole day and de-shoogled as we left Hillhead Library. I really enjoyed the morning, learning a lot about Glasgow Libraries and what’s on in Glasgow in general. In addition to checking out some books, I collected programmes for the Glasgow Film Festival and the Aye Write Festival. I found out about what’s coming up at the Theatre Royal Glasgow – anybody fancy going to Greg Hemphill’s An Appointment with the Wicker Man? I also picked up a copy of The Skinny, a rather fantastic publication, devoted to the Scottish cultural scene, which I read avidly when I lived here.
If you want to find out how the rest of the day went, you can find accounts of the afternoon’s activities at the National Libraries Day website. I found the morning visits very positive; there’s clearly a lot going on in Glasgow’s libraries and they are well-used. People in the different branches seemed very relaxed and at home, from small children in the Hillhead Library train to people meeting in the GOMA Library cafe to browse the morning newspapers. The librarians and library users who enthusiastically shoogled gave me a great insight into Scottish libraries and librarianship. Some are unfortunately losing their libraries through cuts in the Higher Education sector, which raises the issue of what is ahead for departmental and campus-specific libraries; what will happen to libraries, collections, staff, and users as a result of centralisation of library services and places? Others are full-time library researchers taking on PhDs – I have an active interest in library research myself, albeit currently put on hold, where I study the theory outside work hours and experiment with applications of said theory in work hours. Others work in charities, supporting breast cancer sufferers and survivors; I am very interested in Hillhead Library’s plans to dedicate an area of the Library to breast cancer support resources, in terms of reading material and trained staff. Some of those who came along were avid users of libraries, for personal and professional purposes, and it was interesting to get a perspective from their side of the issue desk, so to speak.
I ended the day with a trip to my local Library, the first Library that I ever used and as such one that has a special place in my heart. I press-ganged my parents into coming along as well, to get them to borrow books and to support my profession (the latter comment may have been a reprehensible use of pricking their consciences and making them feel guilty). It being the end of the day, there were only a few people still in, so we had a leisurely quiet browse according to our interests. Dad came out with a book on walking in the Scottish countryside, while Mum got a Mary Berry book, having recently become acquainted with her through the Great Sport Relief Bake Off and a copy of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes. I decided to challenge my current (lack of) reading abilities by borrowing a novel, albeit a very short one:
THere were signs up advertising National Libraries Day throughou the Library. The main initiative was an offer to current Library members to bring in a family member or friend to sign up to the Library; both would then be entered into a £50 prize draw. Unfortunately – from the financial perspective, at least – I could not take part. Happily my family are already members of the local library.
I should have posted this blog entry two weeks ago, in the days immediately following National Libraries Day. Unfortunately, my inability to do much in the way of reading is compounded by my inability to do much in the way of writing, so it’s taken two weeks to shape this entry into something approaching coherent thoughts. I am working on another blog entry looking at problems of reading and writing and how to work through them. In the meantime, I have been thinking about what the next steps are to help save libraries? There has been lots written and lots done in this area in the past fortnight to three weeks and today Annie Mauger, the CILIP CEO, addresses the Culture, Media and Sport Inquiry into the closure of public libraries. Now that I’ve written this blog entry about my personal experiences of National Library Day, I can turn my attention to what people have been doing, and what I can do, to follow up on its achievements.