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This month features a collection of libraries! Lara Marshall, the Libraries Group Manager for three libraries within Hillingdon Libraries in West London gives us a glimpse into her life, and the Libraries she works with. I still find it completely inspirational to read about how diverse and wonderfully inclusive libraries are, Hillingdon Libraries offer so much for their community. I recently attended the Books and the City Gin Fling event at The Great Barn in Ruislip, Lara hosted the event beautifully, creating a really lovely atmosphere as she introduced and chatted to the authors. A couple of Lara’s favourite books just happen to feature on my list too, I declare us kindred spirits!
Tell us about your library and the area it sits in.
Hillingdon Libraries - we are the 2nd largest borough in London and have the most libraries of any London Borough (17!)
Describe your library in three words.
London, Community, Inclusive.
Apart from plenty of reading material, what other services does your library offer?
There are so many things! Chairobics exercises for people who are limited with mobility, taster sessions to assist with learning how to use the computer, author events to engage readers, poetry groups, art exhibitions, coffee mornings, informative talks, rhyme times & storytimes, dementia reminiscence sessions, Tovertafel (magic table) sessions specifically designed for people with dementia or disabilities. CV writing sessions, knit "n" natter groups, film clubs....the list is endless.
What is the strangest book-related question your team has been asked?
"So, like, I'm able to take them home & read them, right?"........
In case that doesn't suffice:
"I need a book about books - you've got that right?"
If you were to become a character from a book for the day, who would it be and why?
Lizbeth Salander from "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Series. She is honestly the most bad-ass character I've ever come across.
What’s been the biggest surprise about working in a library?
To be honest, the amount of work involved in making sure that everything runs smoothly. While it's easy to go into your local library, read the paper, go on the computer, book a place on a free event and take out a book there is a tremendous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure that this happens!
Lots of my friends assume that working in a library means you get to read all day...if only.
What are your top three must-reads?
Certain books just change the way you see the world - here are a few of mine:
This is such a hard list to create and there are so many more I could mention and write essays on! But these have all had huge impacts on my life.
What is your favourite book from your childhood, and why did you love it?
I loved the film "Annie" and when my mum (who is from the US) gave me a copy of the book of Annie when I was about 8 years old, I was over the moon. It was the first novel I read in entirety and then read again & again & again. This book was my first real discovery that there were people worse off than me in the world, my first step into real empathy, my first step into putting myself into "someone else's shoes" and something I've never stopped doing since.
Tell us about your particular job role.
I'm a group manager of three libraries in the north of Hillingdon borough and I manage the adult events programme for the borough. I also lead on the Culture Bite festival, which is Hillingdon Council's flagship Arts & Culture festival. Let's just say that no day at work is the same.
Why are libraries such a vital link in our communities?
Libraries are the last "all-inclusive" place that is open to every member of society, libraries provide the most important service that is free of charge to all. You can learn anything, you can ask any question, you can search for anything. There is no censorship, no judgement, no prejudice. I think this genuinely one of the last places in the world where you're able to get all of this.
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