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Katie Fraser's blog and website

I'm an academic librarian, working in the UK Higher Educational sector, supporting academics and students. Prior to this, I was a researcher, working with social and learning technologies.

My interests include the application of emerging and traditional technologies, research support in libraries, learning spaces, evidence-based practice and the professional development of library and information workers.

You can find out more about more about me from the links to the left. Note that the views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other individual or organisation.



Visit to Chesterfield Public Library

October 8th, 2008

The first library visit of the MA course today, and we went to Chesterfield Public Library, with the slightly broader remit of hearing about Derbyshire Public Libraries in general. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll have picked up that my career plan isn’t really focused on public libraries. I’m not one to turn down a library visit though: I do believe that the different library sectors can learn a lot from each other, and it’s also generally interesting to go and see the services other sectors offer. I also have to say that if I was less certain of my career goals I would have been swayed completely!

Derbyshire sounds like a fantastic library service to work for: they seem up to speed with the political agenda, open to new ideas about how to make the library service work for the public, and full of initiatives for drawing new users in. My personal favourite aspect of the library was how much natural light came in: I find so many libraries in every sector lack this. Of course, part of their agenda was to sell their service to us – in a year we’ll be potential job applicants – it’ll be interesting to see whether that’s a theme in future visits too!

One of the things I enjoyed thinking about during the visit was how academic and research libraries could learn from the way things are done in public libraries. The picture in the top right shows the front-facing books displays which seem to be becoming pretty common in public libraries. I was wondering if academic libraries could benefit from similar displays. Universities often concentrate on core texts for undergraduates, but as a postgraduate I certainly would have been tempted by a display of intellectual classics. For example, when I was an undergraduate my lecturer claimed that every educated adult should have read ‘The Selfish Gene‘ by Richard Dawkins, and I know I’m always telling people to pick up ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat‘ by Oliver Sacks. Promoting books as tangible and desirable artefacts isn’t really done in academia, but it could lead to wider reading, expand minds and encourage interdisciplinary thought. In fact, reading without a specific learning outcome in mind is something the academic sector could borrow from public libraries in general!

One Response to “Visit to Chesterfield Public Library”

  1. thatblackbook says:

    That sounds like an interesting visit! And I second you on the display thing. At my home university, the students’ core text collection (mainly concerned with law and economics) has a display of the latest novels that have come into the library – but only like we have at the ASL, as covers pinned on a noticeboard.

    Sadly, German university studies generally leave little time for reading outside your course – even more so since the introduction of the BA/MA system. It’s a shame that nowadays learning/education is not seen as something that has a value in itself, but something that only has value if it can be used in the wider economy of the country. And then they wonder why people fail on general knowledge/education tests… but I’m rambling.

    Also, I think The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat is excellent, as is Oliver Sacks.

    Gah, I really want to go on library visits now!

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