Lauren, Books, Reading and Culture Librarian

Lauren tells us about her career journey from a Casual Library Assistant to a Books, Reading and Culture Librarian.

Tell us a bit about yourself

Hi, my name is Lauren and I graduated from The University of Surrey with a degree in Theatre and Performance in 2018. I have always loved all things creative, from storytelling, writing and reading to art and music. My favourite genres are Sci-Fi and Fantasy, often reading Manga and Graphic novels. I love fantastical worldbuilding, engaging enigmatic characters and mind-bending science.

I started working with West Sussex in 2019 as a Casual Library Assistant at Burgess Hill Library before it moved to its new location. My current secondment to the position of Books, Reading and Culture Librarian started in January 2023, covering maternity leave for a fellow Burgess Hill Library expat!

What inspired you to become a Books, Reading and Culture Librarian?

When I joined the West Sussex Library service, I was instantly interested in stockwork, book buying and library hosted events. It was then that I learnt about the then Books, Reading and Engagement team (before they changed their name to better suit their role in the library service). The local librarian was always happy to talk to me and give me wonderful reading suggestions, and they have gone out of their way since to help me progress and show me the ropes. The Books, Reading and Culture team are a joy to work with!

Why did you choose to work for West Sussex?

Despite my post-graduation plan to try and break into the world of acting; I have always loved reading and after visiting the New York Public Library with my parents at the tender age of eight, I knew that libraries were somewhere I felt like I belonged. From that moment it became a dream of mine to work in one.

The West Sussex Library Service in particular caught my attention due to its wonderful core values and wide-ranging service, both for customers and for staff!

What is the best thing about being a Books, Reading and Culture Librarian at West Sussex?

I get to spend my days looking at books, talking about books, ordering books and making display materials for books! The position also means we get to talk to authors, run events with them and engage with the literary industry beyond the library service.

What do you particularly enjoy about working in the Books, Reading and Culture Librarian team?

I particularly enjoy book ordering, author events and content creating for our stock promotion programme. I have always loved research and these three elements of my job require some detective work and allow me to explore my creative side.

How does West Sussex support you to develop and progress?

West Sussex acknowledges its staff’s strengths, allowing them to get stuck into projects that they love and provide training opportunities designed to tailor skills, learn new ones and how to apply them. My colleagues have always been supportive, providing advice on how to progress my career and where current vacancies are within the library service.

I was told when I started out ‘don’t be afraid to ask questions’, because at the end of the day that is how you learn! It promotes an openness between colleagues and every team I have worked with supports and helps each other wherever possible, especially to develop and progress.

Is there a particular case or something about your work here that makes you feel proud?

I have recently made a promotional video for our customer Newsletter - ‘How to Throw a Eurovision Party’, that features six points covering library service stock that you can use to throw a party to remember! Working closely with Principal Librarian for Customers and Partners, I was able to create the graphics, time-lapse visuals and record the voice over, all held together by a rather cheesy (very appropriate for Eurovision) backing track. I was able to create something of a professional standard, that tapped into several skills and hobbies of mine, all whilst promoting the wonderful range of stock we house across our 36 libraries.

What would you say are the challenges of being a Books, Reading and Culture Librarian?

There are a lot of different, overlapping facets to my job role, and of course there are pinch points where I have to juggle priorities. Sometimes this might mean pulling focus away from the monthly “At The Shelves” stockwork to focus on library events. For example, March saw the return of WORDfest Crawley Festival of Words - a month long literary festival that celebrates local authors, creatives and the history of the town.

Crawley Library was host to four of the events which required a lot of work behind the scenes and some late nights, so at the end of the day planning is everything!

If there is one myth you could bust about a Books, Reading and Culture Librarian, what would it be?

Believe it or not, I have only ever asked one person to keep the volume down whist in the library, but I did so without ‘shushing' them. Public libraries have evolved a lot over the last few years and whilst we are information hubs, full of wonderful books, we are also community hubs that house reading groups, knit and natter and baby rhyme time sessions. So, we make noise sometimes!

What is your favourite book?

Now this is an excellent question! And I think I might struggle to pin it down to one. So here are some of the books that have stuck with me and will be re-read until the end of time!

  • Wolf Brother (Chronicles of Ancient Darkness) by Michelle Paver
  • Gideon The Ninth (Locked Tomb Series) by Tamsyn Muir
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Voyages in The Underworld of Orpheus Black by Marcus Sedgwick, Julian Sedgewick and Alexis Deacon
  • Scott Pilgrim (Scott Pilgrim VS. Series) by Bryan Lee O’Malley

What would you say to somebody considering joining us?

Don’t be afraid to apply if you haven’t worked with books before. A good knowledge of books and enjoying reading are things we value, but the library service offers a diverse range of roles and activities for the public. Therefore, any past experience that you may think might not be relevant could be just what we’re looking for. For example, during my degree I did a lot of sound engineering and design work which has now helped me produce every element of a promotional video for the library service. I didn’t think that skill set would aid me in my role, but it has proved very handy!

Last updated:
27 June 2023
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