Featured Readers

Each month we sit down for a chat with a ‘Featured Reader’, to find out about their favourite books of all time, their literary preferences, recommendations, revered authors, & the likes...

This Month

Maeve Wallace

Maeve Wallace

Reading got me through the lockdown ...

Maeve Wallace, Information Officer, Citizens Information

Tell us a little about your job and how the pandemic has affected it ...

I’m an Information Officer with Dublin South Citizens Information Service, based in the Rathmines centre. My role involves the provision of free, confidential and impartial information, advice and advocacy services to members of the public. We have always operated as a drop-in service; however that changed overnight since the beginning of the first lockdown.

The centres closed and we straight away moved to telephone and email services only, responding to the huge volume of queries that came through each day. We noticed there was a change in the people contacting us – many were new to the whole social welfare system and were trying to navigate it while worrying about jobs, rents and mortgages. The closure of drop-in along with the out-reach services, is a worry with regard to the most vulnerable of our regular service users. We hope to get back to providing those services again soon.

What’s that like, listening to people’s stories while they’re in that moment of a crisis and needing advice?

The qualities needed for doing this job are an open mind and empathy. After that we receive comprehensive training and try to ensure that we create a calm atmosphere for people in that moment of stress and then offer practical advice and support. The thing I found most difficult at the beginning was not being in the same room with the client, you underestimate how much you read from a situation face to face. It’s harder to pick up on everything over the phone so you really have to concentrate and it’s more tiring.

The effects of the pandemic continue to impact and I see people’s concerns changing - initially the main concern was health and also accessing what were hoped to be short term social welfare benefits. As time goes on people are worrying about the long term impact - their jobs and their overall well-being. The best part of the job is feeling relevant and being in a position to offer practical help in this time.

Tell us a bit about yourself, where did you grow up?

I grew up as part of a large working class family in Harold’s Cross, Dublin, where I still live today.

What is your earliest memory of reading?

I must have been about four or five years old. I remember I got a book from Santa - The Ugly Duckling. I had it finished by 9:30am and went around reading it to my siblings whether they wanted to hear it or not. I treasured that book.

Do you have a favourite book or author from childhood?

To be honest no - I was happy to read anything - we rarely got a new book because money was so tight; books were passed down or picked up second hand at school fairs. I used to go to Rathmines Library and would wander from shelf to shelf - I couldn’t get over the amount of books there were. I remember the smell and that it was so quiet and peaceful too in contrast to our house where it was always so busy.

We didn't borrow the books much though; my mother was always too worried we might lose them or that they would get damaged by the younger siblings. She loved to see us reading but she just wouldn’t have had the money to replace them if anything happened.

Which of your books is battered and worn from using over and over again?

Mindfulness - A practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams.

Is there a book in particular that opened up another culture to you?

I love books that transport me to another place. I remember reading The Moment by Douglas Kennedy. It’s set mainly in Berlin, just before the city was divided and it really brought it home to me what life was like for the German people at that time. I was totally absorbed in it.

Another book that really made an impact on me was The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne. I remember picking it up at the airport going on holidays. It really opened my mind and gave me some sense of the hardship endured by gay men in Ireland, because of their sexuality. I remember not knowing if I loved or hated it at the end - the sign of something that has made you think?

Similarly, are there any books that have changed your perspective?

I would say To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I read it as a teenager and still remember how I felt about the injustice and attitudes in the book to this day.

Do you have an all-time favourite book?

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is probably my all-time favourite. We read this novel in secondary school and the whole class was completely absorbed in the story. It’s full of amazing memorable characters and I followed how they changed and developed throughout the book - Pip, Miss Havisham, Joe and Estella, they have stayed clear in my mind since. It’s a big book but definitely one to settle down with when you have the time.

Some people found it hard to concentrate and read over lockdown - what about you?

I was the opposite, a lot of my friends turned to Netflix and TV but I wanted to get away from a screen so buried myself in books when I finished work. I discovered an Irish author, Patricia Gibney who writes crime thrillers. I loved her books and got stuck into them one after another. In fact, reading got me through the lock down.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading three books at the moment - I often do that, hop from book to book at the same time. The main one is called Here to Stay, a psychological thriller by Mark Edwards. It's very dark with a lot of bad things going on. I can’t read that in bed, I’d have nightmares, so the others are: Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes and The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck.

Do you think your job affects what you read?

I think it probably does - I really want to escape in books so love fiction that brings me to another world.

Do you have any book recommendations for people who want to work in your area?

There are many publications on the Citizens Information Bureau but really the most important thing in this line of work is to be open- minded, empathetic, an active listener and to enjoy helping people.

shelves

The Books

We have been finding out about the books that matter to you, to grow this virtual bookshelf that represents the lives, families and culture of the people that call Dublin home. Here are a selection of some of the books that you have been telling us …

Share Your Favourites?

We want to hear about the books that matter to you. Tell us about your most cherished books, what you’re reading right now, your favourite book from your childhood, and the books that make up the story of your life. Share your recommended reads and take part here

Take Part

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libraries@dublincity.ie

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