Tell us a little about your role with Dublin City Libraries and the kind of things that you do
As the Deputy City Librarian I support the City Librarian in running the library service in the City. We have 21 branches, a mobile service, and specialist services like the City Archives, and a team of 240 or so dedicated library staff.
I suppose my work can be divided into three types (sorry, we librarians like to categorise things): the first is the kind that anyone in charge of any large team would do, like managing staff and money and administration, and attending meetings (lots of meetings). Then there’s the work that comes from working in a local authority, like answering questions from councillors, and providing the secretariat for council committees (and attending meetings of course). Lastly there’s the work I get to do because I work in a library and archive service. That ranges from supporting our branch staff in delivering day-to-day library services, to leading national projects like selecting a new computer system for all the public libraries in the country to use, to running the annual Dublin Festival of History (and the meetings, of course).
So, I do lots of different things at different times, which is great.
What is your favourite part of the job?
I really like the variety, but I have to admit to having a soft spot for anything to do with our history & heritage services. I’ve mentioned the Dublin Festival of History, but there’s also the historians-in-residence programme and the Council’s Commemorations and commemorative naming (e.g. plaques) programme. I’ve a great interest in history so working on those is always a pleasure. Having said that, the best part of the job is hearing how much people appreciate the public library service – it really makes the work worthwhile.
Tell us about the library where you work. What are you most proud of?
I don’t work in a library as such, as I’m based on our headquarters in Pearse Street. I suppose in recent years I’m very proud of the Dublin Festival of History which we started in 2013. It’s very satisfying to see an idea you have turned into reality. In the past year I’m very proud of the great work done by the libraries’ team in responding to the pandemic: they’ve done a great job.
Who was one of the most inspirational/ interesting people you have met in your work with Dublin City Libraries?
I’ve been lucky to work with lots of inspirational people over the years, and also fortunate to have met lots of writers and historians. Given my interest in history, I really like meeting historians whose books I’ve read and enjoyed.
Tell us something about your library that might surprise us.
We have employed Lord Nelson (well his head at least) to watch over the students studying in our reading room.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I can’t pick one particular book I loved as a child, but I was an avid reader. I read all the Enid Blyton I could get my hands on, including Malory Towers and St Clare’s, and I remember reading things like Treasure Island and Biggles (a sure sign of my age!). As a teenager I discovered Tolkien and then read a lot of fantasy and mythology and a lot of science fiction. Asimov was a particular favourite.
What are you reading right now?
I usually have a couple of books on the go, one fiction and one non-fiction. At the time of writing I’m re-reading David Dickson’s brilliant history of the City of Dublin. In fiction I’ve been on a bit of an Agatha Christie binge. Although I’ve read lots and lots of detective novels, for some reason I never got around to Poirot and Miss Marples. I’ve just finished Peril at End House. I’m looking forward to three new releases: Slough House by Mick Herron and Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz are both thrillers, but very different; Joe Abercrombie writes darkly brilliant fantasy, and his newest, The Trouble with Peace, is on my to-be-read list. As you can see, when I read fiction I read to escape.
Which of your books is battered from using again and again?
My most battered book is a paperback copy of The Lord of the Rings, which I bought years and years ago. I’ve read the book every year, usually at Christmas, for more years than I care to remember. It’s pure comfort reading for me.
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us.
I’ve worked in libraries for many, many years, but I’ve never once shushed someone!