I’ve scarcely known an afternoon go so fast.  It was my third shadowing session as a Library Volunteer and I was beginning to get the hang of it.

My mentor on this occasion, Sharon from Penkridge Library, was friendliness and helpfulness personified.  I can only guess at the private thoughts of librarians who are currently tasked with showing us amateurs the ropes, because in an ideal world I still believe that libraries should be staffed by professionals who’ve undergone significant academic and experiential training.  However, as there was no getting away from the fact that Kinver Library was designated as one among many in Staffordshire that must become ‘community-managed’, I was keen to volunteer and help keep it open.  I reckoned that not only would I be contributing a useful service to the village but that it would also be good for me to get away from my reclusive writing room and participate in a shared sense of endeavour.

What I didn’t anticipate was that it would be so much fun.  Once you begin to get to grips with the complexities of the various systems, you can enjoy the variety of tasks and of course the stimulation of interacting with the public.  Issuing books and discharging returned ones is only the start.  Renewals and reservations, print release from the public access computers and assistance with the photocopier are just a few of the other functions.  Next time on my ‘to learn’ list is how to enrol a new member.

This time I also tackled the list of ‘wants’ – requests that have come in from members at other libraries in the County to borrow particular books from our shelves.  This was good exercise, and for someone who naturally tends to gravitate towards literary fiction and travel it was a great way of finding my way around the less familiar sections of the stock.  Searching amongst children’s picture books is something of a delightfully nostalgic challenge as they’re grouped in no particular order.  Adult fiction is alphabetical, but non-fiction is categorised using the Dewey Decimal system.  I learned the hard way that it’s all too easy for someone to have mis-shelved adult non-fiction amongst autobiography.  I also learned that sometimes something simply can’t be found: hopefully Horrid Henry and Moody Margaret will eventually come out of hiding.