We caught up with library supervisor, Julie Mckirdy, to find out more about the library, her role, forthcoming events and some unusual book requests. Julie even managed to make us blush too.
What’s your role at Thimblemill Library and how long have you worked there for? Why did you decide to become a librarian?
My role here at Thimblemill library is of Library supervisor and on the 4th September 2013, it will be my 35th year for Sandwell Libraries. I was 16 when I started at Smethwick Library. My first job was in the Schools and Children’s section. My role was mainly office based and after a few weeks or a few coffee breaks with the other staff, I thought it sounded better out in the main library! One day I asked if I could go and help out, I loved it! Every opportunity I got I was helping out in the library. I was there for 3 months when the job at Thimblemill came up.
At 16 all I wanted to do was to join the police force. At 19 I joined the police specials; this was voluntary and was encouraged at that time if you wanted a career in the police. I can say I enjoyed the experience especially as one of the jobs was to report to the Hawthorns for every match day to help with the policing the crowd (just perfect if you are a baggies fan like me) eventually I found I enjoyed libraries better and the rest is history! I can honestly say I have loved every minute, every day is different and I have met some wonderful inspirational people in my time.
Photo courtesy of Tony HisgettWhat changes have you seen in the library since you started working there?
Gosh…it’s so different now! We had the original Browne Issue System for loaning books. When a book was borrowed you took one of the reader's borrowing cards and removed the book's own card. The two cards were filed together in the issue that the books were stamped with the date they were due back.
This system was replaced in 1992 by a computer system; we are now on our fourth system! All the books had their own individual catalogue cards. They were crossed referenced so for one book you might have had 4 catalogue cards i.e. author, title, sub title and class number and with non-fiction you would have these flimsy stock sheets again cross referenced, so when It came to new books and deletions it would be a days job! It would take you all morning to write out new borrower tickets and file them away, now to register a new user it takes a few seconds.
We would issue around 1,000 books a day, so it was constantly shelving books. Thimblemill housed the reserve stock for Sandwell libraries, requests from library to library were requested over the phone and these would take time to search and flag up…now just a push of a button! Some jobs stayed the same i.e. shelving, putting stock in order, class visits and children’s activities.
We now have self serve machines so no more date stamping. I’ve seen and worked in the library in its original condition and in the late 80’s the library went through it’s 1st refurbishment due to the flat roof leaking in, we were re -housed in the old café in Thimblemill Baths for 10 months. I’ve met some lovely people in my time, seen toddlers grow into parents themselves.
What do you think the future holds for Thimblemill Library?
Libraries are fantastic sources of information, advice and support for the communities they serve. They provide internet access for anyone, in an environment that feels safe and secure.
Today’s economic challenge means people need library services more than ever, to help them back to work, in education and lifelong learning. With the challenging times we are all facing at the moment, it will have an impact on how we deliver our service but it’s a much needed service.
Libraries are constantly re-inventing themselves, new ideas for a positive new future.
What exciting news can you tell us about future events?
We have the successful and fantastic Utter Bear wood – Storytelling for the people! That’s always on the 4th Thursday of each month, 28th February, Polly Tisdall, young storyteller of the year, performing Moonlighting - check out their facebook page.
Something new in June! We will be hosting a Children’s theatre company, Booster Cushion and their performance will be 'Alan in Wonderland and the Three Goats Plus...'
October saw our 1st children’s talent show; there are some fantastic talented people in Bearwood. This year we will be holding a local talent show date to be confirmed.
Which author would you love to have signing books in the library? Why?
I would love Julie Walters it’s her childhood library, the library that she got her love of reading from.
What’s the strangest book request you ever had?
Oh…that’s hard, I was only young at the time, a borrower asked for a book and this was in the time when you had to phone the library direct. It was……wait for it…. having an orgasm in your sixties and seventies! You might not want to put that down!
Apart from book requests I’ve was once asked if I could play the piano for this elderly couple in their home, every Friday night!
What’s your favourite book and what do you love about it?
I have so many; a book that I will always remember is the L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks
What role do you think Thimblemill Library plays in Bearwood?
Thimblemill library is a cultural hub of our local community and Bearwood is the capital of cultural and exciting new ideas.
What’s your opinion of the new library being built on Broad Street in Birmingham?
I think it’s exciting and I’m really looking forward to the opening. The new library, it will get people excited about libraries again and will draw new people in, especially with the learning, cultural and arts at the new Birmingham library. This will help redefine what libraries are about!
It’s all in the new title for Birmingham –Rewriting the Book! Libraries should offer new and exciting things to their communities
How many books does Thimblemill Library hold? What’s the oldest or rarest book?
Thimblemill’s Stock is: on the shelf:33832 on loan: 299243
All old stock and rare books goes into Sandwell’s reserve stock /Community History and Archives.
Our rarest book is: the 'Warley Estate [Red] Book' by Humphry Repton dated 1795 and as we all know: Humphrey Repton was a Landscape Gardener (the Capability Brown of his time) who designed gardens and estates all over the country.
He designed the Warley estate (Warley Abbey) for the Galton family. We are not sure how many copies of the book were produced for each estate, but as they were hand written and hand painted, probably only a couple. The Red Book was his selling tool, but has become rare works of art.
Our oldest document 1369 is: Deed of John Wilkys of Darlaston regarding unspecified property (Deed grants Richard del Heth and wife Juliana unspecified lands and tenements)
It was found in the walls of the gatehouse of West Bromwich Manor House, when it was being renovated.
Please tell us your Bearwood All-Star. In other words what, who or where makes you smile in Bearwood?
You, you always make me smile, I love reading your website. You make it fun and we all need that bit of fun in our lives. (Mrs B: wow, thank you, you're making us blush!)
Also all the lovely outdoor fun like: Warley Woods, Lightwoods and Bearwood Shuffle etc... We are so lucky there are some lovely people living in Bearwood. I love to walk up Bearwood Road (sorry I’m old it’s Bearwood Road…not the High St) and chat to people and that’s make me smile.
I used to love going shopping with my Grandmother we didn’t get very far she would always stop and chat to people she knew. I would always ask who they were and before she finished her story of who they were, we would stop again and start chatting to someone else.
I’m now my Grandmother reincarnated and I love it!
We like to ask everyone this question. What make Lightwoods Chippy’s Chips orange?
Paprika batter, something that you would find in a lot of Black Country fish and chip shops! The Lightwoods Chippy has always been known for their orange chips. I can remember them when I was very young too…now that’s a long time ago!