05 October 2021
Library Lives: Caroline Kent, British Library Boston Spa
‘Being a librarian in three words? An absolute privilege.’
Continuing the Libraries Week launch of our new series, Library Lives, we meet Caroline Kent, qualified librarian and Metadata Creation Programmes Manager.
Where was your local library growing up?
We didn’t really have a local anything! I grew up in rural North Yorkshire. But I do have very fond memories of my primary school library. It was admittedly tiny, as there were fewer than 100 pupils in the school, but it was wonderful: a set of shelves along the wall of the assembly/gym/dinner room. It was fabulous to visit and sit in the big hall once a week to read, or choose a new book, and take it home for the weekend.
Why did you want to become a librarian?
It was entirely by accident! I took a temporary job in the university library where I studied for my first (non-library) degree while I was waiting for my results. Almost immediately I thought ‘I love this’ and decided I would take the first chance at a full time permanent role. From there I did an Information and Library Studies Degree at Aberystwyth, and have been loving the constant change and new challenges ever since.
What does your current job involve?
I manage the cataloguing teams based at Boston Spa, with a temporary caretaker role looking after some of the cataloguing teams in St Pancras whilst we get a new manager in place.
Do you have a favourite item in the Library’s collection?
Possibly a cliché but I love the Lindisfarne Gospels.
The role and life of a scribe has always fascinated me: both incredibly isolated but yet with such broad connections geographically and through time. I know I am romanticising – we do need to remember the dark, cold, cramped and often painful situations endured – but for me that adds to the amazing objects that were created. It’s a wonderful object in its own right but more than that, it now represents the best of what the British Library does: an incredible historic artefact, made widely available through the fabulous digitisation techniques behind our online services, and the most amazing facsimile edition that can be loaned for others to see beyond the Library.
What's your favourite thing that you can do in a library?
Travel. Every book is a journey, fiction and non-fiction. Whether it is a tiny tot amazed at reading hour with their mum, or a researcher who finds the one piece of a puzzle they’ve been missing, everyone in a library is on a journey.
Where's your favourite library, or one you would most like to visit?
The Library of Alexandria, the modern version! Although of course if I could time travel… I have been lucky enough to visit once, and was struck by the amazing vision of the designers; incorporating ideals of inclusivity and accessibility, with the amazing history of the location, and balancing print books with digital access.
Can you sum up being a librarian in three words?
An absolute privilege.
What do you think makes a good librarian?
Patience and curiosity.
If you weren't doing your current job, what would you be?
Something to do with gardening. I love growing things and exploring gardens, especially historic and re-created kitchen gardens. There is something very humbling about watching your food grow from a seed, looking after it, and then seeing it on your plate.
What one thing do you wish people knew about libraries or being a librarian that you suspect they don’t?
Everyone is welcome. I’d like everyone to realise that whether it’s the local newspaper, a coffee and browse, a children’s hour, or just information about the local area, libraries are there for everyone to use as they need. It’s not important whether you liked school or not, or even whether you liked books. All that matters is that you are curious.
Tell us something about yourself that has nothing to do with your job
I love trying new things. I don’t have any sports or hobbies that I really focus on, except perhaps walking, but I do just love to dabble. This is a picture at the top of the Devil’s Staircase. It’s part of the West Highland Way, a long distance route I walked a couple of years ago with my husband and a friend. Yes, he knows the picture is being included!
Interview by Ellen Morgan
We spoke to people who have professional registration status as a librarian via the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals or who have an academic qualification such as a first degree, a postgraduate diploma or a Master’s degree in library and information studies or librarianship.
Is this you? If you’d like to feature in Library Lives, get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
Would you like this to be you? Find out more about becoming a librarian on the CILIP website.