Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

20 April 2022

Library Lives: Paramjit Hans, Birmingham

‘My favourite enquiry? A child once asked if we had photographs of real dinosaurs!’

In this month’s celebration of librarians, we meet Paramjit Hans, Business and Learning Officer at the Library of Birmingham.

Paramjit HansParamjit Hans

Tell us about your role

My main job is Business and IP advisor at BIPC Birmingham and I also work on the customer service desk, helping people with enquiries, finding and reserving items and advising on learning and work opportunities.

I have a Postgraduate Diploma in Librarianship and Information Studies – I initially got a job as a Library Assistant and the opportunity arose to get qualified whilst working. I did my course one day a week for three years.

The Library of Birmingham
The Library of Birmingham

Where was your local library growing up?

I grew up in Handsworth, Birmingham and that was my local library.

Do you have a favourite item in your library’s collection?

Audubon’s Birds of America. John James Audubon was an ornithologist in the early 19th century and created this large and beautifully illustrated four-volume book. It’s a very rare and valuable item, which can only be viewed by appointment. I have a long-standing interest in wildlife so can appreciate the exquisite detail and skill of the artist in these pictures.

Iceland or Jer Falcon from Birds of America
Iceland or Jer Falcon from Birds of America

[The British Library also holds a copy of Birds of America. Click here to take a look.]

What’s your favourite query that you’ve helped someone with?

A child once asked if we had photographs of real dinosaurs!

What's your favourite thing about your library?

I love that you can look at the historical development of the local area, and see what your street looked like 100 years ago.

Other than your own, where's your favourite library, or one you would most like to visit?

I would really like to visit the Vatican Library as I am fascinated by historical artefacts that draw a vivid picture of life as it was centuries ago.

Sum up being a librarian in three words

Helping people discover.

What do you think makes a good librarian?

Empathy, patience and good listening skills.

If you weren't doing your current job, what would you be?

Anything to do with animal conservation.

Outside of work…

I have run nearly 100 half marathons.

What do you wish people knew about libraries that you suspect they don’t?

That we have whole collections that have been donated: original works not available elsewhere. At the Library of Birmingham, there are some very rare and early editions of Shakespeare plays.

Favourite fictional librarian?

Malachi of Hildesheim, from the film The Name of the Rose, based on the 1980 novel of the same name by Umberto Eco. He was a fascinating character, charged with protecting the secret content of comedic books at all costs.

Book recommendation?

The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain De Botton. This is an analysis of how we can learn lessons from ancient philosophers, which will help us better our lives now.

Find out more about Birmingham's BIPC Centre by clicking here. It’s one of 19 National Network BIPCs around the UK. The BIPC can help you imagine, start or develop your business. 

Interview by Ellen Morgan.

We’re interviewing 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 [email protected] 

Would you like this to be you? Find out more about becoming a librarian on the CILIP website.