Living Knowledge blog

16 May 2022

Library Lives: Morgan Wadsworth-Boyle, British Library St Pancras

A good librarian is a bit of a detective, I think – whether it’s hunting down a mis-shelved book or the answer to a question.’

In this month’s celebration of librarians, we’re back at the British Library to meet Morgan Wadsworth-Boyle.

Selfie MorganMorgan Wadsworth-Boyle

Tell us about your role

I’m one of the Loans Co-ordinators at the British Library. Our team organises the loan of Library materials to exhibitions around the world, and makes arrangements for borrowing items for British Library exhibitions. We get to see beautiful books, prints, maps, letters, photographs, from all areas of the library (there is no end to the incredible material the collection holds!) and make sure they are safe and secure to travel to new places to be seen by new people.

Where was your local library growing up?

My childhood library was the Ojai Library in California – it is a gorgeous library with a courtyard shaded by oak trees. Great for reading your new selections outdoors.

2022_05_03_Ojai LibraryOjai Library (Photo by Ron Solórzano, Regional Librarian, used with permission)

Why did you want to become a librarian?

I studied art history and was always interested in how art and books interacted with and influenced each other, from illuminated manuscripts to contemporary artist’s books. I think often the art of the book gave artists space to be a bit more playful or humorous – everyone loves a weird little dude! Murderous rabbits! Snail cats!

MarginaliaMarginalia from a 14th-century Breviary (Yates Thompson MS 8 f292r)

What is the most unexpected query you have helped someone with?

Working at my university library’s reference desk, I once had a panicked student rush up to ask, ‘Where are the books?!??’

Which library would you would most like to visit?

I’d love to visit the Joanina Library or the Library at the National Palace of Mafra in Portugal – they are both home to colonies of pipistrelle bats who serve as the pest control team.

MafraPalace-Library
Library in the Mafra National Palace, Portugal, used under Creative Commons licence

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

I’ve done some exhibition design, and I loved creating an exhibition space that helped to tell the story as much as the items on display – getting to dig in and get hands-on to bring something from imagination to reality is such a great feeling.

Painting sign

Outside of work?

I love gardening – I’ve got a lot of learning to do, but I’m very proud of my massive dahlia! It reached 7 feet 4 inches last year.

Dahlia

How have things changed in libraries since you qualified?

When I was in library school, there was so much talk about virtual libraries and QR codes, which never really seemed very useful or possible to implement – but we’ve seen how far those have come in the last three years!

Favourite fictional librarian?

Irene from The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman – or Evie from The Mummy – I love a librarian-adventurer with dubious collecting and object-handling practices (in fiction, not in reality!).

Can you recommend us a book?

I didn’t like short stories for a long time, but years ago when I was on maternity leave I came to appreciate being able to read something I could actually finish! Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women is a collection of stories that weren’t always easy to read, but were always powerful.

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 ellen.morgan@bl.uk

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

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