Public vs Academic Libraries. Blogjune 9/24



It’s a tiny movie that takes a bit of time to load. The berries on the common hackberry almost touching my balcony have matured enough for me to share my space with lorikeets for a couple of weeks. You can hear at the end that I also share the space with an intrigued cat.

Last week, Graeme wrote a series of posts about the differences between academic and public libraries, based on a lighting talk he gave to Kingston Library in April.

He made a post a day where he discussed differences in:

I’d second most of what he said. Especially about different talents you nurture in each, and the relationships to money and clients.

I started as a 19 year old in academic libraries, as an after-hours library clerk, which saw me through uni over five years. I returned to work in an academic library from 2001-2009 as a reference librarian, philosophy subject librarian and then emerging technologies specialist. I did a stint in 2020 as senior librarian, copyright, for another university. I finished my time as a university lecturer last year by designing and delivering the first Australian postgraduate course in scholarly communications.

I worked in public libraries from 1992 – 1999 in systems and community information roles. I returned to publics for a year from 2009 to 2010, doing systems and young adult work. When I began my university lecturing career in 2010, a course called “Public libraries” was among the units I taught for a couple of years.

One thing missing from Graeme’s list was – what public holidays mean for each sector.

In academic libraries, busy periods tend to follow exam time and major assessments. Toward the end of the year is time to catch up on all that housekeeping and admin you missed during the year. Most universities actually shut down all buildings from about the week before Christmas until just after New Year. Apart from minimal service-desk shifts, you actually have to write an email to your supervisor justifying why you need to work during that period.

Public holidays in public libraries! Oh the shock when I moved from academic back into publics in 2009, used to the gentle, productive down period of the Christmas holidays. We used to joke that clients acted as though the library would be shut for three years, not three days, over Easter. The days before the public holiday huge numbers of clients would swarm in and clear out the stock. Then the day after the public holiday we would feel very missed – with more clients visiting than average, telling us how important we were in their lives, swamping us with returns. And- the seasonal presents in the public libraries I worked in! Grateful clients would bake, drop off crafts, and in one library somebody paid for “all the library staff to go out to dinner”. This happened in December, but I am not 100% sure that was a Christmas gift though, it may have been part of someone’s will??

One thought on “Public vs Academic Libraries. Blogjune 9/24

  1. Thanks for the feedback and YES the reality of school holidays, public holidays, lead up to any event calls for a display and more traffic through the public library!

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