In Volume 14 we speak with Karen Fraser from Shetland Library.

Word of the Week

Used seamlessly by Karen in her answers, and a word I will certainly be using as soon as an opportunity presents itself. Highfalutin is used to describe speeches, literature or titles that are unnecessarily flowery or pretentious.

The Interview

What’s your role in the library?
I’m the ‘Executive Manager’ — embarrassingly highfalutin job title. Some folk still refer to me as ‘Chief Librarian’ which I like better! Anyway, I manage Shetland’s public and school library services and am involved in wider Council/Community projects.

Favourite book?
Totally impossible question. But a long time favourite is Dervla Murphy’s ‘Full Tilt’, the story of her journey from Ireland to India by bike in the 1960s. She carried a gun and got attacked by wolves, and that’s before she was even out of Europe.

Favourite magazine?
Private Eye. Good cartoons and sometimes I read the small print too.

If you could change one thing in the library world, what would it be?
Let’s just go for compulsory library membership, shall we? Helps us pull in more of the folk who most need us, but also tackles lazy perceptions among the better off. Many people of influence feel qualified to pass opinions on libraries even if they’ve not used one, much more so than with other services I think.

How do you think libraries are going to change in the next decade?
Libraries will be ever more important as community havens in a harsh and confusing world. Helping the disadvantaged and digitally excluded keep in touch will be key. There will be slightly fewer books, slightly more e-services, more dementia and mental health focus and a bit of new technology. Changes will always be gradual though, as libraries never want to leave folk behind. Our Library staff will still have to be multi-skilled and adaptable with superb people skills.

If you weren’t a librarian, what would you do?
Sit in my porch looking out to sea and drinking gin and tonic. Oh, do you mean I’d need to have another job? Hmm, I think I’d like to be something useful like a joiner or electrician.

Any hidden talents?
None whatsoever.

Any questions for me?
Have you ever been to Shetland, and if not when are you coming?

The furthest North I’ve managed is the Isle of Skye, but I will be sure to visit Shetland at some point, it looks like a beautiful part of the world!

Many thanks to Karen for taking part!

Are you a librarian? Would you like to participate? Get in touch with the team at