Kate Halabura, Library Manager at Wandsworth Town Library, takes on our questionnaire (originally published in June 2020)
What is a typical day for you?
There are no typical days for me now!
While the libraries remain closed I am working from home. This work includes carrying out the usual admin tasks that can be performed remotely like book buying, as well as a variety of new and additional things, such as maintaining social media accounts, undertaking training, remote team meetings, and working towards opening the service in the future. On the top of that I record and edit videos of book recommendations and author interviews, and an occasional craft activity – something I had to learn from scratch!
Plus, we are trying to home school a six year old, so loads of reading and playing Lego needs to fit between all of that.
As I am obsessed with books and recommending them to library customers, I feel lucky that I am able to buy stock for my branch to complement the selection of books purchased by the acquisition team.
I try to make sure we invest in debut novels as well as old favorites, and I love customer’s suggestions as well. To stay in loop, I follow literary news via a Bookseller magazine subscription, I follow different publishers, literary agents and authors on social media (in a completely nonstalking way), I subscribe to Netgalley (a website that provides you with eBook previews in exchange for reviews) and I am always open for any proof copies (yes, a heavy hint to any publishers that might read this!).
Often purchasing new or unknown books can be hit and miss, but most often I am buying things that I know our customers will be interested in – or I am able to convince them to try something new!
What are you most excited about in the next 12 months?
I think the coronavirus lockdown has shown everyone that the libraries have a vital role to play in keeping everyone informed, entertained, engaged and healthy. Wandsworth Libraries has continued to offer a Home Delivery Service throughout the lockdown, as well as a busy programme for children and adults. I hope that once we resume our offer, we will continue to deliver digital services for our customers but at the same we will be able to reach out to people who rely on us for social contact, internet access and information.
What was your favourite subject at school and why?
I really liked both history and Polish (literature studies in particular). I am not sure when I decided I wanted to work as a librarian, but I was always interested in books, in the stories they carry, in their context and in what anchors them into the present.
What surprises you about your job that you didn’t expect?
Recently, I am surprised much I would miss day to day interactions with customers. Also, my persuasion skills I did not know I possessed. I love talking about books, I love recommending books and I am always managing to convince people to borrow more things they originally wanted to.
Firstly, I just wanted to say this is unfair to ask for only five favourite books. Secondly, my lists always change, depending on mood and what I have read recently. So, at the moment, my favourite books include:
Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
You Will Be Safe Here by Damian Barr.
Plus so many other books! I can’t really choose just five, it is unfair.
Does a TV series count? I recently watched Good Omens and I really loved it! Also, it is based on a book!
Coffee or tea?
I like both, but the one thing I cannot live without is simply tea with lemon and sugar.
My other half is a tea snob, so he says it must be Yorkshire Gold, Yorkshire Strong English Breakfast or Bird and Blend New House Blend (apparently it is a strong Assam with hints of bergamot), but to me any strong tea will do…
Which author, living or dead, would you like to write your biography.
Hmmm, possibly Stephen Fry? He would make it very entertaining but still very meaningful and, as a bonus, he would read it too, as an audiobook!
Kate was born in Szczecin, Poland, where she also studied librarianship. After she decided to move to London, she spent couple of months working in a bookshop, before starting in Wandsworth Libraries as a library assistant, over 15 years ago. She now works as a Wandsworth Town Library manager, reads a lot and worries where to put all her books.