Librarians of Accessit – Alex McGowan
Alex is a valued member of Accessit Library’s Functional Support team in our UK office and is also part of our team of librarians. You may have worked with Alex before, as his day-to-day work life largely involves helping library staff in schools. In this edition of Librarians of Accessit, Alex discusses his view of the important aspects of school libraries and librarians, his favourite books to read, the funniest things students have said to him and how Accessit Library as a Library Management System supports librarians.
Where in the UK are you based? What is your favourite part about where you live?
I live in Leicester, in the middle of England. My favourite thing about this part of the UK is all the urban and country parks nearby which I can go and explore with my family. I grew up near Cambridge and went to university in Sheffield, so both of those still feel like hometowns to me and I love to go back and visit them when I can!
How long have you been a librarian for?
I have been a librarian since 2007, so about 15 years now!
I have loved being able to explore loads of different types of books and being able to use that knowledge to help other people (especially children and young people) find books that they can get sucked into and hopefully love! I have also always enjoyed helping staff in schools (my previous job was at School Library Service) as I think the work they do is amazing.
What’s something you wish you had known before becoming a librarian?
That being a librarian could be so much fun!
What’s a key thing you learned on the job?
Do not be fazed by a teenager looking terminally bored at what you are saying – sometimes they are actually listening!
In your view, what are some important aspects of school libraries and librarians?
To fulfil even 1% of their potential, school libraries need to be properly staffed by knowledgeable and passionate librarians who have a great relationship with their students and can devote plenty of time to them. Also, they need to be properly supported by their school’s senior leadership team and have a world class Library Management System which can help them in their role in a host of ways!
What is the strangest or funniest thing a student has ever said to you?
One time after I had talked to a class about some new books they might like, one student asked me “Do you really get paid for doing this?”. I was happy to assure him that I did! Although, looking back, I wasn’t sure if he was really questioning whether my job was worth being paid for – I hope so.
Perhaps the funniest thing was a student who had written a story about Donald Trump accepting the gift of a dragon egg from North Korea. The dragon hatched out of the egg and promptly ate him! The way the student read it out was just hilarious.
What were the most rewarding things about being a librarian?
Firstly, getting students who had been written off as lost causes with zero interest in books keen on reading anything, and encouraging other students to broaden their horizons a bit! Also working with an amazing team of librarians who all have a shared passion for the job.
What are your favourite books to read?
Fantasy and sci-fi books have been my first loves from when I was a child, particularly the late great Terry Pratchett. I am currently reading the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George RR Martin. However, since becoming a librarian I have also discovered a love for thrillers, historical fiction, funny books and those dealing with real life issues like mental health or LGBTQ+ identities. Basically, I’m quite happy to give most books a try!
When did you first encounter Accessit Library?
We acquired Accessit Library at my old library back in 2011 and my manager asked me to take the lead on configuring it and training the rest of the team up on using it. Thanks to the amazing training and support I received this was not nearly as difficult as I feared and we all embraced it wholeheartedly!
What is your favourite feature of Accessit Library?
It’s hard to pick just one, but I would have to say the Replace function. It is such an amazing timesaver across various parts of the system!
How does Accessit make a librarian’s life better?
First of all (although I am biased) the Accessit Library Support team is second to none – we pride ourselves on being able to help librarians with a wide variety of problems in a highly friendly and professional manner.
I think Accessit’s Web App has such an attractive and highly customisable interface which has increased student engagement with the library countless times, and the Management App is geared up to save a librarian time and effort in so many ways, from automated cataloguing and retrospective tidy-ups to the various letters which can be easily sent out to staff and students manually or automatically.
And the new features which are frequently released based on customer requests mean that Accessit is continually evolving to support librarians in more and more ways.
How did you find it transitioning from your previous role to the Accessit team?
I work on the Functional Support team in the Accessit Library UK office now and my day-to-day work still largely involves helping library staff in schools which is ideal for me. Although I do sometimes miss having my own library to help look after and getting to read many of the new books we bought. But I also loved exploring the functionality in Accessit in my previous role and now I get to do that more than ever before! The other big change was moving to a role that is mostly working from home, though the pandemic made that relatively easy to adjust to.