Behind the Bookshelves

Ali Archer, Stock Services Technician

What is your role and what do you like about it?

My job title is Stock Services Technician and I’m based at our Stock Support Services hub in Winchester.  Day to day I co-manage the stock services team at Bar End (in Winchester), who ensure that all the behind-the-scenes work such as sending out reading group sets and approving invoices is done.  I also develop county-wide promotions to ensure our book stock reflects current trends and affairs. Recently we created shelves on Borrowbox showcasing the work of Ukrainian writers in both fiction and non-fiction, we also included books about Ukraine in these shelves.  All of which has proven very popular with our readers.

What do I like about my role?  So many things! I’m part of a small, supportive, and friendly team where I get to talk all things books and libraries. I think my favourite thing about this role is when I can be creative with promotions and have to research books – it gives me the perfect excuse to read lots, my to read list is continually being added to!

What did you do before you came to Hampshire Libraries?

First and foremost, I am a mum. It’s a role that I’ve had the pleasure to hold since 2001, I have four children, and all share my love of reading.  I was lucky enough to be able to stay home for the first few years of my children’s life and then I had several retail roles – I especially enjoyed working at a well-known high street store as their staff shop meant I often came home with a cut price caterpillar cake!  After that I was self-employed as a seamstress.  I created bespoke clothing and accessories using vintage patterns. My favourite makes were relaxed boho style wedding dresses, prom dresses and clothing for vintage events. I still sew, but now it’s just for myself and family.

What made you want to work at Hampshire Libraries?

I realised that I was missing the hustle and bustle of working with more than one person at the time, my youngest child was about to start infant school and I wanted to do something that would be for me but would also where I was helping others – that’s when I noticed the job advert for Romsey Library.

I’ve always been a reader, as a young child I remember making sure that the landing light was on when I was sent to bed so I could carry on reading – I devoured the Malory Towers and St Clare’s books by Enid Blyton before moving on to What Katy Did books by Susan Coolidge and the Green Gables books by L. M. Montgomery. As a teenager I loved Judy Blume – Tiger Eyes will always have a special place on my bookshelf at home. Libraries have always been a big part of my life; in fact I think walking to the library on my own was one of my first tastes of freedom as a young girl.  As I’d always felt so at home in libraries, working for Hampshire Libraries seemed a natural move to me.  I’m so glad I applied, being surrounded by books all day is just heaven!

Is there anything that surprised you about working for Hampshire Libraries?

I wasn’t prepared for the incredibly variety of library customers. A library plays such a rich and diverse role in a community – it’s not just books as I naively thought!  What surprised me most is how much I miss being around the public now that I’m not in a public facing role anymore, especially running events such as Time to Talk coffee mornings and organising the craft after a story time session. 

When I joined Stock Services, I was amazed at how much work is done behind the scenes to ensure the libraries have everything they need. Learning more about the publishing industry has been incredibly interesting, who knew that the pandemic would have a negative impact on the paper pulp industry which in turn has affected the book supply chain!

If you had to live out the rest of your life on a lonely space station overlooking the planet, which three books would you bring and why?

Firstly – why am I on a space station? I’m not sure I’d have gone through choice – I’m a little scared of the idea of space travel!  But…If I must be there then my first choice is Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery, I’ve already mentioned it as being one of my favourite childhood books.  It’s much like a comfort blanket as I’ve read it so many times now, we should all be a bit more Anne, she’s fun, a little a bit naughty and cares deeply about the people and things important to her. My children have also enjoyed this book, so it would be a link to my family whilst living in space. Secondly, I’d take Diary of an Apprentice Astronaut by Samantha Cristoforetti. I’ve always enjoyed reading memoirs and this one is a fascinating account of a young woman’s journey to becoming an astronaut.  She spent 200 days on board the International Space Station, so I’d dip into this book whenever I needed a boost to get through the lonely days. Finally, I’d take Taste: my life through food by Stanley Tucci. I really enjoy cooking; I love a cocktail (or three – Margaritas are my current favourite 🍸) and I adore all things Italian.  This is the book equivalent of a lazy afternoon spent in an Italian piazza with delicious coffees and pastries… and on that note I think I’ll start planning a holiday!

Find out more about Ali by signing up to our Digital Readers Book Club. The group which selects one book to read on BorrowBox each month is free to join. From this month Ali will be the online host of the group’s online discussion – on the fourth Tuesday of each month. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue to the read/listen to for March.

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