Like many great ideas, the University of Sheffield Library Society was cooked up over a couple of beers in a pub. Emily Wheeler, the President and founder, was the main driving force behind the formation of the society, and put in many hours of hard work to get it off the ground. I was social secretary, but to be honest I didn’t do very much that was specific to my role. From our initial discussions in the University Arms, over the course of 7 months we managed to achieve quite a lot. Among some of the highlights are:
- We attended two public demonstrations against cuts to public library services in Sheffield.
- Two members of our society, Emily and Jayne, also attended local council meetings to question councillors about these cuts, and voice opposition from Sheffield’s student body.
- We attended 4 meetings with local campaigners against public library cuts and coordinated our activities with them.
- We successfully campaigned for the University of Sheffield Students’ Union to oppose cuts to public libraries as one of its official policies.
- We have held 3 social events and 3 visits to libraries including the John Rylands and Learning Commons Libraries in Manchester, the York Minster Library and the Yorkshire Film Archive, and the University of Sheffield Special Collections.
- From not existing at all at the start of the year, we finished the academic year with close to 20 members, and an enthusiastic new committee ready to take over the running of the society
All in all, a pretty good year! Here are some of the key things that I have taken away from this experience:
- Political campaigning: local campaigners are wonderful. They fight so hard for the causes that they believe in and it was really inspiring to attend their meetings and demonstrations. In some instances, people really can make a difference through their actions. I was also really heartened to see how many people really cared about their local libraries, and were willing to spend their time defending them. However, I’ve also learned how difficult it can be to coordinate people in situations like this, where politics and different personalities often get in the way of the common good. This experience has inspired me to get involved more with local campaign groups and speak up more vocally for the issues that matter to me.
- Organisational and teamworking skills: There were occasional issues with communication between committee members, but despite this we still managed to get a lot done through working together.
- Marketing and communication skills: I designed the flyers for our social events and campaign activities, and set up the CMS for our society website. I also distributed leaflets at the Students’ Union, and promoted the society and its activities with a quick ‘elevator pitch’.
- Just do it! All this wouldn’t have happened without Emily’s enthusiasm and determination. I’ve usually had more of a laid back attitude towards extracurricular activities, but the success of Library Society has shown that it is really worth it to get out there and just make things happen.
I’m really proud of what we’ve managed to achieve this year. Thanks Emily, for kicking it all off!