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An interview with Carol Boswarthack - the new Head of Barbican and Community Libraries By Sarah Hudson

"Libraries are the heart of a community - they always have been and they will be even more important in the future".

Carol Boswarthack C

arol Boswarthack, the new Head of Barbican and Community Libraries for the City, is upbeat about the future.

Appointed in November last year, after a stint managing Support Services for the City's former Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery department, you can see Carol is delighted to be back in a hands-on role. She arrived after a year of cost cutting which saw the shedding of several layers of management but left the City's three lending Libraries, the City Business Library and the Guildhall Library intact.

As Head of Lending Libraries Carol is responsible for the Barbican Library, Shoe Lane and the new library being built in the Middlesex Street community centre that is replacing the Camomile Street library. Carol is passionate about books and writers. After-school work in the Bancroft Road library in Tower Hamlets led to a permanent job when Carol left school and sponsorship to do a degree in librarianship. Carol worked in a number of library roles before

specialising in Children’s Librarianship. Later she took on senior management roles but never strayed too far from her roots in Bow. Carol has worked for the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Camden, Waltham Forest and Redbridge - as she moved from local to area responsibilities. So it is no surprise that her wanderings eventually led her to the City in 2007.

We asked her about some of the highlights (and low points) of her career and relationship with the written word

What was you favourite book as a child?

Half Magic by Edward Eager (First published in 1954 it is still available in the Barbican Children's Library)

What is your earliest memory of using a Library?

I was three or four years old and taken to the Library by an older girl who borrowed Milly-Molly-Mandy for me on her ticket as you had to be five to borrow books. I thought the book was silly!

Why did you decide to become a Librarian?

I wanted to be a librarian since I was child. My Dad used to take me to our local library in Poplar - and I used to dream of a job where I could read books all day. Only later did I discover that wasn't part of the job description.

What is the worst job you have ever done?

Saturday job sweeping up at a hairdresser and washing hair.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you in a Library? I was a new Mum and went to work in shoes that didn't match.


What's the most bizarre thing you have ever found tucked inside a library book?

A fried egg and a rasher of bacon. In different books in the History section.

What aspect of your present job do you like best?

Contact with the public and working with such a great team.

If you could make one change to the current government policy on libraries what would it be? It's time for a new Library Act - the current Act dates back to 1964 and has never been properly defined. It would be good to have a clear mandate for the future.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Eve Green by Susan Fletcher (It won the 2005 Whitbread First Novel Award and is available in the Barbican Library).

Which authors, living or dead would you invite to your dream dinner party? I'd go for good raconteurs who have led interesting lives - like David Niven, Frank McCourt, Bill Bryson, Jeanette Winterson Shappi Khorsandi and the sublime Mary Shelley, along with Gilda O'Neill and Charles Dickens to represent my East End roots!

The future …

“The future of libraries everywhere is precarious”, warns Carol. “Our strength is the support of the people who use the”".

But Carol is upbeat about the future of libraries in the City. Membership of the Barbican library is a healthy 27 thousand - up by over 5% for the year to September 2011 and there is an enthusiastic new generation of library users growing

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