A POPULAR Bromsgrove librarian will be closing one chapter and opening another when she retires after 38 years’ service next week.
Pat Tansell started as a junior library assistant at the former Bromsgrove Library site on Stratford Road on February 2, 1981.
And in almost four decades, she had seen some dramatic changes in her place of work.
“Back then, it was a deferential world where hierarchies mattered.
“The librarian Miss Barley only took her coffee break in the staffroom on Saturdays.
“During the week we took turns to deliver her coffee to her office, knocking and waiting to be called before entering.
“It was a challenge not to spill the coffee onto the biscuit in the saucer.”
Junior staff were not allowed to answer customer enquiries, all book and information requests had to be dealt with by a qualified librarian who sat at a desk away from the main counter.
“In those days, pre-Internet, we relied on a large collection of reference only titles to answer questions.
“Now customers can reserve new books as soon as they are published but in the early 1980s, they had to wait until they were six months old,” added Pat.
Pushchairs and prams were not allowed in the library, small children had to be carried or left by the door with one family being able to use the ‘Push-Troll’ – a Britax car seat mounted on a custom-made metal frame with a shelf underneath to hold books.
It was introduced in the early 1970s after a campaign organised by Bromsgrove Housewives Register.
The hour-long storytime was held in another county council building away from the library so customers were not disturbed, whereas now there are two lively song and rhyme sessions per week.
Another change, which happened in the mid-1980s, was the introduction of audiobooks (formerly ‘spoken word’ items) on cassette.
They were free of charge to anyone with sight loss.
Nowadays the library offers ebooks, e-audiobooks and e-magazines.
On February 1, 1991, the brown issue paper-ticket system was replaced when Bromsgrove Library had its first computerised system.
Library staff used a hand-held scanner to read barcodes in the books and on customers’ tickets.
When the Internet was first made available to customers it was on just one public computer – now Bromsgrove Library has more than 20.
Pat said: “The first time I used the Internet was to answer a customer’s question about a utility company’s contact details.
“Customers now use the Internet for job searches, applications of all kinds, social media, and all sorts of other things that enhance their lives.”
In March 2006, coinciding with the major refurbishment of Bromsgrove’s former Stratford Road Library, the first self-service system was introduced, enabling customers to check their own items in and out.
There was also a hot drinks vending machine, new sofas and easy chairs so customers had somewhere to relax.
Staff encouraged people to spend more time there and even came up with their own strapline: ‘Linger longer in the library’.
In November 2015 Bromsgrove Library moved to where it is now at Parkside with a modern look.
Pat said: “These days the deferential and hierarchical world is gone.
“Everyone is welcome. You do not need to have an address to use the library.”
Pat, who is also a renowned historian for all things Bromsgrove and chairman of the Bromsgrove Society, said she had enjoyed my time as a library assistant and seeing library services evolve.
“I will miss my colleagues and our customers.
“I have particularly enjoyed leading sessions with local schools and nurseries, the annual Summer Reading Challenge and dealing with local history enquiries.
“I’m looking forward to pursuing some new interests and devoting more time to others as well as spending more time with family and friends.”
Pat’s last day at Bromsgrove Library is next Friday, October 18.
Everyone is welcome to join her for tea, coffee and cake between 10am and 4pm.