FEATURE | Librarian Gill is a literary inspiration

Gill Hudson’s career path was set back in 1973 when her aunt saw a job advert about working in Liverpool’s libraries and shared it with her literature-loving niece. 50 years on, and Gill is a key player in Liverpool’s City Council’s Library and Information team and still thrives on how her role can make a real difference to people’s lives.

Gill still has vivid memories of her very first interview to become a Library Assistant. “Before I knew it I had received a hand shake and found myself in Central Library learning the ropes before getting settled in Sefton Park for the next six years.

“It was a huge learning curve but I was lucky enough to be mentored by the powerhouse that was Harold Hikins – he was a poet, dedicated to social reform and an all-round brilliant person who transformed the way we worked. Back then, you couldn’t be a library member unless you could read – which seems ridiculous now, but was normal practice in the 1970s. He was so passionate about the issue he changed it, which meant young people and adults could now access a whole new literary world. Howard was a huge inspiration to me and making sure our library service is accessible to all has remained with me throughout my career.”

There has been a huge amount of change over the past 50 years when it comes to libraries, and being adaptable is key to success.

“Computerisation has been the biggest change – paper filing used to be part and parcel of the job and everything was so much slower – tracing books, finding information from catalogues, contacting members – things could take weeks. It’s almost surreal to remember those times now that we have information instantly at our fingertips.”

Gill Hudson

And of course how people access information has changed dramatically, so this must make the role additionally challenging? “People probably don’t read quite as much, but at the moment it does feel like there is a bit of a revival going on. I currently work a lot out of Lee Valley Library and we have a big campaign to encourage families to come and spend time here – we have an amazing range of picture books for younger members which are getting a great response and really firing up those imaginations. Reading is the key to life and the younger people start, the better.”

It’s no exaggeration to say reading is transformative. While working at Speke, Gill was approached by a family whose daughter had a brain injury as a result of a car crash, leaving her struggling to speak. “A doctor had recommended that the parents read to her and they asked my advice on what I recommended. The poetry of Robert Frost immediately came to mind – the imagery is so clear and vivid and it’s really engaging. When the mother returned, she came to thank me as her daughter had spoken her first word in 12 years – I still get emotional now thinking about it now, it really is the power of reading.”

Gill was presented with gifts and a personal letter from Chief Executive Andrew Lewis to mark her half century of service

Gill has also been lucky enough to see the rise of some incredible writing talent. Liverpool-born screenwriter and playwright Heidi Thomas who is the writer, creator and executive producer for the BBC’s Call The Midwife started her award-winning run when she was younger with a reading award from Garston Library! And Kate Ellis – another award winning writer who has sold millions of her crime books worldwide was also one of Gill’s regular library visitors growing up.

Described by her colleagues as being full of enthusiasm, stamina and energy, what’s the secret to Gill’s success? “It’s simple – I love this job, I love helping people and I love working with a team who have a shared passion. Covid was a huge test for us all and yet we adapted and made the most of services which meant we could ensure people still had access to books, which was a lifeline to so many during the pandemic. I will retire one day, but at the moment I’m still very much part of this library community, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Lee Valley library has been such a joy and inspiration to work with in recent years.”

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