In the fast-paced world of higher education, one group of professionals often remains shrouded in mystery—the university librarians.
It’s time to once again peel back the cardigans and reveal the remarkable individuals who tirelessly support students in their quest for knowledge.
Join us each month as we delve into the lives of these unsung heroes, exploring their roles, their institutions, and of course, the tantalising tales of the strangest discoveries within returned books!
This month is a little different… I, Amber, am handing Meet the Librarian over to… wait for it… an actual librarian!
But before I do, it’d be rude not to do one last Meet the Librarian with the librarian who’ll be continuing the tradition…
Meet Melissa Bowden, a former Academic Liaison Librarian at Bournemouth University. Melissa is a passionate advocate for literature, research, and the invaluable role of libraries in the academic community.
With a diverse educational background and a genuine love for the profession, Melissa has left a lasting impact on students and colleagues alike. Join us as we explore Melissa’s journey, her insights into the world of librarianship, and her personal passions in this edition of Meet the Librarian.
Early Academic Pursuits
Melissa’s academic journey began with an English degree at Royal Holloway, University of London, where her passion for literature was nurtured. Eager to delve deeper into the world of books, she pursued a Master’s in Modern Literature at the University of Kent. On her academic pursuits, Melissa said: “I was passionate about reading from childhood onwards. I loved literature. I couldn’t have chosen any other option.”
A Twist in the Tale: From Academia to Librarianship
With Melissa’s love of literature in mind, she initially aspired to continue her education and pursue a PhD, stating: “I loved the literature of the 1930s. If I had done a PhD it would have been on that era. So, writers like Auden, Isherwood, Spender. I did my Master’s dissertation on Jean Rhys‘ novels.”
Yet upon completing her MA, Melissa needed a break from studying which is when she secured a job as a library assistant at Bournemouth & Poole College. Embracing the chance to work in a different facet of education, Melissa discovered a deeper appreciation for the library environment.
However, her desire to return to Kent brought her to the Templeman Library at the University of Kent, where she accepted a position as a library assistant. Little did she know that this move would be a pivotal turning point in her career. The deputy university librarian recognised her potential and encouraged Melissa to pursue a professional library qualification, igniting her passion for librarianship.
Mastering the Art of Information Management
Inspired by the encouragement she received, Melissa embarked on a part-time Master’s in Information Management at the University of North London while continuing her work at the Templeman Library. This dual role allowed her to apply theoretical knowledge directly to her practical experiences, enriching her understanding of the profession.
Melissa spent five fulfilling years at the University of Kent, honing her skills and further nurturing her dedication to supporting students and academics. Ready for new challenges and opportunities, she accepted a post as the law librarian at Bournemouth University, a role that allowed her to delve into legal research and witness the growth and achievements of her students firsthand.
Beyond the Shelves: Melissa’s Personal Passions
Outside the ruffling of pages, Melissa finds solace and joy in her garden. While not sprawling in size, it perfectly contains a vibrant sanctuary that is bursting with flowers and life.
Speaking on the contents of her garden further, Melissa mentioned she also has “a pond, which is currently home to several frogs and many tadpoles.”
She furthered this by stating: “It’s a peaceful space and being in it makes me happy.”
Embracing the Digital Frontier with Kortext
As digital content continues to reshape the educational landscape, Melissa recognises the value that platforms like Kortext bring to students.
“The ability for students to work anytime, anywhere. Recent research from HEPI/UCAS and the QAA have shown that, since the pandemic, students value flexible, online learning resources.”
If Given a Wish…
Libraries play a pivotal role in education – from early childhood, right the way through to higher education and beyond – therefore, Melissa’s library-based wish would be that libraries of all types were properly funded. This is important because research for this piece found that over 800 public libraries closed between 2010 and 2019 across the UK, which represents a substantial reduction in library services available to communities.
These Are a Few of Melissa’s Favourite Things…
A question I’m sure every librarian gets asked on a frequent basis would be… ‘what’s your favourite book?’, and like any librarian who has been asked that question throughout their career, Melissa was ready and primed with her response:
‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte. It was a revolutionary novel in its time, and its theme of women’s independence still resonates today — ‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will’.
We know libraries are supposed to be silent, but if you hear some toe-tapping to a beat, you’d find it was Melissa, listening to Self Esteem.
“I saw her live recently and she was amazing.”
A Change In Narrative
Lastly, before Melissa takes over completely, I have one question left to ask…
Melissa, if you could send out a universal message to library users, what would it be?
“Librarians are nice people who want to help you. Please ask them if you need any support!”
– Ends –
Thank you all for reading and enjoying Meet The Librarian – I cannot express how much I’ve enjoyed chatting with librarians and writing about them, their lives and their careers – it never felt like work. I do hope you enjoy Melissa’s continuation of the series!