Event Recap / First Friday Club with Jenn Martin

We chat to Jenn Martin about the future of libraries in a digital age

For the last First Friday Club of 2017, we were joined by librarian and reading specialist, Jenn Martin. Jenn is currently Events Coordinator at Woollahra Libraries in Sydney and regularly works with authors and publishers to deliver public author events. She spoke to our Membership Officer, Sherry Landow, about the future of libraries in a digital age.

Our Membership Intern, Mia Do, joined the event to catch the key points for those who missed it.


The modern library

‘Libraries are considered a community hub, a forum for ideas,’ said Jenn. In these times of continuous technological advancements, libraries are also becoming co-working spaces and maker-spaces, helping people connect, freelance and explore new ideas. Changes are unavoidable, and the library must be the forefront of these shifts. With the rising popularity of ebooks and audiobooks, many libraries are using platforms like BorrowBook or OverDrive.

The design of libraries has been altered to fit with these changes as well. Last year, construction of the new Double Bay library was completed, giving the place an entirely fresh look (literally, since the interior was decorated with living plants in their individual pots – ‘It used to be a library in the garden, now we have a garden in the library,’ Jenn laughed). It is five times the size of the old building, which means five times more the number of visits per day.

The demographics of library visitors are as diverse as ever – from entrepreneurs, freelancers, high school and university students, to parents with young children and retired seniors. ‘It does feel like the whole community is there,’ Jenn remarked.

Woollahra Library – Double Bay

The modern librarian

The role of librarian came rather naturally to Jenn, whose librarian mother let her help out when she was young. ‘You have to be a big reader to be a librarian,’ she asserted. There is also this misnomer that one can be a quiet, timid person and be a librarian, but the truth is that one ‘must be pretty front-of-house, charismatic, and a people person’ to be a librarian now. To Jenn, her mission is to ‘connect people with ideas’. At Woollahra, this sense of community is achieved through events like Culture Vulture Night with live music and storytelling. Jenn estimates that Woollahra Libraries hold around 200 events per year.

The qualifications required to become a librarian have also changed to reflect the times. Now, with technology incorporated into the system, librarian degrees have names like ‘Digital Information Management’.

Bibliotherapy – reading and well-being

Earlier this year, Jenn joined the Mudgee Readers’ Festival as a ‘reading expert’ and hosted bibliotherapy sessions. In these sessions, she had short, friendly conversations with people and gave them book suggestions based on their current point in life.

When prescribing books, it should be ‘all about them, not you,’ Jenn explained. From learning about the authors, genres, topics, plots and characters they enjoy reading, Jenn can advise them with similar titles. She might not be able to help people who are in a deeply troubled place, such as coping with depression, but she can always refer them to a list of services staffed by professionals she knows.

When she gets it right and the reader truly enjoys the suggested book, ‘that “yes” feeling is amazing’, she laughed. ‘If I could turn [this] into a full time job, I would’.

Some advice for aspiring writers

For writers who are looking to have their book featured in a library’s collection, Jenn suggested talking to a collection-development librarian. If an author is looking to hold a book launch at a library, they should contact the Event Manager. Write them a simple, straightforward email pitch with a description of your book and what the talk will be about. Be concise and specific but do not add any attachments to the email.


For reading prescriptions from Jenn, visit her website, Girl In Library.

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