Paul Cunningham is one of Peters’ Library Account Managers. He has many years experience in the library supply sector, and before joining Peters was Head of Suffolk School Library Services.
Q: Can you describe a typical day in your role?
A typical day will be a combination of visiting our contracted library customers to review their book supply, and managing customer queries and requests to ensure we respond promptly. These can be anything from requests for booklists on a particular theme or a question about book jacketing and servicing, to a query on EDI or even boxes and packaging!
I also do some supplier selection – buying book stock for our library customers, and when needed I spend time working on tender documentation to apply for customer contracts, ensuring we are getting the word out about the services Peters offer.
Q: What do you enjoy most?
I really enjoy the mix, but the best part of the job is getting out and about to visit customers and to see what is happening in libraries around the country.
Q: What support does Peters provide to library customers?
As well as supplying shelf-ready book stock, Peters offers library customers a full supplier selection service, and of course our website, with its reviews and evaluations of all new UK children’s and young adult titles. We also support customers with promotional book-related and point-of-sale material, which we are able to get from publishers, and wherever possible we will provide support for specific projects or promotional events that services are running.
Q: What are the challenges facing libraries at the moment, and what impact are you seeing amongst customers? What are libraries doing to counter this?
Everyone is aware that the financial situation for councils continues to be a problem, with many authorities eight or nine years into a programme of budget reductions, with no end in sight.
This has inevitably led to changes in library provision, with library closures, reductions in opening hours and a substantial increase in the use of volunteers to staff libraries.
Despite this gloomy background, many authorities continue to provide a wide range of services to support children and young people, and in many cases, it is issues to children, especially to Under 7s, which are providing libraries with a positive message about the service to councillors and other stakeholders. In addition, participation in the Summer Reading Challenge remains strong. As a result of these positive outcomes, we have seen many authorities able to protect, and in some cases grow, the book fund for children’s stock, in order to continue to meet this demand. This is a real success story for libraries in such a difficult financial environment. Services have looked to work more closely with Children’s services colleagues across their authority, as well as developing links at an individual library level with local schools.
Q: What initiatives have you seen and admired amongst libraries to drive usage and lending?
The other success stories for library authorities have been the investments in new or revamped buildings, including Central libraries, in many areas, especially but not exclusively in cities. Projects such as the Central libraries in Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Halifax have given libraries a higher profile and boosted footfall, as well as made those libraries genuine tourist destinations. In addition, partnership projects such as The Hive in Worcester, The Storyhouse in Chester and The Word in South Shields, have shown libraries to be an active part of cultural regeneration in those areas. Partnership working with other cultural services is also becoming increasingly common, with co-location and/or closer working with colleagues in museums and Children’s centres.