Published on

12 June 2024

Library service bids fond farewell to Heather

Heather Dyson joined the team in 1982 and has helped various charities, as well as helping to run groups

Heather Dyson

A long-serving and much-loved member of the Wokingham Borough Libraries team has retired after many years of helping residents to fall in love with reading.

Heather Dyson decided to step down at the end of May following 42 years in the library service and will be a familiar face to many, having worked at lots of different libraries across Wokingham Borough and Berkshire.

She joined the team in 1982 when it was part of Berkshire County Council, 16 years before Wokingham Borough Council was formed as a unitary authority.

Heather said: “I’ve been privileged to have held so many enjoyable jobs over the years and they have all been related to my main passion in life, which is books and reading. I’ve met some wonderful people in the community and worked with many great colleagues too. It’s been a blast.”

She leaves the council as the libraries stock and outreach manager, helping to run and organise events for the benefit of the community, but she has held a number of roles in her long career.

Starting off in a mobile library serving a rural area to the west of Reading, she then transferred to Berkshire’s school library service, where she worked with staff and children in primary and secondary schools and was the librarian at Maiden Erlegh School for a year.

She also worked as a children’s librarian in the public library service, co-ordinating services in the west of Berkshire.

Heather Friendship Alliance

In Wokingham Borough, she has worked as the children’s library services manager, book stock manager, customer services manager and most recently specialising in adult reader development and outreach activities.

Heather, 66, who lives in Wokingham, hopes to spend more time with her husband Neil and her two children, Katrina and Victoria. She will also throw herself into her hobbies, which include creative writing and singing in a choir.

Remembering the early days of her career, she said: “We had no technology whatsoever! We had huge trays of library tickets on our counters and no computers. The most modern thing we had was the telephone.

“The internet had really changed the face of libraries. There is not the same need for printed reference materials, as people can now look things up for themselves. Now, there is much more emphasis on libraries being safe community spaces, where people can get together and enjoy a range of activities.”

Heather has always tried to help the community through her work in the libraries team, particularly when it comes to charitable causes. Last year, she was presented with a certificate by The Friendship Alliance for helping to promote activities that reduce loneliness and isolation.

She is also very proud of the work she has done with CLASP Wokingham, a self-advocacy group for adults with learning disabilities. This has included organising book groups and reading challenges, which have focused on helping members to find a way they can enjoy reading and build their confidence.

CLASP Reading Ahead

She said: “I have enjoyed a great relationship with member of CLASP over the last few years and we have worked with their staff to provide library-related activities. I’ve also enjoyed working with Alzheimer’s support groups in the borough and The Reader Organisation, which promotes literature through shared reading activities. We’ve also enjoyed some really successful events with The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.”

When asked what her favourite memories of her career would be, she added: “Too many to list! I’ve really enjoyed working with all sections of the community and I love to see how libraries can bring people together.

“I have particularly loved developing our service to book groups: some of the groups I started 15 years ago are still running and the members have become lifelong friends. I still hope to attend some of the groups I started as an ordinary member of the public, so I will keep in touch.

“Libraries and literature can play a huge role in reducing isolation in the community. I’m very proud of the ay we kept our outreach programme and other library services going during the Covid-19 lockdowns – and we all learned a lot more about technology too!”

Richard Alexander, head of the libraries service, said: “For some years, Heather has been an integral part of the libraries team with Wokingham Borough Council and before that Berkshire County Council.

“Most recently, she has headed up the team which – among other things – has developed the programme of events across our libraries. She has delivered this with passion and enthusiasm, earning the respect of colleagues and of community partners.

“She is a well-liked member of the team and I know we will all miss her both personally and professionally.”

You can join a library if you live, work or study in Wokingham Borough, or are a member of any other library. There is no charge for joining and you will need a library card at each visit to borrow books and other resources from the library, as well as to access public computers.

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