• Libby

Transcript - Enchantment, Escapism & the Room of Loss with Liz from Southend Libraries (Episode 15)

Updated: May 4


Libby: You are listening to Constellations, the community podcast connecting charities, communities & causes in the two unitaries of Thurrock & Southend.

Today’s episode comes with a content warning for this episode: please note that we will be discussing death and dying. If this is something you would rather not listen to, please pause the episode here and see our show notes at constellations-podcast.org for exact timings to avoid.

In today’s episode we’re speaking with Liz, the community development officer for Southend libraries. As well as chatting about the overall offer and services available at Southend libraries and our love of books, we also chat about the Room of Loss, which explores the growing movement encouraging people to speak more openly about the subjects of bereavement and dying. Since the pandemic started, we have all seen the huge increase in deaths, and in turn that has led us all to think a little more about death as a subject. This week is Dying Matters Awareness week, so it felt fitting to release this episode as communities across the country come together to talk about these topics.

Let’s get started!


Libby: Hello, Liz. And thank you for speaking to us today.

Liz: Good morning. And thanks for inviting me to join you on your podcast. It's very exciting. Thank you.

Libby: Could you tell us about Southend Libraries and some of the services that you offer?

Liz: All right. Okay. Um, Southend Libraries were to start. We offer something from everybody. So that's from cradle to grave, if you don't mind me saying that. So from babies joining through big Star and, um, story games through to the homeless home library service, which is what we offer to customers who are sort of unable to visit us to choose their own books anymore. So we've got service for that and everything in between, as well as a selection of spaces and community spaces and bookable offices, everything that you can think of well, trying to facilitate everybody with the services that we have.

Libby: Brilliant.

Libby: Why are the services that the library provides important?

Liz: Well, I think it's really funny because people always say to me. Oh, haven't used the library for years because people don't read anymore, do they? You know what? Thousands of people use libraries every day and people rely on the library service for so much. It's not just about books. It's about free. Internet access is about being able to print work of homework of. It's about being able to meet in a safe place or study in a safe place. It's a It's a real community place. And and it's really It's really interesting, because when I say to people you know it's free to join, you can borrow so much staff. Everybody's got a right to have that free information that free access to learning and knowledge and pleasure and escapism in the library and facilitate all of that as well as help, too, you know, facilitate people by having visits in their homes, from library staff and volunteers just to break down that isolation and that loneliness. So it's just bringing young moms together, young dads together to our story around sessions. The Book Start Team worked really, really hard to bring people together, so when it starts from a young age and we keep the the effort going through, even bringing our classes into the library for class visits. And we have to try and keep that going all the way through right through as it is before creative Grave. It's a really horrible scene, but it really is true because the libraries are there for everybody and we don't discriminate against anyone. Libraries are there for everybody.

Sharen: You're right. It's good to get the Children here because then they grow up understanding I get from it.

Libby: My kids love going to the library, and it's same for me. When I went to university, it was like my safe, happy place to just pop to the library and be like.

Sharen: Ah, you got a cafe

Liz: Here we have is honestly, it's closed at the moment, but we are really hoping that it's going to open back up even that because it's lovely we have. We have lots of book groups that meet in the library, and some of our book groups actually use the cafe as their meeting places. Well, it's really hard, isn't and how that's going to work out after the pandemic with um or after the pandemic when it's ever finished, but just being able to meet somewhere That's not cold and outside. It's really quite hard in the library again office that place, doesn't it of being able to come and it doesn't cost you anything and you can sit there and no one's going to throw you after three hours because you haven't bought coffee or something. So yeah, it's really it. Something that we really try hard to tell people how important libraries are. And everybody loves libraries when, when they have these surveys for the council, nobody. Oh, I put libraries in the top five things, Um, but come and use them. We're here.

Sharen: So you mentioned visits to people. Is that the home library service?

Liz: It's really vital part of our service. We visit lots and lots of customers at home with our team. Run the service with a fantastic group of volunteers, Um, and they visit customers in their homes once a month, and they can take books, audio books to them. And just that is, it's honestly, it's a terrible thing to say, but it really is so vital for people. We could be the only people that they say once a month, so it's really, really important. I'm really proud of the fact that we've kept that service running all through the pandemic as well. We're really, really proud of that. Obviously, our volunteers, we looked after them during the pandemic, and it was the staff who were going to and deliver into the customers. So but we've managed to make sure that all our customers in one shape or another have had that resource that they might need, because it's just amazing just seeing someone. And then, if you're an avid reader or you listen to books because having that voice helps break down the loneliness For some people, it's the only way they can sleep is by listening to an audiobook. Just having that the customers during the pandemic who haven't wanted a visit from us, we've kept in touch with by phone just to make sure they're OK. And did they need anything and just having someone else in context? So yeah, I'm really proud of the service or, um and you know, we're always looking for volunteers and we're always looking for new customers So if anyone's interested, then please get in touch.


Liz: We're exploring death, positive libraries. So that's something that we're looking at as well, where you know, it's a safe place to talk about. I think we've called it booked Room of book. Room of Loss is what we're calling it in this library. But yes, it's death positive libraries. And that's something that we're looking to have an event in May where we are hoping to have people like, uh, funeral directors and maybe some celebrants come in. Hopefully, someone from McMellon come in things like that just to have an open day where people can come in and ask questions, but things that they might be frightened about asking. So, you know, But it's very, very different. It's not something I'm If I'm honest, it's not something I'm really familiar with. You know, I haven't been dead before

Libby: but this morning my Children he's for and he's been asking me very interesting questions.

Liz: Not frightening them. That's the thing. What's the one thing I learned when my son was never to say, Oh, nanny upstairs will be watching down over you because that's terrifying for a young child because they constantly think now that is, of course, watching them, and it's really scary things. So that's what I learned not to say, but yeah, So that's something that would explore in as a service is, um, how we can make libraries again Very different. It's something that I've learned over the pandemic that happens. And so we're looking at introducing that intern libraries to make it a safe place to talk about death and dying and, you know, dealing with the situation around that.

Sharen: Will you reach out to school children as well as part of that?

Liz: I don't know if it's going to be aimed at Children. I'm really honest. I think that's probably not not bad suggestion, really, for making note of that and all that well. But I think it's predominant going to be able to adults. I think it's such a sensitive subject, isn't it? And even adults as adults, we don't like to talk about it. We'll have different beliefs, everybody. Everybody's got their own little thing, and some people won't look wrong, and some people don and it's such a sensitive thing that so many people don't like talking about. But, you know, what's the one thing that happens to everybody but you don't want to talk about? But that's something that libraries are hoping to make just that little bit more positive and open about

Libby: it sounds like a really great idea.

Liz: Yeah, even if it's just from promoting literature around it or services. Faith beliefs, Um, making that information available even from faith groups, um, that we can put there, make sure their literature is available for people in the community to so that they can understand what happens around certain faith and death and dying and what happens afterwards. So, yeah, so that's something we're working on that to explore? Yeah, and I think that's happening in me. So at the moment, everything at the moment just fingers crossed.


Libby: What's your favourite part of your job?

Liz: All right, this is where I get really boring because I just like being with people and talking. You can tell I love books. Libraries. Reading is something that I mean, I remember going to the library and I was really tiny and my mom was always a really advanced reader. My dad, I think I've seen my dad reading two books in my entire life, But my mom loved reading, but funnily enough, my dad was the one that always took us to the library because my mom was My mom worked on a Saturday, Um, but I love books, and I think, if you can, if you can tell people you know what, this is a great book. You will love this or, you know, I've stopped seeing that so much because over the over the last few years I thought, You know what? If I don't like a book, I put it down now and I'm going to read something else because there are so many amazing books to read. Don't waste time were bad. Big people don't do it, but I am. I'm also part of the region ahead project, so that helps to live a region challenge to emergent readers and helping people getting back into reading basic skills, education, things like that. I take a lot of pride in that work with, So I think, adult community college. A lot of time with that as well and just being able to help people pick up a book and think I can do this. It's really you know, that's brilliant. And I'm also that really, really, really awful person that when you're sitting on the bus or a train regional because did you like that? I've read that, and I really liked it. So, you know, I also embarrassed my 17 year old son quite a lot during the pandemic because I read lots of books young adult books for work, and I would take a picture and send them to school. They need to read this. You know, your your your tens need to read this book and everything, so yeah,

Liz: I just love it as I've been in libraries for nearly 27 years. It's still something that I love is still I can't go to bed with a book. I can't have not have a book on the phone and always gonna become a bag always because of my fear, isn't sort of losing my glasses on my purse. It's just losing. Losing my book you find just said maybe we should a book, you know?

Sharen: So So that's how you reading What Become my reading?

Liz: I am reading a book called The Midnight Garden on My Phone. That's sorry. That's an audio. I've got one code. I think it's Madame Berger over. I'm reading that on e book. I've got that on the back on my phone, and when I got bed at night, I read a physical book and I'm reading the King Switch, which is because I read historical fiction in bed. So I just I've just finished the Jack Reacher series on audio. So yeah, I just love it what you can tell now Because But that's one of the reasons I love my job so much because I get to go out and get to say to people, You know what? Libraries are brilliant readings. Brilliant. It's not just about reason for work or for school or for learning, but just reading for pleasure. How many people really read for pleasure? It's such an escapism. You know, my you know, my life's awful at times. Everybody's life's awful at times, but I pick up a big and just just that cup of coffee. In my book, I'm somewhere else. I'm not bothered by everything else is happening. I'm in that life.

Libby: It's magical. You can just pick it up and you're just somewhere else altogether.

Liz: Definitely. Definitely its enchantment That's dying years, its enchantment. Because I think for that time you are enchanted. Regardless of what kind of books you read, you're in that moment. You're in that book. You're with that character and you're living that life. So, yeah, I love it. I don't think the same is a bit really sorry.

Sharen: Sounds like you’ve got the perfect job!


Liz: yeah, so it's just a lot of things that are in the pipeline and we're starting to sort of come out into the sunlight again after being, you know,

Libby: yeah, we've been talking to have been, like, starting to dip their toe back in.

Liz: Exactly how I feel is exactly how how we all feel. Whereas we're all used to being talking to people, it's been really difficult. There are still a lot restrictions in place, so we have to be really careful. And a lot of people that we are dealing with as well in libraries are quite vulnerable. So we have to remember that we've got more restrictions in place people in than other people. So

Sharen: actually, two years is quite a long time. I guess.

Liz: Yeah, and a lot of people's needs have changed in that time. As you probably know yourselves have been a lot more. There's a lot more isolation. There's a lot more loneliness, and all those things that were there previously have been completely highlighted by the pandemic and and made worse. Unfortunately,

Libby: it's like it's been amplified,

Liz: definitely, yeah,

Libby: So if our listeners would like to get in touch or follow, you've got going on, Where can they do that?

Liz: Right. So obviously you can find us on Facebook and Twitter. Just look for South and libraries were on there, and you can look at our website that's on www dot southend dot gov dot UK for such libraries. Um, if you want some information about anything that I've spoken about or interested in volunteering, you can give us a call. We on 17 Oh, 2534123 Or you can email library development. Oh, one word at southend dot gov dot UK and one of our team will pick up the message and hopefully we'll, you know, getting people interested in what we do. And we're always happy to come out and talk to groups as well and organisations. If you want to know more, know more about the library service, then obviously please get in touch.

Libby: We put those details in the show notes as well. I believe because you said that you're on YouTube and I think you're on instagram.

Liz: We have got Instagram. Um we rely on some younger members of staff to update it, but we haven't We are on and yeah, we have got everyone YouTube channel as well. Yeah, you got to ask me what it's called now and you know I wasn't prepared for that. So But if you go onto YouTube and just put in south in libraries. You will find us and make a lot, unfortunately, but yeah, it's a really good opportunity to get out there, isn't it? And just enjoy telling stories and information so brilliant.

Libby: Well, thank you so much for talking to us today.

Liz: Thank you so much for inviting me. So I hope it's been interesting.

Sharen: Thank you.


Libby: Thank you for listening - we hope you enjoyed finding out about Southend Libraries! For anybody out there who may be struggling with bereavement, please do get in contact with Cruse Bereavement Support. That’s Cruse C.R.U.S.E.

For links to any social media, websites and more, please do visit our website to access the show notes for this episode. You can also access a transcript of the episode. The website is constellations-podcast.org.

We would love to hear from you about who else you would like to hear from - if there’s an individual, organisation or topic you would like to hear from or learn about, please just contact us on social media, or send an email to hello@constellations-podcast.org. As always, we would also really appreciate any other feedback you may have. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Tune in again next Tuesday for our next episode - we will be talking to Liz, Library Community Development Officer for Southend Libraries. See you then - bye!

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