studying at st barnabas

Interview with a Library Volunteer


As a college that strives towards the goal of being an encouraging community, over the next few weeks in our News posts we will be releasing a series of interviews with various members of the SBC community.

All of these individuals, with their varied roles and capacities, help keep the college running on a daily basis. It is our hope that it will introduce you to some people you may not know well!

This week, I have interviewed one of our longest serving Library Volunteers, Fiona.


Hi Fiona, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview – it’s good to have this opportunity to speak to you at greater length than I normally would

 So, firstly, tell me a little about yourself.

I’m a volunteer at St Barnabas College. Before that I enjoyed being a librarian at specialised libraries around Adelaide. I love painting. Both sorts. The feature wall in my home was dark grey when I moved in – it’s mustard yellow now! And I paint portraits for fun: faces are so fascinating. I love gardening, and have planted lots of native plants in my little garden, which bring in native birds, from dainty honey-eaters to squawking cockatoos.

 What is your role here at SBC and how long have you been in it?

Just over three years ago, the library at SBC was presented with a huge collection of books on  Theology, Pastoral Care, Ministry, Greek and Hebrew, and life in Australia, by a very kind benefactor. I’ve been privileged to be volunteering at SBC for a couple of years, and I catalogue books in the library, which means putting details of books onto a computer, so the students and staff can successfully search for books on their chosen topics. I teach new volunteers how to catalogue, too.

How did you come into the role? Why did you decide to volunteer?

I’ve had some wonderfully uplifting experiences as a volunteer before I came to St Barnabas, and I was looking for a volunteering role after I retired.  I mentioned this to my parish priest and he said, ‘Glad you mentioned it, Fiona: I happen to know a library that’s looking for volunteers because they’ve been given rather a lot of books…’ This was an understatement, of course – and when I first arrived, there was a team of industrious men emptying packing cases crammed with books, that were piled high on one side of the library. More helpers were sorting them and filling up a great many shelves on the other side.  The one volunteer who had been painstakingly recording all the details about the books on the computer was leaving, and a replacement was needed.

Some of our library volunteers. From left to right: Brian, Fiona, Sandra and Tacito. You may also meet the other members of the team who assist in the library on different days, Greg, Paul, Jo, Brian and David

Tell me, what does it involve? ‘Walk me through’ the day in the life of a Library volunteer.

We have a team of volunteers, each of whom has a different role.  Essentially, all our roles dovetail into one service – connecting our library members and their specific needs with the knowledge hidden inside our books – the knowledge that has been reflected upon by experts around the globe for over two thousand years. We still have thousands of books to catalogue, so the volunteers are very busy. With the oversight of the Librarian They sort and choose titles to match the subjects taught at SBC, they pick out books that are not to be retained and prepare them for sale, they catalogue books, label and shelve them in the appropriate subject areas, and help the Librarian, Ros with a variety of activities to ensure the smooth running of the library.

It sounds like you’ve been very busy. How long do you think it will take before the Library is fully catalogued?

We’re not sure – maybe another five years – our benefactor was very generous! We think there were over 75,000 books when we began, and we’ve catalogued nearly 10,000 to form the beginning of the collection so far. There are plenty of opportunities for students to find wonderful sources of inspiration already.

 I imagine that with a collection this size, there would be many challenges involved in the process. What have you found most challenging about your role here?

Approaching the library on a Wednesday morning… That’s the day when I’m greeted by a pile of ‘problem’ books, that have given the other cataloguers a hard time. But I like a challenge, so I take a deep breath and see if I can solve the ‘problems’ and turn them into opportunities of new learning.

 And what do you like best about your role here at the college?

The people. Definitely! And of course the privilege of getting to know the library collection – such a wonderful assortment of knowledge and reflection by such a variety of people of all faiths – and no faith. Marvellous!

On that positive note, I think we’ll end the interview there. Thank you for your time, Fiona.

That’s a lot of books for sale

Make sure you check out the SBC Library Catalogue

If you have any queries, feel free to contact our resident Librarian, Ros.

The Library also has persistent sales of books on varying topics such as Theology, Biblical Studies, Philosophy, and History. All texts are sold in a price range of $1 – $5. Make sure you check it out!

Interview by Anthony Bondarenko

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