I’ve had several stories published in the national press over the years about Orkney Library’s Stewart Bain – the gift to a journalist who just keeps on giving – all round good guy and UK Librarian of the Year 2016.
This year has been no exception.
Back in March his Twitter antics lured Harry Potter author JK Rowling to hire a plane to Kirkwall and gatecrash the crime readers’ Saturday Slaughters book club as they discussed her Robert Galbraith novel A Cuckoo’s Calling.
In the latest development Stewart has stunned his Twitter followers with news he is leaving Orkney Library in December, where he has worked since 2002 – three months before his librarian of the year title ends. He’s leaving to run an arts venue for record shop Grooves, at the Old Library, where he started his career and is already tweeting.
My exclusive story can be read here – or in the version pasted below:
Finally, I couldn’t resist following in the footsteps of JK Rowling and KT Tunstall and posing with the Wooden Woman; a famous character, clothes horse and book stand in the library.
Orkney Library’s Twitter sensation and the current UK Librarian of the Year is to quit Orkney Library in a shock move into retail.
Stewart Bain’s entertaining posts on Twitter have put Orkney Library on the virtual map, attracting 28.4k followers and have lured authors such as JK Rowling through its doors.
The senior library assistant is leaving the library to manage a café, gallery and entertainment venue in the former library building in Laing Street, Kirkwall. It will also be the new location for Grooves Records, which is the most northerly independent record shop in the UK.
He said: “It’s a new chapter for me. I’ve worked in the library for 14 years and it felt like the right time for a new challenge. This is a really exciting project for Orkney and I am thrilled to be part of it”
“I am really happy I will be working in the place where I started as a librarian in 2002, though it will be strange to be back in the building. It’s a major thing for Kirkwall that the old library will have a new life after being closed since 2003.
“I’ll miss the opportunity to Tweet quirky jokes around the funny book covers such as Organic Gardening With Love, by Coronation Street actress Thelma Barlow, but I’m confident my new post will give me plenty of opportunity to have some fun online. I hope those people who have enjoyed @OrkneyLibrary on Twitter will follow me for the start of a new online adventure.”
And he revealed he has already launched new social media accounts for The Old Library ahead of the planned opening in the spring of 2017. The Old Library can be followed on Twitter @_theoldlibrary and Instagram theoldlibrary.
“It’s been incredibly rewarding working in the library. I am especially proud that more young people have become engaged with the service through following Twitter.”
Direct contact with authors and publishers has led to numerous big names appearing to library audiences.
Outside of the social media whirl, Bain has dreamed up many more real events to boost the library’s profile and use such as 24 Islands/24 Hours when crime author Ann Cleeves and others raced against the clock by air, road and sea to perform readings across Orkney and Shetland.
Bain’s tales of being on the frontline in the library have attracted more Twitter followers than there are inhabitants in Orkney (20,000).
“The account just started in 2009 as a way to spread the message about our services, such as the isles book box service and e-book and music streaming, to encourage people to use it and to publicise our events for children and the author visits.”
His cheeky tweets prompted JK Rowling to hire a plane and fly up to surprise the crime book group the Saturday Slaughters as they met to review her book The Cuckoo’s Calling, penned as Robert Galbraith.
And visiting celebrities, such as KT Tunstall pop in to pose for a photo next to the famous Wooden Woman, brought out of the shadows of the library stacks to display books.
His phenomenal reach to a global audience helped Orkney Library earn the UK Library of the Year in 2015 title by promoting reading and library services in Orkney and further afield.
And it has helped propel Bain into the media spotlight, sending him to spots on the stage at book festivals and to judge on the panel for the CWA Dagger in the Library prize and also the McIlvanney Prize 2016 for Scottish Crime Book of the Year, announced at the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival in Stirling at the weekend.
Recently he gained a literary agent, Jo Unwin, and he has publishers lining up to publish his memoirs.
At least the news of Bain’s departure will quash rumours of his demise following this Tweet last week:
Orkney Library @OrkneyLibrary Sep 8
First person at the issue desk this morning: “I haven’t seen you for a while. I was thinking you had either been promoted or died.”