My name is Deborah Butcher, and I’m the graduate trainee at Birkbeck college library (www.bbk.ac.uk/lib). Birkbeck is a world-class research and teaching institution and the student population is very diverse: a wide variety of programmes is offered, ranging from full and part-time traditional undergraduate and postgraduate degrees to a range of short, certificate-based courses. The college is London’s only specialist provider of evening higher education, and our library’s extended opening hours, and its emphasis on providing and extending its broad range of e-resources, reflect the needs of part-time and distance learners.
The college encourages applications from those without traditional academic qualifications. Every year around 19,000 students study at Birkbeck. A large proportion of our students are mature students, sometimes returning to education for the first time in years – often a daunting prospect but eased by the library’s provision of a wide selection of study skills materials and the provision of inductions and specialist training sessions offered by our subject librarians in course-specific information resources as well as generic sessions offering support in accessing electronic journals, databases and research skills. We also have a strong Access Support section, which provides IT and practical resources and assistance to students with disabilities. The library therefore provides academic support across a variety of arts, humanities, science, vocational subjects and short courses. Birkbeck also welcomes membership applications from a range of affiliate users via the M25, alumni and SCONUL access schemes.
As a trainee at Birkbeck, and part of a large team of staff, I have been fortunate enough to be able to sample the work of each department, spending at least a month with each individual team. However, the bulk of my time is spent within the Resource Management team where I have been responsible for accessioning items, cataloguing theses and reclassifying items. I have also worked extensively with the e-journals assistant, and learned much about managing online subscriptions and troubleshooting access queries. At the beginning of term, I had the opportunity to work on updating the library’s webpage, which I really enjoyed.
On a daily basis, I work on the busy issue desk, dealing with membership and circulations enquiries, and I very much enjoy the interaction with the readers that this provides. I have also given library tours and brief training sessions in the use of the library Opac to groups of students at the beginning of term, which gave me the opportunity to chat with new students and to discover more about their research needs and expectations of an academic library. I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to promote the library’s services at the open evening, and to meet and encourage prospective students. I look forward to spending time with the Systems, Reader Services and Subject Librarian teams, and learning more about their roles, over the next few months.
Before my graduate traineeship, I had already spent a year working at City university’s Reader Services’ department. I had also worked for 2 years in public libraries, mainly in the children’s section organising outreach events and homework clubs, liaising with local schools, creating displays. I liked this work because it gave me the opportunity to get to know the individual children and to work as part of a small team, which of course gave me the opportunity to get involved in many different activities.
One of the great things about working at Bloomsbury is the large choice of local parks, where I often go for lunch (weather permitting). Being 2 minutes walk away from the British Library is an added bonus, and it’s always enjoyable to visit new exhibitions after work.
Next year I plan to study the MSc Library and Information Studies at City University. Either that or I might up sticks and quit London altogether (very tempting, and probably the more affordable option)! After gaining my masters, I would like to broaden my experience of different information sectors, and to work perhaps in prison media or health libraries.