Hi, my name is Micol and I am the trainee at the Institute of Historical Research (www.history.ac.uk).
The Institute was founded in 1921 by A.F. Pollard and used to be where Birkbeck College is now. The IHR’s aim is to promote the study of history and provide a meeting place for researchers. In order to achieve this, numerous seminars and conferences are organised every day, as well as MA courses. The Institute also houses three research centres: the Centre for Metropolitan History (CMH), the Centre for Contemporary British History (CCBH) and the Victoria County History (VCH). More crucially it also has an amazing library!
The collection is mainly focused on printed historical primary sources for the medieval and modern history of European countries and their former colonies. Therefore, we would collect things like diplomatic papers, ecclesiastical records, charters, correspondences and diaries. Apparently it is the best/biggest open access library of this kind in the UK, holding around 177.000 items and over 300 periodicals (needless to say that I’ve copied this from the website). The collection also has substantial holdings of reference works, such as guides to archives, bibliographies, historical dictionaries, atlases and biographical sources. In short, anything that could help a researcher with his work.
Only postgraduates can have access to the library, as well as members of the public who wish to join the Institute. However, the latter are not particularly numerous so most of our readers are MA/Phd students and researchers. The library is for reference only therefore, we cannot issue books and hold only one copy of each item.
As a graduate trainee I am mainly involved in acquisitions, dealing with sellers, processing invoices, check the books in when they arrive, classify them and on some occasions, catalogue them. Luckily a cataloguer checks my bibliographic records so we don’t end up with bizarre entries! I also have to answer enquiries from the readers, which I find particularly interesting and challenging.
I really enjoy working here as it’s a very varied kind of job and I am constantly learning new things. Moreover, I have studied history at uni so reading book reviews of newly published works in this field and finding out what historians are working on is great. I also love the training programme and the visits to very different types of libraries, which are giving me an idea of where I would like to work later on.
Next year I should hopefully start the MA at UCL. I am really looking forward to that.