National Archives

On December 1st, I attended a tour of the National Archives at Kew, organised by the M25 Consortium of Research Libraries. The National Archives is the official archive of the UK government, which manages and preserves over 1,000 years worth of records and which works with 250 government and public sector bodies, helping them to manage and use information more effectively, as well as ensuring that the general public can access these records. They hold government, military and court records, as well as maps and historical documents. They also provide online access to resources kept elsewhere, such as births, marriages, deaths, census records, more recent military records, medical practice records, wills and parish registers.

National Archives

The tour was conducted by the Librarian of the National Archives, Helen Pye-Smith. We began by sitting in on the orientation talk given to all new visitors to the National Archives, which described, with the aid of power point and a sign language interpreter, how to search the catalogue, what resources were available, what events were on, and how to access different materials. After this, she showed us around and elaborated on the content of the talk as she showed us around the banks of computers on the first floor. As a great deal of material in the National Archives is now digitised, a decision has been made to allow the public to access this without a reader’s ticket. So once past the well-appointed bookshop, spacious café, and museum showcasing the Domesday Book on the ground floor, the stairs lead to the first floor, full of computers, where members of the public can access online government, military and census records, print scanned documents off in A3 and speak to the staff at two specialised information desks. The space is also currently shared by the London Family History Centre, run by the Church of Latter Day Saints, which specialises in providing access to genealogical material.

Also on the first floor is the library. The space has recently been refurbished and is now entirely open-plan, as the previously-enclosed library had been difficult to find and was consequently not used by many visitors. The library is one of the few research-quality reference libraries in the UK that is accessible without a readers’ ticket to the general public. The collection is designed to complement the archives, focusing on topics pertaining to the records (government, military, social history), and the collection development policy is to primarily select works that use the archives as sources, meaning that in addition to providing further information on topics to those researching, they can also provide further sources and directions for research within the archives themselves. Incorporating the library into the general research floor also involved a restructuring of library staffing. Rather than manning a dedicated library information desk, the library staff were given additional training and now work on one of the floor’s general information desks, answering queries about archive searches as well as the library, a set up which has proved fruitful both for archive users and for the staff themselves, who have gained a much more comprehensive picture of how the collection relates to the records and documents held, and how they are used.

London - Archive Research

We then moved to the other side of the floor, to view the document reading room. To consult documents themselves, a reader's ticket is required. This can be gained by anyone on the provision of two forms of ID, but also requires those registering to undertake a short document-handling course and quiz on a computer, which must be successfully completed before a card can be issued. Documents can then be ordered up from the catalogue, and the reader is assigned a seat and locker number. After the document has been brought out from storage, it is placed in the numbered locker for collection, and must be taken to the assigned desk. As these records are unique, security is very high, with uniformed staff patrolling the desks and many security cameras – allowing a wide variety of access to these records is not without its challenges! However, while they take great pains to avoid any documents being mistreated, they also go to great lengths to make sure that people can record the documents in the best possible format for their research. They not only allow and provide stations for people to photograph documents with their own cameras, but also have set up cameras on adjustable frames, connected to computers, from which researchers can photograph documents and email the images to themselves (USB sticks and similar are not allowed as they could potentially introduce viruses). They also provide a copying and scanning service for larger documents.

London - Research Material

The tour then progressed to the second floor, where readers could register for tickets and where the maps and large documents reading room is situated. This room provides access to the largest, and usually oldest, documents, with big workspaces where they can be safely rolled out. The floor has a dedicated information desk, with staff well-versed in Latin, paleography (the study of historic handwriting), and even Norman French! Unlike the first floor, where many of the readers were more casual, perhaps researching family history, the second floor seemed to be the preserve of academics and researchers, although the National Archive offers online guides in deciphering older documents on its website which, along with the reading room's dedicated staff, should make older documents accessible to anyone with an interest!

After the tour was finished, the Librarian answered any questions that we had, such as why we were unable to go 'behind the scenes' (security concerns, though it is apparently a strange netherworld of archivists riding buggies around miles of shelves of identical brown cardboard boxes), the practicalities of registration and security, and the challenges of managing a library within an archive.

Altogether, a very interesting introduction to a fascinating place!

Images via Flickr users Ewan-M and Magh under Creative Commons.

RNIB Research Library

For the second visit of the year, our destination was the Royal National Institute of Blind People research library on Judd Street, and what an enlightening visit it was! The library is now run by one librarian after staff cut-backs year after year, but the perks of being the only librarian were immediately obvious as it inevitably means a level of professional variety that isn’t always available to librarians working in specific roles.

We were given an initial tour of the library space where the printed materials are kept, mostly for the use of researches investigating visual impairments. This was the aspect of the library with which we were all most familiar, with journal subscriptions, pamphlets, books and magazines built around a rather intricately designed classification system. However in and amongst the usual materials were some absolute gems, including a copy of The Merchant of Venice entirely in Braille and a (very patronising) 17th century treatise on ‘entertainment for the blind’, still in fantastic condition. There were also examples of school books for children with both Braille and raised images created with felt and various other materials to enable them to engage with their subjects.

The key differences between the academic libraries we are all used to and the RNIB library were of course technological. The computers in the main work space have had to be tailored to the needs of users that have considerable variation in the nature of their condition. Therefore numerous settings needed to be developed to enable users to increase the size of text on a screen using JAWS screen reading software, as well as being able to change the colour pallet of a document in order to make it more accessible. The RNIB is actually responsible for accrediting websites as being user-friendly for those with sight problems... it definitely has made me look at the website of my own library very differently – size 8 font? I don’t think the RNIB would approve! They recommend a standard size 14 font for all websites.

We were then given some demonstrations of some of the gadgets available to aid low sighted users including handheld devices that were essentially digital magnifying glasses, and what looked like CD players that were used for talking books, enabling someone to place ‘bookmarks’ at different points so they could refer back to numerous sections with ease. Many of us will never have had to deal with the problems of accessibility faced by the staff at the RNIB library so it was brilliant to see technology working so effectively to really improve the experience of low sighted or blind users.

At the end of the tour we had a chance to have a look at (play with) some of the toys aimed at children with blindness, plus a range of other devices used to aid anyone with sight problems. The RNIB Library visit provided us all with an insight into the issues being dealt with by the librarian when working with blind people, and is well worth a visit to see how libraries and technological advancements are able to combine to vastly improve the library experience for those with blindness.

Hannah (IHR)


For those of you who didn't make it to the CPD25 conference last month, Samantha Halford, one of the organisers, has sent round a link to her blog to everyone who went where she's compiled some of the presentations and a list of useful websites etc. as well as some people you might want to follow at twitter for more library related information:

Information Studies at City University

On November 9th, a number of London based trainees made our way over to City University for their Information Science open evening. After a thought-provoking video demonstrating the limitless nature of information in the 21st century, we were given a presentation by Lyn Robinson, director of the Information Studies programmes taught at City:

Information Science
Library Science
Information Management in the Cultural Sector

The presentation was incredibly informative, discussing those qualities unique to the course at City, the vast array of graduate destinations, funding (or lack of) and the differences between the three courses offered via the Information Studies programme.

Many trainees who want to stay on in London end up choosing between the ‘traditional’ UCL course and the ‘technological’ City course, but, as well a focus on advancements in information technology, Lyn stressed the importance of recognising that the course at City is very academic in nature and that much of what is taught has a strong theoretical focus. For me, this was a major selling point for the course but for those with less interest in the theoretical or philosophical aspects of information science, this might not be such a great choice!

Many of us were wondering what the differences were between the Information Science course and the Library Science course and as it turns out, the answer is very little, but I will try to differentiate between them:
The Library Science course would be better targeted to those who wish to end up working with specific collections aimed at a specific audience for example the collections available at the Institute of Historical Research, the Warburg Institute or the Institute of Classical Studies. It is perhaps geared to those with a stronger academic subject focus, possibly those that wish to become subject librarians.

The Information Science course deals with, but is not confined to, libraries with a more vocational emphasis, such as law libraries, business libraries, media libraries etc. many of which could be in the private sector. The optional modules for Information Science seem to place slightly heavier weighting on digital solutions, though this is strong for both courses.
The Information Management in the Cultural Sector course runs slightly differently as you become a student of both the LIS department and the CPM (Cultural Policy Management) department. This is for those wishing to enter librarianship within the cultural sphere i.e. libraries at places such as the V&A, museum libraries, gallery libraries etc. with a heritage/arts focus. There was no representative for the CPM department so it was hard to know exactly what experience they expect regarding the heritage/arts industry, and Lyn mentioned that those with a limited background in these areas might struggle with some of the content but again, this was quite vague.

For those wishing to go into rare books, manuscript studies etc. definitely look at other courses. Technological competency is an absolute must, and the course challenges the whole notion of the library as a physical collection within a traditional space.

Overall, the course sounded very interesting and both members of the LIS department that were present were very knowledgeable and helpful. On a less upbeat note, there was uncertainty as to whether there was any AHRC funding for 2012 entry available, and (although this is still uncertain) fees are likely to be £6,000 or above. City also does not offer placements as part of the course, though there are occasionally possibilities for volunteering. Apart from a couple of optional modules where there is an exam, all assessment is based on written assignments.

You can follow the current intake on twitter at #iss1112 or Lyn Robinson @lynrobinson

Hannah (IHR)

Istituto Marangoni library

A small group of the trainees visited the library at the Istituto Marangoni, the international Fashion and Design School, at its London campus on Tuesday 8 November. We were met by Katherine Rose who took us through to the building, past groups of trendy-looking people and rotating red sofas, to the library. The library itself is just one narrow room with huge windows on one side looking out onto the street and shelves filled with bright, shiny books and magazines on the other. Katherine is the only librarian at the London campus (there are two other campuses of the Istituto Marangoni in Milan and Paris) and her attention was needed by some students as soon as we arrived, while the trainees had a browse around the shelves.

When we sat down to talk, Katherine explained the London campus had been there for six years and until she arrived in Summer 2010 there was no librarian, no collection development plan, no classification system and no thought about the library at all. In the past few years the Istituto’s programmes have been validated by Manchester Metropolitan University and one of the conditions for validation was that the library be brought up to standard.

Katherine talked us through her first year at the library, from choosing and implementing a library management system, writing and updating the collection development plan, cataloguing and classifying the entire collection from scratch and trying to persuade students unused to the idea to use the catalogue. It was interesting to hear from a solo librarian and there are definite advantages and disadvantages to working alone in a library. The best part appeared to be having the opportunity to try your hand at every element of librarianship; however the downside was that Katherine rarely left the library for more than ten minutes each day and could never attend external training or personal development events. She did talk about the online networking that a lot of solo librarians take part in and that most of her contact with other people in the profession was through email, forums or blogging.

It was evident from the times that Katherine had to go and help students that she clearly knew her readership and collections extremely well, in total there were approximately 1,400 books and a large magazine collection. The large fashion and history of fashion collection is supplemented by books on history of art, architecture, interior design, graphic design, marketing and fashion business. Katherine also spoke about the three specialist e-resources that she had chosen to invest part of the budget in. The library is currently reference only for the 600 or so undergraduate students but as the institute now aims to validate its postgraduate courses, the library must make a percentage of its collection available for loan which means another large project for Katherine in the near future.

Katherine finished her MA in Library and Information Studies from UCL in 2010, so we took the opportunity to pick her brain about courses and the application procedure. It was incredibly helpful to have her and Anna – the other Courtauld graduate trainee and a recent graduate of the City course – there to give us advice about those particular Library and Information Science courses. Katherine spoke about her experiences at UCL and which modules she particularly enjoyed.

Our visit to the Istituto Marangoni ended with biscuits and a look around the workrooms and studio of the fashion school. As all of the trainees are currently working in small to medium sized libraries, it was incredibly interesting visit: the size of the collection, the subject matter covered and the recent history of the library was completely different to what we were used to. It was also insightful to hear from a new professional working as a solo librarian and was a thought-provoking way to start our series of visits.

Jen (Courtauld Institute of Art)

The Women's Library

On Tuesday, November 1st, some of the trainees attended a talk on the history of the Women’s Library, part of an ongoing series of seminars run jointly by the Institute of Historical Research and the Institute of English studies, both part of the School of Advanced Studies in the Senate House.

The talk was given by Dr. Jane Grant of the Centre for Institutional Studies, University of East London, and was held at the library itself, in Aldgate. The library is a fantastic purpose-built space, situated in a former wash house, and served as an excellent location to discuss the unique challenges faced by independent library collections over time and to hear about the tumultuous history of the Women’s Library. Dr. Grant gave an interesting and amusing description of the history of the library, which was initially established in 1926, as the Library of the London Society for Women's Service, the successor of the Society for Women’s Suffrage, later the Fawcett Society, which ran the library until 1977. Today, the library is part of London Metropolitan University. The collection of books, archives and artefacts focuses on the experiences of women and the women’s movement, with particularly strong collections on the British women’s suffrage movement.

We started the evening with a tour by one of the librarians, who explained the nature of the collection and the challenges of selecting and cataloguing material with a small staff, as well as answering any questions the audience had about the collection. She also highlighted the concerns the library has in making sure they don’t ‘step on the toes’ of other libraries in terms of their acquisitions. The catalogue, and different methods for searching their very varied collection, were also explained and demonstrated. We were then able to have a look around, not just at the books on the shelves (though they were enticing enough!), but at some of their vault materials, including the 1902 minutes of the Society for Women’s Service and a collection of 1980s feminist postcards. After this, all moved to the café to listen to Dr. Grant’s talk.

Detailing the evolution of the library from a few shelves of books in a London pub to its current location in Aldgate, Dr. Grant demonstrated some of the difficulties that such a unique and important independent collection can have, particularly in gaining funding and support, and the importance of volunteers in keeping the Library up and running. There was also discussion of the Library’s current status as a branch of London Met, a partner selected because of its willingness to keep the collection intact, and give it a purpose-built home, instead of dispersing it and rejecting duplicates, as some other potential university partners had suggested. Dr Grant also illustrated the struggles faced by the Women’s Library during the Blitz, when its Marsham Street building in Westminster was severely damaged, though thankfully leaving most of the collection itself intact. During the following discussion, a representative from the Feminist Library commented on this transition, speaking about her own library’s difficulties in finding a suitable partner in higher education, especially in the current climate. The discussion then broadened out to the importance of special independent collections, and the vital importance of ensuring that they are used, promoted and preserved.

Altogether, a thought-provoking and fascinating event, giving insight into a previously unconsidered element of libraries. The story of the Women’s Library is an inspiring example of what can be achieved when collective belief in a cause is able to triumph even in seemingly dire circumstances.

Next stop, the Feminist Library!

Hannah (ICS) and Hannah (IHR)

History of Libraries seminar

This monthly seminar is held on Tuesday evenings during term-time and is freely open for anyone to attend. The programme is available here. The first seminar The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland - Five years on: a review will be in Senate House on the evening of the trainee welcome party.

The following seminars are From small beginnings: the History of the Women's Library and The Invisible Library; Books, Book Rooms and Inventories at a Northamptonshire Manor House.

Graduate Open Day - 25th October

This might be of interest..
The Open Day is intended for all those who are new to the information professional - whether students, graduate trainees or first jobbers. Information Professionals from all parts of the workplace sector will speak about their working day and offer tips on finding jobs in their area.

cpd25 Applying to Study Library And Information Science 28th October

The cpd25 'Applying To Study Library And Information Science' event is coming up on Friday 28th October 2011. This is a great opportunity to meet other trainees and find out about the process of applying to study library and information courses. Also look out for other events and visits on the cpd25 site:

See this blog post for a summary of last year's event.

Welcome to 2011-12 programme

Welcome to trainees who have just started their 2011-12 trainee year. We are holding a welcome party for our trainee programme on 11th October 3pm. The programme started out for trainees within the School of Advanced Study Institute libraries, now part of Senate House Libraries, and has extended to include trainees from other London libraries.

We visit a diverse range of libraries, including some training sessions, and trainees get the opportunity to find out about different sectors and network with fellow trainees and librarians. Highlights from last year's programme were visits to the Wellcome Library, Courtauld Institute, Westminster Reference Library, Istituto Marangoni and a training session on Web 2.0 technologies. People will have the opportunity to suggest places they would like to visit, and we hope that people will use this blog to stay in touch. Further information to follow...

Trainee Profiles 2010 - 2011

University of Surrey Library Erika Delbeque

Hello, my name is Erika and I am the graduate trainee at the University of Surrey. I am originally from Belgium, where I obtained my degree in English and Dutch Literature and Linguistics. After a three-year stint as an English Teacher, I decided it was time for a career change and a change of environment. Whilst searching for jobs in the UK I came across an advertisement for a Graduate Library Trainee post. Somehow I had never considered librarianship as a career before, but the description of the post sparked my interest. I read up on the library and information field, and I visited one of the subject librarians at my local university to gain more insight. I soon became convinced that this was the right career for me. After applying for several graduate trainee posts and attending numerous interviews, I was thrilled to be offered the Graduate Trainee post at the University of Surrey.
During my trainee year, I gained tremendous insight into how an academic library operates, as I have been part of every step involved in adding an item to our collection, from the time a book or a journal is ordered until it appears on the shelves or on the website and reaches students and staff. I worked in every department (User Services, Journals and E-Resources, Cataloguing, Acquisitions) and was also able to assist the Academic Liaison Librarians at their information literacy sessions, attend meetings and work on the Library website. Everyone at the University of Surrey has been very helpful and supportive. I especially appreciate the flexibility of the traineeship programme. As my interest lies with rare book librarianship, I was given the opportunity to catalogue a few 18th and 19th century books, and I arranged to work at the EH Shepard Archive (which is housed in our library) one morning every week to learn more about preservation and to gain experience of handling old and valuable material. I have also attended several library visits, training sessions and CILIP events, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed.
So what’s next? I am going on to UCL to study for an MA in Library and Information Studies, where I will focus on rare book librarianship. I am very much looking forward to it, although I am a bit apprehensive about returning to university after four years! However, I could not have wished for a better preparation for the course.

Institute of Historical Research Library
Geri van Essen

My name is Geri van Essen. I did an MA in Celtic Studies in Utrecht, The Netherlands. While studying and afterwards I have been in a few temporary library-type jobs. My graduate traineeship at the Institute of Historical Research is my 7th library and information services role.
Working in the IHR library is enjoyable because it is a small team, which creates lots of opportunity for the trainee to get involved in all tasks. The relocation of the library during my last weeks as a trainee has also been very educational for me.
After the summer I will hopefully be doing the MRES History of the Book (at the Institute of English Studies) and write a dissertation on 19th century publications in the Irish language, while working part-time. In a library of course!

City University Library
Matthew Seddon

I graduated in 2007 with a degree in Economics and a burning desire to enter academia, two years, one very dull secretarial job, and a MSc Economics later, I realised that academia was not the place for me. I had probably spent more time in university libraries than anywhere else from the age of 18 and I decided that I wanted to stay there. Yet finding an entrance into the profession was not easy: library jobs required library qualifications and library qualifications required experience. Late one night I stumbled across a page on the CILIP website about graduate traineeships by accident; a placement for graduates that required little or no experience and provided training was pretty much exactly what I was looking for. In the mean time I had started voluntary work in a community library and by the time I arrived for the interview I had developed a basic vocabulary to talk about what it was I wanted to do.
I got the placement at City University and started in the main library at Northampton Square in September 2010. Subsequently I have learnt a great deal. The City traineeship is split in two: six months in the main library, working as part of a large library team, and six months at the business school, working in a small specialised library. The work at the main library has allowed me to gain insights into specific jobs – acquisitions and inter-library loans – while the business school library has given me an overview of a specialist collection with its idiosyncrasies, in this case the complex world of financial databases. My jobs have varied from processing books, through to ordering, adding, and withdrawing books, dealing with other libraries throughout the world, as well as investigating web content and other technical innovations. On top there have been external training events and library visits.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have enjoyed desk and enquiry work much more than I thought I would, which is handy because interaction with library users is key. I am also excited with how libraries are embracing technology and have left knowing rather more about computers than when I started.
For me, entering the library profession was not an accident of circumstance but rather a proactive decision to change my career. The world of libraries is changing and in the current climate you need to be committed before entering such a turbulent environment, the traineeship is the perfect opportunity to see whether the profession is the place for you. I will be starting the MA programme at UCL in September and hope to work in special digital collections after I graduate. I am looking forward to the day when I can finally call myself a qualified professional librarian.

Institute of Classical Studies Library Alice Milner

I am Alice, and for the past year I have been working as a trainee at the Institute of Classical Studies Library.
I graduated in 2009 with a degree in Classics, and I wanted to do my traineeship at a library in which I could use these skills directly (there’s not much more you can do with Ancient Greek and Latin!) though in my experience, your degree subject won’t matter too much unless you choose to work in a predominantly very specialised library.
I don’t remember how I came across the job ad, but I ended up applying to see if librarianship might be the career for me. I had done a bit of work experience at my department library at university, but I don’t think this taught me all that much, as the library consisted of only one room in which books were displayed behind locked glass doors, and could be requested by students and checked out using pen and paper!
So when I turned up to the library in August 2010, I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s true to say I have spent some of the year doing all of the usual library assistant and administrative duties: shelving, desk duty, membership, answering enquiries and dealing with postal loans. But I think your traineeship is largely what you make of it, and I chose to push my role a bit further into areas such as visual design (of library plans) and web development.
I’ve really enjoyed the traineeship, and I will be sad to leave, but I will not be going on to do the MA in Library Studies. I think one of the best aspects of any of the library traineeships is that they can help you decide whether you’d like to take it up as a career – and in my case I decided not to. I am keen to pursue a career in book publishing.

Foreign and Commonwealth Legal Library
Merrine Whitton

My name is Merinne, and I am the Graduate Trainee Librarian at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Legal Library, providing services to about 50 lawyers working for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Because of this very specific user-base, the Legal Library is small (but perfectly formed!), and its collection consists mainly of core texts on UK, international and EU law and a number of legal journals, as well as an ever-expanding collection of treaties, primary and secondary legislation and other government papers. Space is at a premium, and keeping the collection to a useful minimum is therefore a constant preoccupation. The library also has access to various essential legal databases via the government’s Legal Information Online portal (LION), and is supported by the eLibrary, a general library service for the wider office.
The traineeship has been an excellent experience for me, and would be for anyone with a special interest in either legal or government libraries. As an important part of a small team, I have had a very varied experience of information work, for the usual day-to-day business of cataloguing, shelving and ordering stock to conducting in-depth research for the lawyers on a variety of interesting topics. It is always a thrill when you see an issue in the news the day after you have done some work on the same subject for a lawyer. Moreover, the lawyers at the FCO truly appreciate the services provided by the Legal Library, be it research, current awareness alerts or simply finding an elusive document, and the working atmosphere is second to none. I joined the library at a time when there is ever-increasing co-operation and contact between government departments; participating in regular meetings of the Government Legal Libraries Forum has given me an insight into how, in the face of the new austerity measures, collaboration and shared services can help librarians maintain a consistent level of information provision.
I have also had the opportunity to work independently on a number of long-term projects at the Legal Library – most particularly, I have been reorganising the FCO’s collection of Overseas Territories legislation, and creating a searchable database to replace the existing card index. Having the opportunity to complete a long-term project like this, the fruits of which will remain in place and in use even after I have gone, is what makes this traineeship so special. I am now looking forward to commencing the MA in Library Studies at UCL in September, and think that my traineeship will stand me in good stead to advance in a career in information. The visits and socials organised by the SAS/URLS trainee group have been just as worthwhile, both as an opportunity for networking and as a way of discovering hidden library gems in London – the visit to the Warburg Institute was my stand-out favourite.

City University Library
Oliver Henderson-Smith

I am Oliver, and I have been one of two Graduate Trainees at City University London. Each year, City takes on two trainees, with one working for six months at the Cass Business School Learning Resource Centre while the other works at the Main Library; after six months the trainees swap over. I graduated from my Divinity degree in July 2009 and applied for the job after reflecting on my own university library experiences and realising that librarianship sounded like a career that I would be well suited for.
I began my traineeship at Cass Business School LRC, which was a fairly small, subject specific library. Starting in the smaller library was a really good way to get started, because I hadn’t got much library experience previously. Before I started my traineeship I had only worked in a library for one month, when I did work experience at a private members library without a computer system! My role was predominantly public services focussed, dealing with hold requests, membership applications and a lot of time on the enquiry desk, as well as numerous other information assistant duties such as location changes, searching for missing books and other specific projects. In March, I went to work at the Main Library in the bibliographic services department. I have been working in acquisitions and interlibrary loans, and being attached to two different sections has given variety to my roles. I came to my traineeship without altogether knowing what to expect and I learnt a huge amount, very quickly. Additional add-on’s to my day job have shown me so much more too, these include the ULRLS trainee group, Chapter One, the 23things project at City University and one-to-ones with various librarians at work.
My traineeship has shown me that librarianship is a career I want to pursue and I have a place to study part time on MA Library and Information Studies at UCL from September. I applied for part time study because I was mindful of my currently limited experience and wanted to earn while I studied. I am going on to work in a very different information environment, as I have been offered a job in the Information Unit at a bank for 9 months. While everyone who works there is an information professional, they wouldn't describe themselves as librarians; this will be a very interesting change after a year in a university library.

Courtauld Institute of Art Library
Tamsyn Bayliss

I'm Tamsyn, one of two Graduate Trainee Library Assistants at The Courtauld Institute of Art book library. I came to this traineeship in a round about way, having already completed the MA Information and Library Management course at Loughborough University in 2010. I had previously graduated with a BA degree in Creative Arts in 2000, and spent time working in bookshops, travelling and working abroad until deciding to pursue a career in librarianship, which was something I had always hoped to get into after following some others dreams first.
I didn't have much luck getting onto a traineeship when applying in 2009, however with my previous experience of bookselling and working in a public library, I gained a place on the MA course at Loughborough, which I can highly recommend. During my course I found it appeared possible to specialise in art librarianship, and I attended some courses and the annual conference of ARLIS (Art Libraries Society) and wrote my dissertation on the future of art libraries.
I was very excited to apply for the position at The Courtauld book library, as the year has been tailored to art librarianship as the library focuses on supporting the study of art history. I have found it an excellent experience for consolidating previous library skills and putting some of the theoretical knowledge gained on my course into practice. It as been quite a structured and varied year, where we have held responsibility for various aspects of the service, such as interlibrary loans and accessioning books, exhibition catalogues and serials, and have undertaken further cataloguing training. A highlight has been being able to attend many external training workshops and library visits which has aided with professional development, and also working in such an interesting and attractive library with fantastic, supportive colleagues.
I will miss working at The Courtauld, and I am lucky to be moving to a new role as Library Cataloguer at the National Portrait Gallery in September.

More trainee profiles

Lambeth Palace Library

On the 6th of July I was one of a group of four library assistants who paid a visit to Lambeth Palace Library. For a long time I had wanted to visit the library and now I was lucky enough to have the opportunity. We assembled outside the gate in the old palace wall; a spot which offers a view over the river and Westminster on the other side. Upon ringing the doorbell an archive assistant let us in and we were taken first into a little kitchen area, then through a court yard and finally into the main part of the building. The current library trainee, John Boneham took us into the Reading Room. This room serves users of the archives and manuscripts collections as well as the book collections. John is mainly responsible for fetching books from locked shelves, opening the door and copying service. He showed us upstairs to the strong room where we had the privilege of seeing the Bible used for Queen Elisabeth’s wedding ceremony.

Speaking of Bibles, we were allowed into the exhibition hall for free and learn how the King James translation of the Bible came into being, with many old monumental Bibles on display. But before this, John took us up into one of the two towers of the palace which are used as library stores. Three flights of spiral stairs up we came upon an impressive meeting room lined with bookshelves and a round table in the middle. The library and the towers are the oldest part of Lambeth Palace and I think the foundations are from the 14th century but I cannot remember for sure. It was also in the tower that we visited the two conservators of the library and archives in a room overlooking Westminster. The two ladies were working on cleaning parchment. This visit has been very interesting and as you can see I even remember most details more than a month later!

Geri Van Essen
Institute of Historical Research

Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library

On Tuesday 8th February a small group of trainees gathered for a trip to the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS). Our visit began with a tour around the library, our guide being Gerry Power, a member of the Academic Services team. We made our way to the entrance of the library which can be found, somewhat confusingly, on the fourth floor of the building, with the rest of the library following on the floors below. The institute was founded in 1947 and started its life in one of the houses on Russell Square, moving to its current home in the mid-seventies. IALS was founded with the aim of facilitating legal research throughout the UK. As a result the Institute allows free access to all academic researchers in the country. Legal practitioners and law firms are also welcome to use the collections, however a fee is payable for the privilege, with the size of the law firm reflecting the size of the charge. Undergraduates and taught postgraduates are generally not eligible to use the library, unless they are studying towards a taught postgraduate law qualification at the University of London. Members of the public may purchase a £25 day ticket to use the library. Gerry explained that they charge this amount because they are providing access to the best legal collection in the country.

In terms of stock, the library’s priority is to collect primary materials made up of books, journals and e-resources. The library doesn’t stock many textbooks or manuals as their focus is academic research, rather than learning. The collections cover law in the UK as well as law from commonwealth countries, individual European jurisdictions, USA and parts of Asia and South America. The collection is therefore very large and as a result space is fast becoming an issue. Gerry explained that there are future plans to extend the library into the space next door - a plan which IALS feel is a necessity as they have now reached capacity. To help alleviate the problem of space a separate store in Surrey is used to house old and little-used materials.

A large part of the IALS library collection which does not demand physical space on shelves is their electronic resources, which are freely available to users. IALS also hosts BAILII (The British and Irish Legal Information Institute), a digital database which provides free online access to primary legal materials. The library at IALS contributes to the BAILII database to help make law quickly available on the web for anyone to access.

Because of the increasing importance of IT to the library, IALS information services now have three dedicated computer services librarians to organise and manage computer services. There is also a busy document supply service which is heavily used by customers throughout the country.

The library is large and is organised using an in-house classification scheme, developed in the 1940s. To help reduce confusion for users when navigating their way around the collections, the library runs induction classes and individual teaching sessions. These classes not only help people to understand the layout of the library but also encourage users to search the catalogue themselves for materials.

After our tour of the library, we were met by Katherine Read from Academic Services for a session on website evaluation. Katherine explained that since the rise in computer use, there has been a reduction in information literacy skills, particularly in younger people who often rely on the internet for information. We were given a very interesting presentation on how we can educate users to evaluate websites and ensure the information they are finding is reliable.

All in all, our trip to IALS was a valuable one. It gave us an interesting insight into how a large, specialist library is organised and managed, and how they cope with ongoing challenges such as space and access.

Amy Bush
City Law School Library

Applying to Library School… and Receiving an Offer!

After you have decided that librarianship is the right career for you, applying to library school is probably the most important thing you will do during your year as a graduate trainee. As I recently received an offer for a place on the MA Library and Information Studies at UCL, I thought I would use my experience to give some advice to those considering going to library school. As I only applied for the UCL course, this post will necessarily be limited in scope – I suggest that you also have a look at the relevant pages on the Cambridge and Oxford library trainees’ websites.

First of all, it is important to decide which course is right for you. You will find that all courses emphasise different aspects of librarianship. For instance, the course at UCL is known for its traditional content, whereas City University and Loughborough are known to put more emphasis on the latest technological development. Ask yourself what career within the library and information field you are most interested in and choose your course based on those interests. UCL and Aberystwyth run optional modules on Rare Book Librarianship, City offers an Msc in Health Informatics, Sheffield runs optional modules on Government and Media Librarianship, etc.

As I am interested in Rare Book Librarianship and I believe that a balance between traditional skills such as Cat & Class and modern technology is the best foundation for the career I have in mind, I applied for the UCL course. UCL has the earliest closing date for applications, 1st December. It is important that you give yourself enough time to contact your referees, write and rewrite your personal statement, fill in the forms and collect the necessary documents. I started working on the application in the middle of October, and I asked the Director of the University of Surrey Library and the supervisor of my MA dissertation for a reference (remember that you need to give your referees a few weeks to write their references, so contact them in time!).

The hardest part of the application is writing your personal statement. Make sure it conveys your passion about librarianship, demonstrates how your experience as a graduate trainee has allowed you to develop insight in the library and information field, as well as stating what sort of career you are interested in and why you are interested in that particular course. Remember, you are not writing an application letter for a job, so rather than stressing skills and qualities your letter should convey your enthusiasm for the course and librarianship in general.

I heard back from UCL at the end of January. I was invited to attend an interview at the beginning of February. I spent a lot of time reading up on the latest issues and developments in the information field, but at the interview it turned out that this had not been necessary (although it did make me more confident!). The interview was informal, and most questions centred on my personal statement, my interest in rare book librarianship, how I imagined my future career and funding. I talked about what I had learnt so far during my traineeship at Surrey, the events and workshops I had attended and my work at the E.H. Shepard archive. They also gave me the opportunity to ask questions about the course, and told me I would hear whether I had been offered a place a few weeks later.

I was offered a place a week later, and I am very excited about starting my course! If you use your time as a graduate trainee to deepen your insight into the library and information field by attending events and workshops, by visiting libraries you are interested in and by talking to the librarians in your institution, I think the confidence and passion you have developed will show on your statement and during your interview, and will secure you a place at the course of your choice.

Good luck!

Erika Delbecque
University of Surrey

The Wellcome Library

The Wellcome Collection was established by Henry Wellcome, an eccentric medical enthusiast who is probably best described as a “funny sort of chap”. Those of us who had previously had the pleasure of wandering through his collections – where one can find torture chairs, a series of amputation knives, and forceps sitting alongside Florence Nightingale’s moccasins – were excited and intrigued about what could possibly follow.

After leaving the busy Euston Road and negotiating a bag check we were eager to see what awaited us. We were met by Elizabeth Graham of the Wellcome Collection library and after a brief history of the building and the Trust we were taken up to the start of the tour. The Wellcome Collection Library is a library that specialises in medical history and society. While open to the public its collection is reasonably specialised and frequent use is made by researchers and university students. It has a wide ranging collection, which broadly encompasses what we were told was the medical humanities.

Situated in the main site of the Wellcome Trust and recently renovated the layout is a contrast between timely vaulted reading rooms and wooden stacks with the open spaces and glass that often characterise modern library developments. It was a nice visual juxtaposition that highlighted some of the issues facing libraries in the changing information environment.

Throughout our visits so far a number of issues seem to keep cropping up and they were present here as well. We were told, for example, how the library is trying to encourage the public to enter the library as a widening of public engagement. Elizabeth enlightened us on the issues of space and digital resources, where libraries are facing constraints on storage space that are leading to an increase in digital subscriptions as well as user demand. Finally we were told how many library initiatives are often led by user interaction. The Wellcome Library also has some other issues of its own, such as accommodating three classification systems.

I think I speak for the group when I say that special mention must also be made of un-put-downable-cups and the scanners that have replaced the photocopiers. They capture digital images of the pages while allowing users to browse the book, which looks like a space age future in contrast to the mechanical dinosaurs that inhabit most other libraries, coughing out paper copies when not choking on errant sheets stuck somewhere within the machinery. Or perhaps that’s just me.

Anyway, after the tour we were taken past the special collections room to a presentation on the web site. The blog is the main feature of the homepage and rather than being an after-thought provides good information on the features of the Wellcome Collection. We were told how staff are encouraged to develop ideas for the blog and that it functions as a good way for librarians to communicate their findings. The presentation finished with a mention of the digitalisation projects and how they are integrated on the catalogue, especially when the catalogue includes non-textual material, as well as experiments in web 2.0 features like the ability for users to tag within the catalogue.

The tour was an interesting insight into the latest developments in libraries as well as an exciting and innovative place to work. We left clutching free pens and pencils and before stepping back into the noisy modern world on Euston Road, a couple of us returned to the public collection of Henry Wellcome, who was definitely a funny sort of chap.

Matthew Seddon City University Library

Web 2.0

The term Web 2.0 seems to confuse people to the point of being counter productive, so I thought I’d try to get some kind of definition out of the way to begin with. For most people who use the internet regularly for business and leisure, Web 2.0 is something that comes naturally, and I personally find it quite difficult to express, other than by giving examples.

So, as I understand it, Web 1.0 is a term associated with providers simply posting pages on the web and users then accessing those pages. Web 2.0 seems to be the next logical step from there, where users have the ability to add, edit and indeed argue with the providers. A good example of this is Wikipedia, which I’m sure we’ve all used. This eliminates static content, making it much more dynamic and shareable, and allows for better communication between the user and the provider. A
Wikipedia link might help here…

By the by, feel free to comment and let me know if you think I’ve got something wrong – in the true spirit of Web 2.0!

Colin Homiski explained this in a far more succinct and clear manner when we went to hear him speak in the Institute of Historical Studies. Colin is the Music, Art and Romance Languages & Literatures Librarian for Senate House Library. The bulk of his talk involved discussing the different ways that this kind of application is used on the web today, and how this can be useful in (mainly academic) libraries.

Rather than write a blow by blow account of Colin’s presentation*, I’ll try to touch on a few of the key ideas and web sites briefly.

The potential of using Web 2.0 based applications in libraries seems huge. One aspect of Web 2.0 that Colin discussed in some depth was social bookmarking and tagging.

Perhaps the first idea which would spring to mind would be inviting members to tag the library catalogue. One of the advantages of this approach is that the role of (often) stuffy and thus limited vocabulary can be reduced, allowing members to tag with words that they would be more inclined to associate with a particular resource. Further, this allows students or academics to tag a number of resources onto a reading list for a course, essay question, seminar, etc. This would be a huge timesaver for both academics and students, allowing the professor to tag the resources (paper-free), and the students to locate them with the click of a button.

One library that has tried out tagging using Encore is the Wellcome Library.
An example: a book about Gray’s Anatomy is tagged with ‘wellcome collection further reading dissection’, which, when selected, will then take users to the rest of that reading list.

When some of the trainees visited the Wellcome Collection, Elizabeth Graham, the Education, Training & Resources Team Leader, expressed her initial worries that users would tag with nonsense and inappropriate vocabulary – however, this has yet to catch on; hopefully it never will!
Delicious is an example of a social bookmarking site which allows users to manage their bookmarks both for themselves and for others to see. Using Delicious, libraries could bookmark anything with a URL, which can be more than just static websites! Internally, libraries can use this type of site to allow for better communication and interface between members and staff, but they can also introduce this service to their members as a research tool. This type of site also relies on tagging, and can therefore be extremely useful for quickly finding out how others have explored a certain subject. Colin’s Delicious page is a good example of how librarians can use these resources. Librarians can also publish their tag clouds on their own websites, as Stanford University library has done. This allows users to access tagged e-resources easily and directly from their library website.
Scribd is another resource similar to Delicious; however, rather than managing and tagging bookmarks, Scribd is a way of managing documents. Librarians can use this independently to publish and tag their own documents, or libraries can draw together documents which they feel are useful for their members.

Personally, working in an academic library, I have found it extremely useful to be able to do a full-text search on
Google Books. This has allowed me to assess the suitability of a book for a member, as well as to help members find out the exact text from which they copied a quote. The next step from this might be that libraries work with sites such as Google Books in order to incorporate full text searches into their catalogue – perhaps they do, my library certainly doesn’t! In my experience, this would be extremely beneficial to both members and library staff.

University-run digital repositories like
SAS-Space are an invaluable resource for academics to publish their theses, articles etc, so that others can access them. This holds obvious advantages for those who publish and those who want to use articles for research. OAIster is a digital harvester which can search across these repositories – which Colin described as an academic Google (and is better in many ways than Google Scholar). Colin pointed out that this also keeps the price of journals down, which is always a good thing!

All of the examples of Web 2.0 in libraries given above explore the ways in which resources can be are collected, searched for, and the ways in which things can be described; which is what Web 2.0 is all about. There is so much more to this than the above, and I couldn’t possibly explore any more aspects (RSS feeds, wikis, blogging and Creative Commons licensing etc.) without far surpassing the 1,000 word mark! Some other these were discussed in Colin’s presentation, *the slides for which can be found on
his Scribd page, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you email him with any questions.

Alice Milner
Institute of Classical Studies
Joint Library of the Hellenic and Roman Societies

A Visit to the Westminister Reference Library

Westminster Reference Library appears to be easy to find so we all arrive too early. There is a cold wind blowing from Leicester Square and we decide to wait inside the library. However, Eveleen Rooney welcomes us in straight away and ushers us to the staff kitchen where we sit down on the couches and arm chairs and are served coffee and tea.

Following a sociable introduction, Peter Collins takes us to the front hall of the building and explains about history of library. Isaac Newton and Fanny Burney have lived on this site. The library itself was built in 1928. He then goes on to tell us how, in the present day, the library essentially has two special collections: Arts and Business. And although it is a public reference library, it has 10.000 (art) lending books. The library has 12 members of staff.

We are taken on a tour around part of the building by Eveleen Rooney, starting on the ground floor. This floor is a heavily used space, with books on law and business. This is also where one of the Westminster libraries’ Business Information Points (BIPs) is located. The BIP consists of computers with access to business resource databases, surrounded by shelves with useful book material. The BIP’s aim is to support local enterprise as well as researchers. Eveleen’s job has changed a lot from back room cataloguing to front of house service communicating over the past years, she tells us. Eveleen then takes us to the oldest part of the building: a cold and damp cellar, part of Newton´s house. Moving on to the newer part of the basement, we find the official publications, which are reference only. All books have barcodes and when returned they are marked as used to keep records. The mezzanine is yet another part of the basement, with a very low ceiling. This is where the serials are kept.

On the first floor we are met by Peter again, who shows us the Art & Design collection. The collection comprises 40.000 reference volumes, such as current art magazines. As Peter explains, this part of the library holds materials strong in breadth rather than depth. Another feature of the library is its long opening hours, which is an advantage to the National Art Library. This floor also has an exhibition space. Wooden banisters and book cases, coupled with the calm atmosphere, make this floor an attractive space. 80% of the art and design books are not on open access but can be retrieved in the blink of an eye.

Peter then takes us to the second floor, home of the Art lending library. Like the first floor, this collection is very much geared towards picture research. We walk across the floor and through a door leading to Peter’s work space. His desk is hidden behind shelves with large photography books and in fact buried in art books. We gather around it and learn all about the diverse events that have taken place in the library in the past years. Workshops, talks and tours, book launches and gigs. Theatre space is created by rolling the stacks away, as they are on wheels. Even a knitting group meets regularly amid the bookshelves. Westminster Reference Library is fortunate to have certain celebrities come and use the library. We leave this versatile library with a sense of surprise.

Geri van Essen
Institute of Historical Research Library

Westminster Reference Library

Here is the photo from yesterday's visit..

Applying to Study Library And Information Science… And Beyond: A One-Day Conference

A wide range of speakers provided us with valuable insight into what a career in the LIS field requires, what the dos and don’ts are when applying to Library School, going for an interview, and how libraries and information provision are changing.

The conference was kicked off by Julie Holmes, the Director of Libraries at London Metropolitan University. Her presentation focused on the changing nature of academic libraries. She stressed the importance of fundraising and marketing skills in a time when the political and economic climate is less than favourable towards libraries and academic institutions. It was very encouraging to hear her stress the reasons why professional librarians are, and will always be, indispensable in university libraries. Hearing her take on what the most important skills and attributes are for an aspiring librarian was particularly interesting. Diplomacy and negotiation skills are perhaps not the first skills that come to mind when one thinks of a librarian, but they are becoming increasingly important in a climate in which libraries have to defend their reason for existence.

Holmes’ presentation was primarily concerned with outlining the difficulties and challenges academic libraries are facing, whereas the presentation of the next speaker, Vanda Broughton, Programme Director for the MA in Library Studies at UCL, focused entirely on the conference’s actual topic: applying to study Library and Information Science. I believe that for most of us her presentation was the most useful part of the day. She talked us through all the stages of applying for a place on a course, from writing a letter and a CV to going for an interview and applying for funding. The latter was very useful, as it shed a light on the complex labyrinth of rules and regulations that is the AHRC website. Her advice on tailoring our CV to the application and on what to write in the personal statement have been of great help to me when completing my applications, and I am sure that her advice on what (not) to say at library school interviews will prove to be helpful as well.

The last speaker of the morning, Sarah Ison, Assistant Information Adviser at the University of Brighton, talked about CILIP and their Career Development Group of which she is part. It was interesting to hear more about CILIP groups and the benefits of joining CILIP. The following lunch break gave me the chance to meet several other trainees, all from institutions in and around London. Being the only trainee at Surrey, it was nice to listen to other trainees’ stories of exasperating readers, stubborn members of staff and the endless search of missing books.

The afternoon was dedicated to presentations of and Q and A sessions with recent LIS graduates. Although I have a clear idea of what types of careers I am interested in, it was very interesting to hear more about careers within the LIS field that I did not know about before. Chris Brown, for instance, works as a Research Reserve Coordinator at Imperial College, and Sian Blake coordinates the Customer Services at Kingston. Both stressed the fact that many skills gathered from previous roles and careers will come in useful at a LIS job, and they also talked about what they had learnt from working in the LIS field..

Other recent graduates joined them for the Q and A session. Although this was a good idea, I did not find most of the questions particularly useful, as they mainly focused on the various library courses. The answers to most of these questions can easily be found on the universities’ websites. Perhaps it would have been better if we had been given some time to think over what questions we wanted to ask first. However, overall I would say that this conference was very well-organised, and it provided aspiring librarians with a clear overview of what the current issues in the field are, of what is required of a modern librarian and of what library schools expect of their applicants. Now all we need to do is get into the library school of our choice, gain a qualification and start our careers…

Erika Delbecque
University of Surrey