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