Wellcome Library

The Wellcome Trust is a global charity with billions of pounds at its disposal. As well as funding vast amounts of medical research, Sir Henry Wellcome envisioned a place where people could come to learn about the many wonders of medicine and its history. The Wellcome Collection provides a fantastic space for this public engagement, housing a café, bookshop, exhibition galleries and a library.

Image via Flickr user Maggie Jones.

A small group of trainees were met and taken upstairs by Amelia, a friendly member of staff from the library. Having been impressed by visits to previous exhibitions at the Wellcome Collection many times before, I wasn’t surprised to encounter a fantastic library facility. With a vast number of reading rooms and an extensive collection ranging from biology and the usual sciences to magic and the occult, the library has plenty to keep your mind occupied; and membership is open to everyone. There are beautiful paintings hanging on the walls, whilst the shelves, desks and facilities are all brand new. In addition to the many books available on the shelves there is a large reserve collection including moving image material and special collections are able to be viewed in an allocated room in the depths of the library.

After being shown around the entire library we spent some time looking at the library website, hearing about Wellcome’s extensive digitisation project. We also had a look at a special project called ‘Wellcome Images’ which contains a vast array of images on things ranging from diseases to tattoo designs. You can access it by clicking here. At the end of the tour, my enthusiasm for the Wellcome Collection only increased and I certainly look forward to my next visit.

Joe (IALS)

Westminster Reference Library

Westminster Reference Library is tucked away behind the National Portrait Gallery but it is one of the busiest public libraries I have ever been in.
Image via Flickr user Jamie Barras.
It is a hidden gem in the West End that not only houses an incredible collection of print and electronic resources, but it is also a hub of culture and innovation with rolling exhibitions, installations and live events. As a reference library it has had to think on its feet to keep people coming through the doors in recent years, due to the availability and dependence on increasing online resources. It offers free WiFi for laptop and smart device users, and PC’s to connect to the internet for anyone else who wants to get online. Its core subject areas of Art & design, Business, Law, Performing Arts and UK Official Publications are comprehensive and the whole collection is used imaginatively to support the many live events that also take place. The library hosts group study space that can be booked, a suite of PC’s that allow access to a wide range of online databases, in-house only resources and mailing lists that would be otherwise inaccessible to small businesses and people starting up on their own. The library has moved on from being strictly reference only and has a collection of around 10,000 loanable items and has an incredibly knowledgeable staff who are on hand to advise and help with queries.

This is the library I remember of my youth in terms of feel and staff that instil you with the confidence that they can find a solution to any query. Nostalgia is often the word used when people discuss their love of libraries or indeed the reason people will fight to keep them running. If nothing else this library is a testament to how public libraries should adapt for the future and the attitude they should adopt when trying to demonstrate how a community will suffer without it. The library answers to its user group which is truly eclectic and I would imagine, demanding with a footfall averaging 1,000 people a day to use the range of services it offers; it cannot be denied that this is a public library that goes above and beyond expectations.

Image via Flickr user Jamie Barras. 

Anna (Courtauld)

Trainee Profiles 2011 - 2012

Institute of Classical Studies Library
Hannah Dingwall

I have always enjoyed libraries. Aside from spending a great deal of time in them, both for leisure and study, at school I was a member of the library committee, helping to select new books. When I went to university to study Classics, I became a member of the library committee of the Oxford Union, which managed the collection and budget of the Union’s specialist library. However, I didn’t consider librarianship as a career until a chance conversation with a friend in my final year, who mentioned that her brother was doing a library traineeship. It sounded interesting, and so I began to do some research. Resources like the CILIP website, and online projects such as Library Day in the Life and Library Routes helped to paint a picture of just how diverse and interesting librarianship could be, and with visions of cranky spinsters with multiple cats dispelled, I realized that librarianship might be a good fit with my skills and interests. I applied for several traineeships and was delighted to be accepted by the Institute of Classical Studies, where I could get a taste of the subject while also being able to use my degree. The library is small and very specialist, its collection mainly consisting of the collections of the Societies for the Promotion of Hellenic and Roman Studies, as well as the reference collection of the Institute of Classical Studies. My day-to-day work varies. Sometimes I work on the desk, where I handle enquiries from readers (ranging from how to use the online catalogue to discussions of ancient Greek grammar), sign up new members for the societies, maintain the library’s blog, and send out books to members and for review in the societies’ journals. At other times, I’m behind the scenes, processing newly acquired books, repairing damaged books, and working on various projects (currently, a redesign of the material promoting our electronic resources).

Courtauld Institute of Art Library
Anna Casey

I studied Ceramics for two years before undertaking a BA in Illustration at University College Falmouth. After finishing my degree I went straight into the Information Management in the Cultural Sector Masters programme at City University in London, and passed with a merit in December 2011. Whilst doing my undergrad degree I worked in the University library for 3 years. In this time I was part of 3 major projects, one of which was the implementation of RFID. I enjoyed my job as much as my degree and thought that combining them in some way would be a good career move for the future.
I chose the IMCS course because it was the only Cilip accredited programme that lent towards the arts as well as information management/library studies. The combination of practical and theoretical study was stimulating and I found that you could easily tailor assignments to your own personal interests and that this was encouraged and supported by lecturers. To further my career progression into Art Librarianship I applied for the Graduate Trainee position at the Courtauld, as again, it is the only placement that specifically met my requirements of being a solely arts based library. I am hoping to go on into arts specific user education, for practice based art courses and research.

Institute of Historical Research Library
Hannah Pope

Having used libraries throughout my history degree at Edinburgh, I decided in my final year to apply for a library traineeship to explore a career in an environment I had always enjoyed. I had gained some insight into the career by talking to librarians whilst working as a shelving assistant at the University of Edinburgh’s main library and after desperately googling something along the lines of ‘is there anything I can do with a history degree?’ I found links to the CILIP website. The idea of a traineeship was very appealing as it meant I was able to give myself a trial period to see whether or not this was a career I wanted to pursue.
The trainee position at the IHR sounded perfect as it combined my academic and career interests and having had an offer I immediately accepted the job. The IHR’s collection is based on primary sources to provide students and academics with a ‘historical workshop’. The amount of material held published prior to the 20th century makes quite a change from the books I was used to during my degree, and has shown me some of the challenges of maintaining a collection. Working at the IHR has given me a fantastic insight into the profession as a whole, and has opened my eyes to a range of jobs I had no idea previously existed. The trainee post has allowed me to visit other libraries to get a taste for those outside of the academic sphere which has been really enlightening so far, and career development events have been particularly useful in broadening my expectations of librarianship.

Courtauld Institute of Art Library
Jennifer Laurenson

I have been interested in pursuing a career in librarianship since taking part in work experience in the Library and Collections of the Royal Academy of Arts when I was at university. I studied History of Art at the University of Warwick and by the time I graduated in 2009, I had researched routes into librarianship and applied for several graduate traineeships. Though I was unsuccessful the first two years I applied for traineeships, I was undeterred. I worked for a year in a customer service role for local government and was able to take some time out to travel. Then - third time's the charm - I was thrilled to be offered the traineeship that most appealed to me, at the Courtauld Institute of Art.
I am thoroughly enjoying my time in the book library of the Courtauld. My colleagues are fantastic and the work that I do interesting and varied. Being a graduate trainee at the Courtauld is great as they provide a lot of training and chances to be involved in the work of every department in the library. My day-to-day duties include accessioning new books, dealing with inter-library loans, checking in new journals and working on the issue and enquiries desk. Courtauld graduate trainees are lucky to be trained in cataloguing and I am excited to put this into practice with a retrospective cataloguing project. I also enjoy the external library visits and training workshops, and the chance to speak to graduate trainees at other libraries.
Though it might not have seemed it at the time, I think it was better for me not go straight into a traineeship from my undergraduate degree. The work and life experiences I had before starting at the Courtauld were invaluable and have helped me in this role. By applying three years in a row it showed, not least myself, how determined I was to pursue librarianship as a career. My time at the Courtauld has only strengthened this conviction and I am currently applying to library schools for next year.
Follow @jenlaurenson

City University Library
Mark Pexton

Before coming to City I studied Philosophy at the University of St Andrews. I then spent a year working for Kent Libraries and Archives as a Customer Services Assistant as well as doing work experience in other libraries.
My motivation for working in libraries came from a number of reasons; the opportunity to do research, work with information technology, work for organisations aimed at the public good and ultimately my own personal love of libraries. I came to discover that there were many other reasons why I wanted to pursue this career including my introduction to classification of material.
In my traineeship at City University I currently have my time at the main university site split between working in Acquisitions, Inter-Library Loans and on the Service Desk. I will spend the second half of my traineeship at Cass Business School. I have found the job a superb introduction to a career in librarianship. I plan to study for the MA in Information Studies at the University of Brighton full time this September and am looking forward to this next stage of my career. At the moment I am looking to stay in academic libraries.

More trainee profiles

Trainee Profiles 2007 - 2008

Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library
Sarah Hall

Whilst doing my BA in Ceramics at Camberwell College of Arts, I became fascinated by the library collection there and at the other colleges of the University of the Arts in London. I began to think about librarianship as a way to build on my knowledge and experience and to have a career which suits my skills and incorporates my personal interests as part of my working day.
I decided to apply to IALS as it is both an academic library and highly specialised collection. Additionally and importantly, it offers an excellent training programme. The placement at IALS has prepared me for MA study as I now have a working knowledge of many of the areas covered in the core modules at University College London (UCL), where I will start in September.

Abigail Knight
I have always loved the atmosphere and service that libraries offer and consequently I started researching careers in librarianship. I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about working in a law library when the only thing I knew about law was how to spell it and that under no circumstances should I break it! However, I was reassured at my interview that a background in law was not essential.
The trainee year at IALS provides a brilliant opportunity to really get stuck in to every aspect of (law) librarianship – from working on the issue/enquiry desk to checking in all the journals that pass through the serials section. The graduate trainee post here is a great opportunity for any aspiring librarian and offers a fun and varied working year in one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in the UK.

Trainee Profiles 2008 - 2009

Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library
Mark Leonard

My name is Mark, and I’m one of four graduate library trainees at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS). The library here is huge, and makes up a large part of the Institute. As the national law library, it has a world-renowned collection of law volumes and a dedicated team of specialist law librarians. The focus of the library is on research facilitation, and so the readers tend to be academics, postgraduates and some practitioners – there are no undergraduates here.
My year here has been very well structured; throughout the year each trainee moves through four different positions in the library - my own route has been: document delivery services; continuations; a different role within continuations; and finally, academic services. The document delivery service is an award-winning department which supplies legal documents to subscribing law firms, primarily via email. I then spent six months in continuations, which is the section of the library that handles law journals. I undertook some cataloguing, and made contact with some suppliers, which was a good experience. There was also a lot of time to undertake special projects, which gave a variety and depth to the role. I have now joined academic services, where I will support the enquiry desk and perform a wide range of duties, such as creating reader guides and producing leaflets.
I have enjoyed being part of a team of four trainees, and it has been a big plus point of the position. One trainee has gone to each library visit organised by the other SAS trainees, we have all attended weekly training sessions on law and librarianship within IALS, and have also attended visits to other libraries organised by IALS.
I am very happy that I have had the opportunity to work at IALS for a year, and to have done so on the graduate trainee scheme in particular. It has been a great year, in which I have met some wonderful people and had some very interesting experiences, and feel that this will prepare me well for my future career.

Institute of Classical Studies Library
Katie Rose

My name is Katie Rose, and I'm the graduate library trainee at the Institute of Classical Studies. This library is unique, to say the least. With a small number of staff and a high level of expertise, our collections reflect the high level of research our readers are engaged in. Our attention is focused on obtaining the best scholarly material available on all aspects of the ancient world, particularly the Greek and Roman worlds. We acquire new books daily, and so far have been fortunate in not having to weed our collections too often, despite having had to relocate the library three times in the past ten years (our third move is scheduled for March 2009).
For me, the readers are the best bit of the library; they include undergraduates, postgraduates and academics from universities in the U.K and all over the world, and people who just love Classics. I love talking to them and learning about their work. I am stationed on one of the circulation desks and my main responsibilities include circulation, membership, reader enquiries and research. I am in charge of the postal loans and research (which we do a lot of) and inter-library loans.
I think this year has taught me to create my own work schedule and priorities, and to be more independent. During the year I have gone to many training events, visits and lectures organised by CILIP and CPD25, and I have really valued being part of the SAS/ULRLS trainee group- that has actually become much more important than I previously thought it would be.
My current career plans are to see if I can get funding to do the MA in Library and Information Studies at UCL. If I don't go to UCL next academic year, I will continue to work in libraries until I decide to do the MA and become qualified. This year so far has opened my mind to the fact that there are so many different sorts of libraries and librarians, and I would love to gain experience in sectors outside the academic research library.

Trainee Profiles 2009 - 2010

Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
Nicola Dellow

Hi, my name is Nicola and I am one of the three trainees at the Institute of Advanced Legal studies. I was prompted to apply for the trainee position because I wanted to learn more about law and have the experience of working in an academic library. IALS predominately caters for researchers. It is also a busy lending library, so I have had a good experience of working on the issue and enquiry desk. The readers are mainly academics and postgraduate students from the various colleges of the University of London. I think in many ways the issue desk work been the most interesting part of my traineeship, as it is lovely to have the interaction with readers. I would definitely consider reader services as a future vocation.
The first few months I spent in Continuations, which is the team that deal with subscriptions to serials. It was always busy, as there are lots of journals and legislation coming in….law seems to move at a very fast pace! Here I learnt how to process material and get it onto the shelves quickly as well as update the catalogue for the library users to see. I then moved to Academic Services, where I had to send overdue notices for books and review the subject guides to make sure that readers were aware of the current editions. The other main department at IALS is the document supply service, which caters for law firms and organisations which need copies of cases and other legal material. Working in this busy area can be rewarding as you feel that in a small way, you are contributing to the action in the courts.
There has been one less trainee this year than in 2008/9, which has actually worked out well, as we have all been kept on our toes and have had to rise to challenges beyond our allocated roles. I knew relatively little about law when I first came here, so I have gained valuable experience in this field. The staff at IALS arranged a variety of training sessions for us to attend over the year, both in the institute and at other libraries. I found these incredibly useful, especially when working on the enquiry desk, as I was more equipped to point readers towards the relevant material.
I would definitely recommend the graduate trainee placements for anyone with an interest in library services, as the skills acquired over the year are non-restrictive and can be transferred to jobs in other sectors. I plan to study the MA in library and information studies at UCL in September. Hopefully by the time I finish, I will have a better idea about which area of librarianship I would like to specialise in. In the future, I would also like to gain some experience from working in public libraries.

Jordan Phillip
My name is Jordan and I joined IALS on a one year graduate traineeship in September 2009. I completed my LLB in 2007 but decided that practising as a lawyer was not the right path for me. I was therefore looking for a career opportunity which would allow me to put some of the skills and knowledge I learned during my degree into practical application. That is why I applied to IALS, as I was aware of its reputation as the most expansive and highly regarded legal library in Europe. I also felt that by completing my trainee year in such a well respected institute would stand me in good stead for either applying to do a postgraduate course in Library and Information Studies or if applying for another job in the future.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my trainee year and I have now worked in 3 different departments; Distant Services, Serials and Academic Services. Distant Services required processing requests for legal materials to be sent to various law firms and legal organisations. This was a very busy department which required a lot of accuracy and good time management as these documents were on many occasions being used in court.
Serials required processing new volumes of journals and legislation for the shelves and updating the online catalogue. As the Institute subscribes to a vast array of periodicals it meant that there was always something to be getting on with, which is ideal if you prefer to be kept busy! I am currently in Academic Services, this involves a bit of everything really. My main role is to support the issue desk and monitor overdues. I’m also responsible for ensuring leaflets and guides are kept up to date and well stocked. I have an ancillary role in assisting Distant Services 1 day a week as well as one morning a week in Serials.
Apart from all the staff being really friendly and great to work with, another good point about working for IALS as a trainee is the extensive training you receive, from learning about international and domestic legal materials to learning how to develop and build webpages, it covers a wide range of useful skills which really prepare you for working as a librarian.
I’m still undecided about what I am going to do after my trainee year. But whether I decide to do a postgraduate qualification or whether I go straight into another job, I know my year at IALS will have given me many great experiences which will stand me in good stead for the future.