Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
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.
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.
Institute of Classical Studies Library
My name is Louise and I am the Winnington Ingram Graduate Trainee at the Institute of Classical Studies Library. It is a unique academic library with a small team, currently only five, including me, all with specialist knowledge. The library is focused on the Classical world; mainly language and literature, history and archaeology, alongside more unusual subjects such as numismatics.
I studied Classics at undergraduate level and am finishing off my Masters part time whilst also being a trainee. I both work and study in the same place so I have firsthand experience of just how comprehensive the library’s collection is. The library holds c.107,000 books and c.19,000 bound volumes of periodicals, thereby bringing the total to over 126,000 volumes; Most of the Library's stock is on open access and we have readers from all corners of the globe using the collection.
The advantages of working in a small library is that you get to know the readers and their work, which makes it very personal. Most of our readers are researchers or PhD students. Fortunately, I knew lots of people who use the library regularly through my studies, there is a community atmosphere which is heightened during the exam period or with approaching deadlines! 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 try to make it to as many library visits as possible as it is a great opportunity to see the different types of libraries and also to meet up with the other trainees. These visits have made me realise how diverse this job can be. I also have been improving my computer skills thanks to the many IT courses at the University. My future plans are still a bit uncertain at the moment; I hope to pursue more of an academic career, perhaps returning to librarianship at a later stage.
Institute of Historical Research Library
My name is Sarah Guy-Gibbens and I’m currently the Graduate Trainee at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) Library. As the name implies, the library’s collections aim to provide resources and space for those engaged in historical research, mostly post-graduate students, researchers and historians but also members of the general public who have an interest in history. Many historical societies also make use of the IHR for seminars and conferences and there is space in the library set aside for this purpose. Most evenings at least two societies will have rooms booked in the library. Three research centres also reside within the building: the Centre for Metropolitan History (CMH), the Centre for Contemporary British History (CCBH) and the Victoria County History (VCH).
The collections’ main focus is on the history of Western European countries and their former colonies, specialising in providing primary sources for research purposes, such as government and ecclesiastical documents, charters, diaries and letters. For each collection there are also secondary sources provided for reference, such as historical dictionaries, encyclopaedias, guides to archives, atlases, biographical sources and works concerning historiography. History theses from the University of London are also housed in the library. The vast majority of the collection is available on open shelving, though no part of the collection is available for borrowing, and the collection of e-resources is continually expanding.
As Graduate Trainee I have been lucky enough to enjoy a varied job role. Most of my time is spent on acquisitions, searching new catalogues for potential purchases, dealing with suppliers and processing new books and invoices as they arrive. I also spend time answering queries in the main library office and on reception plus working on the main library floor, organising new displays and re-shelving books.
As well as my work within the library, I have been the Trainee Co-ordinator this year, helping to organise trainee visits to different libraries around London throughout the academic year. The programme has been very interesting and useful as a way for the trainees to see libraries of all types, regardless of where their year was spent, and also to meet other people in the same position as them. All of the other library staff who we met on the visits have been friendly and informative, during both tours and training sessions, and the chance to meet up with other people in the process of applying to library school has been brilliant. Overall, I feel that this year I have been able to learn a lot about both the IHR and the library sector in general, which has been both useful and enjoyable. I have been offered a place at UCL to do the Library and Information Studies MA next academic year and I feel that the trainee programme here has helped me to prepare for that in the best way possible.
Birkbeck College Library
Hi, my name is Lindsay and I’m the graduate trainee at Birkbeck college library. The college is a specialist provider of evening higher education, and the library’s extended opening hours (including weekends) and emphasis on e-resources that can be accessed outside of the college reflect the needs of part-time and distance learners. The nature of the college invites a diverse range of students, which makes the customer-facing aspects of the job interesting, varied and often rewarding.
I began the traineeship with no prior experience of library work, but over the year I’ve gradually gained a good introduction to and knowledge of different aspects of academic library work by spending time in each department, including Reader Services, E-services, and Acquisitions and Metadata (AM), as well working on the issue/admissions desk on a daily basis. During my time in AM I’ve assisted a major reclassification project, as well as being taught to classify literature items and catalogue theses. These jobs can be challenging and have a nerdishly satisfying quality, so I think cataloguing and classification is an area I’d like to develop in, certainly if I continue working in academic libraries.
The IALS/ULRLS trainee library visits are a valuable part of the trainee year and often a real eye-opener to the library profession. Although many of the visits are to other academic libraries (interesting all the same), we also take in visits across different sectors, including public, governmental and research libraries, as well as the odd archive. The visits that stand out for me so far are the Kubrick archive, the BFI library, Westminster Reference library and the splendiferous House of Lords library.
What is also significant is the enthusiasm and dedication of the librarians we meet on the visits and the pleasure with which they talk about the library and their roles. It’s inspiring, and shows that it can be a rewarding job in which you’re always learning new things. It’s also been great to spend time with the other graduate trainees and to discuss our experiences and expectations of the library world.
The knowledge gained from the traineeship at Birkbeck, and the insight from the library visits has given me some idea of where I might want to go in my career. I’ve enjoyed working in an academic library, but would also be interested in progressing into specialist libraries in the cultural sector and develop my skills in cataloguing and classification and/or electronic resources. I’m hoping to start the MA at UCL this September on a part-time basis.
City University Law School
Hi, my name is Lauren Dalton and I am the graduate trainee at The Cyril Kleinwort Learning Resource Centre (Cass Business School). Although currently situated at Cass, I have the unique opportunity to cross over to City University Library half-way through my traineeship; something particularly valuable to my training as both sites offer very different library environments in terms of structure, speciality and skills. It is an exciting prospect as I’m hoping the contrast will offer a comprehensive encounter of library work, providing a broader sense of what to expect when embarking on a career in the field of librarianship than would perhaps be possible if I were placed solely at either site.
I have enjoyed my time at Cass so far; it is a specialised Learning Resource Centre, which incorporates library and computing services, and as such, I have had the chance to see how libraries dedicated to a specific subject area (in this instance, Business) can be adapted to fully meet the research needs of their students. To aid their studies, students at Cass have access to approximately 30,000 books, thousands of journals (mostly online with about 70 print titles) and over 50 specialist databases, and this combination of traditional and modern information resources has led to the site becoming quite a varied workspace. The site itself is comparatively small (it comprises a single floor), so this extensive collection is made possible through the integration of electronic resources with traditional hard copy formats, thus offering students a choice and breadth of information that extends far beyond the capacity of the building itself.
The aesthetic is quite modern (predominantly open-plan with lots of glass walls and partitions) and is in keeping with the business/technological bias. There is such a wealth of computer technology available, and as it is part of what makes Cass so distinctive, it needs to be mentioned, but I will try to keep it short:
There is a central, partitioned computer room, a further enclosed computer room (for more quiet working or booked study sessions), desktop computer stations (some are for more general access, whilst others are specifically allocated for browsing the library catalogue or specific databases only) and laptop-ready workspaces located in various areas around the library; thus the necessity for computer technology to meet the users’ needs is evident. In the Financial Resources Area there are bespoke database terminals, such as Bloomberg, which help emulate the environment that would be found in the workplace on a trading floor. Some are multi-screened to allow the processing/comparison of manifold data simultaneously. As such, there is a strong sense of the LRC as a cross between the worlds of study and business, which is reflective of the users, who are academics and professionals alike.
As for myself, as a trainee information assistant I am responsible for manning the helpdesk and assisting users with enquiries, processing reservation requests and occasionally shelving duties (but this is only when the dedicated shelvers are not working, or when demand is excessive); contacting students regarding billing, lost property or card collection, processing and repairing books, and various bits of data input on the database. One job that I am particularly in charge of is processing the interlibrary loan requests (this is when we source books or journal articles from other libraries at the request of a user when it is not available in our collection). There is a small processing fee, but it means that via our library users have the potential to access information beyond our collection, so the true extent of available information is actually quite impressive.
This is a new field of work for me, but one that I knew I wanted to embark on, so I am relishing the opportunity to gain hands-on experience of the job, and the chance to become qualified (through enrolment into the Library/Information Science MA course). The graduate trainee visits have been very worthwhile, I have learnt so much about the diversity of jobs available in the library sector and it is a fantastic opportunity to meet people in the same situation as me. I really enjoy working at Cass as it is such a varied job and I am looking forward to the prospect of the new challenges and skills yet to learn in the second half of my placement, at City University Library.
Courtauld Institute of Art Library
Hi, my name is Nicholas Brown and I am one of the two Graduate Trainees at the Courtauld Institute of Art. The Courtauld is the most prestigious university in the country for the study of the history of art and the library is part of what makes it so special. The collection follows the taught courses at the institute and therefore covers art and architecture from the Paleolithic era right up to the present, as well as taking in the history of dress and much else besides.
I have found it a fabulous place to work, with beautiful surroundings as well as intelligent and interesting staff and students. The training programme has been great and I now catalogue independently. One thing that I love about the role is that it is part of my job to constantly develop my knowledge of the field and keep up to date with new resources. While here I have helped to set up a new blog for the book library which you can see here.
My background is in contemporary art practice. I previously completed a Masters at the Slade School of Art and am trying to find the balance between library work and painting. I have worked for several years in public libraries and worked for the Whitechapel Gallery to organise and catalogue their book collection.
I have been offered a place on the Library and Information Studies course at University College London, which unfortunately I will not be able to take up due to lack of funding. I am determined that this is the correct career for me and will continue to pursue every avenue available to find the money to allow me to obtain the prerequisite professional qualification.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Library
My name is Simon and I’m the Graduate Trainee Librarian at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Legal Library.
Located in the FCO’s Main Building, the Legal Library caters primarily for the needs of the departmental Legal Advisers. Their remit is to provide legal advice to the various FCO Directorates, and across Whitehall. To this end, the Library has a small, but thorough, collection of textbooks, journals and legislative material which relate to international and diplomatic law. The Library also houses smaller collections of UK, EU and British Overseas Territories’ material.
Working as part of a small team, I have been involved in a great deal over the course of my traineeship. It has been a good mix of both routine library work (stock ordering, indexing, cataloguing), and more complex research enquiries, some of which have been as challenging as they were interesting!
I have also been involved with an information sharing pilot. As the basic tenets of library work are the efficient classification and retrieval of information, this experience has been invaluable in providing an insight into the Knowledge Management needs of an organisation such as the FCO. In this respect I feel my traineeship has well exceeded my initial expectations.
Being a member of the SAS/ULRLS trainee group has been a great experience; the opportunity to visit some great libraries, several of which I knew nothing about, was excellent. My personal favourites were visits to the British Film Institute and the House of Lords. It has also given me the opportunity to network with other likeminded trainee librarians, and this was particularly reassuring during the MA application/interview process!
Although I qualified in 2008 with a BSc in Psychology, tenuous comparisons with brains and libraries aside, I have worked in libraries and bookshops throughout the duration of my professional career. It is my intention to do a Masters degree in Library and Information Studies at University College London.
London School of Economics Library
Hi, my name is Hannah Dare and I am the graduate trainee at the London School of Economics and Political Science Library (BLPES for short as it is quite a mouthful!). BLPES is one of the premier libraries devoted to economics and social sciences in the world and home to over 4 million printed items.
I have greatly enjoyed my time at LSE and I have got an interesting insight into librarianship. My role is very varied. I am based in the Special Acquisitions Department which deals with sourcing Grey Literature. However I deal with the processing of Law Standing Orders, Book Standing Orders, Donations, Official Documents and I also manage the UN collection. I also spend one day a week in User Services, where I have worked my way through the Admissions, Circulations and Inter-Lending department. I have particularly enjoyed the work of the Inter-Lending department as the processes are quite complex and varied.
In addition, I have scheduled shifts on the service counter, reception and Help Desk, when I answer students’ and members of the public’s queries regarding research. I greatly enjoy this aspect of the position, as I like training the users and allowing them to discover new resources.
During the graduate trainee year, I have found the visits to other libraries and training events provided by ULRLS invaluable as well as the support of my fellow trainees. I have also enjoyed the opportunity of visiting different departments within LSE Library and talking to members of staff about their roles.
I am pleased to have spent the year in an academic library, as I enjoy helping users with their research. I have met some wonderful people this year and also improved my skills, which will help me for my future career.
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