Trainee profiles 2012-2013

Institute of Historical Research

Katherine Quinn

I'm Katherine and I'm the graduate library trainee at the Institute of Historical Research based in Bloomsbury's Senate House. I applied for the post while in my final year studying History at UCL. I was drawn to librarianship as a career option after deciding that although - at least for the time being - postgraduate study in history was not right for me, I still wanted to work in an academic environment in a capacity that kept me connected with historical research. I plumped for the IHR over other academic libraries primarily because I saw the role as perfectly combining my enduring interest in history with a more practical and interactive application. It also helped with the post-university/"AHHH real world" blues that I would be working just down the road from where I had enjoyed studying!

At the IHR I work with a small (but perfectly formed) team of librarians and work on both long term projects and more "task" based work. Because only about 30% of the Institute collection is on open access in the library, I spend a fair amount of every day going up in the tower of Senate House to locate and retrieve requested items for readers. While I generally don't mind this duty at all, my heart sinks when I see a form requesting a Journal of the House of Commons/Lords - huge, incredibly dusty, and disintegrating folios, many of which have a habit of hurling themselves off the shelves at you in a desperate bid to escape their general disarray. I also lost the keys to the tower lift  in my second week in the job and had an interesting time wandering about on the 18th floor wondering how long it would take for anyone in the office to notice I was missing (turns out, about forty minutes). Aside from these daily duties, my main longer term project at the moment is in creating individual records for the hundreds of seventeenth and eighteenth century British poll books held by the IHR. So far it's been a really valuable task not only because at the end of the day I can observe with satisfaction a growing stack of logically and usefully classified books, but also because the relative simplicity of their records has given me a useful introduction to cataloguing. When I am finished with the poll books I will be moving on to help reclassify the US States collection - ideal, since it will represent not only a graduation in record complexity, but also should bolster my pub quiz utility since I'll hopefully pick up a bit of US geography general knowledge along the way.

While my short time at the IHR has confirmed librarianship as a career goal for me, working here has also opened my eyes to the huge diversity of jobs that exist within the information sector - and specifically within academic researcg libraries - meaning that at this stage I am undecided about the avenue I will end up going down in the long term. While it's not part of present my job in the library, I'm really interested in the digital publications provided by the IHR and would also like to learn about electronic archives and special collections in the future. With that in mind, I am really looking forward to the trainee librarian trips that are coming up since they should better inform my thoughts regarding what next after the IHR.

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