Hi everyone I’m Nigel - now, I do know that it’s already December, and I also know that I have taken quite some time to get around to blogging about my time as a graduate trainee at Brunel University Library, but that is only a reflection of just how much of an exciting, hectic, and exhilarating time it has been for me. I urge, sincerely, anyone who is thinking that this profession is for them to apply for the position (if it is run here next year, which I hope it is!). Now, one thing is for sure, get some experience first (there’s a ton of libraries around, and librarians, being friendly and approachable people, will be more than happy to let you volunteer). I urge for the acquisition of experience first in order to dispel any myths you may hold – librarianship and the information profession, despite what the media tells, us is an incredibly rich, varied, dynamic, hugely enjoyable and rewarding career. Of course it is: interesting people use libraries, and to borrow a sentence from Jorge Louis Borges, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
You might/will find yourself working in libraries that involve functioning in an environment far removed from what is thought of as librarianship. I have met people that work in law and accountancy firms, and often people do not even have “library” or “librarian” in the job title. At Brunel some surprising aspects of the job (very enjoyable aspects, but not necessarily things that are commonly associated with the job) have been giving classes, helping a student find his shoe (his left one weirdly - I’ve always said I’d definitely steal the right one if I was to steal a shoe at all – answers as to why I would do that in an e-mail please!) and a lot of fixing technology and equipment. Other things I have done are data-entry, cataloging, and visiting conferences and other libraries. In this job, I immediately felt like I had really landed in the information profession – I felt like I had a friendly, wide, and large professional community. Going to the “Applying to Library School” conference really helped strengthen this sense, as did meeting prospective library school students and other graduate trainees.
Further to my thoughts on the job are some thoughts on moving to London. Moving here was hard, I admit it OK? I denied it for several months but I eventually accepted my feelings towards the place, so I thought that here I could offer some advice for using the Tube:
- Never look people in the eye – this one is easy and pretty much common knowledge.
- Never (I stress this one) strike up a conversation, even if you’re sat in the 4 seats that face each other and you're crammed against the window in-between a dialogue between three others. DO NOT offer advice or in fact even comment.
- If the train brakes suddenly, and it’s a cramped tube, and you fall, DO NOT hold on to somebody for stability. Hit the deck, crash to the carriage floor, because it is less harmful, less painful and less awkward than trying to explain why you supposedly “inappropriately” touched somebody.
- If you are thinking about applying for some of these positions in London do move with time to find somewhere and DO have a good look around. DON’T live somewhere that is only 'ok'.
London is a great city, and of course there’s always plenty to do, but equally, the same can be said of the campus at Brunel. I’ve really tried to take advantage of the vast amount of extra-curricular activities on offer. There are plenty of lectures in the evening, which makes me feel like I’m still a part of that learned and learning environment. Additionally, there’s the Arts Centre that offers courses, and there’s the International School that offers FREE language classes. Get looking at these very early because they are snapped up within minutes of the start of term.
Finally, I would like to add a note about myself: I studied English and completed an MA in Modern and Contemporary Studies before moving here. Whilst completing the MA I began volunteering at the Literary and Philosophical Society as a library assistant and also worked in a kitchen as a chef for a year after finishing studying. I applied for a lot of these positions, mostly in London because that’s the prominent place that they are offered. Funnily, I was actually interviewed, unsuccessfully, for this position in 2011. So if anyone, unsuccessful in the past is thinking about applying, my advice is to certainly do and use the unsuccessful attempt as something positive.