Trainee profiles 2013-2014

Brunel University Library
Joanne McPhie

Introduction- Initiation in the knowledge of a subject; instruction in rudiments, elementary teaching. OED. Hello, my name is Joanne McPhie and I am the current graduate trainee at Brunel University Library. This is my introduction to you, but also an account of my own initiation into the world of libraries. I have come to the role via a fairly circuitous route. After graduation from the University of Glasgow, with an undergraduate degree in History and English Literature and a Masters in American Studies I felt I had had enough of the esoteric world of academia and I wanted to meet some people! I went into bookselling, working for a national chain, in one of those temporary roles “while I decide what to do next” and ended up staying for ten years. I had a wonderful time, read and discussed a lot of books (I think there are more arts graduates in the book trade than I met at university!) and met quite a lot of librarians. Talking to them and seeing their satisfaction with their roles, made me rethink my own career and I began to investigate the possibility of shifting professions. A graduate trainee year made a lot of sense, not only would it let me test the water by exploring what a job in a library actually meant, but it was a good background when applying for a qualification in library studies.

So far my time at Brunel has been amazing. I might be biased, but I think that being a graduate trainee at a university library, and in particular a dynamic institution like Brunel, is an excellent grounding for working in libraries, because it allows you to experience so many different roles and responsibilities. Brunel Library is very proactive and involved in everything going on in the university. It incorporates many non-traditional roles, including things like Copyright or Research Data Management, which I believe means the library is crucial to the success of any new initiatives like Open Access, but it also houses typical departments like cataloguing. My schedule here has been structured, with different rotations with all the departments of the library, but I have also been encouraged to pursue my own interests and feedback on where I would like to develop. My rotation began with the Customer Services team, manning the welcome and help desk, assisting students with enquiries and problems, which is where most of the more generic skills I already had came in handy. I moved on to spend time with Academic Services, working with and observing the Subject Librarians in action and especially, assisting the Special Collections Librarian with archiving and preparing the collection for cataloguing. This access has been a real highlight for me and in an older and more traditional institution I may have encountered more barriers to helping with it. I am currently with Collection Services, where I am getting some solid experience with cataloguing and acquisitions. Brunel librarians are a friendly bunch and have been incredibly encouraging and patient in explaining to me, for the third time, what exactly happens when I press that button. I really feel like I understand the way the library is structured and what is required of all the different roles within it.

It has also been great to be part of CPD25 Graduate Trainee programme, not only so I can talk (and moan!) to other trainees and learn about their experiences, but also because it has enabled me to meet other library professionals. Having been on a few visits to other institutions including the British Museum libraries and the Natural History Museum library I have a greater sense of what it means to be a librarian and what the job actually entails. It has also been useful to assist me in applying to Library and Information Studies courses, putting on seminars where we could speak to the course conveners and past students.

Being at Brunel has brought back a lot of happy memories of my own time of study. I will be a mature student when I return and complete my qualification, which comes with its own adjustments, but due to my great experience at Brunel I feel sure I have made the right decision, it just took me ten years!

Trainee profiles 2013-2014

David Phillips

Hi I’m David the current trainee at the Institute of Historical Research Library. This is my first library job and after nearly three months in the post I can safely say librarianship is the career for me. I’ve worked in a wide range of not so appealing jobs in the past, from door to door salesman to dishwasher, so it’s been great to find something that I enjoy and has genuine opportunities for professional advancement. I graduated from Exeter in 2011 with a degree in History and not much idea what I wanted (or was able) to do with it. I had always planned to go travelling after uni to delay the inevitable entry into the ‘real’ world and, while I had always had woolly ideas that working in a library would be nice, it was only when I got back to the UK in December last year that I really looked into it as a career. I soon found myself on the CILIP website, and frantically applied for as many Graduate Trainee roles as possible.

The position at the IHR in particular was ideal for me for the obvious reason – it requires a History degree, and I liked the thought of being able to work with a collection I already had an interest in. While I did not have any previous library experience it was reassuring to see that many of the skills asked for in the job spec were things I had gained from previous jobs, which at the time I did not necessarily think would be particularly useful in future – particularly on the customer service side of things. I was extremely chuffed to be offered the role back in February and spent the following months counting down the days to September.

My first few months have been an excellent introduction to the world of librarianship. I feel lucky to be part of quite a small team, which means I can be involved in all different aspects of the running of the library (albeit on quite a basic level to start with). While I have received a lot of support and guidance from my colleagues, I have also appreciated being given a lot of freedom to structure my own days. It is a nice feeling after only ever working in roles where you constantly have management breathing down your neck to have that independence.

Alongside the more basic tasks, such as shelving and fetching books from the top of Senate House tower (great view), I have also been introduced to cataloguing, classification, acquisitions (of French books), inter-library loans, sending books/journals to be bound, and web design, as well as looking after the Library’s Facebook page (please like!). Something I am really excited about is the refurbishment of the Library in its previous home in the North block of Senate House. We are in temporary accommodation at the moment, which is why only a third of our collection is on open access (a great source of discontent for a lot of our readers who hark back to the ‘good old days’ when the full collection was available for their perusal). All being well the building work should be finished by the end of the academic year and I will be able to help with the move back to a brand new shiny IHR.

As well as working in the IHR it’s also been great to meet fellow trainees from different institutions, and to start to get an idea together of the range of options available in the library profession. I’m very open-minded about which sector I may end up in so I’m really looking forward to visiting different kinds of libraries and seeing what each has to offer. While it may seem a bit of a depressing time, with Public Library closures and a lack of funding for professional qualifications, I have been reassured by the range of options seemingly still available – from traditional Librarian roles, to jobs in digitisation, and information management more broadly. I’m not sure at this point whether I will be able to carry straight on to do a Master’s or Diploma course next year, but I will definitely be applying and keeping my options open.