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!

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