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.