Trainee Profiles 2015-2016

Institute of Historical Research Library

Hello! I’ve been the Library Graduate Assistant at the Institute of Historical Research for just over 3 months now, so now that I have settled in I felt it was time to introduce both myself and the Institute of Historical Research Library.

Located within Senate House, the IHR is a reference only research library consisting of a collection of published primary sources which cover the history of Western Europe and its colonial history from the fifth century to the present. In addition, the library contains significant holdings for the United States, Latin America and Asia. The library team is made-up of four permanent members of staff and two who work across both Senate House Library and the IHR Library.

Joining such a small team has been an incredible opportunity as I have been made to feel so welcome and have been asked to participate in an incredibly diverse range of tasks. This has so far consisted of helping to draft a user survey, researching and writing collection guides and blog posts, updating the IHR Library’s website and Facebook account (please like and follow!), helping with event promotion, ordering new acquisitions for the German collection, researching new shelf and floorplan signage and assisting with the creation of training materials for online resources.

This has been in addition to the day-to-day tasks of working in the library: book retrieval from the library’s onsite store in the upper echelons of Senate House tower (incredible view but can be just as scary as it sounds!), re-shelving, dealing with user enquiries, updating the new book shelf and processing inter-library loans. Experience of all of these diverse tasks has definitely made me realise that I never fully appreciated the range of jobs incorporated under the term ‘librarian’ before!

The diverse work and the comprehensive training I’ve received has been of immense help to me as I had no prior experience of working in a library. Before joining the IHR as library trainee, I completed my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in History at the University of Edinburgh. The position at the IHR was therefore ideal for me (combining my love of books and history) but I was unsure if I would have the relevant skills required. Having worked in retail throughout my studies, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the customer service skills I had developed were of value to the library profession. Hence the move to London from Edinburgh and a seemingly vast change in climate – London seems almost tropical in mid-winter in comparison!!

I’m thoroughly enjoying my time at the IHR and cannot believe how quickly the year is flying by. I cannot wait to start visiting other libraries as part of the series of visits that take place during the trainee year. I feel I am learning all the time and have already gained an invaluable insight into the world of librarianship. I would urge anybody to consider the Graduate Trainee programme!
Siobhan Morris
Library Graduate Trainee, Institute of Historical Research

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