Trainee Profiles 2016-17

Naomi Rebis
Institute of Classical Studies/Joint Societies Library


I've been the Winnington-Ingram trainee at the ICS Library for about two months now, and have already done so many new and exciting things that I felt I ought to write something about them before they fade to the back of my mind!

A bit about me: I graduated from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, in June 2015 after three wonderful years studying Classics, and found myself unsure of what to do next. During my final year, I had helped the college librarian sort a large bequest of Classics books, and was then offered a fortnight's paid work there over the summer, so library traineeships seemed the logical next step. I was very excited to come across the Winnington-Ingram traineeship, and the chance it offered to be involved with Classics again, so, although I worried I might not have enough experience for the post, I applied. And I am very glad I did!

It seems apt that I should write my first ever blog post after what feels like three months of 'firsts'. Not only has moving to London been something of a culture shock, but my new job has opened up all sorts of events and opportunities that I never anticipated. I cannot speak for other traineeships, but at ICS the whole team has been very eager to get me 'out and about' doing things, and it has definitely not just been two months processing new books in the back room!

There has been some processing, of course, but that is very good fun as it involves using stamps, several types of glue, and even a little knife to score the spine where the beetle is going to go (beetle being the in-house term for the sticker that we write the book's classmark on). Sometimes it feels a little like being back in primary school, happily cutting and sticking different things, though of course when it comes to repairing old or damaged books rather more reverence is required! I have learnt how to make an Oxford hollow (a tube of paper which you put beneath a damaged spine to strengthen it, and help the book open/close more easily), how to straighten dog-eared corners, and how to 'tip in' (i.e. glue back in place) loose pages. Being forced to cover my workbooks with sticky-back plastic in Year 7 has finally come in useful, as sometimes we use Vista-foil here to cover books and stop them getting tatty.

Other day-to-day jobs include shelving; issuing/returning books; sending out postal loans, or books for academics to review; signing people up for membership to either the Institute [reference only] or one of the Joint Societies [borrowing]; and scanning articles for readers all over the country. I also spend a lot of time directing people up to the fourth floor, as the Senate House library is just above us and that can confuse visitors. (Number one rule for when people say they want to join the library is to ask WHICH library, as you don't want to go through a whole speech about Society membership if they want to join Senate House!)

Outside the library I have been to an exhibition on ancient Sicily at the British Museum; a set of talks at IHR (Institute of Historical Research) about emerging research into Library and Information Studies (LIS); and an information day about the LIS Masters programme at UCL. The Institute has very kindly agreed to pay for me to attend a day-conference in Cambridge about historic libraries and engagement with special collections, so there is definitely huge scope on the traineeship for visits and events.

In short, I would heartily recommend this graduate traineeship to any Classicist, or ancient historian, with an interest in working in libraries. It has already been such a rewarding experience, and it is really lovely to be surrounded by Classics books all day (even if I can't read them on the job!). It is also incredibly exciting to talk with undergraduates/postgraduates/academics about their research, and be encouraged that Classics is still a living, breathing, endlessly relevant subject.