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A regularly updated blog allowing prospective trainees to get a feel for the working week at each of Cambridge's trainee posts.
7th September, 21st September, 23rd November, 24th November, 30th November, 30th November, 4th December, 12th December, 31st December, 14th January, 18th January, 31st January, 1st February, 14th February, 15th February, 18th February, 22nd March, 5th April, 19th April 17th May
Some time over the past few weeks the library transformed from being a busy, but relatively calm hive of research and learning into a kind of illegal underground sweatshop, producing endless acres of scrawled biro post-it notes and flash cards. The desks I spent so long keeping uncluttered and welcoming have mostly been transformed into (library regulation-breaking) nests of books and folders. Sigh. Caches of especially sought-after books turn up in the most unlikely hidey holes, and the evidence of all-night revision parties has to be cleaned up on a regular basis.
As the students become more and more absorbed in their biomes of revision, all excess brain processing power has been diverted from inessential activities. Some parts of the brain seem to have been shut down altogether. The first casualty of this intellectual austerity appears to be common sense. Glass doors have become a dangerous hazard, the erstwhile idiot-proof self-service machine has become an incomprehensible technology of the future, and book reservation slips are a surreal, Kafkaesque bureaucracy.
I do my best to tip-toe around the library with my trolley full of books. Circulation is at an all-year high, and although I'm pretty sure no-one would be happy if I didn't put the books back on their shelves, I am subject to a certain amount of tutting and scowling as I do it. Unfortunately, the on-going project to RFID tag every book can't be interrupted, so there is sometimes some disturbance as I trundle trolley-loads of books downstairs to be 'activated'. In order to alleviate some of these problems, I've been practicing reshelving as quietly as possible.
It's actually quite fun to have seasonal changes to the working pattern. It gives the year a kind of rhythm, in the same way that sprouts- asparagus and strawberries do. When this season of revision is over, we'll be into the after-exams season of merry-making, which will no doubt pose altogether different challenges.
Digitization is increasingly becoming an integral part of rare materials preservation in libraries all over the world, and Pembroke is no exception. Our most recent project has been to digitize the diaries of Edward Granville Browne, a renowned scholar of Persian literature and history in the late 19th and early twentieth century (and, of course, a former member of the college). His diaries consist of handwritten pencil notes on his time spent in Iran and are of significant interest to students of Oriental Studies. However, with continual consultation and use in exhibitions, these diaries are in danger of becoming faded and weakened. With the help old member, Bahman Irvani, who has provided funding for the project, Pembroke was able to embark on a process of digitization, which will serve both to preserve this invaluable resource and to make it more accessible to scholars the world over.
The video below explains the diaries and the recent project in greater depth, with contributions from the photographer, conservator and from Charles Melville, Professor of Persian History at Pembroke: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n09XrdeUN34.
St John's College
Spring is in the air! It's finally stopped snowing, and students are beginning to return from their Easter holidays. With exam term on the horizon, seats are filling up quickly in the library, and it's nice to see the students hard at work.
I've had a reasonably busy few weeks, taking advantage of the lack of footfall in the library to pursue a couple of other projects. Perhaps the most exciting of these was the Oxford-Cambridge College Libraries Conference in March, which Kirsten has already blogged about. It was a nerve-wracking experience to present in front of so many professional librarians, but I felt that it went reasonably well, and I hope that I'll have the opportunity to do more presentations in the future as it is a valuable professional skill.
I've also volunteered to help our Archivist, Tracy, with the new Special Collections Spotlight, which posts articles on interesting items from our library and archives. Last month, I wrote a post on the life mask of William Wordsworth that lives in our Upper Library, and will be working on new articles every six weeks or so. In response to some comments in our recent library survey, we've also recently purchased a large number of 'general interest', non-academic novels, travel guides, dictionaries and DVDs, so there's been plenty of cataloguing to do.
I recently accepted my place on the MA Librarianship course at Sheffield, and have started investigating accommodation up north. I'll be leaving Cambridge in just under four months - a sobering thought. There's lots more I'd like to do whilst I'm here, so keep your eyes peeled for updates!
It's been a while since I last blogged about life at Christ's, but the end of term has offered a little bit of a chance to draw breath and reflect on the last month or so. And what a couple of months it's been.
Last summer, the College Librarian Amelie Roper and her deputy Steven Archer carried out a conservation survey in the Old Library. This involved taking a relatively small sample of the printed books and manuscripts and examining their condition. The results revealed several areas of concern, and, as a result, Amelie persuaded the College to fund the installation of two large safes which would become the new home for our most precious material. From early January, Amelie, Steven and I were involved in preparing the ground for the installation. As with most libraries, space is at something of a premium at Christ's and so creating the necessary room for such substantial objects proved to be a rather taxing logistical challenge. We were conscious that once the safes were in place, we would have little room for manoeuvre so all the stock and bookshelves had to be moved into a position which we were satisfied with beforehand. Needless to say, this involved a great deal of manhandling of furniture and ferrying of books! With the preparation done, it only remained for the safes themselves to arrive and be fitted. Amelie has described what proved to be a truly unique, if slightly unnerving experience, on our Library blog but suffice to say that the sight of two safes being winched over the side of the College by a large crane was something none of us will ever forget! Happily, the day passed off hitch-free (at least, pretty much!) and the safes are now sitting proudly in the Annexe.
In memory of Samuel Sandars (1837-94), a former fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and a most generous benefactor to the University Library, every year Cambridge University Library invites a respected academic to deliver a series of lectures on a bibliographic theme. This year's lectures, which took place between 25-27 February, were given by Fellow of Christ's Professor Jim Secord and explored the subject of scientific publishing in the 1820s and 1830s. The lectures were held in the College's Yusuf Hamied theatre, and so the Library team were asked if they would be willing to put on a reception in the Old Library after the final lecture. Always keen to open up the Old Library and get as many people aware and interested in it as possible, we were delighted to accept this invitation, and even decided that we would extend the offer by putting on a small exhibition of relevant books from our collections. I was given the opportunity of writing the captions, and of finding images of the scientists upon whom Professor Secord would be primarily focusing - both tasks which I found challenging but hugely enjoyable. The function passed off without a hitch and, although the wine and nibbles naturally took centre-stage, I think the exhibition was appreciated by all.
As mentioned, raising the profile of the College's special collections is something that the whole team at Christ's is passionate about, and I recently began a new feature on the Library's special collections blog. Entitled, 'Treasures in Focus', every two weeks I choose a particularly interesting or unique item from the Old Library or College archives, and talk a bit about it with the aid of some accompanying photographs. So far an eleventh-century Greek manuscript, a three-hundred year old borrowing register from Christ's Old Library, a nineteeth-century astronomical treatise penned by a self-educated woman, and a landmark in Renaissance biblical scholarship (illustrated above) have all come under the spotlight!
Together with hopefully bringing Christ's special collections to a wider audience, this initiative has also proved instructive for the Library staff in helping to familiarise themselves with the wonderful items which we are so fortunate to possess. Keep tuned to the Christ's Treasures blog for any latest updates!
Following another preservation course at the British Library, I reported back to Trinity with a few ideas on how to improve handling in the Wren Library. One of these initiatives was to improve our book supports and their use, and so brand new Clarkson foam book supports for our rare books and manuscripts were ordered. A few weeks later, five giant boxes arrived - it was like Christmas all over again!
Much fun was had unpacking all of these boxes of supports, I don't think I've ever seen so much bubble wrap in one room! Once we had assembled each set of supports, we immediately swapped them with the old supports at the readers' desk. It was incredible to see the difference in colour (cleanliness) and stability between the old rests and the new ones!
Seeing as we now have the new sparkly supports, I have been informing staff and readers how to use them properly, based on the training that the British Library provided. Bound volumes have three main types of bindings: flexible tight-back bindings, rigid tight-back bindings, and hollow-back bindings. Depending on what type of binding a book has determines how it should be placed on the book support. The aim is to achieve maximum support for the spine and front and back boards, and to ensure the book isn't opened more than 120 degrees. Hopefully, the use of these new supports will encourage good handling and minimise everyday wear and tear, giving our rare books a longer life.
St John's College
Saturday 9th February was National Libraries Day, and I wanted to do something here at St John's College Library to celebrate it. Over the past few years, increasing financial hardship, competing platforms and changing expectations have impacted upon public perception of libraries, and I think it is important that we proactively engage with our users, encouraging them to value the positive work that we do.
The celebration that I planned involved three main elements; a display on the history of the library, including some highlights from our special collections and archives, cut-out love hearts on which people could write their thoughts about the library or personal reading preferences and add to the display, and lastly free tea, coffee and biscuits on Friday 8th February for all staff and students of the college.
I am very lucky to have such a supportive librarian supervising my work here, as he was quick to agree to my proposed event. My other colleagues also provided plenty of creative input, as well as helping with research and coffee-serving.
I was particularly worried about the planned tea and coffee event, as it would have been very embarrassing indeed if no library users turned up. I tried to market it as much as possible by distributing leaflets and posters about the library and dining hall, and we also plugged the event several times on Twitter. Additionally, at the time of the event I went upstairs and told library users in person about the free refreshments waiting below.
Luckily, we had a decent turnout with nearly thirty people attending. I was so pleased with this, and it was a great opportunity for staff and students to get to know each other. Having the event close to the display meant that many of the students actually examined it, instead of simply giving it a cursory glance as they walked by. I also managed to get plenty of little love hearts filled out, and it has been very encouraging to see so many positive comments about our library. We are also making an effort to purchase the favourite books and DVDs nominated by library users, if we don't already have them.
Overall I feel that this National Library Day event was a success. It encouraged our users to positively evaluate their relationship with the library, and helped to strengthen the relationship that already exists between staff and students. It's the first thing that I've organised independently, so I'm really glad that it went well. If it hadn't been for the assistance of my colleagues, however, it almost certainly would not have turned out that way, so I'm grateful to them for their support and encouragement!
One of the perks of working at Trinity College Library is being able to divide time between working in the student library and the historic Wren library. Being timetabled throughout the day works really well, so that I know when I am scheduled to man a desk, and when I have time to carry on with my own work. I really enjoy the balance between interacting with the library users at the Issue/Enquiry desk, Wren Reception Desk and Wren Readers' Desk, and working behind the scenes, whether that is spending a period of the day cataloguing, fetching and shelving, or working on an individual project.
Having access to Trinity's impressive collection of rare books and manuscripts certainly excites me, and over the past few weeks I have been putting together an exhibition to display in the Wren. I have returned to a subject I visited during my undergraduate studies, and the exhibition focuses on the life of Willem II, Prince of Orange. This Dutch Prince lived a very short but action-packed and therefore very interesting life; the son he had with wife Mary, Princess Royal, became King William III of England (the more famous William of Orange).
Trinity has several early printed books documenting the history of the House of Orange-Nassau, but with many focusing on William III, finding sufficient information and illustration of Willem II's life involved a little more digging and searching through the catalogues. However, some hidden gems appeared and I have been able to bring them off their shelves to showcase the story of a less familiar William of Orange. With the recent announcement of the abdication of Queen Beatrix and the following accession of her son Willem-Alexander of Orange-Nassau in the Netherlands, the first King of the Netherlands since William III, it turns out that this exhibition was well-timed!
As gushing as it sounds, I look forward to going in to work every day. I can't imagine a better place to work and can't believe that I'm almost at the halfway point of the trainee year! I'm thoroughly looking forward to what the following months promise. As for now, things are pretty busy. The Librarian at Newnham, Debbie, told me that the second term always gets very busy for the graduate trainee and it's very true! You've learnt the ropes by then and have chosen from a selection of projects to work on during the Lent term.
At the moment I'm finishing off the last part of the library user survey. It's certainly a tricky bit! Hopefully my IT skills will be up to scratch and I'll finish the majority of the work today. The survey will give us helpful feedback on the experiences of students while working in or visiting the library. Hopefully there will be many positive comments, but also constructive suggestions on how to improve certain things. I'm also writing captions and signs for one of the displays for the Literary Archive Conference, taking place at Newnham over the weekend of the 1st of March. Juggling these tasks, along with the routines of the day and answering enquiries is a challenge, but it's great to feel productive on so many levels.
I really feel that I've grown into my role here now. This became especially apparent during the Christmas vacation. I'd gotten used to the daily routines and duties, so I was feeling fairly confident about them all. As a result, I picked some interesting jobs from the list of work to be completed. I undertook to inspect the building as part of regular maintenance checks. After the inspection was finished and the report was written up, I started to contact the maintenance department to come to help us with any issues that arose. I had to liaise with them and other members of library staff in order to get the work completed, while also keeping a detailed log of tasks still outstanding. I also ticked off a number of 'wish list' items that some of the members of staff had thought would be nice additions to the library, like a shelf in the staff bathroom and a new corkboard in the office. The work was finished over the vacation and I felt like I had achieved a great deal.
In my spare time, I've joined the committee for the Cambridge Library Group. The first event I really helped with was the Christmas Party, held in one of the Newnham function rooms. Yesterday we had a tour very kindly given to us by the Squire Law Library staff, which was excellent! There was a strong graduate trainee presence at the event, as we're all dying to see the other libraries in Cambridge and have been steadily ticking some off our lists.
At Pembroke library we try to keep the contents of our display cases fresh, changing the materials regularly so as to give out students and visitors an idea of the importance and diversity of our collections. February's exhibition, for example, coincides with the 50th anniversary of the death of Sylvia Plath and is therefore dedicated to her memory. The College was lucky enough to receive a collection of letters, newspaper cuttings and other ephemera relating to the lives of Plath and Ted Hughes, from Hughes' sister Olwyn, and our small display case in the catalogue hall will exhibit a selection of this material curated by one of the College's undergraduates.
As an aspiring historic librarian, learning about exhibiting special collections is an important and enjoyable part of my role as Graduate Trainee. In light of this, the librarian has given the responsibility of the display for March over to me. As I am learning, it's vital that an exhibition to be visually as well as factually engaging and, as such, we have decided that the material for the display will be based around the library's collection of illustrated editions of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
The Rubaiyat, originally a collection of Persian poems attributed to the eleventh century mathematician, astronomer and poet Omar Khayyam, enjoyed something of a vogue after its translation into English by poet and writer Edward Fitzgerald in 1859. Technical developments in colour printing, coupled with the increasing interest of the West in ‘the Orient’ promoted the popularity of Fitzgerald's translation, and a market was soon identified for highly illustrated, expensive collector's or gift editions. The rather nebulous nature of the poem's subject allowed artists a free rein in interpreting it through illustration, and the result of this was an extremely wide variety of different artistic styles, mediums and scenes in the illustration of various editions.
As part of a substantial and impressive collection of books donated by one of the College's benefactors, we have in our Special Collections several versions of the Rubaiyat accompanied by exquisite illustrations, and also a set of sketches by the artist John Buckland-Wright for the edition produced by the celebrated Golden Cockerel Press, showing the progression of several plates from sketch to finished product. With these materials I hope to tell the story of the illustration of this well-loved poem and to highlight the way in which various illustrations help to illuminate the meaning and message of Fitzgerald's translation.
Having a small but beautiful exhibition space to work with is the perfect way to practise and perfect my curatorial skills and I hope to produce an exhibition that is informative, concise and attractive. I also appreciate the opportunity to relate a story with which I was previously unfamiliar, as the research element of such a project is, for me, equally as enjoyable as designing the exhibition itself.
As winter trudges on it would be easy to allow the snow and dark to make us melancholy, but so far the first month of 2013 has brought plenty to be excited about. For a start I'm finding that the first weeks of term are always enjoyable. The ranks of hard-core regular readers (here come rain, snow or shine) are swelled by the flow of returning students and the place busies up again.
While the numbers of readers in the library shrinks out of term I've been pleasantly surprised by the consistent level of use the library gets, particularly by graduates and academics (as well, it must be said, as a few super keen undergraduates). One of the joys of working in a Faculty library is the variety of readers that we help on a daily basis: undergraduates, graduates, Classics academics, visiting academics, as well as interested members of the public. Given the broad nature of Classical studies we see a lot of students and staff from other faculties visiting and borrowing from us. It's great to support our regular readers, but the variety keeps life interesting!
Another treat which helped blow away the last of the holiday cobwebs was the annual Cambridge Library Conference which was held on the 9th January. It being my first library conference I really wasn't sure what to expect. The event itself managed to be highly professional, friendly and engaging, a bit like a good library then. It was motivating to hear library professionals talking with passion and enthusiasm about library services and it was a great opportunity to meet colleagues from around Cambridge. In fact it was so motivating us trainees have decided to speak at an upcoming conference ourselves! Watch this space to see how that goes...
The heaving book returns' drop-box which awaited me on Monday morning could only mean one thing: the students had returned en masse and the onset of a new term was imminent. Although Cambridge students get a long - and thoroughly well-deserved - break over Christmas, the period between when they all went home at the start of December to now has gone frighteningly quickly. Nevertheless, a lot has been going on in the Library at Christ's in the interim!
During the first couple of weeks of December, some significant structural work was carried out in the Old Library in order to fit extra power sockets and network points. To prepare for this, some book and furniture moving was necessary, which I assisted with. I get a rather a odd sense of satisfaction when it comes to carrying out such rearrangements - which is fortunate, since there is a lot of it to be done at Christ's at the moment!
As I think is the case with all the graduate trainees, I also used the - relative(!) - out-of-term peace and quiet to complete a few jobs which I hadn't managed to find the time to finish previously, or which would have disturbed the students during term. I carried out a reasonably substantial book-moving exercise on Floor 3 of the undergraduate library in order to free up space and create room for subsequent expansion. Since the graduate trainee is in charge of shelving all returned books, I also decided to try to implement some simple changes which would help to quicken up this process. Previously, there had been three plain book trolleys on the first floor of the Library where all returned volumes were placed in preparation for re-shelving. Putting on my organisation-hat, I decided to label up each of these three trolleys, so that each one corresponded to one of the three floors of the undergraduate library. Returned books could then be placed on the correct trolley for each floor, and the initial task of sorting the returns would be made easier! Hopefully such small changes will prove useful.
Since being at Christ's, I have been conscious of the efforts made by the Library team to maintain an as up-to-date undergraduate collection as possible, and, thus, of the large number of new books which we receive on an almost daily basis. At the moment, all of these new books immediately go onto the shelves, so I thought it might be nice to demonstrate to the students the Library staff's activity in purchasing relevant volumes, by putting a few aside in a 'New Books' display, visible immediately as you enter the Reading Room. A sign next to the display encourages the students to recommend other books for purchase. It remains to be seen how worthwhile an initiative this will prove!
St John's College
|Photograph by Samuel Butler, 1893|
The library is just beginning to fill up again with students returning from their vacations. Although I've only been back at work for a week, things are already pretty busy! Here's what I've been up to recently, besides the usual cataloguing and biographical work that takes up the majority of my working day.
One of the small innovations I've introduced here at St John's is the regular updating of the display in the foyer. Previously the display was only changed a few times a year, but I thought it would be a good idea to have more seasonal, frequently updated mini-exhibitions to help students engage with our resources and showcase items from across our collections. Displays so far have followed the themes of Halloween, Remembrance Day, and Christmas; for this month, I put together a few 'top tips' to help students update their research and study skills for the new year.
Another work highlight has been the Butler Day on the 12th of January. Organised by Rebecca Watts, the Butler Project Assistant, this event served to showcase some of the wonderful items housed in the Samuel Butler Collection through public talks and an exhibition in our beautiful 17th century Old Library. Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, this event was free of charge and it was really encouraging to see so many members of the public engaging with the collection. I helped to invigilate the exhibition and also spent some time manning the door at the Divinity School, where the talks were held. Although it was tiring to be on my feet all day, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to speak to all the people attending the day's events. There was plenty of positive feedback from members of the public, and I now have a clearer insight into how to run a successful outreach event.
2013's been great so far; if this first week is anything to go by, the rest of my trainee year is going to be fantastic.
Michaelmas Term over, and the library is very quiet with the students on vacation. Now I have settled in at Trinity, I have found some time to indulge in my own projects in the library, alongside my everyday duties and good old cataloguing practice! In November, I attended a course at the British Library Preservation Advisory Centre on damaged books, and since then I have discovered that one of my main interests is preservation and conservation. With this in mind, I have embarked upon a self-motivated project to try to give the books in the library a longer life. On the most basic level, this involves straightening up leaning books so that damage to the spine and cover boards is minimised, and tying and re-tying damaged books (according to British Library procedure) so that no boards are lost, and further damage is prevented. I am really enjoying this task, and have taken on the role of 'book nurse' wholeheartedly - a happy book is one that is sitting comfortably on its shelf! Looking more closely at more areas of preservation, such as environmental factors and handling, I am honing on the vision of what kind of library I would ideally like to work in once I am qualified.
My first term as a graduate trainee has officially ended! I can't believe that I've been here at Newnham for three months (a full quarter of my traineeship!). Time has absolutely flown by. I've become tremendously attached to Newnham College, the other staff members, and (of course) the library itself. So much so that during my recent trip away, I felt very strange about leaving, considering I hadn't missed any days all term.
I had my first training review yesterday. It went really well; I now have three projects to be working on until the end of the Easter break, which is very exciting! I will be completing a maintenance check during the Christmas break (a project that I'll be starting this very afternoon). Basically, it involves checking each and every little part of the library to identify any issues that need to be reported to the maintenance department, so that they can fix them before the start of next term. I really like jobs like this, as you're helping students directly by getting their study space prepared and ready!
Next term, my task will be designing and implementing the library user survey in Lent Term, with lots of help from the Librarian, of course. When the results come in, I should be able to analyse the results and write up a report that hopefully makes the library even more user friendly.
Afterwards, I will be helping to prepare a display for the Literary Archive conference. Along with making a display (a project I find very very exciting!!), I will be writing six blog posts to highlight that relate to the display and more generally to our special collections. I've already enjoyed writing posts for the library blog, Back from the Stacks.
Clearly there's a lot to look forward to in the coming months! But at the moment it's wonderful to enjoy all the parties and mince pies.
For us trainees, the question of 'what next?' after our respective years at various Cambridge colleges and departments was a daunting one. To library-school or not to library-school? London or Aberystwyth? Part time course or full time? All very pressing question for the library initiate.
Luckily, help was at hand in the form of Vanda Broughton, Senior Lecturer and Programme Director for the MA in Library and Information Studies at University College London. Vanda visited Pembroke on the 1st November to provide some much-needed answers to the above questions and share the rest of her considerable knowledge on all things library-school. We were also very lucky to have some library school graduates on hand to share some of their experiences with us, and give us different perspectives on the part-time/full-time/location queries we all had.
Owing to the 1st December deadline for UCL applications to the library course, time was of the essence, but I think I speak for the rest of the trainees as well as myself when I say that we definitely came away from the talk better informed and prepared to make some decisions and tackle applications.
Several trainees have now submitted applications to various library courses for the next academic year, so we await the results with baited breath!
For the library staff at Christ's, Friday 30 November had been a day long anticipated, not merely because it signalled the end of a hectic term, but also because it marked the date of the launch of our new exhibition, entitled 'Treasures of the Old Library'. Thanks in large part to donations and bequests from generations of munificent Christ's alumni, over time the College's Old Library has gradually amassed a body of wonderfully diverse special collections, containing items spanning more than a thousand years of history, and from all four corners of the globe. As its title would suggest, the aim of the 'Treasures' exhibition was to provide a glimpse into some of these.
Helping to prepare and assemble the exhibition proved to be a fascinating experience, and one which opened my eyes to the exciting possibilities which special collections can offer in raising a Library's profile and encouraging a wider outreach. However, it no less strongly impressed upon me just how much work is involved in putting on such a display to the public. From initially selecting the chosen 'treasures', to describing them - pithily! - in captions, to making provision for their safe display in the cabinets, finally to preparing the Old Library itself to cater for large numbers of visitors, putting together the 'Treasures' exhibition proved to be a large - but immensely rewarding - operation, requiring much thought, ample deliberation, and considerable amounts of time. Special talents were also revealed in the process: amid his plethora of duties, assistant librarian Steven Archer demonstrated his skill in manufacturing book-rests, whilst librarian Amelie Roper dazzled her colleagues by producing a Powerpoint slideshow which provided a brief snapshot into every item on display. During the launch of the exhibition, this slideshow was projected onto a wall in the Old Library, ensuring a stimulating addition to the whole experience. It has now been put online, and can be viewed here.
In the hours prior to the launch, much of my time was spent wielding - with greater and lesser success - the editorial pencil, making sure that the captions employed a consistent style and read well. It certainly suited my rather perfectionist, not to say pedantic, tendencies well! Although, at various stages, it seemed unlikely that we would be able to pull it off, the opening exhibition, which was marked by a festive party in the Old Library, seemed to go down excellently, with a large turn-out not merely of Christ's students and staff, but of librarians from across Cambridge. No doubt the promise of mince pies and mulled wine helped swell numbers, but the informal feedback would suggest people were genuinely interested, impressed and enthused about the exhibition, and items which it was showcasing.
The launching of the exhibition forms one part of a larger effort currently being made by the library team at Christ's to raise awareness of the College's special collections. In recent weeks, three of our most fascinating possessions have been put up on the Library's College webpages in digital form: now, you can flick virtually through John Locke's annotated 1698 copy of the Two Treatises of government from the comfort of your own home! Click here. We have also started a new blog, providing up-to-date news and information on the College's special collecitions, which can be found here.
As the University term draws to a close, most libraries are engaging in the business of dealing with students rushing to get hold of books for the vacation, before the weekend's mass exodus. At Pembroke, things are a little different this year. The decision has been made within the College to implement a new RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) borrowing system which will come into effect at the commencement of the next academic year.
While this may seem far away to the library users, library staff had to find a suitable time in advance in which to recall all books in order for them to be tagged with the RFID chip (in the form of a thin adhesive label). As the Easter and summer vacations are always a hive of activity, this Christmas vac. Seemed the only opportunity, and accordingly every single on of the library's 37,000 books has come back to us over the last few days.
As may be expected, such an influx hasn't been without complications for the staff. Simply finding shelf space for the entire stock is one issue which had to be addressed, and a certain amount of book moving may be neccessary to accommodate the influx. As might also be expected, the student population were somewhat disgruntled to discover that borrowing was to be suspended from the beginning of this week for book tagging, meaning that many would be unable to take books away with them over Christmas. As a result, it has been necessary to implement a system whereby students with more pressing academic needs could gather the books they require over the break to be tagged immediately the process begins, and be able to collect them early in the first week of the vacation.
Although there have been organisational complications arising from the planned library closure, the process has been hugely instructive to me in being able to witness the steps involved in significantly updating the borrowing system of a busy library. Even so, I think all of us here at Pembroke are looking forward to resuming our normal routine after Christmas!
St John's College
Having been here for a few months, I've become more comfortable with the requirements of my role, but there's definitely no such thing as a regular routine here, every day is still different!
This week Fiona, the Biographical Librarian, has shown me how to handle enquiries - in this instance, we were researching a person who was a member of the college between 1891-93. It was really interesting to look through the old photographs and records that we hold in our Special Collections, and quite satisfying to be able to provide a nice, detailed response to the enquirer.
I also got to run my first outreach session all on my own this week, which was very exciting! A local primary school brought their Year 3 class in to our library to look at an exhibition on Mysterious Monsters in some of our maps; I talked to them a little bit about why people might have feared the parts of the world they hadn't been to yet, and about what people did when they found weird creatures (bring it home and flog it, was the answer). Then we just had a nice old colouring-in session.
I was a little nervous at first, but the children were absolutely lovely, and Ryan (who normally runs the outreach things) had provided me with a useful worksheet to go through with them. In the end things went quite smoothly and I really enjoyed it.
This week we've also put a Christmas tree up in the library foyer, with a small display of Christmassy things from our Archives and Special Collections, such as a photo of the eminent fellow John Crook dressed up as Santa Claus, an Advent Carol Service programme from 1954, and a letter sent to the 17th century Master of the College, Owen Gwyn, offering him a festive doe for Christmas. Putting that together was fun!
It's hard to believe that it's almost the end of term already. I've only just got myself settled into the routine at Emmanuel, and on Monday we're starting vacation borrowing. Best not to get too comfortable - this year promises to fly by! With this in mind, my librarian and I arranged for me to spend the morning in the library of a local secondary school. School librarianship is definitely something I'm interested in pursuing, and I wanted to make sure my ideas about what it entailed weren't totally off the mark.
I sometimes meet people who seem slightly larger than life, who seem entirely at ease and confident in their position, and the school librarian at the Perse School was one of those people. Whilst I was there I saw her switch between being a resource manager, a library advocate, a reading coach, a behaviour manager and much more besides. She obviously loved her job, and was really quite inspirational. Her competence obviously made a difference, because the library was well-used, and her crop of student library assistants were keen and eager. I found it very useful not only to ask her questions about school librarianship, strategic planning, and her place within the school, but also just to watch her going about her duties.
The Perse School in Cambridge is not your average school. It's a fee-paying independent day-school. The library was obviously very well funded, and the students were rather more polite than I remember being. The librarian was able to experiment with different kinds of reading, working and socialising areas, and the collection of books, periodicals and DVDs was very impressive and constantly being improved. I was particularly impressed at the librarian's knowledge of young adult literature, and her strategies to challenge readers to advance to the more literary end of the YA spectrum.
All in all I was reassured that I would certainly like to try my hand at school librarianship. Next week I'll be visiting a state comprehensive Village College, and I'm looking forward to comparing libraries.
St John's College
Fresher's Week has finally arrived!
All summer, renovations were under way in the library, and now the students have finally arrived to make use of their shiny new facilities. It's been a pretty manic week, especially in comparison with how quiet it has been over the summer!
One of the biggest challenges for me, this week, has been giving library induction tours to the Freshers. This has really tested not only my knowledge of the library but also my public speaking and presentation skills. It has overall, however, been a really good learning experience and I've enjoyed getting to know the first-year students, whilst also helping returning students get to grips with new additions to the library such as our self-issue machine and slightly temperamental door.
I've also helped out with the libraries@cambridge Fresher's Fayre stall for a few hours this week, handing out promotional flyers, pencils and bookmarks to students. It was a really interesting experience - many people were simply unaware of the range of different services available to them through their libraries. I also enjoyed working with people from other libraries to help put the stall together.
It's been a really exciting and busy first week of term, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of it!
St John's College
The traineeship at St John's starts on 1st August, a whole month before most of the other trainees. I found this to be a useful, quiet month that I spent getting to know Cambridge as a city as well as settling in to my new house and new job. I'm really glad all the other trainees have started, however, as I enjoy spending time with them and they are such a fun bunch of people!
When I first arrived at the library, we were right in the middle of extensive renovations - a new extension to the mezzanine floor was being put in place, and several other areas of the library such as the seminar room and third floor were being done up. It was a bit chaotic, with dust everywhere, incessant drilling, and lots of builders dashing up and down ladders. It was also very cold, as a new door was being installed, and this meant that we didn't have any door at all for most of the day!
The staff at my library have been wonderful, taking time out of their own busy schedules to train me in various basic library tasks. I spent a few afternoons being talked through cataloguing and classification (we use Library of Congress at St John's) and had a few exclusive tours of the Old Library and its wonderful collections. I also got the chance to observe the whole process involved in acquiring new books; from going through reading lists and identifying books that needed to be purchased, to using the Voyager Acquisitions module to order books under supervision, to receiving deliveries, cataloguing and classifying them, processing and labelling the books, and finally putting them up on the shelves. I try to catalogue at least four or five books every day as this is one of my favourite tasks. I also have responsibility for some of the shelving and labelling, at least until the appointment of the new Library Assistant (the previous Assistant retired some months ago).
One of the unique features of the library at St John's is the Biographical Office, which houses information on our alumni. My daily tasks include having to do various checks for the Biographical Librarian, Fiona, to make sure that we have accurate information on members of the college. This work demands a high level of attention to detail and so it can be quite time consuming.
My favourite aspect of the job so far is the outreach work. I'm very lucky to be in a library with such remarkable collections, and I want to share them with as many people as possible. I've been involved in a number of school visits and open days, and particularly enjoy helping people engage with the Old Library and the various historical treasures that it houses.
I've just arrived at Newnham to the warmest of welcomes. I already know that this is going to be a great year! During my first week I've been toured around to meet most of the staff involved in the day-to-day running of the college - there are so many names to learn! I've had lots of training from the Librarian, Debbie. Fire safety, health and safety, shelving, a session on the moving stack, and that's just for starters!
I've been working on the subject reading lists as my first proper job. I have to use Cambridge LibrarySearch to see whether we have a book in stock. If we do, I write the class mark beside it; if not, I have to look up the book Dawson Books website in order to price them. It's really nice to be able to work on them because I feel as though I'm being helpful, despite the fact that it's my first week! I've finished off a couple in the time between training sessions.
Despite the fact that I was in Cambridge for my MPhil last year, it feels like a completely different place, considering that my allegiances have switched from Fitzwilliam to Newnham. I'm really enjoying the change of scenery - the gardens in Newnham are the most gorgeous sight in the morning!
Details of blog entries for previous years can be found here: