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Introducing the trainees of 2012 - 2013, describing our various backgrounds, what made us decide to pursue a career in the information sector, and what we hope to do next.
Having studied history, both as an undergraduate and postgraduate, much of my academic life had been spent happily holed up in libraries. Over the years, I had also benefited greatly from the knowledge and kindness of scores of librarians, and had therefore come to appreciate the pivotal role they played in facilitating and promoting research. Nevertheless, it wasn't until undertaking some voluntary work at the National Trust's Blickling Hall property in Norfolk, where I had the opportunity to assist with the conservation of the property's library, a stunning collection of c.12,000 rare-books, for the most part belonging to the Presbyterian bibliophile Sir Richard Ellys (c.1674-1742), that I seriously considered pursuing a career in librarianship. After completing my MPhil, I therefore decided to try to gain some further experience, and was fortunate enough to be offered some voluntary work at Peterhouse, assisting in both the undergraduate Ward Library, and the Perne Library, home to the college's collection of rare books. I also helped out at the Commonwealth Society Library (located in Cambridge University Library), where I undertook a preliminary description of a recently-donated collection of personal papers. Applying for a graduate traineeship seemed like the obvious next step, as it offered the possibility of gaining a far more rounded, intensive, and sustained insight into what was involved in the day-to-day running of a busy academic library.
Ten weeks in, and I'm thoroughly enjoying my time as the graduate trainee at Christ's. My colleagues in the library have gone out of their way to help me settle in, and make me feel part of the team, and the Christ's students themselves have shown a commendable patience when faced by a relative bumbling novice like myself. Having been used to solitary study for so many years, the sheer variety of the daily duties is an aspect of the post which I am finding especially rewarding. Indeed, I have swiftly come to realise that, contrary to the widely-held (mis)conception, there is never a dull moment in libraries!^
Whilst working as a freelance writer I slowly came to the realisation that I was enjoying researching sources and organising information more than I was putting words on the page. I began to wonder what career might meet those needs. Prior to my time spent writing (and avoiding writing) I had worked for eight years as a University administrator and manager at the University of Southampton.
It eventually dawned on me that libraries might actually be the career for me, but not wanting to confuse enjoying the use and atmosphere of libraries with actually working in one I did some volunteering. This gave me enough of an insight to know that I wanted to learn more. My experience working for a University led me to think about academic libraries and the traineeships at Cambridge seemed an obvious choice. Not really expecting to get one, having missed out on applying to the early advertised posts, I found to my delight that there were some available and then to my further delight and amazement found myself at the Classics Faculty Library. Having studied Jewish history in the Graeco-Roman world for my Masters this placement had the added advantage of being in a place near to my interests.
For me, what has stood out about the traineeship so far is that it is a unique combination of actual, vocational library work and the opportunity to learn wider skills, undertake visits and network. The visits and networking opportunities have encouraged me to think deeper about what a library career could look like. Being part of a community of trainees at Cambridge (and virtually through social networking with other CILIP trainees) has given me an insight into some of the (many) libraries at Cambridge, and beyond, and importantly has proven to be a great support network so far.^
I studied English Literature at the University of Warwick, and then completed a Masters at Exeter University and I had no doubt that I was going to go on to do a PGCE and teach English. Working as a classroom assistant for two terms at the local secondary school, however, persuaded me otherwise. I still wanted to work in education, but not in a classroom environment. My favourite times in the school were in lessons outside the classroom, when I was in the drama studio, or particularly in the library...
I decided that it would be worth my while to see what working in a library was like, but found it very hard to get a job in a library. Even when there were entry-level positions advertised, there tended to be people with a lot more experience than me applying for them. As soon as I heard about the graduate traineeships I knew that was what I wanted to be doing. There was so much more on offer than merely experience working in a library.^
I studied English and History of Art at Trinity College Dublin and completed my MPhil in English Studies: Criticism and Culture at the University of Cambridge in 2012. During a gap year between my studies I realised after much soul searching that a job in the library and information sector would be right for me. I decided to apply for a Graduate Traineeship and thankfully ended up at the wonderful Newnham. Although I hadn't ever worked in a library, I had interned at an art museum in America for two summers and had worked at my university as an Assistant to the Curator for two months, so I had some relevant work experience. I am thoroughly enjoying my position at Newnham. After two months I have learned so very much! At first I thought I would never learn where the classmarks stop and start and that I'd be forever slow at shelving, but my knowledge of the library is improving every day. Learning about book processing and all the other details of the inner workings of an academic library is really rewarding. After this year I hope to continue to work in the library and information world and complete a LIS Masters (full-, part-time or distance learning? I'm not sure yet!).
On graduating from the University of Saint Andrews with a degree in English Literature, my career ambitions were somewhat vague (as it seems can often be the case with students of English Literature). I did, however, have a definite idea about the kind of environment in which I might wish to work; somewhere with a strong sense of heritage, in which an emphasis was placed upon safeguarding the past, an environment preferably old and beautiful, and somewhere with lots of books! In my first year after graduating, I was lucky enough to be awarded an internship at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, where I worked for a year assisting the curator and creating a catalogue of their historic collections. I enjoyed this position enormously and it certainly fulfilled my cravings for beautiful surroundings and strong links with the past. However, I realised during my time there that it was books, rather than objects, that were of primary interest to me. I began in earnest to research careers in libraries and came across the opportunities available at Cambridge.
Having been completely spoiled by the magnificent libraries at Stonyhurst, it has been a real stroke of luck to find myself in equally beautiful surroundings here at Pembroke. I have now been working as the library's graduate trainee for just over a month and feel that I have already learned a huge amount about librarianship. I am particularly enjoying acquainting myself with Pembroke's literary past and the privileges of borrowing from such a well-stocked academic library. I find it inspiring to be working my way towards a career which both upholds the traditions of the printed word but also engages with new methods of exchanging information, emphasising sustainability and syncretism of old and new. I plan to apply for a library MA at UCL for the next academic year and hope to pursue a career in librarianship, developing my interest in books as historic objects with the hopes of eventually working with a special collection of rare books and manuscripts.^
St John's College
I still have the little green tie and gold badge I was awarded for being appointed a student librarian, aged 9, at my Malaysian primary school. Since then, I've done voluntary library work in every educational institution I belonged to, from boarding school in England, to universities in London and Scotland. It was only halfway through my postgraduate degree, however, that I realised I could actually get paid for what I'd loved doing all those years!
After completing my studies in English Literature at UCL and St Andrews, I moved to Glasgow where I spent about 7 months working part-time in two large university libraries, whilst also volunteering at the Glasgow Women's Library and applying for traineeships. I had seven (!!!) unsuccessful job interviews and one offer which fell through due to lack of funding before finally landing the job here at St John's. I was close to giving up hope by that point, but I'm glad I didn't.
I feel so very grateful for my present traineeship in Cambridge. My day-to-day tasks are varied and I'm always learning new things. I'm also allowed the freedom to spend more time on the areas I find interesting (cataloguing and outreach), and I love having access to a truly breathtaking Old Library and special collections. Although I could have completed the requisite year of library work experience through my information assistant positions in Glasgow, I feel that the opportunities provided by my traineeship are simply invaluable, and constitute a more well-rounded basis for a future degree in librarianship and information management.^
I studied Modern Languages at Churchill College, Cambridge, and for a long time had the intention of becoming a translator or interpreter, with sights aimed towards the EU. However, in my final year, I started the necessary applications, and decided that the impending lifestyle of an EU career might not be for me after all. I'd seen that there were some library vacancies in Cambridge, and, having had a passion for books for many years, was inspired to instead pursue a career in librarianship.
Having decided that this was what I wanted to do, I sought advice from my college librarian, who gave me some work experience in Churchill College library, working on various projects over the vacation. I did some research through the CILIP website, and I then met with some of the graduate trainees, who convinced me that the traineeship was a great way onto the path of librarianship.
With only a little experience, I applied for several traineeships, and have been fortunate enough to become the Trainee at Trinity College. I could not ask for a better place to work - the opportunities that constantly arise make me realise how lucky I am to be working in such a prestigious environment, coming into contact with a treasure trove of books and archival material on a daily basis. I am constantly learning and developing new skills, with duties on various desks in the student library and the historic Wren library, as well as time to practise cataloguing and work on my own projects.^