A Day in the Life at Anglia Ruskin University

When I first started at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), the team rota felt pretty overwhelming to look at: with 6 full-time and 6 part-time Library Services Advisers, there is definitely a lot going on! I have removed the names of my colleagues from the screenshot below, but each row corresponds to a different Library Services Advisor. The bottom half of the rota lists our priority tasks, and we simply type our name next to the task we are doing in the appropriate time column. With a big team, this ensures that two people aren’t accidentally doing the same task at the same time.

The timetable does change daily though, meaning that no two days are the same. With it being the start of term, the timetable is currently quite full but at different times of the year, we have more blank slots (unallocated hours) so we can focus on individual or group projects.

Team rota for Tuesday 17 January 2023
Team rota for Tuesday 17 Janaury 2023
An asile with stacks of books either side on the second floor of the library

8:30 – 9:00: Building Walk
After a very chilly cycle to work (the feels like temperate was -5!), I start my day with a building walk which – as the name suggests – is a walk around the library to make sure everything is in order. The usual things to look out for are health and safety hazards, faulty equipment, and broken lights. Apart from a few travelling chairs, the library was all in order. Time for a cup of tea!

09:00 – 10:00: Emails and Reading Lists
Next, I’m on a blank slot which gives me a chance to go through the library email account. As term only started yesterday, it is still fairly quiet with only a handful of enquiries overnight. Today, they are pretty straight-forward: a book recommendation, query about loan length, and an alumni membership application. With some time left over, I start to order a few books from ARU’s reading lists. We have recently moved to a new reading list management system, Keylinks, which has made the whole process a lot smoother.

10:00 – 11:00: Phone & Chat Support
I always find phone and chat support a strange hour because it’s so unpredictable – sometimes I don’t receive a single message/call, while other days can be significantly busier. Today is one of the quieter days, with only one 5-minute chat regarding literature reviews. With one eye on the phone/chat, I decide to continue ordering from the reading lists because it’s a good task to dip in and out of. In the end, I order 1 book to our Chelmsford campus and 17 books to our Cambridge campus.

11:00 – 12:00: Scanning
I notice that there is a pending PDF scan request on Alma (our library database), so I do the usual checks before approving (are the number of pages compliant with copyright, is the item available electronically, have they requested from this book before). After completing the scan, I tackle accessibility. The chapter I am scanning from is an ocular anatomy book, and I must admit, I sometimes struggle with how best to add alt text to scientific figures. With one or more figures on each page, I take my time to ensure that the descriptive text is as useful as possible, should the patron use it.

12:00 – 13:00: Lunch
With it being such a cold day, I decide to eat inside – on sunnier/warmer days, I love to get some fresh air with a stroll around nearby Mill Road Cemetery. After staring at a screen for a lot of the morning, it’s nice to take some time away and squeeze in some pages from my current read, So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell.

13:00 – 14:00: Help Desk
Shifts at the desk have been really busy so far this week because there are lots of new students on campus as some courses have a January start date. To manage queues and help students more efficiently, there are 2 people on the desk between 11 and 4. The enquiries we receive are varied but the most common ones today were directional, password resets, WiFi issues, printing trouble, and how to use the self-service machines. I also had a few students who were struggling to find a book upstairs and as we can’t leave the desk, I radioed a colleague (who was on the ‘back up’ role) to help.

Holding an orange motorola radio

14:00 – 15:00: Back Up & Pick List
After a busy hour on the desk, I make myself a cappuccino before tackling the pick list. There were 46 items on the pick list when I started and by the time I’d found the books on the shelves, processed them, and placed them on the requests shelf, the pick list already had 15 new items! There are currently 150 books on the requests shelf, waiting for collection. Luckily, the desk didn’t radio me for any support this hour, so I was able to focus on the pick list uninterrupted.

15:00 – 16:00: Pick List & Processing an External Membership
I’m on a blank slot so I help the next person on the ‘back up’ role by finding the new items from the pick list. There is nothing to receive as there were no books or journals in the post today, so I process a new alumni membership application form. In need of a boost of energy, I then take a short chocolate break!

Trolley with books in front of a shelving unit with books on

16:00 – 17:00: Roving & Shelving
For the last hour of the day, I am tasked with roving. The main responsibility is to circulate all four floors to ensure that noise levels are appropriate and be visible in case any students need help. Roving is a nice opportunity to be away from a screen and walk around the library. It’s also a great time to get amongst the books and do some shelving. After a busy day, I cycle home for a relaxing evening.

Graduate Trainees for 2021-22 Signing Off!

The 2021-22 Graduate Traineeships are drawing to a close here in Cambridge, and what a year it’s been! From visits and talks to workshops and conferences, the Graduate Trainees have certainly been very busy. We have all learned so much about library work, both in our own academic libraries and countless other kinds of libraries – some of which we never knew existed before.

We feel very lucky to be the first cohort of Cambridge trainees to get the full Graduate Trainee experience since the COVID-19 pandemic began – although the virus did keep some of us from attending visits at various points throughout the year! But overall, we’ve managed to pack a lot in and have a more traditional Graduate Trainee experience with lots of in-person visits and training sessions. Have a look at our thread on Twitter for a round-up of the year’s activities!

Although we’ve done a lot as a group, we’ve also each had a very unique experience of being a Graduate Trainee. As such, we’ve decided to put together some personal highlights from the year, along with some information about what we’re doing next! As well as being a nice way to reflect on the year we’ve had, we hope this will give future Graduate Trainees an idea of what they can expect during their year, and the opportunities available to them after it finishes.


Ellen

“All of the visits and training opportunities have been amazing, but my personal highlight of the Graduate Traineeship has to be the connections I have made. As well as building up a really strong professional network, I have also made some friends for life here. I have a part-time job in an academic library lined up for when the traineeship ends, which offers the perfect opportunity to gain more practical experience while I study for my library Masters starting in September. I am also on the committee of a soon-to-launch network for early-career library and information professionals, which I am really excited about. I’ll be studying part-time over two years, so I should hopefully be able to maintain some level of work-life balance!”


Jess

“One of my (many) highlights has been the time I have spent with special collections, whether that be my chats with experts in the library or while curating my small exhibition on early modern astronomy. There’s nothing like reading about an old book for ages and then getting to actually hold an original copy in your hands!

The biggest highlight of all, though, has been the people. I could not have asked for more of anything – be it support, expertise, or general brilliance – from the people I’ve met this year. They’re absolute stars and are a enormous part of what made my traineeship so wonderful.

Now that my traineeship has finished, I’m going on to work as a library assistant at another college. Alongside, I will also be doing some volunteer book cleaning of some sadly mouldy special collections. So I still get to touch old books – even if it’s through some lovely latex gloves!”


Katherine

“I have had an excellent time on my traineeship! I’ve really enjoyed involving the library in Outreach efforts, and my best achievement was putting together an archive exhibition for my college’s 150th anniversary on its Working Women’s Summer Schools. Weirdest moment was definitely finding lots of tiny plastic babies on the shelves (apparently it’s some kind of TikTok trend?). I’m pleased to say I’ll be continuing in college librarianship (though hopping across to a different library!) – lots of time still to explore interdisciplinary books and chat to students!”


Lucy

“A personal highlight has been working in the historic Wren Library every day, having close contact with the incredible and diverse special collections housed within its walls. Halfway through the year, I was given the opportunity to write an article for Trinity’s Alumni magazine about a ‘Trinity Treasure’. I chose a colourful costume book (‘Trachtenbuch’) from 16th century Nuremburg. It was a wonderful way to explore in more detail a book within the collection, learning about the context and history of its production. You can read the article here on pages 22-23.

‘Trinity Treasures’ article by one of the Graduate Trainees published in ‘The Fountain’ alumni magazine
‘Trinity Treasures’ article published in ‘The Fountain’ alumni magazine

I also feel I should give a shout-out to one particularly weird and wonderful task I undertook – checking back in the skeleton models that are given to medical students at the start of the year. Sitting at my desk surrounded by fibulas, ulnas, clavicles, and sternums was a particularly bizarre experience. I am now far more well acquainted with the medical terms for human body parts – something that I wasn’t necessarily anticipating pre-starting at Trinity! The fact that each skeleton also has a name was a source of amusement – Cressida, Samson, Eve, and Gaspar are now safely back in their boxes waiting for October 2022 to come around.

In terms of next steps, the plan now is to move back to London – I am starting a new job at the Natural History Museum (as a Library and Archives Assistant) and will begin a two-year part-time Masters course in Library and Information Studies at University College London. I am incredibly sad to be leaving Trinity, and will really miss my work here, but am also excited to see what the future holds in store.”


William

“I have really enjoyed my time as a Graduate Trainee Librarian. The opportunity to visit a wide variety of libraries and library-adjacent enterprises has broadened my understanding of what a librarian can do. I particularly enjoyed visiting the British Library and their enormous basements and amazing conveyor belt system for moving books around. (It felt like I was behind the scenes at Monsters, Inc!) However, my favourite aspect has been the camaraderie between the trainees, and I enjoyed meeting up with them both in and out of work.”


We would like to say thank you to all the amazing library staff who have supported us this year, and welcome to the new cohort of Graduate Trainees for 2022-23. We hope you get as much out of it as we did!

Visit to Judge Business School Library

In April we were able to visit the library at the Judge Business School, which is housed in the old Addenbrooke’s Hospital building on Trumpington Street. It is a striking building, remodelled in the 1990s in a colourful, post-modernist style. We were met in the lobby by the Deputy Information and Library Services Manager, who gave us our first sneak peek of the library as we went to collect the User Experience Librarian, before leading us up one of the building’s “floating” staircases to the Business School’s café. They very kindly treated us to our choice of hot drinks, and we all sat down in the café to get an overview of how they run their library and how it fits into life and work at the Judge Business School. 

They have a relatively small physical collection of approximately 10,000 volumes, but have a huge digital offering of resources like e-books and databases. This means that their students can access library resources from anywhere in the building – and anywhere in the world, which is very important as they have a large number of international students who are studying remotely. These students are very rarely – if ever – in Cambridge to visit the physical library space, so it is crucial that they are able to access the relevant materials online. They always aim to get a digital copy alongside every print copy of a book they order. 

The Judge library offers an incredibly user-focused service (where many older libraries with lots of rare books might be more collections-focused), and this comes across in their customer service and user experience initiatives as well as their collections management. For example, due to the high number of remote international students, they manage an incredibly active chat service. While the COVID-19 pandemic forced many academic libraries to start offering services like academic sessions and inductions over Zoom, the Judge library was already offering such services via Skype well before this. 

It was quite interesting to note that none of the library staff came from a business background, despite working in a specialist business library. As we’ve seen from speaking to other specialist librarians, this appears to be quite common – in many cases, having the skills to run a library is the most important thing, and specialist knowledge can be picked up along the way. This is really reassuring and good to know, as new professionals like us might otherwise be put off applying to roles in specialist libraries because they don’t have specialist knowledge of that field. 

Once we got into the library, it quickly became evident that they really do understand and cater to the needs of their users (both academically and generally) and it comes across in every facet of how they run their library. Their “Boost” collection offers a number of non-academic titles to supplement readers alongside their study needs – from graphic novels and pleasure reads to wellbeing titles and recipe books.

Just across from this is the “Weird Ideas” collection, which highlights books that introduce new, innovative, and disruptive ideas to the world of business and economics. Interestingly, as some of these ideas inevitably make it into the mainstream (cryptocurrency being one such example), the book is no longer a ‘weird’ idea and gets moved to the main collection. This is therefore a very interesting and dynamic part of the library, and a concept that works uniquely well for a subject like business. 

They also showed us Bloomberg, a database that provides live stock market information, the same as anyone on Wall Street would have in their office (the “Buy” button is understandably deactivated on the library version). There’s a lot of interesting information that can be found on Bloomberg but one of the highlights that they showed us was Posh, an internal marketplace for the ultra-rich. Think eBay or Craigslist but for yachts, small islands, city centre apartments, and Fabergé eggs. For us librarians it was a lot of fun to poke around and explore Bloomberg, but for the students and staff at Judge Business School, I imagine it must be an invaluable resource of live information. 

The space offers blankets and bean bags so students can have a comfortable experience in the library and even squeeze in a power nap if they need to. Past these and up the stairs, alongside some student desks, is a paper “graffiti wall” where students can provide feedback about different features of the library – and the library staff write back! This allows students to report things that they might not bother to write an email about or find a member of staff for – for example if a door hinge squeaks. 

As well as all the interesting and varied practical library services and UX initiatives, there were also a lot of fun extras. As Star Wars Day was approaching (May 4th), they had a lot of Star Wars paraphernalia in the office ready to set up for it, including a full-sized Baby Yoda/Grogu. There was also a “dinky door” in the back of the library, board games that students can play, and a secret false book hidden on one of the shelves, with chocolate inside for anyone who finds it. All of these extra touches ensure that students (and library staff, I have no doubt) can have a lot of fun when visiting the library, as well as finding the resources they need. 

We are very grateful to the team at JBS for hosting us and making us feel so welcome. 

Queens College old library: Historical Bibliography Workshop

And another tour rolls around…

Another month, and another tour, to Queen’s College old library. Its claim-to-fame being the oldest library in Cambridge. Emma, our grad trainee, and the library staff at Queens College gave us a tour with a hands-on historical workshop. We looked through texts that varied between the 1500s and 1700s. Have a hankering for library tour posts? Check out Lauren, Jess & D’s experiences of The UL Tour. Or Lucy’s Cambridge Central Library post. I promise you won’t regret.

Queens College

One thing I love about the college libraries is that each college has its own distinctive characteristics. Katie’s post on Newnham College library tour will give you a flavour. Queens College is certainly distinctive. Across the mathematical bridge (remove the screws and the bridge would remain) span beautiful buildings and lush gardens. The architecture was a mix of “old country town” and “modern build”. But the nicest thing was, every person I saw was smiling. Queens is one of the smaller colleges in Cambridge, built of just over 1000 undergraduates, graduates and academics. Nonetheless, the college is utterly charming and quirky. I felt a lovely sense of community, even just walking through!

The collection

The main library is fairly modern and bright.. and busy! It was the end of term. And we heard nothing but ferocious keyboard clicking from students getting essays in. Because Queens caters for first year undergraduates of all subjects, it has few books that cater for other years. As a grad trainee working in departmental libraries, this is a major difference between our collections. As our collections are tripos-based, we cater from undergraduate to fellow. Our collections are based soley around one tripos.

Bliss Classification scheme

Queens use the bliss classification system. Bliss builds classmarks through a combination of letters and numbers. The alternative is a numerical-based system like Dewy. We call the former a faceted scheme whilst the latter an enumerative scheme. Whilst it’s possible to have a system that is in-part enumerative and faceted. Bliss is fully faceted. Faceted schemes allow for in-depth subject analysis, aswell as freedom and flexibility for the classifier. This is because they build their classmarks rather than pick from a list. Therefore it’s easier to show links between subjects, accommodate new subjects. With enumerative schemes, subject headings are already

As libraries strive to be more inclusive and accommodating, faceting elements can prove to be desirable in schemes. This is because of the hospitable element, made possible by the classmarking system. It helps to endorse and embraces new subjects that sprout, and ones that arise from existing subjects.

The old library

“Queens College old library is the “Elmer-the-elephant” of libraries. From 12th Century Windows, to 17th Century wooden safe. It was a beautiful mesh of time periods”

The trainees were taken through to Queens College old library, which was like stepping through an architectural time capsule. It featured the most aesthetic walls, ceilings and furniture from across different time periods. Queens College old library is the “Elmer the elephant” of old libraries. From 12th century windows, to a 17th century wooden safe, it was a beautiful mesh of time periods. The top half of the shelves were from a different century to the medieval bottom half of the shelves! And there were modern spinny desk chairs dotted around too. The mismatched museum of vintage library furniture made Queens College old library more charming.

On the right, the key to Queens College old library. Even the key is aesthetic…

Towering above us were shelves of old books. They were beautiful and unique. Meanwhile Emma talked us through how she catalogues these books. Broadly speaking, this involves; subject analysis, publishing information, a physical description and classification. If you’re after an idea of cataloguing, Lucy’s blogpost on cataloguing training is a great start. 

The history of the printing press

The trainees were then given a 101 on the history of the printing press. I’ll keep this brief – I’ve left a further reading list at the end of this post. But, the compositor would have to manually select the type from his case. Then, set this onto the composing stick. And as you can see in the image below, the composition stick is composed letter-by-letter. And, the individual characters would have to slot onto a stick corresponding to a line of text. Each stick (line) would then accumulate to create a page of writing.

Pages would have to be set, letter by letter, before printing.

Once the page was complete, the ability to rewrite or edit a sentence became impossible. This is unlike modern times, where the touch of the button can easily rewrite words and sentences.

man standing at his wooden desk choosing a type from his case. In the background there is paper hanging from the ceiling.
A composer selects type from his case and places it in a composing stick. Printed sheets are hanging, drying from the ceiling.

We also learnt about imposition. Now, imposition (in terms of books) is the way the pages are laid out. When folded, the pages appear in the correct order. The below image is an example of imposition. After printing the page, people would have to fold the sheet in the correct order.

Old book workshop

We were handed books ranging from 15-17th century. For me, a French book from the 15th Century on the French revolution. The book contained three forms of handwritten notes and, suggested it had been rebound at least once in its lifetime. One of the handwritings seemed scrawny, child-like in nature. We thought that a child aged 7-10 could be behind these notes. We concluded that the book was used for school. It was fascinating to see children’s notes from centuries ago. Handwriting is personal to the individual, and these have been frozen in time.

Finally, a bit of show-and-tell. The grads got to grips with miniature books from the 18th century. Roughly 3cm by 4cm, these dinky books were usually ye old testaments. And whilst they were not practical, they were very cute!

Thank you Queens!

Overall, it was a fascinating visit and I certainly thouroughly enjoyed it. The tour of Queens I want to say a big thank you to the Library staff at Queens for making the visit possible. And, for taking time out of the day to provide us with this workshop. A special thanks to Emma for giving us an informative tour of the college grounds and library.

Further Reading:

General Book History

Robert Darnton, ‘What is the History of the book?’ Daedalus, 111 (1982), 65-83 David Pearson, Books as history. The importance of books behong their texts (Newcastle, DE: Oak Knoll; and London: British Library 2008) Sarah Werner, Studying early printed books, 1450-1800: a practical Guide (Hooken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2019)

Printing History

Phillip Gaskell, A new introduction to bibliography (Oxford: Claredon Press, 1972) Joesph Mocon, Mechanick exercises; or, THe docterine of handy-workd. Applied to the art of printing (London: Joesphy Moxon, 1683)

https://www.loc.gov/ghe/cascade/index.html?appid=580edae150234258a49a3eeb58d9121c

Decolonising Through Critical Librarianship – Practical Approaches to Decolonising Library Classification

On the 1st July 2021, the Decolonising Through Critical Librarianship group hosted a workshop on practical approaches to reclassification. This roundtable discussion arrived in good time for the summer period, in which academic libraries are usually quieter and librarians are more easily able to access the shelves for large-scale classification projects. 

Several libraries had already undertaken their own reclassification projects, and gave brief overviews of these talks as an introduction to the discussion. 

African Studies Library 

The African Studies Library had moved from the UDC to Library of Congress – previously, books had been classified by country first and subject second, which meant that there was an overwhelming wealth of first-level subsections, with similar subjects being distanced from one another. The new classification scheme means that writers across a certain diaspora (e.g. Anglophone, Francophone) are now within borrowing distance of one another, which improves the user browsing experience and is simpler to explain to new users; more scope is allowed for comparative literatures, and there is no longer a backlog of cataloguing due to difficulties in deciding classifications. 

The African Studies librarian noted that this reclassification process might not work in the same way elsewhere due to the focused scope of the library; while these books would be siloed into specific geographic sections in more general libraries, in the African Studies library ‘African literature’ is just literature, ‘African economics’ just economics, and so on. This was a useful demonstration of the way in which suitable classification schemes will depend on the collection of a library and its primary user base. 

Divinity Library

The Divinity Library reclassification project had started in 2015. Of particular concern was a so-called ‘section 11’ for ‘non-Judeo-Christian religions’ – this contained not only religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism but philosophical and comparative texts on a variety of other miscellaneous subjects.  Due to the scale of the project, a split-approach to classification was taken after the new librarian joined in 2015. Books which had arrived before March 2016 remained in the old Section 11, while books which arrived after were classified according to the new classification system, which distinguished non-Judeo-Christian religions in more detail: section 11 became Islam, section 15 Buddhism, 16 Hinduism, 17 Other Religions or religious movements (e.g. Greco-Roman pagan, Zoroastrianism), and 18 Comparative or Inter-Faith texts. At the current rate of staffing the project was expected to take 15 years; the length of time taken to fit in reclassification around daily activities was shown to be a recurrent concern throughout all the discussions. 

Squire Law Library 

The Squire Law Library had – enabled by the lockdowns of the past 18 months – had time to identify areas to be reclassified throughout the library. The library itself was structured on an in-house classification system written in the 70s loosely based on Moyes (a legal classification system), which is kept on paper and is not regularly updated. This classification system organises books according to the country to which the legal system applies; this itself poses problems, as countries have changed over time and are sometimes contested. However, there are also higher-level organisational problems: these countries themselves are organised into two sections depending on the origin of their legal system, which has its roots deeply embedded in colonial history (that is to say, often dependent on who the country was occupied by in the past). This also means that countries are not represented in geographical order; neighbouring countries may be on opposite sides of the library. This distinction is notable enough to have been queried by some students and was said to be both complicated and embarrassing to explain; this was noted as an example of reclassification being motivated by reader-stimulated input. 

Pembroke Library 

Pembroke Library had recently undertaken an extensive overhaul of their history section, reclassifying around 8,000 books. The in-house classification system, which was theoretically based on Dewey but more accurately reflected teaching practices, started with two specific classmarks which heavily centred colonial empires: the history of the British Empire and Commonwealth, and the Expansion of Europe (this being the other colonial powers and their commonwealths). The new classification system maintained the geographical subdivisions in history, but divided by continent and subsequently by period, which allowed for all continents to be placed on an equal standing in their own right rather than being seen through a Eurocentric lens. This also allowed gaps to be identified and supplanted in the collection, often ahead of the curriculum – for example, expanding the section for Oceania – and for buying patterns to be critically analysed in the future. 

Alma and Primo (iDiscover) support team 

A representative from the technical support team explained how issues of classification applied to Alma and iDiscover. A particularly high-profile case which had occurred recently had been the changing of the subject heading ‘Illegal Aliens’ to ‘Undocumented Immigrants’ and associated terms (such as ‘children of’). This change had occurred at the local level in Cambridge Libraries following the blocking of the intended terminology change at the top level by Congress. It was explained that this subject heading had only been changed at the display level rather than at the back-end for a number of reasons: Alma records get exported so there is a need to stick to the agreed rules; the searchability for the original subject heading should be maintained for external users – and, most crucially, as subject headings were usually decided centrally by the Library of Congress, a display-name change allowed the subject headings to be changed automatically rather than manually in the future should a change occur at the top level. This was a useful insight into the technological background of reclassification and the practical problems which could arise. 

Roundtable Discussion 

Some practical advice was offered more generally by those who had already done reclassification – Pembroke suggested a pre-arranged workflow with books being sorted and done a bay at a time to limit the ‘switching’ from decision-making to updating Alma. Newnham suggested a similarly systematic approach, noting that available space should be considered and that the area to be reclassified should work around stockcheck (or vice versa) to avoid books getting lost. Parts of the reclassification project – such as comparing old and new shelf lists – could also be done at home. Pembroke also noted that books on loan have to be considered – Newnham suggested that this could be resolved by adding fulfilment notes, but that this was quite a laborious way of approaching the process. 

In addition to some unexpected budgetary concerns – the stationary spend for one library was massively extended from the cost of book labels and tape alone! – it was widely acknowledged that reclassification projects were rarely given extra funding; however, much of the time, a larger budget would not have helped, the pace of the project decided by other limiting factors such as library space and time available around daily tasks. The skillset of the involved librarians was also important, and many teams were limited by the number of cataloguers they had. 

There were some concerns raised regarding specific classification systems – people argued that Dewey Decimal Classification poorly managed the distinction between history and history of a topic. This meant that ‘lenses’ on history – such as women’s history, LGBTQ+ history, and Black history – were placed in the early 300s and effectively siloed away from the ‘mainstream’ historical canon. In addition to the problem of the implicit theoretical hierarchy which this entailed, on a practical level this also meant that library users were less likely to encounter these ‘lenses’ on history while browsing the ‘mainstream’ canon on the shelves. 

Some participants enquired what they could do to indicate to users the inadequacies in the current classification system if they did not have the resources to undertake a full-scale reclassification project. Multiple librarians recommended putting up signs indicating where other relevant material might be found. One noted that it was appropriate to train staff so they could answer any enquiries on the subject appropriately. The Scott Polar Research Institute Library had had some success hosting workshops with users on the classification scheme; while primarily an information literacy event, it also increased familiarity with the collection and the way it was structured. 

Reflection 

As a trainee relatively new to the field of classification, the discussion was incredibly eye-opening and helped me think about classification more broadly at both the practical level – considering how classification could impact browsability – and theoretical level – how existing classification schemes reinforced or subverted existing power structures. Such a workshop made me think more carefully about how I personally approached classification, reminding me that what often seems like the ‘easiest’ or most obvious classification for an item might not necessarily be the most appropriate: for example, rather than siloing an item on LGBTQ+ history into a general LGBTQ+ section, we might consider where it might fit into the core history collection to increase its general browsability. This sometimes might involve reclassifying whole groups of items which could be better placed rather than adding new acquisitions to them just for the sake of consistency – classifcation should be an ongoing, considered, and fluid process, rather than a strict and immovable system which should be adhered to. 

As a final note, I was particularly enthused by how many libraries noted their classification systems had been remarked upon by users: this surely demonstrates that reclassification is not only worthwhile for its own sake, but is noticed and appreciated (and sometimes initiated!) by users who, as one librarian put it, ‘appreciate that something is being done in the library for them’.

– Katherine Knight, Newnham College