A trip down memory lane at Clare College Libraries

Outside of the (jam packed!) timetable of events, workshops and visits planned for the trainee librarians over the year of our traineeships, we are also encouraged to organise our own trips relating to our librarianship interests and our library training.

As an alumna of Clare College, I was very excited to hear that the Fellows’ Library at Clare was finally re-opening, after being out of operation for 5 years, with the collection being in specialist storage since 2018 as a part of building and refurbishment in Old Court. This closure spanned over my own three years as an undergraduate at Clare, so I never got to see or use the Fellow’s Library. So, I set about organising a trip for the trainees to visit Clare College and to have a tour of both the Fellows’ library and the student library across the way in Memorial Court. I also wanted to organise this trip in part because I owe the Forbes Mellon Library for my pursuit of librarianship; it was working there part-time in the summer of 2022 where I fell in love with librarianship (I was particularly a big fan of book covering and labelling – I love a cut and stick activity) and working there is also how I learnt about the Graduate Traineeships.

Forbes Mellon Library

We began our trip congregating in Memorial Court on Queens’ Road, which hit me with a wave of nostalgia as I lived here for all three years of my degree. The Forbes Mellon Library (FML) was our first stop; located in the heart of Memorial Court, the FML was constructed in 1986, to accommodate the growing number of undergraduates studying at the college. On entering the building, the librarian pointed out a series of portraits of women Fellows hanging on the balcony, which houses the closed-access shelves of the library. A particular favourite of the group was a portrait featuring a plush frog. She explained that these were part of a series of celebrations in the college commemorating the 50th anniversary of the changing of statutes to include women among the students and Fellowship, making Clare the first Cambridge college to have co-education in 1972. Another artistic feature of the college, a statue entitled HOMMAGE, which stands between the Forbes Mellon Library and the University Library, was also acquired as part of the 50th anniversary.

Inside the FML

It was also explained that this library has a rather rare feature; it shares a building with several music practice rooms! This is an interesting combination, given the unique silence of library spaces… but surprisingly one that works in nice harmony, with very few disturbances occurring. There is also a Library Common room located in the building, which is highly frequented by students, which serves as a relaxed area to study or take a break. This space is harmoniously run by the Union of Clare Students and the library team, with calming colouring books, a casual reading selection (borrowable on trust), and free hot drinks and biscuits available. One of the projects I worked on while working there was to weed this collection, to keep it updated and relevant for the students.

Entering the main library itself, we first saw the display table which is located directly in front of you as you enter the building, where a brand-new display was set up, featuring books, DVD’s and other items from the collection relating to women’s history month. On our way to a side room that contains the printer and monitors, as well as housing the welfare and academic collections, we walked past a station full of equipment free for students to use, from staplers to whiteboards. There was some interest amongst the group as to how the items were picked, and whether the Clare students seemed to find them useful. We were then led up to the first floor, where we could fully appreciate the beautiful shelving that runs along the walls of the hexagonal building, with their huge bay windows filling the library with light (many an essay of mine was written on one of these window seats, so apologise if I am a little biased about their loveliness). The librarian also explained how they had been working on a reclassification project recently on their history collection; you can read more about reclassification and its role in library decolonisation projects in Liz’s blog here.

Law Reading Rooms

One of Clare’s Law Reading Rooms

We then filed out of the Forbes Mellon, and turned into one of the staircases, where the college archives were pointed out to us. Here we visited the two Law Reading Rooms, (the Lipstein and Turpin rooms) which both law and land economy students in the college have access to, with the Turpin room also having a computer room. These rooms have their own library collection, for reference only. As with most of the windows in the library, and in Memorial Court generally, the University Library is ever-present. A particular selling-point of Clare is just how close the libraries are, with Sidgwick site also being just a couple minutes away. The librarian explained how this close proximity also helps them to facilitate access to the books their students need.

Fellows’ Library

Clare Old Court over Clare Bridge

Making our way across the road and through Clare Old Court, with spring flowers blooming beautifully along the walkway, we briefly stopped on Clare Bridge where I pointed out one of my personal favourite features of the college – The Wedge – which, like many old-Cambridge things, has several combating mythologise surrounding it, all more absurd than the last. On the way to the Old Library we passed the newly refurbished Old Hall, and also a Medieval Chest. Several colleges with Old Libraries have chests such as this, which at one point would have functioned much like a library in that they stored key documents of the college, in fact this chest specifically is referred to anecdotally as the “earliest library of the College” and is roughly dated to the fifteenth century. We were then led through the senior common room to reach the Library; this placement of the library, between the Masters’ Lodge and SCR, and accessible from either side, is indicative of the central role the library has historically had in Clare.

This photograph of the Fellows’ Library is reproduced by kind permission of the Master, Fellows and Scholars of Clare College.

On entering the Fellows’ Library, we met with the Assistant Librarian who had kindly laid out a selection of the collection for us to look at. This included highlights such as Cassius Dio of Bythynia (1592), edited by Henri Estienne, which came to the library from Master Charles Morgan (1678-1736, Master 1726-1736), and which is still in its original late-16th century binding, with fragments of a Hebrew manuscript. Both the Clare librarians and many of the graduate trainees had been to the 2023 Sandars Lectures, which were on Cambridge University bindings, so we had particular interest in three Cambridge bindings from the collection, two of which are believed to be from the workshops of early Cambridge binders John Siberch and Nicholas Spierineck, and one which showcased a pink covering!

Alongside this, we also had the opportunity to meander around the exhibition in the Fellows’ Library which was curated by the Fellows’ Librarian, Prof. Tim Chesters, which featured selections from the collection on the theme of “America”. We also heard about the (somewhat tumultuous) history of libraries in the college, including a presumed fire which sadly caused the loss of much of the earliest part of the collection, as well as learning about the process of moving the books to specialised storage, working with the collection while it was in storage, and the process of having it all returned to college. It was fascinating to hear about movement of rare books on this scale.

River Café

We finished the trip in the new extension of the college – the River Room Café – which still had views of the University Library through its windows. We were kindly treated to a hot drink while we chatted to the Clare library team about their own experiences as trainees and their careers as well as our own plans and goals. The Clare librarians were very kind, receptive and welcoming to us visiting, for which we are very grateful, and I want to personally thank them, for teaching me the foundations from which I am developing my librarianship practice in my traineeship, for nurturing my love of libraries, and for running a wonderful library for Clare students.

View across the river in the River Room Café, with the University Library in the distance

Ely Trip Part 2: a spin around Cambridgeshire Archives

After a quick lunch and short walk to see the outside of Ely’s cathedral, we headed to the Cambridgeshire Archives, a former bowling alley that has been expertly converted into an archive centre. The Archive holds records dating back to the 13th century, relating to the area now covered by Cambridgeshire (which includes Huntingdonshire and the Isle of Ely).

The archivist began our tour in the strong room, pointing out the features which made the former bowling alley an ideal space to store archives, such as the easy access areas and lack of windows. As the interior was renovated prior to the archives being moved to the new site, they were able to ensure the space could be completely functional for storing special records, with systems in place to keep the temperature at a constant 19°c and the humidity at 50%. This also included setting up a small quarantine room just as you enter the storage area, where newly received documents are initially taken to be checked for possible risks, such as mould or silverfish – pests you definitely don’t want in your archives!

Most of the records are kept in boxes on mobile shelves, with enough space to hopefully last for the next 25 years. The archivist explained that they try to place highly requested items on the front shelves, such as parish records and maps, to ease accessibility. With many of the items being official records for the county, and therefore irreplaceable, they also have to maintain good security. In total, the Archive currently holds 20 million documents in approximately 35,000 boxes – the weight of 171 elephants we were told!

After finishing our tour of the storage area, we were shown into the Archive’s conservation room, full of contraptions and equipment to clean, preserve and restore archival items. For example, stretched out on the table was an early 17th century map, which the team were flattening and cleaning prior to it being digitised.

This posed a good segue to the next space we were led into, the digitisation and scanning room. The Archive employs a professional photographer to create high quality digital images of the collection, providing a useful income stream as they prioritise digitising requested items. The photographer had just finished a digital image of the Cromwell family tree from the 16th-17th century – the original document is huge, and so the photographer had stitched multiple images together to create a seamless, high-definition digital copy.

Following the digitisation room, we also dropped in on the Cataloguing and Accessioning team, where we discussed the Archive’s policies on collection storage and their use of CALM catalogue – an archive management system. It was interesting seeing the similarities and differences between how they catalogue archival material, and our own experiences with cataloguing books using library management systems. 

Finally, we ended our tour in the reading room, and chatted with the archive assistants about their roles and the kinds of queries they deal with. Their jobs involve copious amounts of research and detective-like work, such as tracing ancestors, finding family archives, and uncovering information needed for land disputes.

Helping families and the local community is a key function of the team, and the archivist mentioned how the image of archives has changed from formerly being a space for academics, to now being open and welcoming to the public. For instance, the Archive runs numerous outreach activities with school groups, taking them on tours of the space and putting out a ‘wow’ display of items, such as letters from famous people, and (always popular) the smallest and biggest items held in the collection. The archivist had kindly prepared a ‘wow’ table for us in the reading room too, showcasing the plethora of material that Cambridgeshire Archives owns. This ranged from a collection of late 19th century mugshots featuring local people accused of crimes, to documents dating from 1855 relating to Cambridge Free Library, and also a collection of notes on nineteenth century Whittlesford and its neighbourhood by local antiquary and natural historian George Nathan Maynard. A particular favourite of all the trainees was a spectacular hand illustrated history of Little Shelford by Fanny Lucretia Wale, compiled between 1908-1919, which featured beautiful watercolour images of the local area.

Thank you to the team at Cambridgeshire Archives for giving us such a lovely tour, and for providing us with an insight into the work that local archives do!

Chu-Can do anything! Our visit to the Churchill Archives Centre and Churchill College Libraries

On 11th March, the trainees got together once again for an exciting visit to the Churchill Archives Centre, as well as Churchill College Library. We were met by the lovely group of Archive staff who led us to the conservation studio. The conservator was hard at work doing some paper repairs using a very fine Japanese paper. Despite its fineness and fragile appearance, the long kozo fibres in this kind of paper make it both strong and pliable, perfect for repairing holes and tears in all kinds of paper. He also showed us a binding repair he was working on. Instead of repairing the spine of a large book with leather to match the leather binding, he was using a much thicker version of the Japanese paper, carefully painted to resemble the blue leather used to bind the rest of the book. This was a technique none of us had seen before and we loved hearing about how these kinds of repairs take place. Most of the work the conservators deal with is preventative work – especially when it comes to storage. When items are accessioned, they are carefully stored inside acid-free folders and boxes to prevent further damage, which hopefully saves conservators from doing more intensive reparative work in the future.

Next, we were led to the strongroom where many of the Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher items are kept. The archivists had kindly taken out some collection highlights to show us, including Thatcher’s own toy cat, Stanley, and her handbag, along with pictures as ample evidence that these were in fact the Real Deal.

Stanley the cat, who lived at 10 Downing Street with Margaret Thatcher.
(Below) The actual handbag of Margaret Thatcher (and the actual thumb of the Pembroke Trainee).

I asked whether the archives centre has a formal acquisitions policy, and we were told that the collection was initially centred on Churchill and his friends/associates, as well as other UK Prime Ministers. Now, it focuses more generally on modern political and scientific papers; as the Archives Centre website outlines, ‘Our collections encompass the personal papers of individuals who made and remade British domestic politics and international relations, advanced scientific knowledge, and who observed or transformed society, economics and culture.’

One of the archive assistants also pointed out that the centre has an unusually large naval collection relating to Stephen Roskill, who was a Senior Research Fellow at Churchill College, as well as a senior career officer of the Royal Navy, and who served during the Second World War.

One of the strongrooms in Churchill Archives Centre.

We spoke briefly about how digital archiving works, as this seems to be a growing concern among archivists with the rapidly evolving world of digital media. The archivists mentioned that there are various floppy disks and other kinds of data-storing hardware at the archives centre, which are proving difficult to draw information from. The concern with digital media is that technology will change at such a rate and in such a way that material stored in a certain form might eventually become inaccessible – which also makes investing money in certain technology or data storage an inherently risky process. For now, the team at Churchill store digital archives like emails in three copies, all hosted in separate locations, to ensure they are not lost to data breaches or corruption. It’s an aspect of archive work I had not considered before as most of the archives at Trinity predate digital media, and only exist in hard copy. I don’t doubt, though, that digital archives will present some new and compelling challenges to the archivists that work with them as time goes on!

Churchill Archives Centre Reading Room.

As we wandered up to the Archives Centre Reading Room, the team noted that, upon his death, Winston Churchill’s official papers were taken to be stored in the National Archive, while only his personal papers are kept at Churchill Archives Centre. I think we all agreed that the personal papers are far more interesting anyway!

For example, we were shown a copy of Churchill’s rather concerning school report from April 1884, which stated that his general conduct was ‘very bad’, that he ‘is a constant trouble to everybody, and is always in some scrape or other’, along with the comment that ‘he cannot be trusted to behave himself anywhere’. Not the most encouraging review of a future Prime Minister!

I wonder how he would have fared in comparison to the ‘Leadership Qualities’ drawn up to compare Margaret Thatcher and Neil Kinnock, which lists ‘Ruthless’ as one of Thatcher’s principal qualities, with the caveat ‘don’t desire, but suspect necessary’.

Another highlight from the reading room was “Bomb-proof Bella”, a photograph of an adorable and quite nervous looking dachshund who survived three trips to Dunkirk aboard the HMS Sandown!

“Bomb-proof Bella”.

The trainees also enjoyed this survey of young people’s ‘perceptions of the future’, some of which were bang on (like the prediction that ‘people will go abroad much more than at present’ and that ‘most roads will be choked with cars at nearly all times of the day’). Only 59% of people thought that ‘every family will have a telephone’ and fewer still believed that ‘men and women will take equal shares in housework and looking after children’ (45%)! Looking at some of these surprising and often disquieting predictions was a harsh reminder that we have come so far in many ways, and not so far in others…

These were predictions from 1970 about the year 2000. Here are some library-related predictions from the trainees about what life will be like 30 years from now, all the way in 2054:

Harriet predicts that ‘in 30 years’ time, they will still be publishing Rainbow Magic Fairy books.’ (what a blast from the past!)

Anna predicts that ‘there will be a new system to rival Dewey.’ (Let’s hope so!)

And I (Liz) predict that faculty and department libraries will slowly evolve into “hub” spaces, and focus on health and wellbeing, as well as study!

After we had enjoyed some more archive highlights, the Churchill College Librarian kindly offered us a tour around the student libraries. We began in the Bracken Library, the entrance hall of which was home to a glorious display commemorating Neurodiversity Celebration Week, as well as a seed library! Here the students can help themselves to the range of flower and vegetable seeds which they can sow into small beds on their windowsills. (Very jealous that we don’t have this at Trinity!)

Dominating the Bracken Library was a vast and beautiful tapestry called ‘Etoile de Paris’ by Jean Lurçat, who donated it to the college in 1961. Under the watchful eye of the tapestry’s woven cockerel, the librarian explained that the Bracken is where the sciences and social sciences collections are kept, and that everything in Churchill is catalogued according to the Dewey Decimal system.

The arts and humanities collections are housed in Churchill’s other library, the Bevin Library. The entrance to this part of the building was host to yet more delightful displays, this time for Women’s History Month. The trainees were especially fond of the whiteboard asking for song recommendations by female artists for the Library playlist. (We even contributed a few tunes! If you’re curious, the final playlist can be found on Spotify here!)

In the Bevin, students were enjoying some more relaxed seating in the company of Churchill’s library mascot, Chu-Can the Toucan. And if that wasn’t enough, there was even a box of Pet Rocks leftover from a wellbeing event, which now live in the library for everyone to enjoy! Needless to say, the trainees were thoroughly obsessed, with rocks, with Toucan and with the library as a whole.

After some tea with our wonderful hosts, the archives team, we wandered on to our next trip of the afternoon at West Hub! We want to thank the incredible staff at Churchill Archives Centre and Churchill College Library for kindly hosting us.

Within the pages of history at Norwich Cathedral Library: Norwich Part 3

We took a quick ramble through the streets of Norwich as we made our way to the Cathedral, passing the bustling and bright market, an adorable shop window decorated with jelly cats, and a lovely looking bookstore called ‘The Book Hive’ (that we sadly did not have enough time to gander in, which is probably a good thing for our wallets!). The first sign that we were near the Cathedral appeared in the form of St Ethelbert’s Gate, the medieval entrance to the Cathedral precinct. Passing under the gate, we glimpsed our first sight of the Norwich Cathedral Spire, rising into a surprisingly (for February) blue sky.

Café-ing and the Cloister cat

Entering the Cathedral, we took some time to enjoy the cloisters (which we later learnt is the largest monastic Cloister in England) and the amazing view of the spire it offered, on the way to the lunch spot that was recommended to us: The Refectory Bakery and Café, which is a modern café based on the site of the original monks’ dining room. While it was a lovely space, we were all quite disappointed with the food options, especially after running around the city had made us all very hungry. It seemed that Percy Pig sweets (from the train station M&S) was going to have to keep us fuelled. This was made up for though with the presence of the Cloister Cat (in the absence of knowing their name, this is what I have dubbed them because

who doesn’t love some alliteration), who basked in small slivers of sun coming through the windows, and had many, many pats from the trainees. The café was conveniently very close to the library, so in a matter of a couple steps, we were at our next visit spot: Norwich Cathedral Library.

Little lady in the in the cloister restaurant

How you blessed me:

You helped me as you shared a table

Partaking of a simple meal so warmly,

So lovely were you to my saddened eyes.

Snack in the cathedral restaurant (1985)

Reading rooms and modern theology collection

Much like the café space, the communal reading space of the library that you see on first entrance has a beautiful blend of medieval and modern architecture, that balance charmingly, allowing the medieval flintwork to remain, and remind visitors of the Cathedral’s history as a Benediction Priory, while being a visual marker of the development of the library with the Romanesque arcading from the 17th century. Both the café and library restoration were part of a major project to enclose the refectory space. The embroidered cushions on the reading room chairs were also a delightful touch, and it is here that we began our tour of the library.

The Librarian began by explaining to us the history of the library, and how it relates to the history of the Cathedral; the original library of the Benediction Priory is believed to have held c. 1400 volumes of pre-reformation ecclesiastical and theological texts, of which only taxation valuation manuscripts remain at the library, with other manuscripts now found to be living elsewhere, including at several Cambridge colleges. This struck an interesting conversation regarding restoration, and where items ‘should’ be held.

As is often the case with Old Library collections, but particularly prevalent in a religious library, the Reformation had a large impact on the Cathedral library. It was explained to us that the Civil War also had a great impact on the Cathedral, as under the Church of England it was banned from operation. Recovery of the library began in approximately the 1680’s, and the Librarian explained that with some of the older rare books in the collection it is hard to determine whether they were here prior to this date or were acquired after this.

As we were located in the Reading Room at this point of the tour, the librarian also took the opportunity to explain the modern collection of the library; the books held here are part of the Anglican Training College ‘Modern Theology’ Collection containing c. 20,000 volumes. The library is free and open to the public but requires an annual subscription to borrow from the collection. The librarian explained that some people, such as students at the local university, just use the space for studying, while the texts are often references by the clergy who work within the Cathedral, but that there is also a level of tourism with frequent tours. They also hold events to foster engagement with the collection, such as ‘Listening Lunches’ which are an opportunity to collectively read books from the collection, with the aim of connecting back to the roots of the library’s purpose: monastic community development. The librarian further explained acquisition and material type policies for their modern collection; they have a small buying budget given by the Cathedral to fill gaps in the collection, and they do not have e-resources, nor do they collect journals. Like many libraries, they use the Dewey system for classification, but the Librarian explained how this can create challenges when the collection is specialised to one discipline, as most of the books occupy the same classification.

We were then treated to a wander along the winding bookshelves, which we were warned can feel slightly disorientating as they wrap and wind, but in reality you are just walking the length of the cloister. With many lovely dark-academia vibe corners to nestle yourself into by windows with gorgeous views of the grass maze and the cathedral tower, we could see why people would choose to study here! Though, it was rather cold, and the librarian explained this is a persistent problem with a building like this. Within the winding shelves the librarian pointed out some of the special collections which often felt like they were archival as well, pertaining to the history of the Cathedral and the surrounding communities: Crockfords for family genealogy; journals of Norfolk Archaeological Society; Norfolk Record’s Society transcriptions; Friends of Norwich Cathedral annual meetings and reports; past Orders of Service; and music for the Cathedral choir dating back to 18th century, including hand copied part booklets.

Historic collection

We then found ourselves above the South Cloister, where the Historic Collection is housed. Unlike the main collection, this space is only open to visitors upon special request, and for the purposes of consultation. We were briefly shown the current display cases, which had poetry ranging from early printed works and polemics on the Spleen and ‘The Groans of the Tankard’ to poems from the 2000’s regarding various parts of Cathedral life, including a poem entitled Books by Jenny Morris which expressed a sentiment we all could agree with:

Books are unlocked

Boxes of treasure.

The key is the library.

Books, bY Jenny Morris (2006)

All of the quotations I use throughout this blog post are taken from this display.

Walking down the length of the Historic Collection, which contains over 8000 books developed upon the private collection donated from Swaffham Parish, we were shown some highlights, including the equipment used for binding books, and boxes of typefaces. The librarian expressed the importance of these to a full understanding of early printed books, and explaining how she uses them in demonstrating to visitors to aid learning in a tactile way. In response to a question about restoration and conservation, we were also presented with a second edition of Foxes Book of Martyrs, which the librarian explained is in its present state thanks to a project to raise funds to conserve it, and for extensive work on the binding. By happenstance, the book was opened to a page with a detailed woodcut of the pyre of Anne Askew, which I found personally fascinating because I have previously researched the story of Anne Askew as part of my undergrad.

Though I am sure many of us could have spent many more hours exploring all the possible

nooks, interesting volumes, and various objects (paintings, vases) that the Norwich Cathedral library has to offer, as well as the opportunity to marvel at the beautiful cathedral, we sadly had to scurry off to get to our trains on time. Though, of course, we still managed to squeeze in a quick stop at the Cathedral gift shop for all-important postcard stock replenishment.

O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,

Missing so much and so much?

To a Lady seen from the train, by Frances Cornford

We would like to extend a huge thank you to the Norwich Cathedral Librarian, who was a fount of knowledge, and spoke to us with great enthusiasm.

Norwich Part 1

February 19th saw the trainees’ first big trip outside of Cambridge. After a few last-minute stresses of buses not turning up, and failing to remember that the trip was actually happening, we successfully made it onto the train to Norwich. The excitement caused by spotting some pigs out of the window set the tone for what was going to be a packed but extremely enjoyable day.

Once we disembarked our (obviously delayed) train, the next challenge was locating our first stop: the American Library found within the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library. What we had neglected to realise was that a) the library itself is actually in a multi-purpose building called The Forum, and b) it was half-term. Once we discovered that we actually were in the right place, despite a multitude of children running around for a science festival, we made our way to the American Library where we were met by the Librarian.

The Librarian explained that the American Library is the only public war memorial library in the UK, and is dedicated to the Second Air Division of the United States army who were based in East Anglia during WW2. It is intended to act as a ‘living memorial’, and so features several images and information panels to teach people about the history, as well as acting as a functioning library. The collection includes general American literature and books specifically about the history of the Second Air Division. There are also several self-published items which means that there are more ‘reference only’ copies than you may expect to find in a traditional library, as these books are often unavailable to purchase elsewhere. There is additionally a small collection of DVDs and VHS tapes, and other non-printed material such as memoirs and photographs is kept in a separate archives in the Norfolk Records Office. Impressively, thanks to funds from a legacy donation, 96% of these archives have been digitised!

The American Library is classified according to the Dewey Decimal system, though, as the Librarian pointed out, using a system which classifies by topic can cause some confusion in a collection when the majority of the books are about the same thing! Therefore, they also arrange books by extra criteria such as the unit history or number of fighter group. To make everything simpler to find, the signage around the library refers to what the books are about, rather than classification numbers as you may expect to see on the shelves of a library. This user-friendly approach is also seen elsewhere: the shelves are all on wheels so the library can be reconfigured for events and the Librarian revealed that they have given out quizzes to people on aspects of the library in order to try and make it seem less intimidating. Finally, we were informed about an exciting pilot project that the library is a part of which uses AI to transcribe archival material. One difficulty with digitally searching archives is that if you were to search for a name, for example, a photograph containing that person may not come up in the results. Therefore, using AI to transcribe handwritten notes or documents means that the material is easier to navigate for users. Whilst the data still needs to be checked by humans – AI can often generate ‘hallucinations’ – this process is still much quicker than if it was all done by people.

After the American Library, the Librarian took us around the rest of the Millennium Library, which is one of the largest public libraries in the UK. Additionally, it is one of 47 branches across Norfolk which are on 5 mobile routes, so books can be sent between libraries. We were first taken through the Early Years Library which, given the aforementioned half-term, was a little louder and more chaotic than most of us are used to in our own libraries (though, the décor and cuddly toys were definite positives)! As well as acting as a library, they also offer events for children such as Bounce and Rhyme, and Lego Club, keeping the overall sense of the Millennium Library being a community space. This is also seen through the fact that the library opens out to the rest of The Forum, meaning that it does not feel like a separate, closed space, though this does apparently lend itself to several noise complaints! We were then brought up to the first floor which houses around 250,000 books. Again, there are efforts to increase the community aspect of the library such as through a Zine Library with a monthly club. The Millennium Library is also an Open Library, meaning that the public are able to access it when it is unstaffed. 43 of the 47 Norfolk libraries are Open Libraries, showing how important it seems to be to have these spaces accessible for when people need them.

I’ll now hand over to Zia for Part 2!

Laying down the law in Pembroke College Library!

Earlier this month, the trainees gathered once again for a visit to Pembroke College. We assembled in the law library, a lovely space which was beautifully ordered and organised (very apt for a law library!). There, the Deputy Librarian gave us an illuminating talk on law librarianship and how it differs to other kinds of library work, like public and academic. Being a law librarian is a much more specialised role than any of us realised; it requires intimate knowledge of the field in order to help barristers find case reports and any other material they may need, often at very short notice.

Source: The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn (lincolnsinn.org.uk)

It is this rich and fast-paced environment which makes law librarianship so unique. We were told that the Inns of Court in London each have libraries which are based on Oxbridge colleges! The Inns of Court offer library traineeships too (like Lincoln’s Inn, where the Deputy Librarian of Pembroke did their traineeship) which are well worth looking into. When they are advertised, they will be listed here, along with any other UK traineeships!

The Deputy Librarian explained how the courts are structured in the UK using this handy flowchart (see below); it was a stark reminder of how little I actually know about court structure, and just seeing this chart has helped me better understand the law books and serials I receive for the law library here at Trinity!

Source:  Courts & Tribunals website

Other kinds of law libraries can include commercial law firm libraries, which can be high-pressure and fast-paced, as well as academic law libraries, like the Squire Library here in Cambridge, or smaller college law libraries, which usually form one branch of the main library. Lots of law reports and other material can be found online through databases or sites like Westlaw, but many law libraries prioritise retaining physical copies where possible, because this makes referencing and browsing cases easier, though there are benefits to both! Online case reports can be edited and updated and sometimes provide more information or links for cross-referencing. I am trying to give both the physical and online resources a good presence for our law students at Trinity by advertising the latter more visibly in the library.

The Deputy Librarian told us about an association called BIALL, the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians. It’s like CILIP, specifically for law librarians! Here, you can find a host of information about law librarianship, how to get into it, job vacancies, and various conferences and events being held. It was eye-opening to see how far-reaching and how absolutely vital librarianship is in a variety of fields, and the role it plays in upholding justice in our legal system. It really is about more than just books!

After a thoroughly enjoyable cross-examination about law libraries, we accompanied the Pembroke trainee on a tour around the rest of Pembroke’s glorious library. It is a modernised Victorian library, originally designed by Alfred Waterhouse in 1877-78. We were stunned to see that the centrepiece of the library foyer is Waterhouse’s original desk, which used to belong to the librarian when their office was located in the upper reading room. It now houses the librarians’ book of the week display and the pen-recycling box!

Outside Pembroke Library as the sun sets.

You can really pick out the layers of history in the building; the Waterhouse desk is only the beginning. The stationery cupboard next to the foyer has transparent flooring so you can see through to the original tiles; we all thought this was very cool (if a little vertiginous)! And when the building was extended, developers left the outer wall of the building in its original state, now forming the inner wall of the modern extension. The gorgeous floral stained-glass windows made me feel like I’d stepped straight into a classic Disney movie, and the iconic modern stained-glass window, designed by Hans von Stockhausen, continues the botanical theme beautifully!

The Hans Von Stockhausen botanical window (Pembroke trainee for scale…)

The window was originally commissioned because, when Pembroke purchased the land on which the library now stands from Peterhouse, it was on the agreement that nothing was built that would overlook the Peterhouse Master’s Lodge and garden. The window itself admits light but does not allow you to see through to Peterhouse—and who would want to when the window alone is so gorgeous? Van Stockhausen based the design on the works of two eminent Pembroke botanists, Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712) and William Turner (1508-1568). You can find some of the woodcuts and text from their early print books layered with mellow splashes of colour to create a bibliographic spectacle! Not your average staircase window…

Details from the Hans Von Stockhausen window.

At the top of the stairs, we came to the Yamada Room, another gorgeous space with panoramic views of Pembroke—bliss! Yamada was the founder of the Nihon University in Tokyo, and is commemorated here due to his generous contribution to the building of the library extension. This room is a veritable shrine to Ted Hughes and features another window designed by Hans van Stockhausen, this one featuring Ted Hughes’ poems and imagery, and an unsettling bloody handprint—but alas, I cannot show it due to copyright (scroll up and look at the other one again instead!) Hughes’s desk, chair and many of his books are housed here. I loved hearing about how experts have tried to determine whether Hughes was left- or right-handed based on the ink stains on his desk.

View from the Yamada Room.

The Upper Reading Room is part of the original Victorian building and is a stunning panoply of dark wood beams and stacks upon stacks of lovely books. The bay window is where the Waterhouse desk would have originally sat, in what was the librarian’s office, but the entire room is now a dedicated space for books and students. There are plenty of nods to Ted Hughes up here too, including a bust with an exacting stare, and a display case full of Hughesian treasures!

Victorian window and Ted Hughes themed display case in the upper reading room.

After a wander down some spiral stairs, we found ourselves at the Rosenthal Art Library. Also housed in the Victorian part of the building, half of the books kept here comprise a single donation from Tom Rosenthal. Readers come from far and wide to consult the art books here and, as such, the staff treat them as a special collection. It forms the largest art history collection in all of Cambridge (besides the Art History faculty library, of course)!

The Rosenthal Art Library.

It’s clear that Pembroke Library really is one-of-a-kind, from the tip of the beautiful clock tower to the Victorian tiles beneath the floor!

We want to thank Grace and her wonderful colleagues at Pembroke for having us to visit!

Newton, miniature books, and a rubber chicken: our trip to the Whipple Library

The Whipple library occupies part of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, and is the specialist library for this faculty. It is located on Free School Lane in the centre of Cambridge (a landmark I always use to find it is Jack’s Gelato!). The street is highly Cambridge-dark-academia-esc, and we were treated to lovely views of the rooves of the city and cobble stone paths through various windows as we wandered round the library.

Passing under the ornate ‘Laboratory of Physical Chemistry’ sign, with a light beginning to cast a faint glow in the dusk, we began our visit to the Whipple Library. As the Librarian explained to us as we entered, this sign is actually a residual architectural element from their predecessors. The building now contains the library, their partner museum (The Whipple Museum), and the History of Philosophy of Science department. Both the library and museum share a benefactor – a Mr Robert Stewart Whipple. As well as being the Managing Director of the Cambridge Scientific Instruments Company from 1905, Whipple was a collector of instruments, models and books, and his donation of c. 1000 instruments and c. 1200 early printed books to the university was made with the intention to further research and teaching in the subject in the University. It is his bequeathment which the museum and library are founded upon, and which was expanded in the 1970’s with the establishment of a modern collection to compliment the historic bequest and to serve the students and researchers in the department. All of this was explained to us by the Librarian as he gave us a tour of the library. We saw how close this relationship is between the museum and library during the tour, as several museum items are housed between the books, raising questions about curation, both in terms of library space and the interaction between books and objects in exhibitions more specifically.

This was the first departmental library we have visited as a trainee group, but the Librarian was keen to stress the ways that the Whipple is a-typical as a departmental library. This a-typicality largely arises out of the quirks of the department, particularly in that you cannot apply to Cambridge to do an undergraduate course in History and Philosophy of Science, rather you take a route into the discipline while already a student here in later years of your degree, or at the point of postgraduate study. The librarian explained how this creates unique demands on particular resources from the library, and he explained how they respond to these challenges, for example they acknowledge and aim to help with the difficulties of transferring from a STEM subject to an essay/ critical-analysis based course and so have created an extensive collection of past dissertations and essays which students consult to develop an understanding of how to write essays effectively. The Librarian also showed us how classification has to adapt to the contents of the collection by highlighting some particularly odd and unique classifications, such as ‘Witchcraft & demonology’, which claims its space between ‘History of Chemistry’ and ‘History of Life Sciences’. There is also a Ladybird edition of Charles Darwin, which the Librarian explained is half a joke, but which he has seen students consult before! This playful energy is held throughout the library, and created a warm and friendly environment, including their “good old-fashioned” science fiction collection, which showed that Departmental libraries can stay true to their purpose and department, while also offering things that seem more unexpected. There is space for creativity when running such libraries. Oh, and, how could I forget the rubber chicken in the ‘party essentials’ box?!

The uniqueness of the departmental make-up also influences the way that rare collections are utilised in the library. We were shown an exhibition designed by a current postgraduate student in the department, entitled ‘Discovering Past Readers’, which looks at annotations and markings of various kinds in the Whipple Rare Books collection, which also has a partnering podcast.

The exhibition ranges from markings we would typically expect, such as provenance inscriptions and notes left by readers as they work their way through the texts, but also more playful and surprising instances, like the edition of blood and a phallis in red ink to woodcuts in an astrological work [Clarissimi viri lginij Poetican astronomicon opus vtilissimu[m] foeliciter incipt], and the pressing of botanical specimens, preserved between the pages of Outlines of botony  nestled alongside drawings ranging from boats to napping dogs. While looking at this exhibition we also learnt about the phenomenal Grace Young (1868-1944), who studied mathematics at Girton College, as well as unofficially sitting the Oxford mathematics exams in 1892 for which she gained the highest mark in the entire cohort. In 1895 she completed her doctoral thesis in Germany and in doing so became the first woman to ever earn a doctorate from a German University. We learnt about this incredible intellectual powerhouse of a woman while looking at her work The Theory of Sets of Points, the first textbook in English on the subject of set theory, and which contains many annotations and revisions in her hand, alongside pasted-in photos from her life – a work which was acquired through the Whipple Fund.

This lead to us being shown (with a fantastic amount of energy and excitement) a selection of the rare books held by the Whipple, as well as an explanation of how their rare-book collection is also unique in that they continue to acquire works relevant to the discipline, to the developments of science, or books that it is considered Whipple would have bought himself – it is a continuously growing collection. This involved the unveiling of items whih similarly had importance provenance associated with women, such as Gerard’s Herbal, with the Whipple edition previously owned and annotated by Anna Price: ‘Anna Price Her yerbal Book’. This book was a particular favourite of one of the trainees who has a particulalr interest in Renaissance gardens. We began, however, with some gems of the collection: a first edition of Galileo’s Dialogue on the two world systems, which is particularly interesting given its nature as being unbound, held in its original paper wrappers bearing a bookseller’s warehouse stock number, with its leaves uncut; works by and associated with Newton, including a direct edition of his Principa and a presentation copy of Boyle’s Tracts signed by Newton, and which also contains a secondary letter of ownership by Gilbert Regraves which shows anxiety over inscribing his name “on the page hallowed by the immortal name of Newton”. The absolute highlight was an absolutely miniscule edition of Galileo’s letter to Cristina Di Lorena, which is no bigger than a thumbnail, and which features an impressively tiny frontispiece portrait. At this point, the Librarian was getting slightly more used to being a hand model.

We finished off the trip with the Librarian explaining his own journey into librarianship, and his own time as a graduate trainee, which helpfully gave us suggestions as to how our own journey’s in librarianship might play out. He also explained how the library and museum participate in outreach, both through the Cambridge Festivals but also in school visits. This story was particularly moving to me as it directly echoed my own first visit to Cambridge, which instilled me with the confidence to apply here; it was a pertinent reminder of the power that libraries have in people’s lives.

We are very grateful to the Whipple Librarian for taking the time to show us around the library, to indulge our interest in the treasures of their collections, and for his kindness in offering help in our paths into librarianship.

Visit to the University Library (Part One)

Tour & History of the University Library

In mid-November we attended a jam-packed day-visit to the University Library. For many of us, this was our first voyage into the soaring entity that is the University Library. For myself, I was a student at Clare College, and spent the last three years in Memorial Court of Clare, literally stationed across the road; the University tower was a permanent fixture of my skyline and my life. Yet, for us all, this trip was eye-opening, not just about the University Library themselves and their unique collections, the intricacies of the space and the work taking place within it, but also to the plethora of careers and people that go into running a library on this scale, and which are pathways available to us in our future careers. This peak behind the scenes was enriching and exciting, especially as so many departments kindly opened their doors to us.

We later learnt, in our tour with one of the Library Assistants that kicked off the day, that the sky-scraper effect of the design is an intentional part of the architecture at the request of the donor (The Rockefeller association), and that the UL shares an architect (Sir Giles Gilbert Scott) with the Tate Modern in London; we got to appreciate the souring effect of the tower at the conclusion of the day (but I will leave that to Zia to explain in part two!). A fun fact we learnt while in the basement, exploring the underground storage system and the processes of book collection and return in the request element of library use, was that this architect also designed the phone box, and motifs of this design can be spotted all around the university library, most notably in the use of one as a drop-box, but also in the structure of glass in the doors, in the shape of plant pots, and more. Keeping your eye out for these motifs is a fun way to explore the library that I highly recommend. Liam kindly, and very helpfully, also organised our movement throughout the day between the many departments we got to visit.

While leading us around the building, our guide intertwined the history of the library with the actualities of their current use, such as in the catalogue room, where he explained how the physical catalogue was central to library use, as well as explaining the cut-and-stick approach to their creation, which he placed on a timeline with modern digital cataloguing practices, while still stressing the importance of a physical catalogue to library users and staff alike today. This highlighted to us how our role in libraries, and the way these institutions are run, will echo throughout the future of these collections and the way they are used; take Henry Bradshaw, the librarian from 1867-1886, who established many procedures and structures that remain in today’s practice.

Two major moments in the history of the University Library were explained to us as we walked along a staff corridor in the basement, with photographs of the construction and development of the library running alongside us: the introduction of the Copyright Act in 1710, which saw the University Library anointed as one of the nine privileged libraries of copyright deposit which makes them entitled to a copy of every book published in the UK; and the completion of the creation and move to the new Library in 1934, with the aim of transforming the library into a space that facilitated and cultivated scholarship. Our guide highlighted an image of a cart containing books, being drawn by a horse, and embellished how over 600 trips were required using the horse and cart method to move the library collection to the new building in the 1930’s (thankfully there were only two book fatalities in this process! Sadly, these books were claimed by the river – oops!).

The Map Room

Our first departmental stop was the Map Room, where the Maps Librarian had laid out a selection of maps held in the collection, ranging from a medieval map of Constantinople, marked with red crosses to show the location of templars, to the continuous scale map projects of the 1850’s/60’s, to ground intelligence soviet maps. Being able to see these objects and see first-hand the wide range of material that comes under maps, as well as the way maps morph to fit purpose was fascinating. The Librarian explained how map curation techniques develop in relation to printing techniques by showing us examples of lithography, tooling, hand-painting, and more. He also explained that maps develop in response to intention/requirement; this raised our awareness of a critical understanding of maps, as holding a tension between the perceived empirical truth of them and the purpose of them. To highlight this, we looked at two maps in comparison; a medieval map of the sea, awash with mythical beasts that pose threat to seamen, next to a modern nautical map, which focused on empirically mapping the depth of the sea.

A particular highlight was the fantasy maps which the Librarian got out at my request. He kindly took the time to explain how he pursued online fantasy map designers who created these maps as a hobby in order to curate a collection of them to be held by the library for prosperity. These maps indicate a great amount of modern interest, knowledge, artistry and work that continues to thrive in map making. He also asked us (and in turn I now ask you) to donate any fantasy maps we have from video/board games and such to further enrich this area of the collection.

Here we also considered, and saw, how library practices respond to different types of collections and the items they contain. The first challenge is that of form and format; when the object is not a typical book it requires flexibility of storage, such as tubes and large drawers to preserve them. Another element is how cataloguing is modified to cover the data that users need to know about these objects; in this case, there are specific unique fields in Alma for cataloguing, but Ian highlighted how much of a key role card cataloguing retains in this type of collection by showing us their catalogue drawers. We also heard how special collections like these are responding to, and utilising, modern developing technologies, as with the open-source project with the British Library which aims to create a digitally stitched map of the world. In this way, we saw how librarianship practices are responsive, how they must, and can, be flexible to special collections, and how they continue to be malleable with the introduction of new technologies.

Manuscripts & Archives

After a tea break in the library café, we arrived at potentially our most highly anticipated stop of the trip; the manuscript reading room. As an undergraduate student at Cambridge, I had personally been given access to this room in my final year to use a manuscript from the collection for my dissertation, but even that couldn’t have prepared me for the wealth of treasures the Archivist had prepared to show us. In his selected array, the Archivist took us simultaneously through the history of the development of the manuscript and archives collection in the library, as well as the very history of books themselves. He began by unveiling from an unsuspecting box a glass case, containing the earliest item from the collection: fragments from the Oxyrhyncus  papyrus collection, dated to 300 AD. We were then shown a Buddhist illuminated manuscript, which had a format which none of us had seen before, and which we were fascinated by as he carefully removed each strip of palm to reveal the next in the Poti format sequence; it demonstrated the wide array of forms that books have taken over centuries, and geographies. Dated to c.1000, this manuscript of the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight-Thousand Stanzas is a jewel of the library, as it is one of the oldest illuminated manuscripts from India in Sanskrit.

Next was a beautifully sumptuous medieval Book of Hours, dated to the 14th-century, gilded with gold, and rich in colour, with many playful marginalia scampering around its pages, and a provenance of Alice de Raydor. He explained how the manuscript reveals the history of its creation, as with the tools depicted in the marginalia placing its creation in East-Anglia, and its story of preservation, highlighting the marks left from Victorian attempts at conservation on one of the pages, where a cleaning fluid has permanently stained the text beneath an illumination. In this way, we learnt how conservation practices, special collections, and the thought that runs them, have morphed across time, and how we might play a roll in their future. These books may only be in our care for a short while of their lifetime, but it is a Rare Books Curator’s role to care of them, and to facilitate scholar’s access to them both now and for posterity.

In this display we were also shown a remarkedly broad selection of the type of records archived in the University Library: from Isaac Newton’s student notebooks, marking his experiments on his own eyes with a bodkin that were not for the squeamish; to ship logs; to Charles Darwin’s prose and cons list of marrying, which included as a pro “better than a dog anyhow” and concluded with the decision to “marry, marry, marry Q.E.D”. We began with the Ely diocese records, which were highlighted as a key resource to social historians, as the records go back to c.1200 and track the complex changes of the concept of justice through the court records. Specifically, we were shown a selection of records from the 1640’s that related to witchcraft, including the Archivist transcribing a section of a spell to us which involved a man taking eucharist bread “in his hand”, feeding it to a frog or toad, and “pissing[ing] against a church wall” in order to perform magic. Weaving a path through the vast collections, we were introduced to a collection held by the library relating to The Goligher Circle, and their paranormal investigations in the 1920’s. This featured photographs that claim to evidence ‘exuding ectoplasm’, which the library also has a sample of, floating in a bottle. 

Newnham College Library visit

Last week, we had the first of our visits to one of our own trainees’ libraries – Newnham College. Newnham is a women’s College founded in 1871, with the Library being first constructed in 1897. The Library was a gift from Henry and Elizabeth Yates Thompson who had close connections to the College and its founders, including the architect Basil Champneys. The 2004 modern extension is named the Horner Markwick Library after two previous Librarians of the College, who both generously donated funds towards expanding the Library.

Our tour started in the Archive, where the Archivist had laid out a selection of photographs and other items of note from the College’s history for us to view. Of particular note was a letter written by Rosalind Franklin, whose later work would contribute hugely to our understanding of DNA structure. At the time of the letter, Franklin was a first-year undergraduate student, and wrote to her parents of the exciting news of the first female professor elected in either Oxford or Cambridge (this was Dorothy Garrod), who had been elected from Newnham. Franklin also noted that there was still a question over whether, as a woman, she would be given full membership of the University.

Our visit to the Archive also elicited a fascinating discussion about archiving personal histories of people who have been marginalised throughout history. Collection of personal letters and photographs allows us to now reveal and understand some aspects of women’s lives that would have been ignored, deliberately hidden, or suppressed in previous centuries and decades, for example LGBTQ+ identities and relationships.

The Horner Markwick Library. Its open, multi-storey layout shows off the Library’s large collection.

Our Newnham trainee then took us on a tour of the Library reading rooms, explaining the layout and their classification scheme. The size of the collection was particularly impressive, and is one of the best-stocked undergraduate college libraries in Cambridge. For a College with around 400 undergraduates, a collection of over 100,000 volumes gave a much larger ratio of book-to-student numbers compared to other College libraries such as my own, Pembroke. I was then reminded that for a long time, women were not permitted to enter the University or faculty libraries, and thus the College needed to stock anything its women could potentially need for their studies, explaining the large collection.

The Library building itself was beautiful to see. We first explored the modern extension of the library, where the majority of reader spaces and the main Library office now lie. It is bright and spacious, and though very modern in appearance, its layout and vaulted ceiling bring with it a continuity of style into the old library. The similarly vaulted ceiling in the old Yates Thompson library features beautiful panels displaying printers’ marks from European printers that Henry Yates Thompson, himself a collector of manuscripts and early printed books, highly regarded.

The Victorian Yates Thompson Library with its beautiful vaulted ceiling and wood panelling.

Throughout the library were several displays. Some of these were created by students themselves, while others had been put together by Library staff. Highlights were the ‘Roger’s Collection’ of late 19th century children’s literature and folk stories from around the world, on display in the old library, and the display about women obtaining the right to education in Cambridge, on display in the lift corridor. The latter of these featured shocking photos of riots that ensued when the question of women obtaining degrees was put to the (all-male) University members, and in particular of the vandalism Newnham College was subjected to by opponents of women seeking the right to receive a degree.

Next, we were shown the Katharine Stephens Rare Books Library, named for the Librarian who presided over the creation of the Yates Thompson Library. The Assistant Librarian gave us a tour of one of their current rare book exhibitions they’ve put together for students, about the history of Sociology and Anthropology. She explained that the Library begun to put together collections of rare books related to each Tripos subject studied at Newnham, which they would then invite students to look at during their subject formal halls. This not only enabled the students to become aware of and engage with relevant texts and resources in the Library, but also allowed the Library staff to continue to get to know their large collection of rare books by challenging them to find books relating to particular subjects.

The overall impression of Newnham College Library was one of a welcoming and friendly study space, with a large and diverse collection of books and materials for its students. It is a great example of a library whose space and collections have been truly shaped by its history and users. Having been one of the only spaces for women studying in Cambridge for so many years, it appears to have fostered an incredibly supportive and close-knit environment, leading to its alumnae and members giving generously to maintain and expand the Library and its collections.

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!