Rhiannon and Evie (Old Bodleian trainees) recently attended the CILIP New Professionals Day, held at CILIP headquarters in central London. The day was a worthwhile introduction to CILIP as a network of Library and Information professionals, and a great way to find out more about potential career paths and job sectors – and of course there were some freebies in there!
It was really useful and
reassuring to meet other new professionals who were all at very different stages in terms of their roles, their interests, and their educa-
tion. From a historian who is completing his masters while working as a Roving Support Assistant at Coventry University, to a former zoologist who is now Local Studies Librarian at Cheshire County Archives, there were so many different backgrounds and career paths amongst the attendees. It was very helpful to chat to people who have recently completed a library qualification, and to get their opinions on different universities, the Postgraduate Diploma versus the full Masters, and which modules they most enjoyed.
The talks were generally very interesting
and gave plenty of insight into the vast scope of the Library and Information field, covering sectors and employers ranging from corporate banks to humanitarian organisations, with employees and former employers of the NHS, Civil Service, and Microsoft represented.
One of the most exciting talks was about the role of the prison librarian, which debunked many misconceptions surrounding the job, and gave an honest and fair assessment of the challenges and rewards of working in a prison library. We were also surprised and gladdened to hear about the many charities and organisations providing support and funding for prisoners who want to further their literacy and education. It was gratifying to learn what an incredible difference prison libraries can make to children whose parents are in prison, by encouraging parents and children to engage with books and learn more together.
Evie also enjoyed the talk about Library and Information professionals working in the Civil Service, finding it inspiring to learn about the pivotal role of LIS professionals in researching, organising, and collecting data for important governmental reports and projects, such as the report into the Grenfell Tower fire. Again, the talk worked to counter pre-existing assumptions about working in the Civil Service as an LIS professional, and offered an intriguing introduction to the sector as a potential avenue for our future careers. The speaker was clearly a passionate individual with a love for the Library Services and this was particularly inspiring.
One of the most important things we took from the talks was the understanding that a career does not have to be a linear trajectory ‘up the ranks’ in one sector or organisation – it is always possible to transfer skills as an LIS professional from one sector to another, always branching out to new opportunities in different environments, or to build on your experience in one area and specialise further. The event also gave me a better understanding of what sectors might not appeal to me, as well – business and corporate sector information work, as an example. It was helpful to learn more about CILIP and their role as a supportive network for people in the field, and to find out about the events and qualifications available to CILIP members as they progress in their careers, such as their Chartership programme.
After the New Professionals Day, both of us feel much better equipped to articulate our own priorities and desires for the LIS careers we would like to build, and more informed about the realities of some key sectors within the field. We are excited to share this with our fellow trainees who weren’t able to attend!
On the morning of Wednesday 5th July, this year’s Graduate Trainees met at Oxford station for perhaps the most eagerly awaited trainee trip: The visits to two specialist libraries across the capital. This year, trainees could decide to visit the Guardian Library, the Natural History Museum Library, the London Library, and the British Film Institute Library. As this visit was the highlight of the year for many trainees, we have therefore decided to write a few words about the day and what we learned from visiting these four unique libraries!
THE GUARDIAN LIBRARY
For the morning session, eight of the trainees had decided to visit the library of the Guardian and Observer newspapers. Located in a light and airy high rise just to the north of King’s Cross Station, it was immediately apparent when entering the building and meeting the Information Manger that both the library and the role of a librarian at a news organisation were very different to the world of academic libraries we had grown accustomed to in Oxford. Instead of the gothic exteriors, ancient tomes, and wooden panelling of many of the Bodleian Libraries, on our tour of the newspaper offices we encountered instead a busy open plan office stretching around the entire building and a rather small library tucked away in the corner.
In his informative talk during our visit, the Information Manager explained why this was the case. In a world of 24 hour news and broadband connectivity, the role of the librarian at all media organisations has changed considerably over the last few decades. Before the internet, he explained, all large newspapers required a librarian to manage a ‘cuttings library’, filled with stories taken from all the major newspapers and meticulously organised by their subject – either about a particular event or about the activities of a well-known person. As technology advanced and journalists started to do the majority of their work online, the role of the librarian therefore also changed. The cuttings library still exists, but on top of managing this, the information team now use the Guardian collections to improve the journalism in other ways. He explained that their in depth information knowledge gained from librarianship means that they are well placed to answer any complicated research enquiries from journalists or to even create their own pieces following statistical analysis and insight gained from managing the Guardian Library’s holdings. Although technology is affecting librarianship across all sectors, this talk therefore demonstrated that the skills of librarians remain useful in a digitally connected world.
The tour that we had of the offices concluded with a visit to the offices of the Guardian’s archives team, which also works closely with the library. The two archivists emphasised the importance of their collections, as they not only provide a unique glimpse of the changing journalism industry in the UK, but can also act as a springboard for a wide variety of researchers, as newspaper articles are the first response to current events. The archives contain several back editions of the Observer and Guardian newspapers, and several artefacts relevant to their journalism, such as the Edward Snowdon laptops that are now of national importance.
It was excellent to have the opportunity to visit the media library of one of the most well-known newspapers in the country, and the talks gave us a well-rounded introduction into another aspect of librarianship that few of the trainees had prior knowledge of or considered as a career path.
Written by Will Shire, Taylor and PTFL trainee
THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM LIBRARY
Those of us fortunate enough (perhaps ‘judicious’ might be a better term – who wouldn’t want to stroll beneath a 25.2 metre-long floating blue whale skeleton?) to bid to visit the NHM were hoping for a morning of quirks and curiosities. Happily, we were not to be disappointed.
Seated amidst the stuffed rarities and sweeping bookshelves of the Reading Room we were treated to two very intriguing talks delivered by the Researcher Services Librarian and the Special Collections Librarian, which covered (amongst other things) mermaids, woodworm, and the dangers of voyaging in the 18th century.
We were able to hear about the development of the existing collections and received an overview of some of the topics represented in the library today such as Palaeontology, Botany, Entomology, Zoology, Ornithology, Anthropology and Mineralogy.
There was also a chance to take a closer look at some of the NHM’s most fascinating manuscripts and special collections including a letter penned by Charles Darwin and the Endeavour botanical illustrations. Our guides were friendly and very knowledgeable and I feel that we all benefitted from our exposure to a library so entirely different to those that many of us are used to.
The NHM has been steadily acquiring material since 1881 and hosts readers from a variety of backgrounds on a daily basis. There is a growing emphasis on the importance of digitisation across libraries and archives at present and consequently the NHM aims to upload around 25,000 items to the Biodiversity Heritage Library every single month, ensuring that scholars are able to access the materials they need wherever they are located. NHM staff have produced publications on a plethora of interesting topics and are often found engaging in outreach activities such as ‘Nature Live’ (free discussions held in Attenborough Studio, by all accounts not to be missed!).
I’d like to thank our hosts for their time and efforts in showing us around this magnificent institution. I left the NHM with a whole new appreciation of the magnitude of that 83 foot whale skeleton, but also with a better awareness of the sheer scale of the NHM library and archival operations, and for that I’m incredibly grateful.
Written by Steph Bushell, All Souls College trainee
THE LONDON LIBRARY
Following our respective morning sessions, eight of the trainees travelled to 14 St James’ Square to visit the famous London Library in the afternoon. From the outside this library looks rather small, as it appears to just fill one small building tucked into the corner of the square. Once we entered, however, it became clear that appearances can definitely be deceiving!
Upon entering the building, we were met by the Head of Membership Services and she proceeded to give us a very informative tour through the labyrinthine London Library. Although the library originally only occupied the small entrance building on St James’ Square, she told us that it had continued to grow since its foundation in 1841 and had gradually expanded into the adjacent buildings. On our tour, we therefore climbed several sets of stairs, and saw beautiful cast iron stacks, filled with levels of books both above and below us as far as we could see.
Whilst we were looking at the stacks, we were given a short introduction into the unique classification scheme at the London Library. Unlike the academic libraries in Oxford, the London Library is designed for browsing, and the shelfmark system is therefore designed accordingly. Instead of the neat labels with individual shelfmarks in the Bodleian Libraries, the London Library’s books are arranged alphabetically by individual categories designed in the Victorian period. This means that browsing must be really fun, as readers not only have to browse the shelves to find a specific book (and hopefully encountering other interesting titles whilst they do so), but also have to think like a Victorian to find the books they need. Books on Ethiopia are consequently still shelved under A for Abyssinia, as this was the name of the country when the scheme was developed! As the library has no formal weeding policy and keeps 95% of its material on the open shelves, it is therefore common to find a modern book (such as one on Ethiopian History) nestled next to a Victorian copy on a similar topic.
After looking at the stacks, we then had a tour of the main reading rooms. Whilst we were looking through these rooms, our tour guide gave us several interesting anecdotes on the history of the library. We learned, therefore, about the heroic efforts of the readers to rescue as many books as possible after one of the rooms was hit by a German bomb during the Second World War, and also discovered more about the famous literary figures associated with the library. These range from T.S Eliot, a long serving President of the Library, to Joseph Conrad, Agatha Christie, Virginia Woolf, and Siegfried Sassoon who were all members.
Our visit to the London Library was a really enjoyable experience. As it is a private members library, it was interesting to compare this library with the academic libraries we are used to in Oxford, and to see how this affects library organisation as it has created a library based around browsing and quick access to the majority of material. It is without doubt a unique library, and if I ever live in London and have enough money for the membership fees, I would definitely like to join in the future!
Written by Will Shire, Taylor and PTFL trainee
BFI REUBEN LIBRARY
Arriving at the British Film Institute at Southbank after lunch on a ridiculously sunny day (see Hannah’s photo!), half the trainees met with the Librarian for Reader Services for the BFI Reuben Library. First of all, she took us to the library’s main reading room and spoke with us about what her library offers and how it functions, along with a brief history. We learnt a lot. For example, we were told that the library has recently seen a surge of A-Level pupils and school-aged readers. We also learnt about the library’s stance on membership; previously it had been a members’ library which charged a small membership fee but now it is free for everybody to use.
After the introduction, we were given a demonstration of the library’s collections database which holds information on more than 800,000 film titles. The database itself was quite different to ones we as trainees are familiar with in our university libraries. When using SOLO, we may filter by ‘physical items’ or ‘electronic resources’, but at the BFI it is the norm to begin a search while keeping an eye out for symbols indicating a much larger range of materials:
Following this, if you are searching to view a film – or as it is referred to at the BFI, searching to access ‘moving image material’ – there may be several different ‘manifestations’ to choose from. This has been explained to be roughly equivalent to different editions or publications of a book. These different manifestations could include film, digital copies, VHS cassettes, audio tapes, and film negatives – all of which could be subdivided by gauge, release print, or combination.
We were also shown some of the exciting projects going on at the BFI, from their streaming service – BFIPLAYER – to the fascinating Britain On Film. The latter is a web interface where you can find films made locally for a certain area: documentaries, home films, shorts and even feature films.
Next we were taken downstairs to visit the library’s stacks. There we received two treats tailor-made for librarians: bookmarks and a recommendation of a film with a particularly inspiring librarian character: Desk Set (1957) starring Katharine Hepburn. Our tour guide also mentioned an article she had written for the BFI website about the best librarians on screen (not, as she said, just on film, else you have to miss out Giles on Buffy): http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/lists/10-best-librarians-screen
It was here too that the Librarian for Reader Services explained how she had had to fight against cuts to the library, whether to its staffing, funding or collections, leaving us with the impression that as a librarian it is important to be a passionate and vocal advocate for libraries.
Written by Connie Bettison, St John’s College trainee
So that’s a short guide to our hugely enjoyable day visiting some beautiful libraries across London! The day was definitely one of the best visits we have been on throughout our year, and I’m sure I can speak for all trainees when I say that I am very grateful to Staff Development for organising everything and to the individual staff members at the respective libraries who made time for us. It was a great way to end our traineeship, and gave us a fascinating insight into several libraries that are completely different to the ones that we are familiar with in Oxford.
The Graduate Trainees were lucky enough to visit some libraries in London at the beginning of July. We could choose two out of four different libraries, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Here’s what we got up to.
The Natural History Museum Library – Alan McKechnie
The Graduate Trainees meet Dippy the NHM’s famous diplodocus – photo courtesy of Danielle Czerkaszyn
As a part of our traineeship a lucky group of us got to explore the Natural History Museum Library and Archives in London. Opened in 1881, the library and archival collections numbers over 1 million items, including books, journals, artwork, and archival items. The materials are housed across two sites (the offsite repository being based in Tring), but there is also a growing wealth of online resources available.
Our first port of call was to meet with Hellen Pethers (Reader Services Librarian) who kindly served as our tour guide. We got to view the beautiful Art-Deco style reading rooms, with dark wood panelling, exquisite metallic hand rails, and walls lined with all manner of Natural History material – it was a real treat. One of the critical talking points from Hellen was library logistics from both the standpoint of operating a split site and how they manage collections, loans, and visitors in one of the busiest museums in London. The fetch service and the pre-order of materials before a visit works exceptionally in this demanding museum. Hellen also discussed utilising the library materials for the ‘afterhours’ educational events, such as ‘Crime Scene Live’, which is a great way of giving the public access to materials and publicising the more obscure literature which might otherwise go unused.
The next talk was with Andrea Hart (Library Special Collections Manager) who had a fascinating spread of archival and special collection material for us to sample. Andrea talked in detail about the materials, which ranged from old velum covered books too warped to even be opened safely, to exquisite botanical drawings, to photographs of the founding staff of the Natural History Museum. These we viewed under the eerie and watchful marble eyes of the busts of previous naturalists and museum curators. The sheer range of materials the Natural History Museum houses was remarkable and to be given such detailed information on these materials and their preservation was a real privilege.
The final talk was given by Paul Martin Cooper (Special Collections Librarian) who discussed creating ‘The Bauer Brothers: Masters of Scientific Illustration’ exhibition currently on display. It was fascinating to learn the fine details of exhibition planning, from choosing the illustrations, to executing the quarterly rotations to keep the exhibition fresh, to how Paul chooses what to write on the display cards – the meticulous planning results in repeatedly beautiful displays. We also discussed Paul’s exhibition publication ‘Images of Nature: the Bauer Brothers’, which gives the public a take-home sample of never before published archival material.
Examining the museum’s special collection treasures – Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the Natural History Museum London
The BFI Library – Mary Atkinson
It was difficult to choose between the excellent libraries we had the opportunity to visit! However as I have an interest in film I decided that I would like to see how a specialist library like the BFI Reuben Library manages its collections and works within a large arts organisation. When I met Sarah, the Reader Services Librarian, her enthusiasm for the role of the library in promoting the study and love of film was infectious.
Located in a cultural hub between the Royal Festival Hall and the National Theatre, the BFI South Bank is the public face of the British Film Institute and hosts many screenings and events. Sarah explained that the BFI has various branches to support its aims as a major funder of film production, as well as the organisation of film festivals and events, rights clearance, fundraising and outreach work. Archives, special collections and film media are stored in their Multi Media Vault in controlled conditions. Because of this spread of activity, the South Bank location is the first point of call for enquiries from students, researchers and members of the public.
The Library is free to use and is open to everyone. I found the atmosphere warm and welcoming, with a cosy reading room, open shelf books and journals, and computers for catalogue searching and viewing digitised material. Sarah showed me some example catalogue searches to demonstrate how the library organises its complex holdings. They also hold events and talks tied in with current film screenings, and outreach activities including study sessions with A-Level Film students. The visit ended with a look at the stack where older periodicals are stored, including some brilliant early trade and fan magazines. I left feeling inspired by the range of services offered by the library, and also determined to check out the BFI’s fascinating free online resources such as the Britain on Film collection: http://www.bfi.org.uk/britain-on-film).
Danielle Czerkaszyn – The London Library
One of the stacks found at The London Library – Photo courtesy of Danielle Czerkaszyn
We arrived at 14 St James’s Square somewhat unsure of the unobtrusive entrance to the London Library. We were met by the Head of Member Services, Amanda Stubbings, who gave us a guided tour and told us more about the fascinating history of the UK’s largest independent lending library, a vast building hiding behind a deceptively modest façade…
In 1841, Scottish historian and author Thomas Carlyle decided to open a private lending library after finding that many of the policies and facilities at the British Museum Library were not to his liking. Over the years, as the collections grew, the Library attracted many of the most famous names in the literary world – Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Darwin, Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, Agatha Christie, and T.S. Eliot – to name but a few. Today, the library holds over one million books and periodicals in over 50 languages, whilst also keeping pace with a growing range of electronic journals and databases.
Amanda helped us navigate the maze of different spaces in the Library; from the Victorian steel framed see-through (!) book stacks to the newest space, The Art Room, redesigned in 2014. She outlined the scope of the collections, which are particularly strong in the humanities, and highlighted some of the Library’s special collections. We were amazed by the broad range of subjects covered and given that everything is arranged by subject and author, we discovered that browsing is a dream! We also learned about future projects and refurbishment plans, including additional reading desks, three more floors of book stacks, and a new reading room.
It’s safe to say that we all left feeling highly enthused by what we’d just experienced. We loved the narrow stacks, the smell of old books and friendly nature of staff and patrons, all of whom were clearly there due to a real love of books. Membership is open to everyone for an annual fee, though the library also runs free evening tours for members of the public who fancy a quick peak. The London Library is currently celebrating its 175th birthday so there is no better time to visit this literary gem.
The Guardian – Clare Hunter
Some trainees meet the very cute stars of a Guardian advertising campaign – Photo courtesy of Tom Dale
In the afternoon four intrepid trainees took the tube to Kings Cross to explore the exciting world of news librarianship at the Guardian. We were welcomed by Richard Nelsson, the Information manager. He gave us a fascinating insight into why a newspaper might need a librarian and how the role has developed from organising cuttings in folders to searching through electronic databases. It was particularly interesting to learn about the different types of research performed by the research department and how they worked with both the Editorial staff and the archives. After our discussion we were given a quick tour of the rest of the Guardian’s offices, where we saw the hustle and bustle of the different departments of the newsroom. Finally we met with the Guardian’s archivist who took us through some of the incredible array of items in their basement store. So much of the Guardian’s history was there, from sketches for a cartoon from the 1970s to photographs of Margaret Thatcher and the smashed up parts of the hard drive that held the information released by Edward Snowden! It was fascinating to be able to learn about a very different side of librarianship that we had not seen before and see where one of Britain’s major newspapers is put together.
Written and edited by:Micha Cook, Codrington Library; Andi Glover, Bodleian Law
Library; Hannah Hickman, History Faculty Library; and Becca Wray, Social Science Library
Our highlights from the open day, 15th April, at CILIP HQ, London – continued!
BBC (Media Management)
Laura Williams, a Media Manager in the BBC Archives, spoke about ‘embedded
librarianship’. Embedded librarianship “moves librarians out of libraries”, so that they pop up in unexpected (and exciting) places, such as TV companies, zoos and hospitals. Laura is
embedded within Entertainment Production North and BBC Learning, although she is
formally part of BBC Archives. The centralised Archives services perform more traditional
“library” processes like cataloguing and digitisation, while media managers are based around the country working within production teams. Media managers are responsible for a diverse range of core tasks including records management, photo archive work, selecting material for the archives, and navigating the BBC’s holdings on behalf of researchers.
The range of duties involved in such a multifaceted role means Laura has to be very
flexible. As her team might not necessarily realise how an information professional can support their work, she has to be proactive about promoting these services; whether that means scheduling official meetings to discuss record-keeping, or simply using a catch-up over coffee to chat about how library services could assist new projects. As a qualified
librarian, working for an archive service, with the job title of ‘media manager’, Laura uses the identifiers interchangeably, depending on which term has the most meaning or value to her audience: an adaptability that I found really striking given the traditional divide
between library/archives as vocations.
Community and network is especially important in an embedded role: if you are going to work as an embedded librarian, it is important to be an integrated member of the team. That said, you may well be working solo, which can be lonely, so it’s important to reach out to librarian networks too… such as the SLA! – Hannah
British Library of Political and Economic Science, LSE
Maria Bell gave an instructive talk about her work as Learning Support Services Manager for LSE’s library. Founded in 1896, the library moved to its current well-known location in the 70s, and recently became home to the Women’s Library. It provides a research base for LSE’s students, researchers, academics and visitors, covering subjects as diverse as gender, law, accounting and sociology. Having a background in law librarianship, Maria gave
guidance on the particular skills needed to work with an academic law collection; these
include knowledge of legal terminology and academic standards for legal citation and
research; managing and developing a relevant and sustainable collection that reflects
readers’ needs; and, in HE, teaching legal research skills to your users.
Developing a relationship with readers is of key importance for creating an accessible learning environment that underpins research; and Maria suggested that in future, it will become increasingly important for librarians to demonstrate how their skills are relevant for supporting researchers. That might be worth thinking about when putting your CV
together. To those starting out on library careers, Maria strongly recommended signing up for relevant training sessions, and taking opportunities to network; as she put it, “Building relationships takes time and must be maintained,” so it’s never too early to start making connections. – Micha, Andi
Karen Tulett and Susan Ryan, from the Corporate Information Management Team
of major multinational investment bank, Morgan Stanley, shared their experiences of
something you wouldn’t immediately expect when thinking about careers in libraries and
information. They are both involved in making sure that bankers within the organisation have the documents and research they need in order to do their jobs. This involves
working on a global scale to provide a 24/7 information service to the different offices that need it. Both also emphasised the skills important for a librarian in the banking sector:
creativity in the way you do your research, and keeping up to date with banking news in
order to work out what information might be needed before you are asked for it.
Research Manager Karen started her career as a Trainee in the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, before her Masters, and has since worked for several different banks in
Information Manager roles, including involvement in overseeing an outsourcing project. Susan, in contrast, has spent most of her career with Morgan Stanley, working her way up
through various different information and research posts to become Vendor Manager. She mentioned an ongoing movement in many banks to make some aspects of research off-shore, creating a team in another country. She spent several months in India setting up a new office and training new research staff who she now works closely with. – Becca
Mishcon de Reya (Law)
The British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL), co-organiser of the open day, represents information managers in the legal sector, be that in the Inns of Court, law firms or academic libraries. Sandra Smythe, from private, international law firm Mishcon de Reya, talked about her role as Knowledge Manager. The KM is in charge of supporting the sharing of knowledge in an organisation; for example, through collaboration tools on the intranet, to promote information-sharing amongst colleagues. Key skills needed in this role are openness, communication, and the ability to work in a team.
Formerly, Sandra was Mishcon’s Senior Information Officer. Amongst other duties, this
intensive, varied job involves legal research, and remaining informed both of legal
developments, and of the organisations and individuals with whom Mishcon works.
Sandra has found her career in law librarianship fast-paced, confidence-building and
rewarding; and she assured aspiring law librarians that new entrants to the field are not
expected to arrive with legal research skills fully-formed, but will be trained. In her
previous role with a firm handling maritime law, she was sometimes called upon to aid with the interception of ships; which just goes to show that law librarianship is
full of variety! – Andi
Looking back, this was an informative day broken up with engaging tours. It was
interesting to hear about the different, sometimes surprising, forms librarianship and
career paths can take. We also learned that, for aspiring librarians, networking, passion
and curiosity are essential, along with an ability to recognize our transferable skills, such
as communication, collaboration and current awareness. Some of us got a clearer idea of where to take our careers next; others discovered interests in previously-unconsidered
sectors; overall, attending this event was greatly valuable for our personal development.
We’d like to thank the SLA, BIALL and CLSIG for organising this impressive open day. — Primary editor, Andi Glover