I started working as a Graduate Trainee in the library at the beginning of August this year, along with my two new colleagues, Paris and Lisa. The traineeship involves placements in various departments within the library. Over the course of a year, I will spend time working in Serials and Document Delivery, Lending Services and Enquiries, as well as going on brief visits to other institutions outside the University. From August to December, however, I am working in the Special Collections department.
A recurring characteristic in my work in Special Collections so far has been the diversity of skills and tasks involved in managing the collections and serving readers and other users of the department. As well as handling enquiries from users in the reading room (and around the world by phone and email), I have been involved in a project for recataloguing the incunabula (printed books produced in Europe before 1501) held by the department. My role in this project has been to photograph, and provide captions for, any particularly interesting features in the incunabula. These photographs will eventually be included in the catalogue itself, but in the meantime they can be viewed in a dedicated set on the library’s Flickr page. I have also helped to relocate the Whittaker Music collection from open access on Level 4 to Special Collections, and contributed to the department’s Book of the Month feature.
My placement in Special Collections has involved a lot of ‘on the job’ learning . When I first came to the department I knew very little about rare books and manuscripts and was continually being surprised by the specific and unusual questions readers had about the items they were consulting. I was also impressed by my new colleagues’ abilities to answer them. Although I was given something of a crash course in analytical bibliography during my first week, I feel that my ability to support the users of the department has been developed predominantly through experience.
My first impression of working in the library has been overwhelmingly positive and I expect that this impression will last throughout the remainder of my placements. From speaking to my fellow trainees and other members of staff, it seems that my placements in Customer Services and Document Delivery are likely to present vastly different working environments and learning experiences to those of Special Collections.