This week I had the opportunity to do some work-shadowing at not one, but two libraries following the kind invitations of two of my fellow trainees.
Shadowing at the Classical Faculty Library
On Thursday morning, I made my way to the Classical Faculty Library where I was given the chance to work on the issue desk alongside the Classics trainee. Working on an issue desk isn’t new to me as I have previously worked in a public library, but I really enjoyed being on the desk at Classics and it made me realise how much I miss this daily face-to-face contact with library patrons. At my College library we have a self-issue machine, and so although students do come into the library office to make enquiries, there isn’t as much contact as there is with a traditional issue desk. Both myself and the Classics trainee agreed that helping library patrons directly is often the most enjoyable aspect of our jobs, and for my next role I will definitely be looking for a position which provides a lot of opportunity for this interaction.
Another difference between my College library and the Faculty library is the subject-specific focus of the latter’s collection. While my library caters broadly for a range of undergraduate courses, the Classical Faculty library only carries stock which relates to the study of Classics. Despite this, their collection is far from narrow as it covers a wide range of different areas, including Greek and Roman history, art, archaeology, architecture, language and literature.
Borrowing at the Classics library is for a maximum of two days, and short loan books may only be borrowed for two hours at a time – very different from the termly borrowing which exists at my library! Many students had some fines to pay when they came to return their books at the desk, but they all paid these with good grace and without complaint. It was useful for me to try my hand at using the Voyager circulation system as we use Heritage for circulation in my library and only use Voyager for cataloguing.
I also had the opportunity to do some shelving using the library’s home-grown classification system, which was actually very logical and easy to follow – although the naked statues looming over the shelving trolleys were a little distracting at first!
After a very enjoyable morning, the Classics trainee followed me back up to my College library and shadowed me for the rest of the afternoon. The Assistant Librarian had agreed to show us how she processed student fines using Heritage so this was a useful bit of training for both of us. After this we checked the shelves to see if any of the overdue books had reappeared and then we posted fines letters in the students’ pigeon-holes. Unlike at the Faculty library, the students do not pay their fines directly to the library staff because the fines are added automatically to their College bill.
Our other tasks during the afternoon included shelving, weeding and withdrawing of old editions of Psychology and Computer Science textbooks, and routine jobs such as topping up the printers with paper – something which isn’t done at the Faculty library because students must instead purchase their printing paper from the issue desk. The Librarian also kindly came to chat to the Classics trainee about our library’s practices and how they differ from the practices at the Faculty of Classics. I think the Classics trainee noticed the relative quietness of the College library compared with the Faculty library in terms of numbers of students, but hope that I still gave her a varied and interesting afternoon!
Shadowing at Trinity College Library
On Friday afternoon I had the opportunity to shadow the trainee who works in the library at Trinity College. The trainee at Trinity deals with a lot of periodicals, whereas my college library takes very few print journals and tends to rely more on ejournals. As such, it was useful for me to visit Trinity in order to see how print journals are received and processed.
I enjoyed the walk through the College to the library, which involved crossing a large, peaceful courtyard with a fountain in the middle, and going through a rather small wooden door, which made me feel a bit like Alice. I emerged through this door to discover a rather spectacular view of the Wren Library.
The Wren Library houses special collections, including early editions of Shakespeare, Medieval manuscripts and also A.A. Milne’s original manuscripts for Winnie the Pooh, which is a favourite with the tourists who are allowed to visit the library between 12pm and 2pm each weekday. The College library is situated below the Wren Library and is open to all students of Trinity, but any students or researchers who need to access the collections in the Wren must supply a letter of recommendation, usually from an academic colleague or tutor, before they are allowed entry.
While I was shadowing the Trinity trainee, we had a request from a reader in the Wren for some manuscripts which were held in the basement. This meant that we had to go and retrieve them and bring them up to the Wren, which enabled the Trinity trainee to give me a quick impromptu tour – it was very grand and imposing and full of statues of famous alumni of the College, such as Lord Byron and Sir Isaac Newton.
Much of the rest of the afternoon was spent with the Trinity trainee showing me how to check in, label and distribute journals to the various areas of the College library. The librarians at Trinity use Millennium rather than Voyager or Heritage so it was interesting to see how this different software worked. It was a useful afternoon and the experience has definitely given me a better understanding of the processes behind print journal acquisition.
This has been my first experience of work-shadowing and it has definitely been a worthwhile thing to do. I would recommend shadowing as an excellent way to expand your experience beyond your current job description, and as a way of gaining an insight into local practices at different libraries – many thanks go to the trainees at Classics and Trinity for their time and hospitality!