Tuesday 6 June 2023

April 2023 - Graduate Trainee Talk

On 27th April, the Cambridge Library Trainees from Anglia Ruskin University, Pembroke College, Christ’s College, and Trinity College joined CLG to speak about their traineeships, share their individual projects, and reflect on their experiences so far.

Graduate Traineeships are one-year fixed term training posts intended to provide valuable work experience prior to pursuing a postgraduate qualification in library and information studies. Part of a cohort of 7, the Cambridge trainees are all based at different libraries but have a shared programme of visits throughout the year to explore different areas of librarianship and help inform their future careers. Some of their visits include Cambridgeshire Archives, Cambridge Judge Business School, various College Libraries, the Medical School Library, Hills Road Sixth Form, Norwich Public Library, and the British Library. The trainees are also responsible for a blog website and Twitter account.

We were all very grateful for the opportunity to speak at the CLG event and have summarised our presentations below.

Lily Swain, Anglia Ruskin University
I started my talk by briefly explaining the structure of the library team at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU). Consisting of almost 50 colleagues across 3 different campuses (Cambridge, Chelmsford, and Peterborough), the library team is split into 4 areas: Customer Services, Content Delivery & Discovery, Academic Services, and Research Services. I sit within Customer Services, offering frontline support to students alongside 11 other Library Services Advisers.

In addition to my core responsibilities, I am a member of the Student & Library Services (SLS) Learning & Development working group. SLS includes staff from the Library, Student Advice, Employability, Counselling & Wellbeing, and Disability Support, so being part of this working group is a really great opportunity to work closely with colleagues from across the wider university. In this group, we primarily host and facilitate ‘Learning Hours’, which are typically hour-long learning sessions. I have also organised the Job Shadowing programme for this academic year which is being offered to the whole of SLS (around 200 staff). I have spent a lot of time considering the wording and tone of the communication, thinking about logistics, setting out clear expectations (whilst making sure it sounds fun!), creating accompanying documents, and teaching myself Photoshop along the way.

Learning and development, reflection, and knowledge exchange are incredibly important aspects of working at ARU. To that end, I spoke about the incredible opportunities I have been presented with this year. I have been lucky enough to work at ARU Chelmsford Library, attend various webinars and workshops, and organise additional visits outside of the shared programme. In July, I am going on secondment to the Research Services Team, who primarily assist academic staff in making their publications and research open access; I’m really looking forward to this because it’s a completely different side of librarianship. Finally, I was given the opportunity to become a committee member of Cambridge Library Group, which has complemented my traineeship in so many ways and I have enjoyed immensely.

Nick Nuttall (Pembroke College)
For the CLG Graduate Trainee talk, I spoke about both my everyday duties as a trainee as well as some of the projects I’ve been able to work on throughout my year. Firstly, I’ve been working closely with an early printed book from our Special Collections, cataloguing it and researching its provenance. The book is from 1638 and contains hundreds of hand-coloured illustrations, and a great variety of manuscript annotations. This has been an invaluable introduction to early printed books for me, as I’d like to work with special collections in the future.

I’ve also been reclassifying and organising the Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic section of our library; a wonderful opportunity to make use of my subject knowledge from my master’s degree to help current and future students more easily find the books they need. This has involved creating new classification headings for our in-house scheme, according to what I feel are the most appropriate divisions for the materials, while also considering the range and depth of our particular collection and what will be prioritised by the students taking the relevant papers. On top of this I have also been checking the reading lists in detail to ensure our collection is up to date and have highlighted certain texts I feel it would be most beneficial for us to have.

Finally, I’m working on a project for the College Archivist, who works closely with the Library team at Pembroke. I’m researching biographical information of people for whom we have ephemera records in the Archive. These biographies help fill out our Archive records and provide useful information for researchers looking at our collections. It has been great to learn about the differences between archival and library work such as in record creation, research, and record content.

Madeline Birnbaum (Trinity College)
I was very glad to be able to speak at the CLG talk and to share a bit about my daily duties as the Graduate Trainee at Trinity. I spoke about the benefits of being able to work across both the academic library and the Wren, Trinity’s special collections library, and about some of my responsibilities in each setting. In the academic library, I’ve been able to gain a great deal of experience in modern cataloguing, as we’ve had a particularly significant influx of books recently; I am also responsible for managing all incoming serials, helping to check readings lists and create displays, and pitching in with all the other odds and ends that emerge when working in such a busy, dynamic library and College. In the Wren, my main task is supervising and assisting readers when I have shifts on Wren Desk, as well as fetching materials. Checking back materials and creating checking back slips by systematically inventorying the contents and condition of items is an enjoyable way of getting to know aspects of the collection, and I’ve loved seeing the breadth of materials that Trinity holds, from twelfth century illuminated manuscripts to nineteenth century love letters. I’ve also been fortunate to be involved in curating two exhibitions in the Wren, one on the history of the Wren Library itself, and the other, which is still in the works, on sixteenth century widows in the book trade. It’s been a joy to work at Trinity, and I’m so grateful to have been able to take my first step into librarianship here.

Rebekah Cohen (Christ's College)
For my graduate trainee talk, I spoke to CLG about my involvement in the Old Library book move project happening at Christ's this year. Alongside my daily duties in the working library (such as shelving, processing, and cataloguing new books) I have helped to prepare the Old Library special collections to be moved off-site, due to building works planned for the area of College where the Old Library is situated. Many of the items in the Lower Old Library (home to mainly nineteenth- and twentieth-century material) had not yet been catalogued, and I was able to help the rest of the library team create new records for this part of our special collections. My other tasks for this project have included measuring shelf space, and photographing items to be catalogued at a later date. Working with special collections was something I was most excited to experience as part of a Cambridge college-based traineeship, and I have found the book move to be an immensely rewarding way of gaining a wide-ranging knowledge of special collections at Christ's. I have enjoyed investigating interesting parts of the collection, and helping solve questions that have arisen as a result. For example, trying to decode which non-book items in the Old Library belong to the archive collection, and which are classed as library objects. I am really grateful to have had this varied experience during my trainee year!