Graduate Trainee – month one

Alice has recently started as our new Graduate Trainee – here she tells us about her first month based at the Centre for Research Collections (CRC).

As the first Graduate Trainee at the CRC, I feel that it is important to keep a record of how the job role is being developed and hopefully give future trainees an insight into what working here is like. I am now one month in, and have nothing but great experiences to report.

Keeping to the initial schedule, the first month has consisted mostly of inductions with all the different areas of the CRC and learning about all the procedures for the front desk and reading room.

The inductions have all been fascinating. The collections here are so varied and caring for them involves so many different areas of expertise that I have had the opportunity of meeting people with incredibly diverse backgrounds, all equally friendly and very welcoming.

Centre for Research Collections Reception Desk, Main Library, October 2008.

Working with the front desk and reading room, and getting my head round all the procedures involved, gave me a wonderful insight into the way that all the different pieces of the CRC fit together. To a certain extent, the reason why everyone here is putting so much effort into preserving, archiving, cataloguing, digitising, displaying, collecting and re-shelving the innumerable items they care for is so that they can be accessed by the public and that the information they store can be passed on to posterity.

And from what I have seen, it is at the front desk that all this interconnectedness becomes more visible. It is here that we deal with academic enquiries from students and researchers, genealogical enquiries from the public, digitisation requests for publications and the media, requests for loans for exhibitions around the world, general enquiries of the ‘do you have this or anything that relates to this’ type. And in order for these enquiries to be answered and for these items to be brought up to a reader in the reading room, everyone has to do their job.

And on a much more pragmatic level, but still as grand, people actually have to go fetch those items. And that involves learning the impenetrable language of shelfmarks and knowing how to navigate your way through the storerooms. I am in absolute awe of the Sensei-like characters that work the front desk and their endless knowledge at the top of their heads of where all of this stuff is.

Probably the most satisfying part of my job so far has been going on solo collection and re-shelving missions. Though it takes me twice as long to find where everything lives, it definitely feels like an achievement when I do. Also pretty proud of myself with regards to the alarm system, as there is a universally acknowledged truth that everyone sets off the alarms in the storerooms at least once. I have managed my first month without setting them off; will I last until the end of my traineeship?

There are a dozen more things I could mention about my first month, such as all the amazing items I’ve had a chance to see in the reading rooms, the private guided tours of the anatomy and musical instruments collections, my new tea and cake breaks routine… but the underlying theme of my time here so far really has to be how friendly and welcoming everyone is and how enthusiastic I am about working here for the next year.

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