While it's totally cliché to say this, no two days are the same when it comes to being a Graduate Work Experience student (GWE) at Gladstone’s Library. However, the motions we go through are pretty similar, and always full of valuable experience!
Here’s what a typical working day consists of for a Gladstone’s GWE:
Breakfast! Usually consisting of home-baked croissants and much-needed freshly filtered coffee. It’s also a chance for us GWEs to have a catch up before our day begins.
We begin opening the library’s Reading Rooms. Turning on lights in the Reading Rooms and the Annex, as well as unlocking doors, turning on computers and a brief tidying of desks.
Now that the library is ready for the day we turn to circulation! Circulation is the process of re-shelving books which have been returned from residents and Readers. We do circulation every day and it’s an ideal way of learning the layout of our collections. It’s always satisfying when a library user asks where a certain collection is, and you can point them in the right direction without the aid of our online catalogue!
9.30am – lunch
Two members of staff will always be managing the Enquiry Desk in the Reading Rooms. The Enquiry Desk is pretty self-explanatory as it’s where we receive enquiries! These are often face-to-face, however, GWEs will also reply to emails or forward them on to the relevant staff members. As any librarian will tell you, the types of enquiries we receive can vary greatly, from ‘where are your nearest toilets?’ to “do you have anything relating to the medieval abbeys and priories of Scotland?’ (hint: yes, we do! It’s under class mark I which is ‘Church History’).
Here is a run down of the responsibilities of staffing the Enquiry Desk:
- Greeting anyone who comes in (and making sure they sign in)!
This is incredibly simple yet incredibly important. You quickly get to know the regular library users and revisiting guests. Anyone who wishes to use the library must either be a member or a guest and everyone must sign our register when they first come in.
- Processing new Reader applications
Anyone can sign up to be a Reader! It’s rare that we go a whole day without processing and printing at least one new user’s application. This is, of course, an exceedingly good thing as it means lots of people want to use our wonderful library.
- Processing journals
New journals such as The Times Literary Supplement, The New Statesman, The Economist, and plenty others come in on Mondays and Fridays so our job is to record their details and place them in the library for our users to peruse.
- Cataloguing new book acquisitions
This is easily one of my favourite parts of working here (maybe because I’m a librarian at heart). Anyone with an interest in working in libraries or archives needs to know how to appropriately catalogue something, so the skills you learn here really are essential. When a new book arrives at the library we have to assign it with its appropriate class mark, record it on our system, then give it the general library treatment (a dust jacket, book plate, class mark sticker) before we can place it on the shelves. There’s something quite rewarding about seeing a book you’ve processed be freshly picked from the shelves from a library user!
The library runs free Glimpses to the public three times a day. On average, each GWE will take on one of them. Glimpses consist of giving a small talk to members of the public about William Gladstone and the Library before taking them in to view his fantastic collection. They last around 15 minutes in total and, although classed as ‘public speaking’, are more of an enjoyable, informal chat about the collections and their history with people who are also passionate booklovers, much like Gladstone himself!
- Research enquiries
With over 150,000 printed items (not to mention our Glynne-Gladstone archive with around 75,000 letters and manuscripts), it’s no surprise that visitors from all over the world get in touch asking for assistance in their varying, and often highly specific, research needs. This can be challenging, but also enjoyable, as this is your chance to don your detective’s hat and further investigate our collections. Again, this experience is vital for those looking for a career in libraries/archives/museums as you really get to hone your research skills.
- Social media
Each GWE has a designated Marketing day, the mornings of which consist of creating social media posts on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. This is a nice break from library duties, and you can get pretty creative with it. For instance, you can check websites like Onthisday.com to see if there are any historical anniversaries or if a well-known author has their birthday that day, and then create a social media post about it and generate quite a bit of interaction!
A major perk of being a Gladstone’s GWE is that we get to live and eat here for free. At lunch all staff members will usually eat in the Wickham Room where we update each other on our days and share any interesting news (there are a few keen bird lovers among the Gladstone’s Library team so the conversation usually manages to come back to any interesting sightings we’ve had!).
2pm – 4.45pm
Whoever has been on the Enquiry Desk in the morning will usually swap with those working in our back office. Working in the back office is an excellent opportunity to get on with any projects we’ve been assigned. Currently, all the GWEs are working on the archives belonging to the Crime Writers’ Association. Each of us are assigned our own box containing archived materials which we then create records for on Excel. This means typing out a descriptive title for each item, its date, its author, its size, and anything else we deem note-worthy. Once each item has its own record, we then write a classification number on the back.
Our exciting Digital Gladstone project is also well on its way. As a GWE we’re tasked with the important pre-digitisation checks of William Gladstone’s books. This means we write down the condition of each book that will be digitised and anything we think our digitisation team should be aware of, i.e. if the book has multiple volumes.
If it’s your Marketing day, you may have a Marketing task such as writing a press release or a blog, market research, or preparing for an upcoming event.
Closing the Library
Only ReaderPLUS members and residents may use the library until 10pm. This means that before 5pm we need to politely ask anyone using the library whether they are a Reader, and if so, let them know that they cannot use the library any for any longer today but that they are more than welcome to come back tomorrow at 9am.
Part of a GWE’s responsibility at Gladstone’s Library is conducting security rounds in the evening as well as being on call from 9.30pm – 8.45am should any guest need assistance. On average you might do this one to two times each week. Lock up consists of walking the entire building ensuring doors are secure, windows are shut and lights are off. It takes around 30 – 40 minutes to complete and the GWE doing it will also be given the ‘duty phone’. This is the phone guests can ring you on should they have an issue during the night. I should stress, this does NOT mean you need to be staying awake through the entire night! The phone is loud enough to wake even the heaviest of sleepers.
This has been a brief run-down of my day to day working life at Gladstone’s Library. At the risk of sounding cliché once more, it truly is a fantastic experience and the skills I and my fellow GWE’s have learnt will play a major part in our future careers. As anyone working here will tell you, the transitional period from university to adult life can be pretty tough going, however an opportunity such as this is the ideal stepping stone to a future in the always exciting library/archive/heritage industry.
I hope this has been useful for any hopeful applicants and has convinced anyone who was on the fence about this position to APPLY, APPLY, APPLY.
By Kit Johnson, Graduate Work Experience
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