Work experience at Gladstone’s Library
A week in the role of a librarian
My name is Megan, and like every other A Level student in the local Hawarden area, I was required to complete a week of work experience in a location of my choosing. Unlike my previous gruelling experience in a workplace, I was eager to complete my placement at a location that would be interesting, insightful and beneficial for me, both for my own personal learning experience and to give me an idea of what life at an independent library is like. As a student of English Literature and History, Gladstone’s Library was the perfect location for my work experience, and from my conformation of placement I could only eagerly await my February placement amongst the thousands of books.
Monday, 9th February
First days are always initially daunting, and my first day at the library was no different. Heart pounding, I anxiously approached the main entrance. However upon arrival I was greeted with nothing but friendly welcomes and comforting smiles, even the library itself seemed to emit warmth that managed to make me feel at ease. New faces and a mind boggling amount of information (that was repeated throughout the day thankfully!) was followed by a short tour, in which I was able to view the impressive interior of the library, and of course the extensive collection of books the library offers to the local community.
Something that was immediately apparent was the difference between the library and other libraries I have visited in the past. With fewer workers and a unique method of cataloguing books, learning the initial ropes of librarianship was informative and intriguing. Having found myself lost in a daze amongst the rows and rows of books and at a loss of which door leads where and searching for the concealed winding staircases, it seemed a miracle that within hours I was able to distinguish some books from others and navigate my way around the library independently. Where I had at first gawped at the staff’s mention of classification codes and seeing them cataloguing book after book, after some very patient and – surprisingly – simple advice and instructions, I too was doing the same to my amazement.
Tuesday, 10th February
After a few hours of much needed sleep, morning came and my second day at the library began. As equally eventful as my first day, day number two began with opening up the library for the first time. Light switch after light switch was turned on, and as the last switch was pressed, my second day felt officially in motion. The day consisted of reusing skills I had learned on the previous day, editing photos to use on the library’s social media pages, and finally a ‘Glimpse tour’ of the library itself. The brief tour included learning the history of the library and its founder, William Gladstone. Majorly interesting, the tour offered much insight into the nature of Gladstone and his passion for reading, having read an overwhelming amount of books throughout his lifetime. I was also able to talk to a volunteer during the day who was studying letters that Gladstone himself had written. The volunteer showed me several of the letters and explained the drastic difference in language from the Victorian era to modern day. This was extremely interesting to hear about as I am also currently studying English Language at school, looking specifically at the evolution of the English language over the past several centuries.
Wednesday, 11th February
With my third day at the library came many more skills to learn and tasks to complete. Again I was required to open up the library to its visitors first thing in the morning. After writing more accession codes into book after book and returning books to their location in the library, the day ended with the finding of books relevant to the upcoming celebration of Valentine’s Day for the library’s display. For this I aimed to try and collect a range of books containing the theme of love and romance, from iconic authors of romantic fiction such as William Shakespeare and Jane Austen, to William Gladstone himself and his proposal of marriage to his wife Catherine. But of course no display would be complete without something attractive, and therefore it also fell upon me to find books that were not only romantic in content, but were also beautiful in appearance. Whether it had intricate details on the cover itself or contained brightly coloured illustrations within, it was difficult to narrow the selection down to one or two books when the library is filled with so many that meet this criteria.
Thursday, 12th February
My second to last day saw the creation of the display on love and romance. The older books were laid out in the display case on pillows and annotations were added around them. I was also given the opportunity to reply to two enquiries that the library had previously received and answered, to have a chance at responding as an actual member of staff, providing information about the library’s services and relevant links for the sender.
Friday, 13th Gebruary: Last day and final thoughts
Overall my experience at Gladstone’s Library has been extremely enjoyable; I have learned an abundance of new skills - both key and library related -, I had the opportunity of meeting a team of extremely welcoming and all around helpful people, and I have gained knowledge of one of the most misunderstood locations in my local area. Where before I had thought that the library was inaccessible to myself and the younger generation I now realise that it is quite the opposite. With literary festivals, a spectacular collection of books covering a wide range of topics and an upbeat team of staff, I strongly recommend the library to both the older and younger generations, and urge them to visit as I myself will now definitely do again.
The tasks I had been set throughout the week became a lot easier after much practice, and by the time my placement ended when it was time to put on my coat and head for home for the last time, I was reluctant to leave the encompassing comfort of the library.