2015 in review

Can you believe 2015 is practically over already? I certainly can’t. Each year seems to whizz by in a flash of very-very-busy, planning for big important things and chaos when life inevitably throws a curveball to keep you on your toes once in a while.

I didn’t think I’d done much this year, but when I started going through photos, I realised that yep, 2015 was big. 2015’s the year I sort of became an adult; I nested into a happy home, reviewed my priorities more and shifted them when I didn’t like the look of stuff, started caring less about what others think of me. I’m grateful for my health, and even more so that my friends and family survived the year mostly intact. I took an interest in areas of work that looked fun, pushed my boundaries a bit and tried to maintain strong friendships.

I’m not for a second saying that 2015 didn’t have its challenges; I simply prefer not to write about them publicly, because I tend to focus on the negative by default and forget to celebrate the positive. So for balance’s sake, 2015 also brought the return of some annoying mental health issues I thought I’d dealt with, a long-term body-image-and-food problem, a continuation of my inability to handle personal finances, and some bad health stuff for friends. None of the minor health complaints I did suffer from were fully resolved due to the NHS in Sussex being a bit rubbish, and I’m still completely useless at being able to be on time for anything.

But. I’m here. You’re here. This is good, so let’s continue:

January

January started with a whimsical decision to buy a board game, Dino Race, from the best board game shop ever in Oxford. It set the tone for 2015: nearly all of our socialising has revolved around board games in some form, and who doesn’t love rescuing dinosaurs from an exploding volcano? Board game evenings are also excellent for a) rubbish weather and b) maintaining a social life whilst spending little. Excellent fun ūüėÄ

Dino Race
January also saw the start of MA Madness, as I manically attempted to get two massive dull assignments in before the March Study School Deadline. Farewell, time! Farewell, sanity! Farewell, ability to talk about anything other than business plans and hypothetical management scenarios! Grr.

Study Desk of Doom

February

February heralded the return of one of my very best friends, Moosey, to the UK after two years living in Ecuador.  A reunion in London followed this month, where we braved M&M World for the first time! Who knew there was so much M&M merchandise? Or so many flavours of M&Ms?!

M&M world

Also in February: causing minor chaos in Brighton’s Lego shop and the continuation of MA madness. Many books, much pizza, little time for anything else.

March

In March, I went for my first eye test in about a gazillion twelve years, and rather wished I hadn’t: I’m short sighted, so things far away are blurry to me! Boo! Glasses awaited, and I still heartily believe that carrying them around in my bag will create an osmosis-like effect that’s just as good as wearing them on my face.

March also contained the arrival of a bread maker, enabling us to make magical pizza dough and healthier lunches. It also saw me complete my MA assignments and return to Aberystwyth to receive more work to do as reward. On the plus side, I got to see some glorious Welsh coastline and remember how much good being outside does for your soul – and, more importantly, I got to bake again! All hail the beginning of 2015’s sweet-toothed-adventures in brownie baking.

Aberystwyth

April

I spent April’s Easter break back in Oxfordshire with family, and once again fell in love with Oxford. Because let’s be honest, in Spring it trumps pretty much everywhere else in the UK. I also peeked into the gorgeous newly refitted¬†Weston Library and stocked up on books from Blackwells for the year ahead. Perfection.

Beautiful Oxford

I made the most of Spring by stomping around Arundel one gloriously sunny afternoon; it’s such a beautiful town! April saw the arrival of Library Cat to my workplace, making tea breaks 1000 times cuter.

Library cat!

May

I felt the Oxfordshire appreciation big time this year, because I went back again twice in May. A particular highlight was a long cycle ride with the still-returned Moosey to Bampton, in the Cotswolds: it’s where some of the external village shots for¬†Downton Abbey¬†are filmed! We spent a magical lunchtime exploring the area and sneaking in the church as I indulged my inner Matthew-Mary fangirl.

Bampton

May wound up being one of the busiest months of the year, so gets three paragraphs here. I also modelled for the first time ever this month for Fresh, which sells beautiful clothes in Oxford’s Covered Market! Can you find me in the picture below?

Photo by Tony Hendon
Photo by Tony Hendon

When I wasn’t flouncing around outside in May, I finally got around to baking a victoria sponge cake (and very tasty it was), held an election party (which promptly turned doomy the minute the exit polls rolled in), caught up with long-lost friends, discovered Atomic Pizza in Oxford and celebrated Chris’ first ever book being published!

June

Realising that I had a lot of annual leave to take and not a great deal of time to take it in, Chris and I booked cheap flights to Berlin in June. He’s a WW1 historian, I love German and history is 50% of¬†my undergrad degree; plus, lots of awesome people had said it was fun. The week we spent exploring the city this month turned out to be one of the happiest all year, as we both fell head over heels in love with the place. I’ll write about Berlin a lot more next year, but June was far and away a highlight.

Obligatory Berlin photo

Summer finally arrived in June, huzzah! This entailed eating a lot of ice cream on the beach, discovering that running outside and working out doesn’t always suck, baking more brownies and going to a Ceilidh for a friend’s mum’s birthday. ¬†We also covered our living room doors in polaroid snaps to jazz the house up a bit.

Summer lunchtimes at work <3

July

The oft-beautiful weather spanned through into July, where one gorgeous day entailed a picnic in Bethnal Green, a visit to the fantastic V&A Museum of Childhood and playing card games on the lawns by Embankment. What luck to have such wonderful friends!

You know you're old when your childhood toys are in the museum...

July was the month where I discovered Smitten Kitchen’s salted caramel brownie recipe, which became my baking staple until about October. I got to use the roof terrace in our flat for the first time and spent a glorious afternoon sipping tea whilst studying outside and listening to Wimbledon tennis. I also explored Wantage and Cambridge again – and Chris got me a ukulele for our anniversary!

Studying + Wimbledon + roof terrace <3

August

In August, Chris’ big brother got married! It was the first major¬†family event we’d been to since getting together two years ago, and was so much fun: a weekend away in the countryside, lots and lots of wine, make-up and pretty outfits – and a fantastic celebration!

August was another busy month socially, as friends¬†from Mount Holyoke College visited and we went to Brighton Pride and explored Sussex’s gorgeous coastline. It was also Moosey’s birthday and a group of us went to Go Ape! in Bracknell. I’ve developed a real fear of heights lately and Go Ape put paid to most of those fears; after you’ve jumped up your seventh zipwire into either the ground or massive nets, suspended only by a couple of cables…you kind of can’t be scared anymore.

September

September is always a busy month for work, and 2015 was no exception. I started off the month ecstatically excited to¬†receive a bursary to attend the CILIP Rare Books and Special Collections Group conference in London. The theme of this year’s event was ‘Hidden Collections: Revealed’, which is exactly the area I want to go into work-wise. After three days of learning more about special collections, rare books and library projects than ever before I came out buzzing with ideas about where to go next!

Rare book from the Wellcome Library, London
Rare book from the Wellcome Library, London

September also heralded The Keep’s annual open day, where I helped to design Special Collections’ food-themed exhibition, the completion of a first aid at work qualification and my first ever baking commission. Huzzah! When I wasn’t wrapped up in work, I visited Tunbridge Wells with some friends, discovered an excellent local greengrocer and got to see Kate Rusby from a front row seat.

October

The end of October saw a second round of modelling for Fresh Clothing in Oxford; this time the fashion show was Halloween themed and I got to walk down the catwalk as the Corpse Bride! Amazing fun.

Chris celebrated his birthday in October, so we had a fab day out in London shopping and generally relaxing. I also hunted down the best red coat ever, mastered pretzel bread, and started relearning German on Duolingo.

Creepy spider is creepy

November

November was a much quieter month than the previous few, but with some wonderful catch ups with friends around my birthday. I feel very very grateful that I’ve got a core group of spread-out people who are always up for dinner and drinks in London – huzzah!

I went to Tunbridge Wells again in November to catch up with my cousin who I hadn’t seen for years, got a bit sheep-obsessed when playing Settlers of Catan, refused to leave my bear dressing gown and gave this blog a much-needed redesign.

December

December was such a busy month, and there are so many highlights it’s difficult to know where to start! Chris and I went back to Berlin, having decided that June’s week was not enough, and we fell in love with the city more than ever before. We stayed in the incredible Hotel Nhow, which was a real treat for us, and spent five days munching warm potatoes and bratwurst, sipping mulled wine, and feeling very festive indeed. We went to the Gendarmenmarkt three times. We’re already planning another trip to Berlin next year. It’s just too perfect.

Oh Berlin <3
Oh Berlin ‚̧

I also attended my first ever football match in December, watching gleefully (and noisily) as Liverpool won 6 Р1 over Southampton. Amazing! There were also many festive parties, including an excellent work Christmas meal, catching up with beloved friends over pizza at home, taking Dad to see the new Star Wars film, and spending Christmas Day itself cooking lots of food with incredible friends in Brighton.

I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings! What were your favourite moments of 2015?

On Paris

I originally posted this on Facebook, but it had such a friendly¬†response I thought it should probably live on the blog too…

Cheryl Strayed quote

It’s really difficult to know what to feel or think after the events in Paris on Friday ; the first time I visited Paris (with two¬†of my best friends) in 2005, we stayed in the 11th arrondissement very near where the attacks took place. It’s a beautiful area, peaceful and multicultural (well, so far as mostly-white central Paris can be), tree lined streets contrasting with the stone buildings. Paris is a city of contrasts, but for anyone who’s British it often feels like the first ‘properly foreign’ city you’ll visit, even though it’s only about two hours away from the UK. It’s pretty much impossible not to fall in love with some aspect of it; the musical tones of the metro, the architecture, Shakespeare and Company¬†.

Canal St-Martin, Paris
Canal St-Martin, Paris

I keep returning to this quote from Cheryl Strayed: “love with a mindfully clear sense of purpose, even when it feels outrageous to do so.” And when I keep Paris in my thoughts, I hope we can all have the bravery to love in this manner; to be strong enough to push aside our desires to hate, to be scared, to close our physical and metaphorical borders, and look at how we want the world to be instead. They want us to be scared, they want us divided. We’ve got to be better, smarter and stronger than that. And we’ve got to love harder than that. (Even when it’s really not easy to do so.) Whilst remembering the victims, I also want to remember how, this weekend,¬†social media came together to help Parisians needing a place of refuge, and how this morning people were queuing up to donate blood in French hospitals. Those acts of compassion and solidarity are how we’ve got to get through these dark times, not by closing the drawbridges and pointing fingers.


It’s easy to say this; I know very little about UK foreign policy, even less about France’s. I am not in a position to actively change things in any way; few of us are. But I’m going to try harder than ever to triumph love, compassion and understanding over hatred and fear, even when the world feels like a really scary place. I’m going to try to be braver. For Paris, for Beirut, for everyone who’s suffered as a result of terrorism. It’s not easy. But they don’t want us to love. So, love and compassion and tolerance have to win. There is so much brilliance and life in our society; let’s celebrate that rather than giving into fear and letting them change our society into one of intolerance and prejudice. ‚̧

B and Me, Disneyland Paris, 2007
B and Me, Disneyland Paris, 2007

Currently – Mid November 2014

I’ve been pretty terrible at blogging on here, which is a shame as writing is something I enjoy – so I’m going to try writing semi-regular updates on what’s going on in my little corner of the world lately. Let’s see how this goes!

The MA 

IMG_0526.JPG

“I have a confession,” I whispered to people last weekend. “It’s a bit of a scary one.”

“….Yes?”

“This new ‘Studies in Management’ module?” I continued fearfully. “I’m…not hating it even though I expected to. It’s actually kind of interesting. It might even be fun.”

Maybe it’s because I dragged out the last module, ‘Information and Society’, for so long that I’d forgotten what it was like to learn things again. Maybe it’s because this module isn’t as in need of super-up-to-date material, which the previous module was and desperately lacked. Maybe it’s because there’s so much reading it presents a Significant Challenge to me. But there we go; ‘Studies in Management’ is actually kind of interesting. I’ve worked full time for nearly five years now, so it’s good to put the theory into place behind the practice; to look at where I work and consider why and how things are a certain way. I have no idea how long this will continue, and even less of a clue how long it will take me to do the reading for everything, but I’m enjoying the change so far. Once again, it’s reminding me why I was right to study at Aberystwyth University – the course is fitting so well with what I need for my career to progress. Huzzah!

Health

This week has been zero percent fun health-wise, as the meds I take every day for my skin condition suddenly stopped working about 10 days ago. I was a bit naive about it at first – “what are those lumps on my thighs? Have I been bitten by a mosquito or something?” before the hives fully kicked in, disrupting pretty much every aspect of my life and rendering me unable to go to work. Sigh. Thankfully, my GP had the letter from the specialist I saw two years ago on file so we’ve been playing around with my meds accordingly, and hopefully things have taken a turn for the better. I’m so grateful to my workplace for being understanding, and to my boyfriend¬†for putting up with a whinging scratchy unable-to-do-anything-useful housemate for a week!

Music

I’m normally so behind when it comes to knowing about popular music these days – relying on my friends Phil and Jessica to point me in the right direction – so it’s come as a nice surprise to discover that a) Taylor Swift is really good and b) her latest album, ‘1989’ is pretty much the best album I’ve heard all year! Really catchy, creative pop that feels kind of timeless – I’m hooked! I apologise to anyone who catches me singing/dancing along; it’s happening a lot…

Books

 

Sarah Waters novel - The Little Stranger

I’ve been trying to make a real effort to read more ‘fun’ books alongside the MA; it makes me feel less like studying is taking over my life, and it keeps my mind a bit fresher for when I do need to read about Organisational Behaviour for evenings and evenings on end. I finally got round to reading ‘Persepolis’ by Marjane Satrapi during a train journey last weekend; I’m so glad, it’s a beautiful tale of growing up during the Iranian Revolution that’s made me think a lot more about Middle Eastern politics, particularly the West’s less-than-shiny role in things.

Now that I’m feeling brighter, I’ve begun a Sarah Waters novel, ‘The Little Stranger’. I finally discovered Waters in September this year, when I picked up ‘The Night Watch’ to take on holiday with me. I promptly disappeared into the book for three straight days! ‘The Little Stranger’ is very different – although the time period (1940s England) is similar, it’s much more of a gothic thriller a la Henry James’ ‘Turn Of The Screw’. It’s one of those books that is just¬†meant for autumn/winter nights, blankets and overly large mugs of tea and nope, I can’t put this novel down either. I think I may have to locate everything else Waters has ever written. Soon.

Until next time, everyone!

2013 in review

The end of the year is always a good time for reflection – ‘best of’ posts fill social media and news sites – and with the long Christmas break, I’ve been having a ponder on how 2013 was in regards to my career.

Library-land is an interesting place to be at the moment, particularly for us early careerists. Although I’ve not had any significant promotions, I’ve been developing skills and making the most of professional training to ensure that when the ideal role does arise for me, I’ll be well-equipped to leap for it!

Librarian badge from when I was at secondary school - clearly a hint of things to come!
Librarian badge from when I was at secondary school – clearly a hint of things to come!

This blog has been somewhat neglected this year, but my career has been much busier. So, this year I:

* Finished my secondment in Special Collections and, after a brief return to my original department, successfully applied for a transfer to Research Support! I now work in Collection Development and am really enjoying getting to know a different side of library work; the role also means I support Special Collections in their gorgeous new home when needed.
* Joined CILIP as an Affiliate Member and became a member of the brilliant LIHG and RBSCG special interest groups
* Attended numerous conferences and workshops, including the LIHG conference, ‘Libraries in the Public Sphere: How the past informs the present and the future’ and the GLAM symposium, ‘Cataloguing Creativity’.
* Wrote a review of an excellent historical bookbindings workshop which was published in the Summer RBSCG newsletter
* Learnt a great deal about cataloguing rare books, thanks to fantastic training by Renae Satterley and Lucy Evans
* Spent a Saturday learning about special collections held in public libraries – and tried food made from recipes found in early modern notebooks!
* Engaged with many more librarians and archivists via the magical medium that is Twitter
* Began studying a part time distance learning postgraduate course on Rare Books Librarianship at the University of Aberystwyth, giving me much needed theory behind the practice
* Attended some beautiful manuscript, archival and rare book exhibitions, notably the fantastic ‘Putting Scotland on the Map: The world of John Bartholomew and Son’ at the NLS and the wonderful ‘Magical Books: From the Middle Ages to Middle-Earth’¬†at the Bodleian Library

In short, it’s been a tremendously fun year – I’ve become even more convinced that Special Collections librarianship is where I want to be, gained a lot of technical skills and theory needed to progress and met some brilliant people along the way.

Exploring Manchester after the LIHG Conference
Postcard from an exhibition at the NLS
Postcard from an exhibition at the NLS
Early morning start at Lambeth Palace Library for a historical bookbindings workshop
Early morning start at Lambeth Palace Library for a historical bookbindings workshop

 

Outside of work, I managed to move house (books first, of course) and begin the GirlGuiding Leadership Qualification to become a full and proper Brown Owl! I’m really hoping to be able to introduce my Brownies to the wonderful world of archives and rare books next year, too.

Looking forward to the next year, I hope to be as busy and engaged as I have been in 2013. I would really like to update this blog more often as well, so if you see more posts here then consider that my resolution completed! Realistically, though, by the end of next year I hope to have begun my MA in Information and Library Studies at the University of Aberystwyth – a much needed step in any librarian’s career. I can’t wait to get started!

rarebooks1.jpg
The future is books (and pencils, and many notes…)

What about you? Have you got any particular goals for your career next year? Any thoughts on how 2013 went? Get in touch!

5 Things To Do To Ace Your Job Interview

So, I had a job interview recently. It was the first one I’d had for a while. It was particularly nervewracking for me because a) the job was a big step up from my current role and b) it was in a completely different institution.

But you know what? I actually really enjoyed the experience! Even if the outcome wasn’t what I hoped for, I had a great time. So what did I do beforehand to help calm my nerves?

1) Research, research, research

A Level History habits die hard
Learning about your potential employer is even more enjoyable if you use colour!

Knowing about your prospective employers is a brilliant way to help remove your job interview fear. Sometimes this research is part of the interview process (i.e. if you have to give a presentation), but more often than not it’s secondary, and very easy to overlook.

What to research? Find out about the department you’re hoping to work for: who they are, where your role would fit in, what projects they’re working on, who they’re supporting and how. For library/archive jobs, uncover what they hold. Explore their catalogues online. Learn about the institution: its history, how many people study/work there, what its strengths are and its values and strengths.

Why is researching so important? Because it helps level the playing field between you and your potential employers! You probably won’t be asked about all you know, but knowledge is a massive confidence booster. If you can drop in a little of what you’ve learnt as part of a response – or as one of the questions you ask them – it impresses. Additionally, it helps you decide if the job is right for¬†you¬†– and that’s a massive part of the interview process that often gets overlooked.

2) Ask your colleagues

This is a bit of a tricky one, and obviously it depends on your reasons for wanting to leave your current job. But if your reasons for leaving are more along the ‘wanting-to-develop-career’ lines rather than ‘I-would-rather-be-working-in-a-sewage-factory’ vibe, then getting your colleagues’ support can be hugely beneficial.

What to ask them? Anything you feel comfortable with! Ask if you can have a mock interview, find people to listen to your presentation, consult people who work in the area you’d like to be in or at the career level you’d like to aim for.

More often than not, people are flattered to be asked for advice. I have found librarians in particular to be very friendly and helpful in this respect – everyone knows how tough it can be to develop a career in this field. If you are willing to be flexible with your time, other people can often squeeze you in for a coffee – and even if they can’t help you directly, you’ve probably gained a new contact for the future! Yay!

3) Make a break of it

Quick museum snapping :(
I like to hang out with T-Rex casts in my spare time; how do you unwind?

Whether you have to travel 5 minutes or 5 hours for a job interview, I really recommend scheduling in something fun to do after the interview. If you’re travelling to a new place, try and make a weekend of it. If your interview is nearby, treat yourself to something (gig/pub/food/friends) after it’s over. That way, you have something to look forward to – and, with any luck, some excellent memories of the whole interview period ūüôā

4) Dress for success…with your style

Whenever I find out I’ve been selected for interview, I am inundated with helpful friends trying to offer me advice on what to wear. Whilst such advice is really appreciated, after a while it just has my head in a spin. As someone whose normal style is ‘look a little bit like a rainbow exploded on you, in a co-ordinated kind of way’, job interviews tend to scare the heck out of me.

Should I go for super-conservative? Super businessy, fitted suit and everything? Can I get away with a bit of colour or will that look bad? Should I redye my hair so the roots don’t show? What about tights? Arrrgh.

Oh the dilemmas...
Sadly, this wasn’t my biggest concern pre interview!
Image from http://www.xl-images.uktights.com.

In the end, I compromised. I dragged my lovely boyfriend out with me to buy the main suit bit, and he was excellent at veering me away from the green-and-black-dresses I wanted. But I didn’t go for a skirt and blouse, as that’s just not me. In the end, a simple dress won the day, with smart heels, a black blazer and a bracelet based on a rare book design.

And blue tights and a cyan glittery scarf, just to make me smile ūüôā

5) Smile!

I read in Richard Wiseman’s excellent book 59 Seconds¬†that positivity can make a really big impact on potential employers. People are drawn to happy people, particularly if they’re wondering how well you work in a team.

Naturally smiling when I’m terrified isn’t something I’m very good at. But on the day, I beamed at anyone I came into contact with. With excellent support from friends and family, and confidence in the preparation I’d done beforehand, I was genuinely excited.

All that smiling? Well, I don’t know how it affected the panel I faced, but it certainly made¬†me feel great! I came out of that meeting room feeling like I’d done my best, learnt a lot and had fun. Who knew that job interviews could actually be a really constructive experience? ūüôā