Canterbury tales: still-July 2017

One thing I’d like to be better at is taking time to remember the positive, tiny things that make a difference in every day life: the things that get me laughing in the morning or thinking ‘huzzah!’ when I get in from work. So, this week’s good things are…

Leeds for work, Leeds for catch-ups

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I was lucky enough to have my (first ever) paper accepted for the annual Association of Performing Arts Collections (APAC) symposium, this year held in Leeds. I went up the day before because trains are so expensive, but it gave me a bit to explore the city and – most importantly – catch up with a friend from uni who I haven’t seen properly in years. We went to the excellent Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen which won me over with a) its rooftop bar, b) its veggie burgers and c) the rather delicious strawberry and black pepper  gin cocktail, aka YUM. It was such a lovely way to spend an evening and see somewhere in Leeds totally different!

The next day, I gave my paper (which went well, I think) and we were treated to a tour of the Special Collections at the University of Leeds, nestled in their Brotherton Library which was “modelled on the British Library’s reading room, only bigger”. It’s such an impressive building, all polished wood and marble columns! The architecture in Leeds is such an interesting mix, with the glorious industrial-era redbrick campus contrasting against the very modern high rises of lights and shiny glass. I loved visiting the city for a couple of days; daft as it sounds, there is so much country beyond the Southern bubble I often inhabit and every time I leave that bubble I just want to see more.

New gym class

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Having missed my normal Monday spin and Tuesday abs classes, I finally got around to attending a kettlebells class on Wednesday. I’m so, so glad I did! I love my gym because it’s so small and personal which has really helped me feel at ease (I’m not the most sporty person ever, to put it mildly). When I got there, the instructors were all “you came!” and it was great to catch up with everyone. The class was hard, and I’ve been aching all week since, but it was SO satisfying. This week I’m gonna try and do all three Monday – Wednesday classes, so let’s see how that goes…

Discoveries: David Lloyd George’s copy of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’

University of Kent Special Collections & Archives, SPEC COLL LLGC 2.2
University of Kent Special Collections & Archives, SPEC COLL LLGC 2.2

We’ve been collaborating a lot with the School of Music at work recently, and in amongst all the forthcoming pantomime activity there’s a bit of Dickens in the midst. A colleague recommended having a look at David Lloyd George’s copy of ‘A Christmas Carol’ for images and – wow! It’s a gorgeous 1930s edition, with an intact bookplate and some utterly gorgeous woodcut illustrations. Definitely one to remember.

Best friends in Canterbury

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This weekend we broke our guests-in-the-house record by having FIVE people stay over at one time! (Duvets were more of an issue than space, once it was agreed that it was totally fine to sleep in the conservatory). On Saturday, we ate so much homemade pizza (and snacks) (and Pimms) (and these chocolate brownies) whilst generally hanging out and playing Mario Kart, which we’ve rediscovered. (In accidentally stereotypical ways, the girls were very noisy  – “Oh NO! I’m going to DIE! No not the LAVA ARGH I’M 12TH!!!!!!!!!!!” – whilst the boys silently fought it out for 1st and 2nd place. Though I’ve still not forgiven Chris for bashing me a lot because his car was bigger than my bike…)

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Sunday saw us pretend that last night’s food fest hadn’t happened and the obligatory brunch in town was needed. By chance, The Refectory had space and so eight of us merged outside tables together and desperately prayed that the grey clouds overhead wouldn’t get any ideas. They didn’t, and WOW the food was incredible! Great coffee and one of the nicest lunches I’ve had in months – a spinach and chive crepe with baked egg, artichokes, goats cheese, mushrooms, caramelised onions and parmesan. I can’t believe it’s taken us a year to get round to trying this cafe, because I think it’s a new Canterbury favourite…

But the best bit of the weekend? Laughing my head off with friends I’ve known, in part, since we were 10. They are the best humans and it always feels like coming home when we meet up, even if the adulthood contrasts are getting a bit marked: we like sleep, and good coffee, and acknowledge that takeaway isn’t always the best thing ever. But they sure as heck are.

This week, I’m starting on my MA assignment, attempting three gym classes on three consecutive days, finishing up Master of None (STILL SO GOOD) and continuing reading Hans Fallada’s WW2 resistance novel Alone In Berlin.

How was your week? What’s been bringing you joy?

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Local studies librarians: lose them, lose your community

It’s been a pretty grim week in LibraryLand, if you take the headlines richoceting around the BBC et al as confirmation of what the library community has known for some time: that this government is causing long term, irreparable damage to libraries through council budget cuts that translate into closures and redundancies.

I don’t aim to discuss those pieces here, mainly because I’ve yet to process the reports and subsequent reaction fully. But a great piece came out today about the impact council cuts have had on local studies librarians, and that really hit home for me.

Local studies librarians aren’t always known as ‘librarians’. CILIP’s description of local studies librarians  can refer to archivists or museums staff too, and this is perhaps why we’ve not heard so much about them in the broader discussion of library cuts. (Archives, particularly local record offices, are also struggling to survive or having to reduce their opening hours in the post-recession-Tory-world.) But the work they do is absolutely invaluable.

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‘Mrs Brown at Brighton’ pamphlet from Smith’s Cuttings: History of Brighton, Chain Pier & Aquarium, BH600434, Brighton History Centre @ The Keep

Have you ever tried to research your family history, or needed to find out some information about when your house was built? If you’ve done this in any public building, chances are you’ll have come into contact with a local studies librarian – and the amount of knowledge these staff is hold is absolutely vast. Local studies teams need to know about everything from OS maps to wills and local parish boundaries. They need to be able to teach newcomers how to navigate complex sites like Ancestry and Find My Past (which are free to use at your local library) or how to load a microfilm of baptism records. Nine times out of ten, local studies librarians are both librarian and archivist, explaining both reference libraries and documents. Sometimes they’ll be curator too, as local history collections will often span items held in museums.

It’s a beautifully complex role, but if these jobs continue to be lost the entire community will suffer and local identity is really under threat. Local studies librarians deal with queries from people searching for long lost family members, or from people wanting to recall an event from their past through local newspapers, or from people wanting to know when that extra wall was built in their house and if it’s possible to take it down.

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A fully booked event on the history of Brighton at The Keep, 2015

Many of the people using local studies resources are people who’ve been living in the area for years. A lot of people using the collections will need time with trained staff to get to know how to find the information they need; users are often (though by no means always!) older and may not know how to use a computer.

Time is often key to helping visitors to local studies collections; it takes a while to understand what your user needs from what they’re telling you, and staff then need time to explain how to access the resources available. Reducing opening hours (particularly during the week) can be so damaging to local studies departments; many users visit to feel at home, to continue with a line of enquiry they’ve been investigating for a while, and it’s often part of their weekly routine.

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Open day @ The Keep, 2015

Local studies centres, particularly if they’re centrally located, help to pin the community together: they’re there to preserve everyday lives and quirky events, and to celebrate the past by sharing knowledge with those in the present. Cut staff in this area, and everyone in the heritage sector loses out. It takes years to know most of the pamphlets, books, parish records and newspaper holdings (and the other many different types of material) within local studies libraries and most of it just isn’t available online or through Google. Local studies collections need people to use them, and people to show them the way. Let’s keep them at the heart of our society.

(I worked with the local studies collections at The Keep from 2013 – 2016: I learnt more about East Sussex from the wonderful staff at East Sussex Record Office and Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilions & Museums in two years than a decade of living in Brighton could ever teach me. If you’re ever in the area, I urge you to go and visit!)

 

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!

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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!