Poking and prying

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” – Zora Neale Hurston

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Last week saw the 2nd annual Newcomers Week held at Essex for early career researchers and final year PhD students. Over 200 participants turned up over the course of the week to learn some of the skills required to navigate the constantly evolving world of academic research. As well as sessions exploring more traditional areas such as knowledge of the publication process and how to write research proposals, we also held resilience workshops and talks on using google and social media. Helping out with this has shown me how technology, the publishing industry and the higher education sector are continuously adapting in response to new discoveries and ways of thinking and how supporting library users requires an ongoing familiarity with growing fields and new developments.

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5 Things for a new Graduate Trainee to know …

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Congratulations to the 2018 cohort of trainees! After successfully climbing the mountain that is the application and interview process you can survey your future in the world of librarianship and information science unfolding before you. Wherever and whoever you all are I hope you give yourselves a pat on the back.  At this point you have probably celebrated in a manner of your choosing and are now starting to wonder what September will bring. Summer has just begun and there a few months of (hopefully) sunshine before you start off on your next career adventure. No two people’s experiences are exactly the same but the trainees here at the University of Essex would like to share a few hints and tips from our time here at the Albert Sloman. Gather round and listen to our hard-earned words of wisdom …

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Visit to the Essex Record Office

Hello erudite readers! It’s been a while since my last post but I just wanted to update you on a recent visit to the Essex Record Office.

 

At the start of this year we were fortunate enough to receive a talk from the ERO’s senior conservator, Diane Taylor, on the conservation and handling of rare books and manuscripts. As a history graduate who has used a range of special collections, I thought the talk was incredibly interesting and opened up an area of work which I hadn’t fully considered before. As a result of our group’s collective intrigue, Diane suggested that we come and visit the Essex Record Office, where she could provide a deeper insight into the work which goes on there and show us around the facilities.

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Student Engagement and Learning Support

Supporting library users is a key part of my role as a graduate trainee and encompasses a wide range of duties from assisting new students with finding books to contributing towards an environment where they feel their voice is being heard. Working within student engagement really stretches one’s capacity to think creatively and find novel ways of grabbing people’s attention. A definite highlight for me was researching quotes for the banned book display that I set up on the ground floor. I was prepared for some of the accusations made against Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Ulysses but truly surprised to learn that Toni Morrison’s Beloved was anathema to a US politician as recently as 2017. Before coming to work at the Albert Sloman I tended to regard libraries as neutral spaces that serve a purely intellectual purpose. I now think it’s fair to say that academic libraries reflect the values of the organisations they serve and play an active role in promoting a sense of community and shared values. The Albert Sloman is committed to goals such as diversity and equality and throughout the course of the year the trainees have participated in promoting BHM and LGBT history month as well as raising awareness of various ways that the library and university can assist students with their studies and overall wellbeing.

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Visit to The Sixth Form College, Colchester

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Last week myself, Jake and Katrina went to visit the Sixth Form College, Colchester to meet staff and learn about their library. Our hosts were very welcoming, and it was really good to share experiences of working in libraries as well as see how their library operates. One thing I’ve found with the different visits we’ve been on is that there are a lot of shared experiences, and it’s good to know you’re in the same boat.

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Visit to the British Library

Despite attempts made by the weather we weren’t deterred from visiting the British Library this week. Our staff here have been looking forward to becoming more familiar with the UK’s national library for a number of months and having the opportunity to discover some of its hidden gems first-hand. It was fascinating to learn more about how this institution operates. The British Library is not just of huge cultural importance but also assists with important day-to-day services here at the Albert Sloman and elsewhere. Most of the inter library loan requests taken from staff and students through us here are retrieved from the British Library as their extensive collection is a truly impressive resource. With the rights to a copy of every UK and Irish publication their collection includes over 150 million items and is continuously growing – by 12km a year. It’s a good first point of call for those books and journals that aren’t normally included in an academic library’s collections and they operate the world’s largest document delivery service.

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The History of Section 28 for LGBT+ History Month

‘Authorities shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’. Section 28, Local Government Act, 1988.

2018 marks thirty years since Margaret Thatcher’s government introduced Section 28, a notorious policy which prevented schools and local authorities from promoting LGBT+ issues. At the time, the policy announcement was surrounded by a media-driven moral panic over the ‘gay lobby’; despite the fact that homosexual acts were decriminalised over twenty years before. Newspapers such as the Daily Mail wrote that ‘homosexual activists use sex lessons to promote their own lifestyle’, adding that ‘they brainwash youngsters through propaganda in public and school libraries’. (Daily Mail, October 6 1986, p. 9.) Other papers such as the Sunday Telegraph also defended Section 28, suggesting that sexual orientation was dependent upon the company that students choose to keep at school, and even went as far to suggest that the young needed protection ‘from this decadent and disgusting way of life’. (Sunday Telegraph, January 31 1988, p. 22.)

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