Hello! So my name’s Katrina and I’m one of the (newish) Graduate Trainees at the University of Essex’s Albert Sloman Library. Like the majority of English Literature graduates I have a deep-rooted passion for reading and a desire to put my enthusiasm for knowledge to good use. The Albert Sloman library currently has over a million books, ebooks and scholarly articles, enough to fill 6 floors, so I feel that this is the perfect place to share my skills and interests. This is an academic library with a treasure trove of weird and wonderful collections as well as the set texts required for students to read as part of their programmes at the university. The collections themselves are often surprising and unexpected. The letters written by Sigmund Freud and the books belonging to the erstwhile Archbishop of York, Samuel Harsnett, are amongst my personal favourites. The strangest would have to be the marzipan heads modelled on members of the SDP.
After finishing my BA and my master’s I worked in a few different administrative positions where I gained experience entering data, handling enquiries and working with computers – all skills that are serving me well in my current role. The duties associated with this position are incredibly varied and no two days are exactly the same. My day usually starts with shelving, and then it’s time to work on the projects I’m assisting with. One of the features that first attracted me to this role was the opportunity to work across most of the main departments in the library – User Services, Collections and Student Engagement. Student engagement and Collections are rotated through the course of a year; I’m helping the Student Engagement team at the moment and will begin working in Collections come December. I’m very much enjoying working within the Student Engagement team. Out of the projects I’ve been involved with so far I’d probably say my favourite was raising awareness for a one-off book group that was held last month as part of Black History Month. I was given the chance to create promotional videos, posters and reading slips to place in the free copies we handed out. The most challenging activity so far has been teaching Information Literacy sessions to foundation and undergraduate students; this has definitely stretched me out of my comfort zone but also provided me with a sense of accomplishment.
I also spend a fair portion of my week helping the User Services team by answering queries at the helpdesk in the foyer on the ground floor. Questions are often totally unexpected and wide-ranging so this is good for keeping me on my toes as well as giving me the chance to learn more about how the library operates. Activities often include retrieving books from the labyrinthine basement, fixing printers and just generally helping staff and students wherever possible. I’m also included within the ‘roving’ team for three hours every week and can be seen around the library with a (hopefully) friendly face ready to provide assistance for anyone who requests it. Helping staff and students to make the most of their library is very rewarding, and so far one of the best things about working as a graduate trainee is the feeling that you are contributing to the community here at Essex.