Hello, my name is Jake and I am one of three graduate trainees employed here at the Albert Sloman Library, University of Essex. I completed both my BA and MA in history here at Essex, and with that in mind, it seemed like the perfect place to also undertake a graduate trainee scheme. Moreover, for someone with no previous library experience, I was really motivated by the prospect of working within all of the different library departments, which the scheme at Essex offers.
On the 11th the Essex Business School hosted a conference exploring the relationship between spaces (of any variety) and learning. The event really made me question the way that spaces, in all their forms, directly and indirectly influence our thinking and behaviour. At one time or another all of us have been made aware of the impact classrooms have on our ability to learn. Noise, size, temperature, windows and lighting can all help or hinder our attempts us to function at our best capacity. As the keynote speaker Marty Jacobs noted in his talk, we tend to notice how a space is designed once it interferes with our intentions – the lack of acoustics in a lecture theatre that muffles a speaker’s voice or the rows of desks in a classroom that forces us to swivel around to talk to the person behind us.
One of the interesting things I was looking forward to whilst being a trainee was getting to visit different kinds of libraries. On a sunny day in December (no really), four library staff from the Colchester campus headed to Southend to visit our colleagues at The Forum.
The Forum is a partnership project, bringing together Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, the University of Essex and South Essex College. There are approximately 1000-1400 students from the university, within the departments of School of Health and Social Care, East 15 Acting School, the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, and Essex Business School. Having worked in both in public and university libraries I was interested to find out how an academic and a public library could work together. Would students revising for end-of-term exams be faced with the lively sound of toddlers singing ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ during a weekly Rhymetime? Or would academic library staff be approached by members of the public wanting to know how to renew their bus passes online?
The Albert Sloman Library is the biggest library I’ve worked in so far, and the opportunities are many and diverse. However if pressed (and I realise no-one is asking) I would say the most important thing I’ve learnt this term is a better understanding of how different departments and aspects of library work fit together. I’ve wanted to learn more ‘behind the scenes’ skills of library and information work – not purely out of intellectual curiosity, but because I think informed staff are better equipped to help. For example, even before the start of term I had some training on reading lists using Talis, and was therefore able to help a staff member who was having difficulties getting his list just right for the start of term.
Writing a blog post to cover everything from this term is simply not possible. So I’ve decided to posit ‘three somethings’ that may give some insight in to the trainee post so far.
One of the perks of being a trainee here at the Albert Sloman is the chance we are given to become familiar with the library secrets and stories that most users are unaware of. We are then able to share this knowledge with interested visitors during tours on open days and library events. As part of the Albert Sloman’s 50th anniversary, a gathering for alumni was held on the 7th December where former students were able to meet, discuss their memories and take a look at collections and areas that are not normally on display. Because an entirely new section of the library was officially opened a few years ago there have undoubtedly been changes since many of our alumni last set foot in the building. A brand new library reading room with 24 hour access has been opened this academic year as well as the new wing from 2015 which has a great view of the surrounding parkland.