Libraries, the universe and everything

Something new
February 10, 2018, 08:00
Filed under: Libraries, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

OK, this is just shameful… I knew I had a draft blog post (about business books I’d read) lurking in the background, but when I went to refer to it I found this one which I drafted back in August 2017. I have no idea why I didn’t post it at the time, it seems pretty finished to me and I would like to have a record of this somewhere, so for the sake of completeness here it is now.AUGUST 2017: One of the things I’ve realised lately is that my current portfolio of work experience is extremely satisfying. Previously I resisted the idea of even considering a part-time position, but now I see that they can be an excellent way to gain a wide variety of experience. Not only that, but assembling the various pieces of my personal professional puzzle has made me think critically about where I want to be spending my time and energy, and which aspects of library and information work are the most (and least) important to me.

Somewhat unbelievably, it has been almost exactly four years since I started volunteering in the reading room at the Morgan Library, and two since I began working with their Printed Books department as well. This kind of work is exactly what I want to be doing, I have many fantastic colleagues, and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to how amazing the collection is.

Prior to landing at the Morgan, I had been doing some shelving and assisting with a computer skills drop-in session at my local public library branch, and in the meantime I spent seven months in the New York Philharmonic orchestra’s archives, and eight in the processing department at the HousingWorks secondhand bookstore. All of these were excellent experiences, and I learned a lot from each, but with each of them it was clear when the time came to move on.

Back in the early spring, I was thrilled to see an advertisement for a volunteer position in the Nolen Library at the Metropolitan Museum. I had been on a tour of Nolen back in 2014, and remembered liking it very much. More importantly, I had just decided that I needed to find a way to get more direct customer-facing experience into my work practice (of course I work with readers all the time at the Morgan, but most of the question-fielding is done before they get to me, and the unexpectedness of the walk-in enquirer is one of my favourite things about library work), and this seemed like the perfect solution.

The application process was rigorous – a CV and cover letter were followed by a telephone interview, and then a face-to-face meeting with three of the museum’s librarians. This was all a welcome challenge in its own right (it’s been an age!), but of course I was thrilled to hear that my efforts met with success.

My first training session was on April 12th and I really can’t believe it’s been that long already. Since the start of July I’ve been working solo, which is something of a mixed blessing – I love the autonomy and responsibility of it (whilst also knowing backup is close at hand should it be required), but I had such a great time training with various members of the Met libraries team and it’s rather sad not to have those interactions in the same way any more!

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