Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Cambridge's other University

As part of the Cambridge graduate librarian traineeship, we have the opportunity to visit other libraries in the city (and further afield - we have previously visited Norwich Cathedral and Millennium Libraries and have an upcoming visit to the Guildhall and Institute of Chartered Accountants’ Libraries in London).
Yesterday the graduate trainees at Anglia Ruskin gave us a tour of the Cambridge campus (one of four campuses making up the whole of Anglia Ruskin University) and provided talks from members of staff at various steps on the librarianship ladder. 
Study zones guide

This was the first academic library, which I have visited outside of Oxbridge and I was surprised at the difference in staffing, layout, usage and facilities on offer to students in comparison to my college library at St John’s.  The ground floor at Anglia is dedicated to group study and was a bustling hive of activity with people everywhere, bags strewn across the floor and noisy chatting.  The library is organised into zones (group, quiet and silent) in the hope that all students can find an environment, which is suitable to their study needs.  This should work in theory but, as the trainees admitted, this is the second attempt at implementing such a scheme and it is easier to police on paper than in practice.

The vast size of the library and volume of people, who use it, mean that there is not as much of a community feel as there is in a college library.  Here we know most of the students and they all know each other and so (mostly) respect each other’s need for peace to study (the odd paper aeroplane with ‘Shut up’ written on it thrown at troublemakers is known to do the trick in some colleges).  At Anglia, however, there are greater problems with discipline, hiding of books and mistreatment of the library, which is something that I presume is more common than I had previously thought.

The main difference between the libraries, which I am used to frequenting, and Anglia, was the business attitude of the university and management to the library.  The trainees even have to ‘rove’ round the library wearing a sash emblazoned with ‘Here to Help.’  There was a definite commercial feel to the library with a focus on customer service, which more resembled a public than university library.  This seems incongruous in an academic atmosphere but, as it was pointed out, students will be paying up to £9,000 for the privilege of going to university and so can legitimately expect a service for their money.  Students are rapidly becoming customers and consumers and libraries have to adapt to such change.

Something which caught my attention was the difference in duties of the staff.  There is obviously a much bigger staff at Anglia and, it seems as a result, that the roles are less varied.  Take the graduate trainees, for example, they shadow librarians but do not handle enquiries nor do they catalogue (indeed, all of the books arrive at Anglia already catalogued and classified and stickered).  They do, however, deal with serials and inter-library loans but the variety in their work is minimal.  At John’s the trainee gets to do whatever they like (within reason!) since they can do work for anyone in the library and are free to chose on what to spend their time.  This suits me well since I like to be able to manage my own time and work on what really interests me.  It is only now that I realise how fortunate I am.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Are libraries, like, so uncool, to teenagers?

This BBC article obviously caught my interest:

Stack of Books
Stack of books stock.xchng
A student at John's mentioned it to me in passing yesterday morning and brought up a very valid point.  The top 10 books make it clear that young children and adults are using public libraries.  Indeed the young children will presumably be using the libraries because their parents introduced them to it.  There is a distinct lack of representation of teenage and young-adult fiction.  

The public library, in which I worked, had a dedicated young adult section and I certainly don't think that it is the case that public libraries are in some way under-catering for this generation.  The library service must not be 'cool' (or indeed 'hip' - a term I am a tad too young to remember the first time round but like all the same) and it is this stereotype that recent events like 'Save our Libraries' and services within libraries such as excellent computer facilities, art exhibitions from local schools as at Norwich Millennium Library and author and illustrator visits as at Cambridge Central go some way to smashing.

Perhaps such events are somewhat preaching to the converted and once again we hit upon the wikiman's Echo Chamber.  I offer no solution but merely wished to flag up this under-represented group as a means of making myself think about it!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Belated leap into the unknown

Hello to the world of blogging

After over 6 months working as a librarian in Cambridge I have succumbed to the power of the blog.  I hadn't realised how difficult it would be to come up with a suitable name.  I wanted it to evoke both the library world and my Scottish roots and, after consultation with colleagues, other graduate trainees, my landlady, students and family, my brother and I came up with 'Wee Bookworm' (it could have been worse - my brother has had many, even less flattering, names for me over the years).

'Bookworm' on stock.xchng

So, watch this space and wait with baited breath for something to inspire me to write on it!