26 October 2013

Manual handling

I always thought that with working in a few libraries, that my handling skills of library material was pretty good. However, I attended a training session and was totally schooled. So I have decided to share a few things that I neglected, learnt and should be re-enforced within libraries, especially those with special collections. 

Library ground rules
First and foremost, as a student I always thought that the whole idea of not bringing food and drink into a library made sense. However, students never really understood what the big deal was with water. After all, it will dry, right? Not much damage done but a few rippled pages but still perfectly readable, right? I suppose quite a lot of students think this way, especially when studying for exams and not wanting to leave the one reference copy for idle eyes to see, so the only opinion was to sneek a quick sip or bite. Oh, just how naive!

Eating food in the library is a huge problem for conservationists as grease and leftover food can stick pages together and create marks. This is not only expensive and difficult to remove but also not very aesthetically pleasing to the next user. Drinks when spilt can immediate stain books but water can also be an issue as some illustrations can be water soluble and therefore completely destroy it. A lot of libraries also let users have pens but ink can be detrimental because of the fact that they smudge, then spread and cover materials. How annoyed would you be if the item you requested ions ago, has a ink smudge over the only page of value to you? Truly pissed I would say.

Handling 101
Much of the damage that books, archives and artworks sustain is due to bad handlings. For example, when retrieving books from the shelves it is fundamental that you do not remove the book from the spine as (contrary to thought) it is the weakest part of the book. I bet a number of you have seen broken spines, missing covers etc and this is the reason why.

19 October 2013

Not your ordinary music library

I always thought that a "music library" was just a place to store all your music on Itunes, but I definitely got a different idea of a term, while visiting Surrey Performing Arts Library for "CILIP in Surrey" event.

After trekking through the beautiful scenery of Denbies Vineyard in pouring rain, me and my colleague arrived at the library which houses a large collection of music, dance, theatre, and cinema in print and digital format.

With over 4000 play sets and 6000 music sets in rolling stacks from Christmas carols, modern plays and pantomimes, available in different languages with individual scores for every part of an orchestra it is no wonder it is pretty large. I think one of the things that shocked me the most that even the book collections included notes on the techniques used to not only play the music but to the way in which a theatre set can be made and drama costumes can be designed.

The collections are classified and catalogued with a combination of ANSCR and Dewey Decimal Classification System and there has a catalogue available through Surrey Libraries. When you have one of the last remaining music sets from famous artists within your collection, you really wouldn't dream to make that so easily accessible. However, with a 6 months reservations period, items can be on loaned to orchestras, choirs, schools etc for 2-3 months at a time. 

This was astonishing to me and a lot of librarians at the talk, because with a reduction in print-based material, just how do you deal with loss or damage? You can imagine that having an item on loan for 3 months that it isn't going to come back your library in one piece, especially if the user doesn't have proper handling training.

I have to say that I was pleased to know that the performing arts library didn't have to bear the brunt of this. Within its collection policy, anything can be loaned without charge but any damaged or lost items would have to be bought and replaced by the user. When a library has shrinking budgets, this is an effective method. The library also has a stock replenishment system that for any play set, score etc. there are always multiple copies e.g. one copy for every member of an orchestra for multiple requests.   

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this library and it specialist collection.

11 October 2013


It been a long time since I updated this blog but I wanted to wait for at least a month in my new position before bragging informing you about it.

I have been extremely blessed to work as Library Graduate Trainee at Kew Gardens, surrounded by a specialist collection on botany and plant science and just a walk away from the gardens that makes this institution so famous. In this last month, I have learned so much about the librarian's profession in terms of cataloguing books and helping library users at the enquiry desk and still motivated to learn more as my responsibilities grow.

With having such an opportunity, I definitely don't think it is time to slack off, so I am already thinking about my next career step - getting a masters degree in Library and Information Studies. For a lot of librarians this may not be an immediate necessity but to pursue my specific goals it is ideal to learn more about the industry and connect with many people in the process. After finding out one of prospective university choices application deadline is actually only a short while away, the last two weeks have been pretty daunting.

However, one never fears a challenge and I know just how I am going to succeed: - actively participating in activities that will assist in my career After all, nobody becomes a subject-specialist librarian for East Asian collections overnight. So look forward to my future posts on my crazy schedule between work and studying languages, workshops and conferences, training and who knows what else I will find within London.