Work Stories: Jasmeen & Didi Luton Library

Not only is it somewhere nice for people to go to for some piece and quiet, but also it is a social hub, where people get to take stuff out for free. And who doesn’t like free stuff?

Jasmeen and Didi speak to This Is It! about working as Creative Employment Programme Interns for Luton Library and why they think Libraries are still important.

 

What were you doing before you started working here?

Jasmeen: Before I worked with Luton central library, I was looking for work. I had mainly been doing temporary work for a variety of different companies. Most recently, I was a research assistant for a pharmaceutical company.

Didi: I was working as a part time Receptionist/Administrator at a local charity.

 

What made you made you want to apply for this role?

Jasmeen: I was very excited about being given the opportunity to work in a knowledge filled environment. I had spent most of my time as a child in libraries, and had acted as a volunteer on many occasions. I loved it then, so when I saw that such an opportunity had arisen, I jumped on it.

Didi: I am enthusiastic about the importance of books and information. I was attracted to the opportunity of putting the communication and IT skills I had acquired from my previous role to help support people in the local community.

There’s always something to do, and something new to learn.

Can you tell us a bit about your role at Luton Libraries?

Jasmeen: At the moment I do a little bit of everything. I work both with the frontline staff and with the librarians. Working with the frontline staff includes providing customers with the library’s services. As a result, we are actively helping customers with their needs. I could also be stacking shelves and finding requests placed by customers from anywhere in the county.

Working with the librarians, I help to sort out the ordering of new books, and the withdrawal of old or unwanted books from the system. In addition librarians organise a lot of events in the library, part of my role involves recording feedback from customers who attended these events. I have also recently been writing a lot of articles for the newsletters and designing posters!

Didi: I spend half of my time as a Library intern in Luton Central Library working frontline. This involves working hands on to help customers borrow items and find information, to help run activities in the library, and to carry out routine duties like shelving and sectioning.

I spend the other half of my time working on projects based around the Universal Offers. The Universal Offers are the four key areas of service that are essential to a 21st century library service. I am working under the Reading Offer with Children. This involves promoting reading through reading groups, challenges, promotions and author events. Currently, we are working on the Summer Reading Challenge. This offer has been developed in partnership with The Reading Agency to encourage children to read books whilst on their summer break.

I believe that public libraries are at the heart of any community. It’s a safe place where you can meet people and access a wide range of resources for knowledge or pleasure as well as providing free entertainment.

What’s the best part about working in a library?

Jasmeen: There’s always something to do, and something new to learn. There’s always a way to explore the progressive skills that have been gained as an individual, which I am very happy about. On top of that, you get the satisfaction of helping someone find what they need, and their gratitude is always heart-warming. You also get to meet and socialise with people of all different cultural backgrounds, which has made me appreciate what a big, yet small world we live in.

Didi: I enjoy the variety of the job, from dealing with members of the public on some days to working on a project or visiting other local libraries on other days. No day is the same and that excites me.

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Why do you think it’s important to get more people using libraries?

Jasmeen: There is a very big community in the library. Not only is it somewhere nice for people to go to for some piece and quiet, but also it is a social hub, where people get to take stuff out for free. And who doesn’t like free stuff?

Didi: I believe that public libraries are at the heart of any community. It’s a safe place where you can meet people and access a wide range of resources for knowledge or pleasure as well as providing free entertainment. The services offered can help local people to learn and boost vital everyday skills needed to survive in an ever-changing society.

 

Find out more about Luton Library through their Website and Facebook page.

 


Work Stories: Jack, The National Portrait Gallery Library and Archives

Interview

I think that the programme is great in that it offers such a variety of roles for all different people.

This Is It! speaks to Jack about working on the Creative Employment Programme at the National Portrait Gallery Archive and Library.

 

What were you doing before you started working here?

Before I was working here I was doing voluntary work in a charity bookshop, which I started just after I graduated. I wanted to get in to libraries, so it meant I had some relevant experience when I came for my interview at the National Portrait Gallery Library.

 

Had you thought about working in the Creative Industry before you started working here?

Yeah absolutely, my degree was in film studies so I had been initially looking to go in to something film based, but then I started finding more of an interest in books, so it worked out perfectly really.

It can either be very quiet with no visitors to deal with or crazy with 50 things in your hands trying to juggle

What interested you most about applying for this position?

It perfectly lined up with my interests as it was in the library services. Six months also seemed like a good length of time to be introductory as well as fit you in to a working environment, which I hadn’t been in properly before.

NPG Gallery Record - Gallery Interior Photograph – Born Digital

NPG Gallery Record – Gallery Interior Photograph – Born Digital

Can you tell us a little bit about your role at the National Portrait Gallery Library and Archives?

I started as a Library Assistant trainee and intern, doing a variety of things round the library. I worked with the collections by retrieving and labelling items, looking after books that had been damaged and generally managing things.

A large part of my role was also working on the archive reception desk. This involved helping visitors use the library, booking appointments and dealing with enquiries. It can either be very quiet with no visitors to deal with or crazy with 50 things in your hands trying to juggle, but it’s good. I enjoy working with people; I don’t like particularly being solitary at my desk for long periods of time. Some people like that, I like to get out and talk to people.

One of the main things I got in to doing was cataloguing, and cataloguing training with the Librarian. This means getting volumes of books and making sure their records are right on the computer. You need a degree in Librarianship to be able to do that properly but I was lucky in that Joseph, the Librarian, was able to spare the time to teach me, which I enjoyed doing. That’s a large part of what I do now. I spend half my day on the reception desk and the other half I spend heading up a sales cataloguing project that we’re doing.

I’ve learnt practical things like dealing with books, working with the collections and learning to look after archive and library materials properly.

What skills have you learnt so far on your placement?

One of the main skills has been confidence. I started the scheme with five other people across the institutions. It was good to start at the same time as other people at the same level to you, rather than being thrown in at the deep end.

I’ve learnt practical things like dealing with books, working with the collections and learning to look after archive and library materials properly. Also using the library management system, which is something you can’t really learn without looking at it and dealing with it yourself. As I wanted to continue working in libraries, working with the researchers, the type of people I would be dealing with in a full role, was really helpful.

I have been given transferable skills in both helping casual visitors and working with researchers. Without these skills I would not have had the opportunity to work at the Natural History Museum, which I now do along side the National Portrait Gallery.

NPG Gallery Record - Gallery Interior Photograph – Born Digital

NPG Gallery Record – Gallery Interior Photograph – Born Digital

Can you think of a moment or day that has been a particular highlight?

I really enjoyed the collaborative training we did as part of the programme with the other interns from St. Martins and Somerset House. The other staff members were all around my age and job level, so in terms of confidence it was quite nice to be learning things with that group. I really like that sort of thing, learning new things and contributing things from my workplace that other people might not be so familiar with.

I like days where it’s quite busy at the desk and there are lots of things to do. I’m lucky in the library that there are members of staff from all different departments working in the reading room. These include records management, archive staff and a couple of Curators. So I like days where I get to speak to them learning about what they do and they can help me with my work.

 

Have you come across anything in the archives that stood out to you?

The archives have got some pretty cool stuff in. There are journals and notebooks down there with hand drawn sketches from George Scharf, who was an early director of the National Portrait Gallery.

My internship was good in that it gave me the skills I needed to progress. I’ve now got two proper posts in highly esteemed institutions, which is great!

Have you faced any challenges during your time here?

As I wasn’t a very outspoken person when I came in, being suddenly in an office with all these people who are very good at their jobs, talking about things that I don’t know was a learning curve. It’s also quite exciting as it’s interesting to learn about people and their jobs.

The real challenge having come out of doing voluntary work and being unemployed was getting to grips with the working environment. This is something that will vary from place to place but luckily here it was made less of a challenge

if I want to go anywhere else in the future, I’ve got the experience that I wouldn’t have had without the internship.

Has working at the National Portrait Gallery Library helped influence your future career?

Yes absolutely, the programme was great in that it was a good stepping-stone. Coming out of voluntary work I had a few interviews to go straight in to working a full time post in a library but I still didn’t have the experience that was necessary for it. My internship was good in that it gave me the skills I needed to progress. I’ve now got two proper posts in highly esteemed institutions, which is great! So now if I want to go anywhere else in the future, I’ve got the experience that I wouldn’t have had without the internship.

NPG Gallery Record - Gallery Interior Photograph – Born Digital

NPG Gallery Record – Gallery Interior Photograph – Born Digital

Can you give any advice to someone who could be starting a similar role, or starting a placement?

I’d advise that if you’re interested in specific areas, ask people about it.

As I wasn’t so self-assured, I wasn’t doing that at first but as I got in to it I started asking about areas I hadn’t been initially introduced to. I think that the programme is great in that it offers such a variety of roles for all different people.


You can find out more about the National Portrait Gallery Library here and more about the Creative Employment Programme here.