Behind the scenes: Work experience at Special Collections

Today’s post in from Anna, who spent her week of work experience on the library side of Special Collections.

I applied for work experience at the Reading University Library because I adore books and I have been thinking about becoming a librarian. When I found out that I would be working in Special Collections I was ecstatic. I loved being able to have the opportunity to learn new things about the library, the books and even a little of what it takes to get books on the system and keep things running.

During my time working in Special Collections I have been able to see some of the amazing collections including Cole, Overstone and the collection of children’s books. Among the collections that I didn’t get to see are the Archive of British Publishing and Printing and The Beckett Collection. Reading University Library has the largest collection of Beckett in the world containing over 600 manuscripts, typescripts and photocopied transcripts.

In my short time here I have been able to help organise some of the material from the Landscape Institute that is slowly being phased into the library. Also I have been able to shadow one of the library assistants as they processed rare books in the collections that were not yet on the system and saw the first step in this process.

Special Collections is right next to the Museum of English Rural Life, or MERL for short. Because of this Special Collections has quite a large section in the open library about agriculture. This also means that during the course of the week I was able to have a look at a good part of the Museum. I saw two of the rats from the rat trail and I got to see the corn dollies, one of which is a six-foot tall King Alfred which is on loan to the TATE (so I wasn’t able to see it). During the week I was also able to help with some transcribing of one of the collection catalogues.

A rat on the MERL rat trail!

My favourite tasks during the week came when I was helping in the reading room; I helped one of the reading room librarians collect items from the archives. During this little excursion I discovered that the Reading University Library has connections to the library in Hiroshima; the University library sent books over to them to help back on their feet after the incident.

I also enjoyed looking around MERL and the library itself and being able to come and experience this has been fantastic.

I want to thank everybody at Special Collections for allowing me to come in for work experience. It has been an enlightening venture that I enjoyed thoroughly.

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