Work experience placements alongside study can be a key to opening up career opportunities and in the Art and Design and Music Libraries, Central Library, we have been lucky enough to support two student placements over the winter term. I say lucky because often students give back far more than they take, bringing enthusiasm, new ideas and a chance for us to review our library service through their eyes.
Cue Holly and Molly. Holly came to work in the Art and Design Library and Molly in the Music Library. We were interested to find out more about how our students viewed their placements and whether they might have any tips for us in how we can develop our library service so we put together a series of questions.
Describe yourself, where you are in your studies and how this work placement fits into your coursework.
Molly – I’m Molly – I’m originally from New York but I am currently studying a MSc in Information and Library Studies at the University of Strathclyde. This work placement took place during my second semester of classes over the course of 11 weeks.
Holly – My name is Holly and I am in my third year of studying History of Art at the University of Edinburgh. Having joined the University in 2020, the first two years of my degree were taught virtually via online platforms such as Zoom. Despite this challenge, 2023, the third year of my studies marked my first opportunity to attend seminars and lectures face-to-face within the University campus. With that in mind, I was delighted when offered the opportunity to engage with a work placement, which gave me an opportunity to take my education in art history beyond the classroom and put theory into practice at a cultural institution. The Art and Design Library placement has given me the chance to work independently from the University alongside industry professionals and develop my skills whilst experiencing what a career beyond my degree might look like.
Describe what you have been doing in the library and what you have learnt.
Molly – I’ve mainly been helping reclassify the music library’s stock with the correct Library of Congress classifications. I’ve also had the opportunity to experience a wide variety of other library duties, including working on the desk, helping out with library events, and creating displays for the library.
Holly – Throughout my time working at the Library I have been under the supervision of the Library Development Leader Bronwen Brown, who has introduced me to the Library management system and tasked me with specific projects to complete. I have learnt how to engage with the public in checking in and out of books, and how to run the online city-wide reservation service, as well as shelf checking the library’s stock. At the start of February I was tasked with creating an LGBTQ+ display to exhibit the libraries support for February as LGBTQ+ History Month. This involved finding and organising certain books that celebrated queer and heterosexual artists to display alongside relevant images of contemporary marches. The process of creating my own display on a theme that is very prevalent to our current society helped me learn about the library’s dedication to contemporary stock planning. I have experienced how the collection is up to date with the new trends in art publishing and the representation of marginalised groups in society.
How do you think this placement will help your career aspirations?
Molly – This placement has given me the experience of what it is like to work in a specialist library within a public library. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education, so working in a music library is definitely something I would be interested in! This placement taught me a lot about classification and cataloguing which are skills that are very important for my future career as a librarian, no matter what field I may end up in.
Holly – I believe this placement has contributed to my career aspirations for its ability to push me out of my comfort zone into an area of art preservation and education that I had no previous experience with. Being able to witness the day to day running of the Art and Design library has prepared me for a realistic and professional approach to a career in an art institution. The warm welcome I received from the workers at the library and the time spent with them has left me with a positive attitude towards a career with like-minded people in this industry.
Do you have any general comments or tips for the library?
Holly – At the start of my placement, Bronwen asked me if throughout my time here I could think of any ways that the library could improve its availability to a younger generation. Over the previous weeks, the main aspect I have noticed is the lack of awareness younger people have of the library’s existence. Thus my greatest advice would be to focus on advertising methods, either through posters and flyers around the city in student orientated places like the Edinburgh College of Art University buildings, or through social media platforms keeping people up to date with the monthly exhibitions that take place in the Art and Design Library. I believe this would result in an increase of a younger demographic, as the library is an amazing facility with vast amounts of art and architecturally valuable books that younger people, definitely students like me, would be keen to use.
What have you enjoyed the most during your placement?
Molly – I really enjoyed my experience at the Music Library, and I am very grateful I got this opportunity. I most enjoyed getting to see how public libraries, and specifically music libraries, operate and how many different services the library provides.
Holly – The Art and Design Library’s Special Collections has been something which I have enjoyed learning about the most throughout my placement. In particular, I was honoured to look at Central Library’s Henry Dyer Collection of Japanese Art, which Bronwen kindly let me handle, under safe protocol with protective gloves during one of my days at work. I was able to view the fifty loose woodblock prints, several bound woodblock volumes and case of nineteenth-century Japanese photography that was donated to the library in the 1940s and 50s. This experience was fascinating and is one that I won’t forget. I was also able to take time to visit the National Museum of Scotland to view the forty-foot long painted handscroll scroll Theatres of the East by the Japanese artist Moromasa, which is on loan from the Library’s Dyer collection. As 2023 marks the 150th anniversary of Dyer’s trip to Japan, I have helped with the organisation of a display to commemorate this collection. This has included finding and selecting images from Capital Collections, Edinburgh Libraries’ online image library, writing name labels to accompany them, and writing a general introduction to the display. The trust and responsibility of such a task has been incredibly rewarding and I feel proud to have contributed, however small, to the final display that will take place in May in the Central Library staircase cabinets.
Thank you Holly and Molly. We have enjoyed your company, your contribution to our work and your feedback. If you are looking for a work experience placement have you considered the Library service? We consider requests from all stages of life from school pupils through to Masters’ students.