For my school’s week of work experience, I was lucky enough to gain a work placement at the Queen’s University libraries, which was a really exciting opportunity for me to see how an academic library works, and the various roles it contains. On my arrival to the McClay, I was met by Jacqueline and was shown around the whole library, including the beautiful C.S. Lewis Room, before starting off on the ground floor at the main desk. Despite initially being a bit nervous, the staff all put me at my ease and I learnt a lot about how the system worked, as well as how staff respond to queries on the desk – there was such a range of different questions and different people, and I loved seeing the variety of students coming in and out during the morning. The afternoon held book shelving and repairing, where as well as helping to organise books onto the shelves out on the floor, I also got to see a bit more of the maze of corridors hidden away behind the main library area!
The next day I learnt more about the role of subject librarians, as well as seeing the store of preserved parliamentary records – this included the written record of the inquest into the sinking of the Titanic, which was really interesting. A highlight for me was in the afternoon, when I went into Special Collections, and got the opportunity of seeing the vast store of old books, even the titles of which could be fascinating to read – I was lucky enough to be able to see the library’s collection of beautiful handmade Cuban books and the Hart diaries, as well as Seamus Heaney’s lecture notes and Bunting’s original music manuscripts from 1792, among many others, which was a really fascinating experience.
My time with the library systems team gave me an insight into how the IT systems work throughout the library, and the afternoon with Open Research was very interesting – I had never heard of it before, but found it was a rewarding job, effectively making research free and accessible to all. Again, I was able to see more of the stores, this time one containing vast rows of theses written by PhD students – it was amazing to see the amount of research which has taken place at Queen’s over the years, with such a diversity of research subjects.
I am so grateful to all the staff at the library who gave so much of their time, and knowledge, and made my week of work experience such an enjoyable, interesting experience – I have learnt so much about what is involved in working in a library, and about the multitude of different roles within it (that I never previously knew even existed), and would love to be able to come back in a couple of years as a student!