Delphine Dallison is a SCONUL Graduate Trainee Librarian at the Glasgow School of Art, now 6 months into her traineeship. Here she reflects on what brought her to this point, and the value of the traineeship in planning her future career.
Libraries have always been a special place for me, I grew up in the back of beyond of nowhere and we had no TV reception at home when I was growing up, so the only alternative was watching videos and reading books. My whole family have always been avid readers and we could easily get through 2 to 3 books each in a week, so trips to the local library were a regular affair. As an extra special treat, my Mum would also take us up to the big city once a month where my brother and I would raid their library of graphic fiction, often coming away with 30 graphic novels between the two of us to sustain ourselves until the next visit. So it’s no surprise that libraries would still hold an attraction to me years later.
The path that led me to this traineeship wasn’t so straightforward though. After finishing school, I went to work in social care and worked there for 11 years, moving up from a Junior Support Worker position to Service Manager over time, but the further I moved into management, the more frustrated I became with the job, so eventually I decided to change career paths and go back to my earlier passion of studying art with the benefit of greater confidence and life experience. I was studying Environmental Art at the Glasgow School of Art, where you’re encouraged to produce art works outside of traditional gallery spaces. Not surprisingly, libraries were a natural draw for my inspiration and after an impromptu stealth installation in the GoMA Library, I soon started developing a relationship with the Glasgow Women’s Library which eventually led to me being commissioned to create a work of art for their 21 Revolutions exhibition. Following that experience, I started volunteering at GWL on a number of projects and events and working on the publication project following the 21 Revolutions exhibition.
With all that wonderful experience, it’s no surprise really that after graduating in June 2013 I started looking for more work in libraries and archives and when the GSA Library traineeship came up, I just knew I had to go for it! I was very lucky to get selected for the post and it’s a wonderful opportunity with full-time work, a decent traineeship level salary and a really supportive environment.
I can’t really give you a typical day in my life as a trainee because there is no such thing, but I’ll try to give you an overview of what I’ve been doing so far. On a weekly basis, I do the cataloguing of the books, especially the ones which have come in through our purchase requests which we try to process as quickly as we can. I also run 2 blogs, one for the Architecture students and one for Art and Design. I try to put up a blog post every day, although that’s not always possible. On Thursdays, I monitor the Twitter feed and try and respond to any tweets that come through. My favourite day of the week is Wednesdays when I get to open up the Mackintosh Library to the staff and students to come and use the collections we hold there. It had been closed for a while and it’s been such a thrill to open it up again, especially since all the windows were restored at the end of last year. Students still don’t know much about the Mackintosh Library or what it holds, so it’s my job to get it better known and demonstrate to students how they can use its collections in their studies. It’s lovely as well when people come to use it just as a quiet space for their studies. While I’m in there, I’ve also started doing a bit of a stock-take of the collection, which I’m slowly working my way through every week. It’s a great opportunity for me to familiarise myself with the collection at the same time so I can assist students better with their requests.
The rest of the time is mine to do with as I please and direct my traineeship in whatever way I feel will enhance my learning experience. I’m in charge of events at the Library and we have a few key dates we aim to hold events for, so I organised a tweetathon for National Poetry day, where we released links to poetry recordings available online. For Book Week Scotland we held a Recommend a Book Speed Dating Style in the Mackintosh Library and I’m currently hatching plans for World Book Night in April. I’m also in charge of any of our displays and in December, I put up 2 new displays with the Archives assistant on the themes of Anatomy and Life Drawing and on Talwin Morris and Book Binding. I’m currently working on a new Artists’ Book display on the theme of Journey and Travel. In November, I helped out with the Rare Books Collection exhibition Interwoven Connections on the Stoddard Design Library collection, helping prepare the plates for exhibiting in the Mackintosh Gallery.
In terms of student engagement, I’ve helped out with the student inductions to the Library, as well as helped a colleague of mine, David Buri, with some new Twilight classes we’ve been trialling on subjects like referencing and finding journal articles using the online databases. I got my first piece of cake from a student the other day for helping her out with an enquiry and I’m also collaborating with some colleagues on a Wikipedia initiative looking at how we could integrate it as a teaching tool in the curriculum.
Enough to say that in 6 months I’ve been busy… But 6 months is also the midway point for my traineeship, so now decisions are looming about the future, where to go, what to study? My colleague Duncan has organised a number of library visits for me, which have helped broaden my perspective on the profession. I love working with books, but some of the time spent in the GWL archives showed me how fun it could be to also work with objects. I’m fascinated with the metadata behind cataloguing items, but I’m also interested in digitisation? Decisions, decisions… Only time will tell.
Thanks to Delphine for outlining the varied life of a trainee. She is happy to answer questions by email. In the first instance, please leave a comment below or tweet her @delph_dallison
For more information on library traineeships, visit Library Trainee Network.