The student experience
Every year I am given the dubious responsibility, of giving a ‘work experience’ student an idea of the work we do here as archivists and cataloguers in the ‘special collections.’ Although passionate about my job and keen to expound my knowledge, I am a little dubious since the student has not necessarily chosen to be in this particular experience. At 15 years old who would?
Early in our ‘relationship’ having established he was learning the history of science at school I assumed that he would be interested in the Versailles, Pliny, Isaac Newton volumes that graced our shelves. Previous students had also enjoyed just ‘seeing’ these rare beauties but this guy was eager to ‘turn over’ the pages and marvel. But then, he took out his mobile phone. I thought this was a sign of the end of a beautiful relationship but no, this something else! He wanted to record this great opportunity. Touching such a book in the British library without membership is forbidden and use of a digital camera in our Reading Room is charged for. I welcomed this student’s straight forward curiosity and relieved that not all was not lost.
I also learned that he was interested in Japanese manga and anime and was learning Japanese language. By coincidence the previous week the University of Reading library had received a gift from a Japanese University to mark 60 years since the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. Sixty years before when the university was being rebuilt after the devastation Reading University had sent s selection of books to help restock their library. In return they sent a piece of clay tile from the remains of the old library as a souvenir and a set of comic books (manga) byKeiji Nakazawa telling the story of a boy called Barefoot Gen and how he survived the Hiroshima bombing.
Our student noticing the books and tile on my desk waiting to be ‘dealt’ with was in heaven clutching the little tile (no longer contaminated). For the next hour he enlightened me on the art of manga and between us we are able to create an adequate record on the data base for other students studying Japanese comics.
So what might have started out be a rather tedious task for us –both, was a unique opportunity to share knowledge and a hope that this little gem will be added too and attract new kind of reader to our special collections.