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Pictures from the library …

July 5, 2013

I am a library assistant in the cataloguing department, in a university library.  I have been working here for 13 years since graduating with a classics degree in 2000.  Previously I worked in a bank and before being a full time mum I worked as an accounts clerk.   

I am now fulfilling a childhood dream.  Although the post  seems a million miles away from being a clerical assistant in the main the job requires the same skills;being  methodical, eye for detail and a good understanding for the need of accurate records all of which I maintain day by day.

However I am responsible to the Rare Book Cataloguer who has all of the above mentioned skills and 100% more so my job is full on.

All of the collections in our care are unique and special for all sorts of reasons,  Some are very old, some are plain unusual, and others on specialist subjects.  My role as an assistant is as it suggests closely managed and often mundane; shelving books daily is not everyone’s cup of tea  However, materials, content and practices are from from dreary.  

For many years the Special Collections have not been the central part of the University; since the students as a rule require the most up to date information and data.

The elderly books are not neglected and kept in the best conditions and most of them have a presence on the the library catalogue.  

However over the years donations and acquisitions have not been given the full catalogue attention.  It has been a work in progress with my aforementioned colleague and her strident measures to bring all the works some as old as 400 years into the 21st century; day by day we chip away.

As I said I am not a trained cataloguer I ‘find’ the books give them a brief record on the database and pass them to be catalogued; given the treatment they deserve, evaluated and given  full recognition regarding subject matter, binding, paper, printer and relevant provenance.

The item is then returned to me to make any minor repairs or organise further protection and then place securely back on its shelf.

So you see I play only a small part in the procedure but it is a delight; a dream come true.

Only yesterday I was preparing some books from our Henley Collection to be catalogued,  called Purchas Pilgrims; huge tomes written by a world explorer in 1725.  There was another book from another collection incorrectly shelved during a recent move.  It was a massive book of maps; an atlas some drawn by Fredrik de Witt and other cartographers in 1694.  Without a title page this item was beyond my limited resources, a specialist map person was called in who will document each map; 2 or 3 hundred in splendid detail.     

Returning to my little collection of early 20th century books; I also find little gems that I share weekly .  I work on the Mark Longman Library; a collection of around 4000 items relating to publishers, publishing, binding, printing, illustration, book-selling etc while I don’t catalogue it fully I am able to classify it, so it easily found on the database it is also browsable in subject area here in the library.

This has been a scant overview of my job and I hope goes some way to explain my library snapshots over the last year or so.  It is not so easy to isolate one item when I am not a specialist and know little about the subject matter as officially my job is clerical and may be considered by some as dull.

Fortunately; as this is my childhood dream, I can maintain my childlike enthusiasm in my own bubble while the cataloguers have  reputation to uphold.    

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 5, 2013 9:13 am

    You *so* have to come and visit our bookshop ( – we have some rare little gems you would love, as well as a glorious collection of Victoriana, vintage fiction and vintage paperbacks

    • July 5, 2013 9:32 am

      We will!! It has been in the back of my mind for a while especially since Amy’s awayness!

  2. July 5, 2013 7:58 pm

    Thanks for sharing!

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