In the next of our series introducing members of staff, #DULibIntroducing welcomes Jen Aspinall, a member of our fantastic Learning and Engagement Team! Earlier this year, before lockdown began, I met with Jen in the wonderful Small Island Coffee in Bill Bryson Library to talk all things Library, and to get to know her over a Flat White and cake.
Please tell us your name, full job title, and a brief description of what that entails:
I am Jen Aspinall and my job title is ‘Learning Assistant’. It’s a really, really varied job – we deliver and develop workshops, activities and sessions for community groups, school groups and students, and we’ll happily talk to anyone that comes in the door – we’re definitely ‘people’ people! Day to day you’ll find me in either Palace Green Library or the Oriental Museum, teaching school children about whatever topic is relevant. So, it could be the Ancient Greeks, in which case you’ll find us in full-blown costumes doing a classical play, or we could be teaching about an Egyptian Mummy and her story. Or it might be pre-history, talking about different artefacts and doing a quiz about that. Generally, that is where you’ll find me: in front of 30 school children, bouncing around the place, being like ‘this is SO awesome!’, and usually (hopefully!) the kids will be bouncing alongside with me.
So, it requires quite a high level of enthusiasm?
And energy! It’s definitely an energy-based job!
In amongst all the excitement, what is your favourite thing to do, or the most enjoyable part of your job with the Learning Team?
So, there is this magic moment where someone you’re working with just really gets it. Because, I’m not going to lie, I’m a nerd, and the things we talk about are a little nerdy. So there’s sometimes a barrier for people there… but when people just get swept up in the intrigue and excitement of it and are like ‘this is AMAZING’, that’s when it is the most rewarding. For instance, I helped organise a book festival this year, where we laid out items from the archive and Special Collections so people could read them for themselves, and people just wouldn’t leave! It’s that magic moment, where you’re like ‘here’s the ticket’, and they take the ticket, board the train and are like ‘that’s it, let’s go!’, and they’re off on that journey of discovery. That’s the best bit.
When you’re not at work, what do you enjoy doing?
I love to crochet. I’ve bonded with a few other Library staff members about this, so there’s a tiny group of us now. Also, paddleboarding, especially at Seaham on a calm day. Never crocheted and paddle-boarded at the same time, so that’s maybe something to try.
What was the last film you saw and what would you rate it out of 10?
I rarely get to the cinema, which is sad because I love it. The last thing I saw at the cinema was Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, which was incredible. I genuinely waited until the final credits so I could applaud whoever Daniel Craig’s accent coach was because that accent was phenomenal. I’m not saying it was necessarily good. I would say ‘awesome’, in the way that it did inspire awe, not ‘awesome’ as in that was great.
If you could have a superpower what would it be?
Hmmm, what would be the most useful superpower in my job? I honestly, honestly believe that kindness is a superpower. It works so well with kids and communities and other staff members. I don’t think I’ve reached superhero levels of kindness yet, but I’m working on it.
Do you have a saying or a mantra that you live by?
I am one of those people who has a Pinterest board that is just inspirational quotes. There’s one I got from my grandad, which is “your best is good enough”, and I say it to the kids all the time. But one of my favourite ones, which I absolutely live by when it comes to Library is: “work until you don’t have to introduce yourself”. And I love that. Put the chairs out until people know who you are! Clean whatever you need to until people know who you are! Work until you’ve got a bit of a reputation of being – maybe a little slightly insane – but also a hard worker.
Level two of the Library is lava. How do you get to the returns booth from the main entrance?
Well, first: you’re hitting the Help & Information desk because one of the things we say in this Library is “always ask for help”. Next, you ring the Health and Safety Officer, because the lava situation is probably something they should know about. Then, you have to use all the equipment you’ve got available behind the desk: I’m thinking of some sort of swinging system – going full Spiderman. I think electrical cables might be the way forward – I know don’t how you’re going to attach them to the ceiling, but I’m pretty sure you’ve got a stapler somewhere behind there…
Have you got a favourite meme?
The ‘I am a geese goose’ meme (see below) is definitely up there, as well as any ‘Untitled Goose Game’ memes (a game which I love). I also really love browsing the Twitter page @ClassicArtMeme – I love them.
If we want to know more about your role in the Library, where can we find more information?