A post by Vicky Bishop
I am a student on the MA Museum and Artefact Studies course, and one of the course requirements is to complete a 20 day work placement. I have been lucky enough to spend my work placement with the great team at the Billy B. This may seem strange – surely the library is not a museum? – but actually there are a lot of similarities for they both hold collections which are available (in different ways, granted) for public consumption and research, and there are many shared professional skillsets and practices. The university recognises this synergy, for the university’s libraries and museums are part of the same directorate: University Libraries and Collections, or ULC for short.
This reflects the focus of the university, not just on the “usual” university experience for people aged 18-21, but on the concept of lifelong learning. So, I spent some time with the Learning and Engagement Team at the Oriental Museum working with a school group aged 9/10, learning about China (me as well as the school pupils); and also first year BA Education students, helping them understand how the collections held by the university museums can facilitate the teaching of core parts of the history curriculum.
Back in the Billy B, I was able to spend time with many of the teams who all contribute to the lifelong learning remit: the faculty librarians, the acquisitions team, the e-resources team, customer services. (And an equally big shout out to the teams who were lucky enough to be able to avoid me 😏). So, I worked on projects including user surveys about the library website, and the availability of laptop docking stations; writing social media content for the new (since March 2023 – are you following?) @DUThingsToDo social media platforms; and reviewing journal stock on level 1, which may hopefully lead to the provision of more study spaces in due course, whilst preserving and maintaining access to the thousands of academic and professional periodicals we currently have. I also helped with preparing journals to go to the bindery, and then processing them when they came back, ready to go on the shelves.
Lastly, I spent time shadowing the staff on the Help & Information Desk. Honestly, you have no idea just how many queries they deal with – and how varied those queries are. From dealing with people who not only manage to forget their campus card but also then lose the temporary pass, to providing period products, lost property, and referring students to the Computing and Information Services team. And this is before they deal with the sort of questions you’d expect in a library: questions about lost books, how to check out and return books, and how to use Discover (aka the catalogue) …. And, did you know that there is an online chat facility as well as face to face?
I was also around for a full fire alarm test at the end of the Easter vacation – the staff fire marshalls were successful in emptying the building very quickly and calmly: but the Help & Information Desk was “fun” for the rest of the day as people tried to re-enter or leave the building when the system thought they were already out (or in). Another day which demonstrated the staff’s professionalism was when an automatic email was sent to circa 20,000 staff and students about renewing items on loan from the library – the many queries were dealt with quickly and efficiently.
I have really enjoyed finding out about the Billy B and working with the dedicated team: I have learnt so much. I’ve got a dissertation to write now and when I’m working on it, sitting in my favourite seat in the Billy B (Level 4, overlooking the cathedral, since you ask – but I may have to move to the PC room on Level 3 to use the laptop docking stations 😁), I’ll remember the work done by ULC staff to enable me to have such an amazing study environment.