Unsolicited Advice! Get your unsolicited advice here!

It’s that time of year when Graduate Trainees start to appear in Libraries up and down the country*. I loved my trainee year, it was oodles of fun, partly because there were four of us and partly because I’d just moved down to the big smoke, but also because librarians are, on the whole, a lovely lot. I learned a lot that year and over the following years and there is some advice that I always like to share with aspiring librarians, whether they like it or not, because giving unsolicited advice is fun. So I present to you….

My Top Ten Tips for Trainees!

Number one: Do not believe a student who says to you that the printer is a. jammed, b. out of toner or c. out of paper. Because 9 times out of 10, by the time you have hauled a load of paper or toner over there, or found the keys and a colleague to show you how to unjam it, you will discover that the printer is actually fine and what they really mean is “I don’t know how to print.”

Number two**: See above, re photocopying.

Number three: Do not show up on your first day in a suit, there’s really no point. You will be in jeans by the end of the week.***

Number four: Librarianship, particularly in London, is a very incestuous profession. Never bitch about someone you work with to someone from another library as they may well be married to each other, or will at least have gone to Library school together / worked together before / know each other from Twitter. Ask me how I know!!!!

Number five: If you are in a hurry and the book you are looking for is just out of reach, do not be tempted to climb the shelves to get it instead of finding a kick stool, you will end up dropping six books on your head and that’s just embarrassing to explain to the first aider.

Number six: Libraries exist in an environment separate from that of the rest of the world which means they are unable to maintain a normal temperature and will always be hotter than the sun or colder than the arctic. Layer!

Number seven: Learn the value of ‘the pile.’ If something is a problem, poses a difficulty or quite frankly is just something you don’t want to do, add it to ‘the pile.’ Every month or so, go through ‘the pile’ and marvel at things that are no longer problems! Some things need longer in ‘the pile’ than others, which is why you will inevitably find a shelf full of stuff somewhere in the office that no one knows anything about; this is ‘the pile’ of someone long gone.**** You will probably inherit someone else’s pile, but don’t worry, because you will be able to bequeath your own to someone else eventually as well. (Please note; you can achieve the same effect with your inbox by letting emails sit in it so long that they are automatically archived.)

Number eight: When shelving, always aim for either the thickest books (heavier to carry but easier to shelve) or those with the shortest classmark. Also try grabbing the books that are in the section furthest from the trolley, as it will take you longer to walk there and back, which is time you’re not having to shelve (every little helps!) Everyone else will do this too, so just try not to let everyone else get ahead of you so you get stuck with the books with 10 numbers after the decimal point.

Number nine: Always, always, always go to the pub when invited, for that is where you will get all the good gossip.

Number ten: There are very, very few mistakes you can make that are completely unfixable and you will probably be forgiven for making one of those too.

So those are mine, now it’s crowd sourcing time; what advice would you give to a graduate trainee? I’m sure there’s some gems out there!

Update 17/08/2012

Here are some of my favourites from below the line:

Jenny: I would actually amend number one and two to cover anything a student/tutor claims is broken/not working.

Helen: I would expand number one to include any student who says “It’s not on the shelf”. At least 7 out of 10 times, it *is* on the shelf.

Sarah: All of the above, plus when you ask a student, when they complain the very important pictures of N’s party haven’t printed, “have you checked you have enough print credits?” and they say “yes”; don’t believe them, they lie!

Abby: Don’t leave your favourite cardigan on the shelving trolley, students WILL steal your clothing.

Samantha: Bring liberal amounts of cake and biscuits to work, especially if you’re going to be one of our trainees.

Nobodyjones: Tipping over a trolley full of books and making the biggest racket ever is only a matter of time!

Tina: Do not wear a skirt or heels if you work in a library where you need to climb much.

Ruth: You will get asked the same thing a bazillion times, but remember that even though you’ve heard that question all day, it’s probably the first time they’re asking it.

Samantha: This is for later: if you have a library school interview, and you are asked anything about your local public library, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES reply “Oh, I buy all my books from Amazon.”


* that’s if there’s any left, anyway, as the number of Graduate Trainee schemes sadly seems to be going down 😦

** stop giggling!

*** unless of course you’re working in a private library, in which case the same is true of the temperature but you’re sadly stuck in the suit. Sorry!

**** I firmly believe that some libraries, like the one I did my traineeship in, are actually  physically held up by piles. That or the floor will one day give way from the sheer weight of them.

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