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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22 thoughts on “Unsolicited Advice! Get your unsolicited advice here!

    • SO TRUE.

      I once pulled a trolley full of parliamentary papers over on myself in a VERY SILENT law library, and was trapped between it and a desk in a most undignified fashion. I was glared at by several people and in the end had to actually ask someone if they would kindly go and find me some help because AAARRRGGGHHHWAARRGHAABLEOWOWOWOWOWOWTHISISHEAVY.

      • Ha! Also: learn that ILL does not refer to a customers health. Not at all talking from experience. And: Referring to 001 – about 500 as THE SECTION OF DEATH might raise a few eyebrows.

    • I have never done this, so I’m now worried that it still has to happen to me, but when?!?

      (I did once fall down a flight of stairs while carrying a tray full of refreshments from a training session back to the kitchen in a law firm I worked at. That was bad enough, but there was a partners meeting going on in the same building and they all poured out to see what was going on and found me dripping in tea…)

  1. I love all of those – particularly the shelving one! Mine are:

    A Corollary to Number Four: If someone tells you that they’re married to someone else in the library, just believe them. It’s going to be less embarrassing that way.

    Develop some sort of Time Management And Things Organising System now, when the amount you have to do is limited. Play with a few of them, why not. You’ll get asked about time management in Every.Single.Interview.You.Ever.Go.To from now on, except possibly library school ones, and this will at least give you something to talk about. Plus it’s actually handy later on, too.

    Join The Twitter, even it it’s really scary. Talk about cake and gin a lot. Kittens are a bonus.

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

    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.” (This was not me, by the way.)

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

    Brilliant post

    • Thank you and yes, they’re always wrong aren’t they? We’re out of hours IT support for people having problems in the teaching rooms and nearly every time the complaint that “the lectern doesn’t work” turns out to be “because you haven’t turned it on!”

  3. If you’re in the legal sector, do go to the BIALL cheese and wine night. It is an excellent way to meet other legal sector people/talk to them and it is (or was) heavy on the wine, light on the cheese. 😀

    Also, get involved with your professional body! I started off by getting involved in BIALL and I’ve got involved with CILIP and it is extremely useful.

  4. Meet other trainees, go to CILIPs New Professional day, or the pub, or library camps, anywhere you can meet trainees from other libraries, not only are they very nice they will understand all the job hunting/ MA funding problems you may be having.
    On a related note, start job hunting early, before May even.

  5. As a soon-to-be-trainee-in-a-few-weeks this is officially my favourite blog post ever! Fantastic advice and I’m taking all of it on board.

  6. I would go along with all of this except that you may not need to wear a suit in a corporate library (except for the interview). Go to as many things as you can, join your professional bodies, read journals & ask as many questions as humanly possible. Be nice to your team as one of them will be writing about you for your library school application. Do not wear a skirt or heels if you work in a library where you need to climb much. Most of all, enjoy yourself!

  7. 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! Also, never assume they will remember anything about induction, you will have to continually remind them of everything for the whole time they are at college, usually along the lines of 1 credit for black and white, 5 credits for colour. Good Luck 😉

  8. 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.

    • And then you say “did you look it up on the catalogue?” and they just look at you blankly… Were they expecting the book to come flying off the shelf into their hands?

  9. ‘The pile’ really does have a magical quality to just work itself out!

    All this advice is great, but I would just add one thing:
    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.

  10. Totally agree with Tina. My first year in an academic library, I knelt to shelve books on the bottom shelf. The sound of the skirt ripping up to my thigh echoed around the silent library. End of my long-skirt wearing!

  11. Bahahahahaha! Number four: tell, tell, tell! Oh dear god what happened? And i agree with Ruth. It may seem unbelievable, but there WILL be students who come in, after a three year course, maybe a week before their exams / coursework deadline / whatever, who have no idea how to use the library and will not even know how to use the catalogue, let alone follow the classification system. Furthermore, when they find that every copy of the book they REALLY REALLY NEED is on loan because, d’oh, every other student in the vicinity needs it too, they will not understand that library school does not teach us how to conjure up a copy just for them out of thin air. Sad but true.

  12. Pingback: Things I’ve been reading – July and August 2012 « Libraries, the universe and everything

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