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‘Lessons’ from Library Life

We are delighted that Sophie Clarke, Invigilator at the Faculty of Education Library, has written the following guest blog post.





Sophie joined Cambridge University as an undergraduate student in 2008, where she studied English at Selwyn and then returned to complete her Masters Degree with the Education Faculty on Children’s Literature in 2013, after which Sophie has stayed with the Faculty as a PhD Student and currently works in the Faculty of Education Library in the evenings.



Top 5 things I have learned from working in the Education Faculty Library

  • The catalogue is confusing

Frequently readers come to the desk asking to request a book, or stating that they cannot find a book even though it is marked as available. This is because LibrarySearch’s only purpose in life is to be deliberately obtuse and to ensure that readers will not find the correct book. See my guide to defeating the catalogue here !

Top tip – if you are looking for something on a reading list go to the interactive lists on the Library Moodle site & then you won’t have to search the catalogue!

  • I am a master at giving old books life

When books have been used a lot, they start looking a bit ragged (people have bent the covers, wear and tear on the edges, pencil under lining &c.) This is where the library invigilators step in – we re-cover all the books that are deemed to not be quite as tip-top as we’d like them in sticky back plastic. This means I am now a dab hand at covering books without getting air bubbles trapped (a great addition to my CV) and my arm strength is amazing from cutting the special double thick plastic we use to size. We also check every book which is returned for water damage, pencil and pen marks, and folded corners. Then we try to repair it – rubbing out pencil, tippexing pen, clamping books to straighten out folds and water creases. This is time consuming and quite boring work, so if people could look after their books just a smidgen more, that would be amazing as I’ve dealt with enough mistreated books to last me a lifetime now.

  • Shelving is hard

For this I must apologise. We re-shelve trolleys of books at a time and we do always try 100% to shelve everything absolutely correctly. However sometimes we have mad moments and shelve items incorrectly – 301 BIL under 301/01 for example. We will ALWAYS try and find your book if it can’t be located and will search similar and nearby sections to see if it’s been mis-shelved. Also, if you see an invigilator muttering under their breath while they’re wheeling a trolley of books along, they are probably chanting the alphabet to themselves as they shelve to make sure that everything goes in the right place.

  • The Faculty library is a nice place to work

As a PhD student I work in the library a lot. As an invigilator I see other people working in the library a lot. It’s a great place to work academically and professionally thanks to the lovely readers and the amazing library staff. However sometimes when we clear up at the end of the day, we find ourselves tripping over empty coffee cups, finding sweet and crisp wrappers, falling over large bags that have not been left in the boxes by the Issue Desk. The lack of grease, crumbs and trip hazards for a clumsy person like me is greatly pleasing. It would be so great if it stayed that way all the time.

  • I do not know everything

I know, this one’s a real shocker. If it’s children’s fiction, children’s literature criticism, literacy or research methods, I can probably answer your queries or at least point you in the right direction. For anything else, I will help you search for relevant articles and books. I will do my utmost to help you find the resources you need in the quickest and most efficient way. But ultimately, I do not know everything, and so quite often your query may be passed on to the full-time Library Team (meaning it may be an overnight wait until you receive a reply). This ensures that every reader gets the best response we can give, so I’m sorry if you see me in the evening and I can’t answer your question – I promise I am trying my best.