Tara at the Special Collections Reading Room

A Library placement

Hi there! My name is Tara and I am an Information and Library Science MSc student at the University of Strathclyde. From January to March I was on a student placement at the National Library of Scotland. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to gain some real work experience and put theories from my studies into a real-world context.

I was based in the Special Collections Reading Room of the Library, a space with the most stunning view of Edinburgh rooftops, Arthur’s seat and the sea beyond. It provides the perfect calming ambiance for visitors to examine whatever rare book or manuscript item is requested from the special collections team.

My project involved working with open access items relating to manuscript reference works in the reading room. I was given an overview of Alma, the library management system, and also how to update catalogue records. I was supported in creating a new classification system by James Mitchell, one of the Rare Books curators. I re-ordered stock as required and updated shelfmarks in line with the new system, aiding findability for users and reading room staff.

In addition, I explored different departments within the library. At the reading room desks I helped reference librarians in the continuous issuing and discharging items for readers as well as answering queries of all kinds. This service continues behind the scenes with phone calls, emails and instant chat messages supporting remote library users and spreading the reach of the library services. What is more, the vast collections of digitised materials on the Library website now allow a user from across the globe to have access to the same item as a user who walks through the door.

I met the Collection Care team to learn about handling and preservation techniques that can prolong the life of an item, and I met the Digitisation team in the Library’s Causewayside building, a place specifically built for large-scale storage of the library collections. In the Maps reading room I explored atlases, coastal charts, trench maps, Middle-Earth maps – you name it!

I am so thankful for the chance to have experienced so many departments, from acquisitions to enquiries to special collections, and to have a greater understanding of the inner workings of a National Library.