Cross Trust Special Collections Interns

Our names are Amy Kerr and Jennifer Roach and we have just completed our four week special collections internship in Archives, Records Management and Rare Books Librarianship. We are very grateful to have been given this opportunity, which was was funded by the Cross Trust. We both came from different postgraduate courses: Amy is completing her MSc in Information and Library Studies at the University of Strathclyde; Jennifer is finishing her MSc in Information Management and Preservation at the University of Glasgow. We had been exposed to different aspects of the archives and libraries profession prior to starting our internship, so we learned not only from our mentors, but through sharing each other’s own previous experiences of working with similar materials.

This has been a varied and insightful experience, as we worked within different departments of the National Library. We began by shadowing the Special Collections Assistants, learning about their duties in the Special Collections Reading Room and how they dealt with external inquiries. We also covered daily procedures and processes including the re-shelving of Bookfiles from the John Murray Archive. These files consist of letters and manuscripts of Arthur Conan Doyle. Working with the Assistants we also learned about different collections that the Library holds, such as the William Blackwood & Sons Collection. We were also introduced to the Voyager cataloguing system, through which we recatalogued items from the Advocates Collection. One of the Assistants also showed us how to create an archival catalogue for a collection which had been gifted to the Library. Through this we learned how to create a hierarchical structure to organise this kind of  material.

During our second week we were placed in the Archives and Manuscripts Department and we were each given a project to complete. While Jennifer was editing a series listing relating to the Crawford Collection, Amy was creating an inventory for the library’s Engender archive. Being given these week long tasks gave us the chance to get our teeth stuck into real archival work, which was both challenging and rewarding. While our mentors allowed us the freedom to work independently, they were always on hand to offer guidance.

Our third week was spent auditing pamphlets from a mixture of periods such as the 17th and 18th centuries. We also focused on the John Buchan Collection which consisted of personal correspondence to family members, manuscripts of his works, and documentation relating to his political career. We were responsible for ensuring the catalogues for these collections were accurate and correct, and noting any discrepancies which we came across. This was an important process as it is one of the stages which can be carried out prior to the material becoming digitised. This helps to inform the Digitisation team of how the material is constructed and whether it needs any conservation work prior to digitisation. During this week we also met with a member of the Marketing team, and learned about how the library approaches social media and maintains a professional yet approachable tone across all platforms.

In our final week we gained insights into the scope of work carried out by the Digital Department. From large scale printing to scanning and editing images through Photoshop, we learned about the processes of digitising material. We also discovered the rigorous checking required to ensure that the material is present and complete prior to digitisation. It was also interesting to hear about the challenges of presenting the material online in an attractive and accessible way. Complimenting this overview, we also met the National Library’s Intellectual Property Specialist to discuss legislation such as Data Protection and Copyright, and the possible problems that social media can introduce in relation to this.

We would both like to thank all the members of staff at the National Library of Scotland that have mentored and supported us throughout our internship, and for making this experience so valuable.