For many students – myself included – the Library is home. We’re in here every day during term time plugging away, finishing assignments, turning in essays. We associate the Library with work, and the building has become almost synonymous with the sort of soothing routine of read, write, repeat. It is therefore understandable if someone might look forward to taking a well-deserved break after their last exam. Alternatively, to the disbelief of many of my friends, you could chose to work in the Library for another 6 weeks, like me. Hi.
My name is Henry, and I’m the Library Communications intern this summer as part of the University’s Summer Internship Scheme. My job involves investigating how students use the Library, reporting on how people work in certain areas and conditions, and giving feedback on what the Library can do to improve its user experience (UX). One of the things that interested me most about this role was the opportunity to get to know more about a place I use every day as a student. Many of us would be a bit stuck if the Library wasn’t there, and I was keen to learn how it’s run behind the scenes. I’ve just finished my third year as an Undergraduate studying Mediaeval History and Social Anthropology, so books and people are kind of my thing.
Before starting out here I had no idea of the scale of the workforce which makes this place run smoothly. On day one I was given a tour of all the Library buildings, including Martyrs Kirk, the JF Allen Library and St. Marys, where I got to go up on the balcony above the King James Library (#perks). I was also taken downstairs in the Main Library, into the illusive realm known as ‘Library Staff Offices’. Down there is the huge book store, known as ‘the Stacks’, where hundreds of thousands of books are held in rolling shelves, and the Collections Team do an incredible job of maintaining them. Even contemplating that many books is pretty mind-blowing.
However, my role has been working in the Communications Team, who are responsible for the Library’s presence and voice. They are the brains behind the social media accounts, and create the signs, notices and displays within the Library. They help collect feedback from the boxes positioned around the Main Library and marker boards by the main entrance. The Communications Team also compose the little messages on the lightboxes you see when you walk in (although I’ve actually been doing them for the past few weeks, so if you’ve seen them, sorry for the cringe).
I’m now in my sixth and final week of the internship (sad times) and I can honestly say it’s been an amazing and educational experience. Aside from curing my fear of an office, it has taught me how to carry out research, conduct surveys, run interviews and work as part of a team every day. It’s also given me the opportunity to become an absolute wizard at NVivo Pro – which, if you don’t know already, is a whole world of fun. NVivo is basically a coding tool which allows you to sort huge amounts of data and make it easier to understand.
Every week has brought a different challenge for me to tackle. At the start of the internship I was mostly shadowing and helping out my two colleagues, Beth and Carys, who were obtaining feedback for the on-going redesign of the Library’s homepage. I was also sorting through the large number of suggestions the Library received when they asked what a replacement for SAULCAT could be called, which was an interesting and somewhat entertaining job. Without doubt, “Butts Fynd” was my favourite suggestion, although “Jeremy” was also up there (the Library will tell you more about the results of the findings in September).
In the following weeks I carried out participant observation in the beautiful Thomson Reading Room in Martyrs Kirk, an activity which involves mapping out the actions of individual users to see how they use the room and interact within it. This helps the Library to understand how spaces are used and what users like or dislike about them. It may sound like spying, but it really isn’t!
I then got started with my own ethnographic project, which was focused on the topic of space within the Library. This involved running focus groups and group activities, and turned out to be both insightful and satisfying. At the start of this process I gathered feedback from users outside the Main Library by offering brownies in return for a few opinions of the Library (so if you saw a guy hovering around the entrance with a colourful board and a box of brownies, that was me!). However, I’ll delve into that in more detail in my next post, which will give an account of how I conducted and recorded my research. So for now, stay tuned!