Tell us a bit about yourself and your role in the Jerwood Library
I’m responsible for the day-to-day management of the special collections and archives which means anything from answering queries and cataloguing to putting on exhibitions and liaising with potential donors. The collections comprise original manuscripts, photographs, letters and rare printed music – they are a real treasure trove and it’s a privilege to be able to work with them.
I’ve been working in libraries for about 10 years now but before that I was a freelance horn player and was lucky enough to work with some really great ensembles including Academy of St Martin in the Fields, BBC Symphony Orchestra and City of London Sinfonia. I studied with Stephen Stirling at Trinity Laban (then TCM) on a postgraduate diploma course after finishing a music degree at Oxford University. I also hold a PhD in history from the University of Manchester.
What is a typical day at work like for you?
The first thing I do when I get to work is check for new enquiries. These come from all over the world, from academic researchers, musicians, family historians, and lay members of the public. Most enquiries involve a trip into the stacks to look at a collection, and a bit of research using the library’s print and online resources. Enquiry work is brilliant: I love helping people with their research and I always learn something new myself in the process.
After replying to any enquiries, I can get on with some of my longer-term projects such as improving our collections information. Cataloguing special collections and archives is time-consuming, but it gives me the chance to really get to know a collection, which in turn helps me to answer enquiries more effectively. Sometimes I will come across something really special that I can digitize on our Flickr page or write a blog post about.
Other ongoing tasks revolve around ensuring the long-term survival of the collections – for instance undertaking preventative conservation measures, drawing up procedures for handling and access, or updating our emergency plans. I also help out with our information skills training programme, taking the opportunity whenever I can to plug the special collections!
What’s something you enjoy about your role?
I find researching and writing about the collections particularly enjoyable. Luckily there are lots of opportunities for this kind of work – through answering enquiries, cataloguing, and especially when preparing exhibitions. I can get so hooked on a topic that it sometimes spills over into my ‘free’ time – like when I spent much of my Christmas holiday writing about the music for the Chester Historical Pageant of 1910…
Are there any hidden or little-known aspects of your work you’d like to share?
I’m a huge believer in the potential for special collections and archives to ‘sell’ an institution: the more people who engage with the collections, the further our name is spread. So I’m always thinking of ways to reach new audiences – on Flickr, with blog posts, on the website, or with union catalogues such as the Archives Hub. I also work with the marketing and development teams to bring the collections to a wider audience and build up relationships with alumni, donors and other key individuals. Music is a small world so this kind of engagement can really make a big difference to the wider reputation and success of the conservatoire.
Finally, could you tell us something people may not know about you?
I love yoga and wild camping, preferably at the same time…