Part of our training involves visiting other libraries, like our previous trip to the London Library. On the 11th and 12th of February, we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit RCN Scotland in Edinburgh and see the library as well as have a nose around our extensive archives.
We were in Edinburgh for two days, and it really was a fantastic trip. Our colleagues in the Edinburgh office are just as lovely as the rest of the team here and the hospitality they extended to us really made us feel welcome and at home.
Edinburgh is where RCN Scotland is based, and the building they are in was originally a Victorian family home in what would have been suburbia and has been added to in various ways over the years. I think our favourite part of the building was probably the original entrance with its fantastically maintained original decoration.
On the first day we were there we concentrated on learning about our archives. After introductions to the team and a brief tour of where the essentials were (fire exits, toilets and coffee machine), Fiona took over and took us upstairs to the archives…at least the on-site archives. Space at South Oswald Road is limited so it is mainly items that are likely to be needed on a more regular basis, such as minutes from council meetings, that are actually kept on site. There was so much kept on site that it was difficult to imagine the scale of what is kept off-site – which is virtually everything else. After a lovely lunch at a nearby cafe with Emma, one of the Information Specialists, we all headed to the off-site storage at the National Library of Scotland (NLS). Upon reaching the centre of the floor the RCN archives are kept, it was startling just how many stacks were labelled RCN. It was already a little overwhelming before Fiona showed us how many documents could be kept in one of the brown files lining the stacks.
What was just as mind-boggling was how much Fiona knew about everything there. It didn’t matter what we were asking about, Fiona was able to provide answers for everything. There is lots of everything in the archives. From membership forms and miscellaneous papers to backdated journals, there was just a sheer volume of stuff that has to be seen to be believed. The amount of time we spent in the stacks was a lot more than we thought but there was simply so much to see. We also a got a much better idea of the size of the task our archivists face; there is still so much cataloguing to be done and yet more papers and and various donations are always arriving.
Speaking of various donations, after a quick break for cake (very important!) and brief driving tour of Edinburgh, it was back to HQ to have a look at some recent donations. These included group photographs, aprons, glass syringe set, a student midwife log-book (containing details of mothers and babies) and lots of other items. There were also a couple of items that we had a little difficulty identifying but we think it may be some kind of bag lining.
That took us to the end of Day 1, with Fiona kindly dropping us off at our hotel, where after checking in we took a wander to the Old Town with a couple of small accidental detours and somehow ended up in front of the castle. After a lovely bite to eat nearby it was back to the hotel to rest up for Day 2 at the library!
On the Friday, we managed (with a little help from Google) to find our way back to Scotland HQ without slipping on any ice (unlike a poor cyclist who took a nasty fall in-front of us but was thankfully okay). After sorting ourselves out, we sat down with Sian (Knowledge and Research Manager), Sarah (the modern apprentice) and Emma (Information Specialist and SIO coordinator) to have a more detailed discussion about our roles. They were very interested in what our role as Graduate Trainees was about, and equally we found the differences in set-up between us in London and in Edinburgh fascinating.
Afterwards, we had a more official tour of the library space and had a chat with Emma about what herself and Jennifer, who wasn’t around unfortunately, do. The library space has a wonderful and very welcoming vibe and its open space and cheerful colours make extraordinary use of what they do have. As the library in Edinburgh itself is rather small, the team operates a rather interesting yet effective ‘outreach model’. What this means is that because the library covers the whole of Scotland Emma and Jennifer frequently go out to the regions to promote the library services. Whereas in London a member of the library staff usually goes to various student recruitment events at university, our colleagues in Scotland go further – they go into some pretty remote workplaces and Emma also told us about how she is working on getting time during university lectures to speak directly to students about how we can help them. On top of this and providing the usual support to members in the space (made easier by their desks actually being in the library itself) they also fulfill literature search requests for our Scottish members, whereas in London this is handled by two dedicated members of staff.
Additionally, they both have dual roles. Emma’s role includes responsibility for supporting active RCN Students, our Student Information Officers and this involves liaising with, and recruiting student members. Jennifer wasn’t around to speak to us about her roles, but she is both Information Specialist and Learning Rep coordinator, spends much more time going to hospitals and clinics, and providing information support to Learning Reps – which is where she was during our visit.
Although we could have happily spent more time with the whole team, after this it was unfortunately time for us to head off to the airport and head home, but it really was a great couple of days and we both took so much back from it!
Lauren & Kat x