Hello, from Stephen the newest Graduate Trainee

I am three weeks into my one-year Graduate Trainee Customer Service (GT) programme. So far, I have enjoyed it immensely. I often feel as if the Library and Archive Service (L&A) procedures go in one ear and out the next. However, practice makes perfect and I am at the advantage that everyone else knows what they are doing and are happy to help me settle in.

I recently finished a BA History degree. This summer, I applied for teacher-training but I realized during the interview process that I was glad to have finished secondary school and did not want to repeat the experience. Initially, I thought that since I was now bigger and smarter (?) I would be able to navigate the complexities of school-life with confidence. This June, while on a tour of a secondary-school, I took one look into the school playground and realized that I was wrong. I had already escaped from school and the school-children were as scary to the 25 year-old me as they were to the weedy 12-year old of the previous decade.

I was pleased to read about the RCN’s no-bullying policy on their website. I thought that it would be a good place for me to improve my inter-personal skills and discover whether an L&A job was the right career path for me. The job brief for the GT job seemed clear: give great customer service to our nursing membership and help promote the interests of the nursing community in everything we do. There is no average day at the RCN because our job at the L&A is to respond to the ongoing needs of our membership. We cannot answer any particular enquiry in the same way because no RCN member is the same.

Nevertheless, there are certain tasks that a GT needs to perform consistently and be on top of. One rewarding feature of the programme is the emphasis on self-development. It is the GT’s responsibility to book their place on CPD courses, Diversity and Equality training, the RCN On-board course[1], etc. Furthermore, I am encouraged to explore all specialist areas of the L&A service. My colleagues in other sections of the department inform me of their work on digitization projects, cataloguing, collections, E-Systems and digital archives, to name but a few. I am confident that by the end of this programme I will be in a much better position to decide what kind of L&A work would most interest me. I have chatted with colleagues who are currently studying part-time for an MA in Librarianship. In fact, I have already applied to do a postgrad course in Information Management (MSc) at Sheffield University. The RCN expects me to reflect on my career goals beyond this programme.

At present, I feel I need to master certain technical aspects of my role such as knowledge of database and family history searching. The software we use for the fundamental library tasks of checking-in and out books, renewing items, placing hold, etc., is Workflows. Workflows often gets the better of me and we have had our ups-and-downs. Nonetheless, I am sure that, as with all my colleagues, as we get to know each other better we will learn to work together in harmony.

I hope that I will be able to supply the L&A team with as much banter as my GT predecessors. As a first effort, I will now provide two cracking jokes below.

Funny Joke

There are two sausages in a frying pan named Sausage 1 and Sausage 2.

Sausage 1 says to Sausage 2: “Oh my, it’s getting hot in here!”

Sausage 2 replies: “Ahhh, talking sausage!”


 Hilarious Joke

There was a magic tractor. The tractor drove down the lane and turned into a field.


[1] The RCN On-board course is a two-day induction event which involves, among many other things, an introduction to the history and purpose of the RCN, as well as training in giving tours.


Working on Service Scrapbooks – My Grad Experience So Far

Hi, I’m Molly the Heritage Graduate Trainee. I have been working on the HLF Service Scrapbooks project. This revolves around ten nurses who created scrapbooks and wrote diaries detailing their lives in the First World War. They are such brilliant documents. The scrapbooks were owned by a nurse and passed around to the people she encountered. The books have contributions from nurses and soldiers from Australia to America, Ireland to India. Each one of them captures a unique experience of wartime through poetry, paint and a few jokes. Every time you carefully turn their restored pages you find something new. A century old riddle can still have me puzzled (can you figure out what the cryptic ‘YYUR YYUB ICURYY4ME’ means?) and an old joke can still make me crack a smile –

Taken From Nellie Carter’s Scrapbook

Two in a hammock

Attempted to kiss

In less than a minute

sıɥʇ ǝʞıl pǝpuɐl ʎǝɥʇ

With HLF funding we have been able to conserve and digitise these precious books, with the end goal of having a web resource to host them on. This resource will also include biographies of each nurse – including every scrap of information and any hidden secrets we can find about them.

Hilda Hand’s Photograph Album

I realise I have been using ‘we’ and you may be unsure who this refers to. I will take this opportunity to introduce you to the fantastic HLF VOLUNTEERS (I wanted this to be in sparkly letters but I couldn’t work out how to do that). One of the loveliest part of this job is working with the RCN Members who volunteered to help us. There is a small army of them (36 to be precise) helping us with everything. As I write Jayne Knill is opposite me furiously tapping away at a transcription.

Transcription is the stage the stage we are currently up to. The books have been conserved and we have spent a few months digitising them. Using the pages we have beautifully, carefully, painstakingly digitised we are now transcribing from them, transferring each illegible word to a legible typed document. This is quite a lengthy process – we have nearly 1000 pages to do in total – but with the help from my number one nursing squad we have managed to transcribe nearly a third of that already. Don’t be deceived by how quickly we have done this, it can be very tricky.

Carter’s Scrapbook

My number one tip for palaeography (a great word – feel free to use it, see if you can work it into a conversation today) is to remember that people in the past are just as prone to mistakes as we are today. The texts we are deciphering are littered in spelling mistakes and bad punctuation, all of which can make it difficult to get at their meaning. I really don’t know how people in the past had the patience to read letters from people with bad handwriting. Props to them. The pages above from Carter’s book really tripped us up by having both terrible handwriting and being in another language – possibly German? If there are any willing translators out there we’d be grateful if you could tell us what it says.

A page from Beatrice Campbell’s Scrapbook: “Nursing it’s Ideals and Realities”

Another top tip is to remember you can make mistakes too, so go back and check! Due to my misinterpretation of a few letters I almost gave one poor soul syphilis instead of typhoid. Asking someone else what they think a word is can save a transcription from such grisly errors. Once we have every single word documented we will be moving on to indexing – recording the names of every person mentioned in the scrapbooks. Hopefully this will help a few family historians find long-lost relatives. Wish us luck!


Molly Fennelly

The Chronicles of a Collections Development Grad Trainee


IMG_2475 Hello I am Porshia and I am one of the newest Graduate Trainees at the Royal College of Nursing! I recently graduated from the University of Kent where I studied Ancient History – and boy did I do a LOT of studying!




Why Librarianship?

I have wanted to be a Librarian all my life *cue X factor styled sob story music*. From ages 5-9 I wanted to work as a cashier in Sainsbury’s so technically not all my life. Since I was 16, I have had the desire to become a Librarian and actively looked into routes into this field.

Annoyed librarian  My pursuit to become a Librarian was however, temporarily halted due to the fear that I would morph into a ‘No talking, No eating, No smiling’ stereotypical librarian. Believing this (stupid and false) assumption, I subsequently put myself off from pursuing a career in this field for a few years.



university of Kent library
University Of Kent’s Templeman Library – The scene of my cat video binge and epiphany 

The penultimate years I spent at University however, put things into perspective. Finding myself in my University Library 5-6 days a week stuffing my face with popcorn whilst watching cat videos on YouTube (I did eventually do the important stuff after my cat video binge) I then had a light bulb moment.  Not only did I enjoy the ambiance a library provides its users with, I was generally intrigued to find out what goes on behind the books and library fines. My curiosity had been re-awakened. From that moment, I knew I would be committed to pursuing a career within the Library and Heritage sector.


Why the Royal College of Nursing?

Hell-bent on finding a suitable traineeship, I scoured high and low for a traineeship that would provide me with an intensive crash course regarding all things librarianship and equip me with the skills and expertise needed to progress in this field.

Alas, I came across the Graduate Traineeship at the Royal College of Nursing and found it ticked all the right boxes. With my other experiences working for other organization’s I am well placed to say that an organisation’s ‘core competencies’ or company ethos speaks volumes about how well they value and treat their staff.  Once I had digested all the fantastic core competencies at The Royal College of Nursing, I knew I would be in good hands and proceeded with my application.


What exactly is a Collections Development Graduate Trainee?

If you have made it this far into my introductory blog without yawning you must be buzzing to know (yay). In a nutshell,  I get the best of both worlds as a Collections Development Grad. Trainee. Not only do I get to work closely with the customer services team and deliver front-line (and now CSE accredited!) customer service, I get to work with some of the oldest books, pamphlets and documentation belonging to the RCN. Some of my responsibilities include checking in journals on a daily basis, chasing up late/ lost journals and monitoring the temperature and humidity of all the exhibition cases at HQ.

What else have I been up to?

Prior to going to University I took a gap-year to get some ‘real life’ experience (not your typical back-packing, quinoa eating millennial in the slightest!). I worked at Waitrose as a butcher and fishmonger for a year and continued to work at Waitrose for an additional two years. I then undertook an internship with Medway Council where I worked in the Heritage department, supporting my then- line manager with a successful £1.8 Million Heritage Lottery funded bid called ‘Command of the Heights’.

In my final year at University I worked as a Residents’ Support Officer, supporting over  over 600 students and working closely with housekeeping services, senior management and the Director of Student Services. I have also undertaken a short but sweet internship at Brent Archives.

I will be frequently blogging about library visits and AOB for the duration of my traineeship so stay tuned!






Prison? I’ve only been here two weeks! – HMP Wormwood Scrubs Visit

As you will have seen by our other posts, we are given the opportunity to go and visit other institutions and libraries. It is a great experience to see how other libraries operate, and the spaces that people work in. It is helpful not only in helping you think about the variety of career paths in this sector, but also celebrates the diversity of libraries. They are not something homogenous, there is no single way of doing things, and the best way to see this is first hand.

Being told a few weeks into starting at the RCN that I would be going to visit HMP Wormwood Scrubs with my colleagues came as a bit of a surprise. Was I really that bad, that I was being taken to prison after being there for a few weeks?!

Regardless, I read through the prohibited items list very carefully, making sure that I hadn’t packed my poncho or hot-pants (yes, really).

After showing our ID’s and handing over our belongings, making sure we weren’t taking in anything we shouldn’t, we waited in the ‘airlock’. We were greeted by Tracy, the Prison Librarian at HMP Wormwood Scrubs. Making sure all doors and gates were locked properly behind us, we walked through the prison courtyard, being told to walk as close to the fence as possible as prisoners had a habitat of throwing things out of the window (I don’t think I’ve seen so many squashed satsumas in my life).

The prison library itself was back to basics, oddly reminding me of my school library. I wish I would’ve been able to take some photos, but handing my phone in made that very difficult.

Photo taken by David Hawgood https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WormwoodScrubsEntrance.jpg

We sat in the library as business happened as usual. There were two library orderlies (who were inmates) who helped Tracy and her colleague with tasks such as re-shelving, checking out, and returning items several times a week. During our few ours here there was a steady flow of prisoners coming both in and out, whether by their own volition in their free time, or as part of a class group.  At first this felt quite strange, making me feel a little on edge – Tracy told us that you do get used to being in a room with 20+ prisoners, but you have to maintain an awareness at all times, regardless of how relaxed the atmosphere may be, it could change at any moment.

We were told that they lose on average about 30% of their stock each year. In most cases, these books just seem to vanish into thin air. As library staff are unable to check cells for particular items, they are unable to do anything about this. With a certain sense of irony, the most popular genre of book was true-crime . However books like, graphic novels, help with driving tests & driving theory, and foreign language dictionaries – owing to the diversity of the prison population – were also highly popular.

Book requests was an interesting topic that was brought up. Prisoners are able to suggest particular books to the library staff that they would like to see in the library. However, the ordering of the book is done at the librarians own discretion. For instance, a book on manipulation (or similar) may raise some concern and would not be ordered, whilst there wouldn’t be any problem ordering some generic fiction. While there were no religious texts on-site, there were many books on religion.

One thing was evident. Even in the face of cuts, changes in management both in the prison and the local authorities, alongside limits of what they were able to achieve in their space, Tracy and her colleague displayed an enthusiasm and passion for their job that was almost contagious.

Until next time,


Oliver’s Odyssey


Χαίρετε, or hello! I’m Oliver and I’m the newest Graduate Trainee at the Royal College of Nursing. I graduated from the University of Leeds in 2015, studying Classical Civilisation.

My original plan after this was to take a year out to work part-time (which I did), and begin an MRes in Classical Research the following September. The concrete idea in my head was to hop along every stepping-stone through academia.

Lo and behold that didn’t work out. Before the end of term I had to make the difficult decision whether to carry on with my degree, or to withdraw, always  with the option that it was something that I could re-visit in the future.

This left me in a bit of a weird place. All of a sudden, with one decision some morning in early December, I decided to look at my ‘life plan’ and tear it up. Because I had an academic career in mind for so long, I hadn’t considered anything other than this. I was left with what felt like an infinite amount of opportunities which felt both liberating, and a bit intimidating.

After trawling through lists of what seemed like the word ‘sales’ for months, it made me think about the kind of career that I might want to pursue, and the places that I might want to work. I enjoyed all the academic aspects within my degree, but was more than happy to escape what seemed like the crushing weight of academia bearing down upon me.  Regardless, a huge part of me still wanted to keep at least one of my feet dipped in academic water where I could.

I knew that I wanted an engaging and varied role, the opportunity to interact and engage with people, at an organisation that I truly believed in.

I started to rack my brain as I tried to think of where these two things might collide.

One that that I’ve learnt is that it’s really difficult to escape the classical world.

Throughout my time as an undergraduate I volunteered at the University’s Music Library, & Classics library. This was something I really enjoyed and never really considered a career as a possible career path– Maybe I was onto something?

Maybe it’s possible to have a career that you might actually enjoy?!

The variety offered in the role really gained my attention, and as I began to look into the history of the RCN I grew increasingly interested. The RCN graduate trainee position is like library-themed cheese-board where you are able to have a taste of all aspects of library work from Customer Services, Collections, E-Systems, & Audience Engagement.

Being here for a few months has made me realise that I think I’ve found my career path, and I don’t think I could have chosen a better place to start. The chance that I haven’t had chance to post yet is a good sign. I’ve been given enough responsibility to work on individual projects, work with different teams, and truly immerse myself in the life of a graduate trainee.

I’ve even had the opportunity the visit the Wormwood Scrubs Prison Library that arrested my attention, had a dissection of the Royal College of Physicians, the very shiny University of Bedfordshire – Luton Library, and finally buzzed around the bee-rilliant Worcestershire Hive.

Here is to renewing your interest for more frequent blog updates!


“It’s called Art, Tim” – Visiting the National Art Library and the Tate Reading Rooms

First Tim and I hopped on the tube to South Kensington to visit the National Art Library, located inside the Victoria and Albert Museum.

After a brief unplanned detour through the sculpture gallery…

“Tim I thought the email said take a left at the bust of Charles I”

“No, no, no Miriam I’m sure it was a right at Charles I and then a left at the 19th century cast of Michelangelo’s David”

…we were met by Sally, Assistant Librarian and Group Visits co-ordinator.

Sally began by telling us a little about the range and scope of the NAL as one of the largest arts libraries in the world, in the same league as those in the Getty and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As she lead us through the 2 reading rooms Sally also told us a little about the inception of the NAL. It was originally opened as the library for the Government School of Design at Somerset House and the collections were strictly practical and designed to support students studying the technicalities of design. The library then moved to new premises at Marlborough House and later, as the library and the museum surrounding it continued grow, moved to its current home in South Kensington.

VandA Main Library 6
View of the main reading room from the mezzanine level

Here Sally also highlighted that the library holdings are now not only designed to complement the V&A’s collections but also to document the decorative and fine arts much more broadly. As the tour progressed the sheer variety of the collection became clear and over the course of the afternoon Sally mentioned items ranging from Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketch books to the full run of Vogue to a collection of Argos catalogues.

The varied nature of the V&A collections also means that it welcomes a wide variety of

VandA ladder
NAL Store Stacks

visitors with a range of needs and interests. In addition to supporting V&A staff, the library is also the UK’s leading public art and design library and welcomes over 30,000 visitors a year. Anyone can apply to use the V&A collections but all books, apart from the reference collection, must be requested online prior to a visit.


Sally then led us behind the library enquiry desk and into the library stores where the vast majority of the collections are held. The NAL shelves books by size, using its own classification system in order to make best use of the space available and this means that, apart from the collection of children’s books, the whole collection can be stored onsite. Whilst most books are kept on shelves throughout the store there are also safes that house the rarest and precious items including a Shakespeare First Folio and the manuscripts of Charles Dickens’ novels.

The NAL also holds a vast collection of periodicals, holding over 11,000 titles and processing 50-100 new issues a week. When we visited they were mid-way through a major refurbishment of the library offices and Sally showed us the brand new processing desk where all the new issues are unpacked and processed ready for shelving. Older issues of the journals have been bound into large volumes but this has recently been stopped as it is both costly and makes it more difficult to use the issues for display as part of exhibitions.



In addition to holding books and periodicals about art and design the collection is also interested in books and periodicals as works of art themselves. When we visited the librarians had laid out some of these items for a visiting group of MA Photography students who were interested in artists who use the physical form of a book as part of their work.

I found this aspect of the NAL’s collection particularly interesting as this is not something that I have encountered in the libraries that I have worked at in the past. Whilst at the RCN we use books as part of our exhibitions, and have recently installed a new case in order to display our rare books, these items were predominantly not designed for this purpose but rather to educate or entertain the reader. Whilst many of them are aesthetically pleasing or designed with great care we place them in a gallery/museum setting because of their social and historical significance and what they can tell us about the time in which they were created and the people who wrote and read them. Whereas these items have gained a new life as artefacts much of the NAL’s collection was created to be displayed and understood in such contexts.

The event that I attended placed a spotlight on artist’s sketchbooks and displayed the sketchbooks themselves alongside both a laptop displaying the digitized sketchbooks and an activity that invited attendees to use the methods and techniques employed by the artist to create their own sketches.

Using all of my creative energy, and the skills I honed in primary school art, I attempted to emulate the work of Graham Sutherland. Here the activity instructed us to draw an cone, then draw an oval, then link them with another geometric shape and then make the resulting ‘creation’ into either an animal or landscape.

Behold my masterpiece…


(It’s a parrot)



This event, and my visit to the National Art Library, really highlighted to me the importance of audience engagement for any library and archive as both these institutions actively seek not only to preserve the work of past artists but also to actively engage with those creating and working today.





A Year in the Life of a Graduate Trainee – The Tim Spring Story

It all started when I was just 5 years old. My mum had just bought me a brand new Action Man but I immediately threw it aside.

“Tim, what on earth is wrong?” she said.

“I don’t want an Action Man, mum,” I cried. “I want a Graduate Trainee Man from the library of a Nursing Trade Union, idiot!”

Little did we know back then, that one day, I – Timothy Shaun Spring – would go on to follow that dream.

And what a dream it’s been.

Look how interested this young professional is in his library exhibition.

Now I have the glib part out of the way, I thought it would be nice for a change to make a blog post not dripping in sarcasm and irony…So let’s start with some positives, shall we?

One of the best things about the traineeship here at the RCN has been how well structured I have found our scheme to be. This has led to great opportunities to learn new skills and experience a broad range of the many aspects of librarianship. I have spent time with all the teams in the library to learn about their role and also gained hands-on experience of the work they do (e.g. cataloguing, event planning, database training etc etc). This has been really valuable for my professional development and also given me a good introduction to the kind of work I might expect to do in the future.

I’ve also enjoyed many of the non-library specific work such as giving tours, attending student recruitment, visiting other libraries, attending training courses and more. Whilst not library specific, I think taking part in these activities helps you feel more connected to the organisation and the work here, whilst also offering a well-balanced workload with plenty of transferrable skills.

The people I get to work with have also been a fantastic and fundamental part of the great experience I’ve had at the RCN. Everyone in the library team has always been helpful and people always have time to offer their advice, experience and time. So thanks to everyone for all the amazing support and training you have offered over the past year.

What a professional looking young man.


I’m feeling a bit nauseous after writing so positively about the RCN so I think it would be in my best interest to wrap this up with some good old fashioned arrogance from the greatest graduate trainee the RCN will ever have.

It’s been a privilege for all of you to have had the opportunity to work with me. You will all miss me greatly and struggle to fill the void that I leave but I’m sure my protégé (who I unfortunately won’t meet) will do their best to live up to my now legendary reputation.



P.S. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time in my final week to draft anything even remotely comprehensive enough to encapsulate everything wrong with the RCN Library so suffice it to say that my last day hasn’t come soon enough…

Archives? More like…WOW-chives!

If that pathetic title didn’t put you off already, Miriam and I recently took a trip to the lovely RCN Scotland HQ to visit the Archives.


It was an early start and I don’t think Miriam would mind me saying that by the end of our four hour train journey to Edinburgh, tension was high and it was already in doubt whether we would make it through another train journey in each other’s company. Nonetheless, we persevered and after a brief taxi ride, we arrived at RCN Scotland.

It’s a lovely building located in a suburban area of Edinburgh. Fiona came down to collect us and brought us up to their cosy office where we then met up with Sophie too. We started off with a brief tour of the building, learning all the best places to be including the kitchen, the archives and of course…the RCN Learning Hub! We stopped and had a chat with Emma about the Learning Hub whilst we were here. I thought the space had a pleasant ‘vibe’ and had some nice workstation for members to use (wouldn’t mind a few of those monitors here in the London library…). Emma told us they would soon be introducing a small exhibition space by the entrance too, which sounded very exciting!

After this, we went back upstairs where we had a nice casual chat with Sophie about the many many many many projects the Archives are currently working on (as well as talking about dogs a lot). When Fiona was free, she joined us to expand on all of this too.

The day was already over by then so Fiona dropped us off at ‘The Ritz’ of Edinburgh a.k.a. a Best Western…We had Mexican food for dinner. It was wild.

NEXT MORNING, we reconvened at RCN Scotland to do some more exploring! Sophie spent some time with us explaining the intricacies of CALM and its uses. We then took a look at some items from inside the Archives based at HQ which was all very exciting. It’s fascinating to look through photos and paraphernalia that people have donated over the years and I love the authenticity that you get from looking at someone’s personal collection, compared to an item in a display cabinet.

We then had a brief cake & tea break and had a chat about ourselves and how we ended up at the RCN and interested in a career of librarianship etc. Following this, we sat down and did some more chatting about the work that Archives does on a regular basis. I had a tricky enquiry I had been trying to answer back at HQ and unfortunately, no one knew the answer but it’s amazing how much Fiona does know about nursing! I was very impressed by a document Fiona had which was akin to a mini encyclopaedia on the history of nursing, filled with various tidbits covering what felt like every subject. Very interesting indeed.

After all the fun and excitement of our brief visit, we headed back to the station where we had another sanity-destroying four hour journey to really get under each other’s skin. I decided to lighten the mood by impressing Miriam with some great impressions of every member of staff in the library. To answer your questions:

Yes, they were all horrible.

Yes, she hated every minute of it.

No, we are no longer friends.

“The Coldest of Nurses” or “Tim made a book display!”

‘Nurse of the Islands’ is B.J. Banfill’s biographical account of her experiences in the remote islands off the North East coast of Canada. Every winter, the communities in these islands were cut off from the mainland and faced extreme poverty and deprivation.

Hello one and all,

Cold nurses: we know they exist but what do we really know about them?

This is what I set out to discover when I worked on the book display cabinet in the library!

After being strong-armed  enthusiastically invited  to work on this by Anna, I went down to the store with Pete to have a look at the permanent collection and try to work on some ideas. Initially, we were keen on a sexual health theme (what with Valentine’s Day fast approaching) and had some lovely props to go along with a potential display. What ultimately caught my eye though, was a copy of Kate Marsden’s ‘On Sledge and Horseback to the Outcast Siberian Lepers’. This book ticked all the right boxes. It was old (1895). It was in amazing condition. It had an attractive looking cover and illustrations inside (the most important part). With this brand new idea, I approached Pete who agreed it was amazing and I was a genius for coming up with it (I might be paraphrasing slightly here).

Unfortunately, not every book pops out from the shelf so what followed was a grueling search through the library catalogue to find more suitable titles. As it turns out, you can search for books by country on the RCN catalogue quite easily! Very handy indeed. I immediately went for all the classics such as Finland, Canada, Russia, etc. You get the idea, right? After picking out a few classics that jumped out at me, I went down to the store to start checking them out in person.

I found a real treasure trove of biographies, diaries and healthcare books from all around the globe. My personal favourite of the bunch is Amy Wilson’s biographical tale, ‘No Man Stands Alone’. Amy worked in the remote Yukon Territory of Northwest Canada, covering 200,000 square miles to provide care for just 3,000 people. Wow!

After I was happy with my choices, I put together a blurb for each and got Frances to help with the mounting. At this stage, I’ll impart some handy health and safety advice to everyone: Stanley knives are very sharp and should not be stabbed in to your own thumb.

After receiving a complete lack of sympathy and care for my extreme flesh wound, we felt it would be better if Frances did the crafty aspect and I stuck to gluing like the child I am.

Once this was all done, it was finally time to fill the cabinet. Pete helped me mount the books safely on to the display stands and guided my wonky blurb placement and finally, the whole ordeal was over. Thanks everyone for-

Oh wait, I forgot about the spelling mistakes. It turns out that despite getting at least three other people to check your work for errors, it was inevitable there would be a spelling mistake somewhere. So a big thanks to Kate for spotting my humiliating error that nearly saw me get fired (I assume).

After obtaining a royal patronage, Kate Marsden headed to remote Siberia to try and find a cure for leprosy, whilst visiting a remote leper colony. She is still highly regarded in the region to this day.

Now that really is the end. Thanks to everyone for all your lovely comments on the display. I’m sure it will go down in RCN folklore as the most professional book display on the subject of cold nurses that anyone has ever done. I look forward to seeing the next one…

Zoological Society of London Library Visit


Hello readers,

With Tim struck down by a bad cold, I ventured across Regent’s Park alone and soon arrived at the Zoological Society of London Library for my first library visit. I was met by Emma from the Library and Archives Team who quickly lead me upstairs and into the library itself.

The library is located within the main ZSL building, just on the edge of Regent’s Park and adjacent to London Zoo. It is made up of 3 floors, 2 of which are wholly occupied by rolling stacks of journals, with the top floor housing the ZSL’s collection of 200,000 books and 40,000 monographs.

Emma began by telling me a little about the history of the ZSL and highlighted that the Society  has had a library ever since it first opened in 1826. The current building dates from 1910 and, as you can see from the comparison below, the only real change to the space has been the addition of new shelves to house the ever growing collection.


As part of her day-to-day role Emma gives tours of the ZSL, explaining both the history of the organisation and showing visitors the library’s rare items collection. Fortunately, I visited just after Emma had finished one of these tours and she was able to show me a variety of items ranging from the minutes of the first meetings of the Society, to early inventories of the Zoo’s inhabitants and, even a first edition of The Origin of Species.

One of the most interesting items Emma showed me was a series of drawings of reptiles by Dr Joan Beauchamp Proctor, the ZSL Curator of Reptiles during the early 1920’s. Dr Proctor, as the mastermind behind the Reptile House that is still one of London Zoo’s key attractions, was not only a huge influence on the ZSL but also a trailblazer for female zoologists. Emma also showed me the minutes from one of the earliest Society meetings in which the ZSL formally agreed to welcome women, decades before similar contemporary organisations. This was particularly interesting for me as the rare books and archives collections at the RCN are also artifacts of women’s social history and record the lives of people who broke down barriers for women both in science and the workplace.



As Emma went on to describe the day-to-day operations of the ZSL library I saw further parallels with the RCN library, not just in the specialist nature of the ZSL collection but also in the diversity of its users. Just as at the RCN we have to meet the needs of the whole nursing community, from student nurses to HCAs to academics, the ZSL library also has to cater not only for researchers but also conservationists and even the zoo keepers. This not only places particular demands on the collection but also on library assistants who have to be able to tailor their advice and approach to suit every customer.

Just as I was leaving the library I asked Emma if she had any advice for those looking to get into the library sector, or if there was anything in particular that she looks for when recruiting. Emma said that she always looks for outgoing and confident candidates who would be comfortable giving tours or presenting information to library users. She also highlighted the necessity of making any written application engaging from the very first line as recruiters often receive dozens of applications for just one position and will quickly lose interest in applications that do not catch their attention.

With my tour of the library over and panic about my future career prospects setting in Emma whisked me over the road and into London Zoo and I spent the remainder of the afternoon getting acquainted with the ZSL’s more lively collections.