Elizabeth Fry

Each member of the Library team has the opportunity to create a display case on a topic of their choosing. This is to present items in our collection that remain very well hidden, and quite often don’t get the time of day unless you’re specifically searching for them. One of the key’s to finding all of the hidden treasures in the treasure trove that is our library, is through our Special Collections page . Here you can find a link to all of the unique collections that we hold, ranging from our Oral History Collection , Florence Nightingale Collection, to our Rare Books. Given the depth of our collections, it can be quite difficult to choose the topic for your exhibit case.

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Royal College of Nursing Archives

I know you’re thinking that it has been a while since we’ve posted. Well you’re right. To be exact it has been 6 weeks, 1,008 hours, 60,480 minutes, or 3,628,800 seconds (ish). What’s happened? You might be thinking. Did the grad trainees get stuck inside our library store for all of this time? Did our Nursing Scrapbooks cause a time ripple that meant we got transported back to the First World War? No. I just forgot to post something. Continue reading

Bad Christmas jokes and more book recommendations!

Merry Christmas!

Hope you’ve liked my fellow Graduate Trainee’s book suggestions so far. My favorite book to get your teeth into over Christmas as is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” which I am sure will also be a firm favorite among others.


The book is centered around the key protagonist Ebeneezer Scrooge who was void of ‘Christmas Spirit’, failed to see the importance of family and hated distributing his wealth among others.

  download (1)Three visits from the Ghost of Christmas past, The Christmas present and the Christmas Yet to come forces Scrooge to re-evaluate his attitudes to his colleagues, relatives and his personal conduct.


Marley's_Ghost-John_Leech,_1843.jpgAfter the Ghost of Yet to Come visits Scrooge, he becomes a charitable man who gives to others without ceasing. Grateful for his chance at redemption, Scrooge becomes renown among his community for the ‘Man who celebrated Christmas’.





A few other non Christmassy (sorry for cheating!) books to get stuck into over the festive period are ‘PS I love you’ by Cecelia Ahern which features themes of  loss, rediscovery and reflection, perfect for entering 2018  with a bang!QS_0762166cfb5e469d9193d816392d6796 ‘Brooklyn’ by Colm Toibin and ‘The Awakening by Kate Chopin.






Too lazy to read after gorging on your fifth mince pie? Not to worry, a few good Christmas movies to burn calories in laughter to are: ‘Mrs Doubtfire’, ‘Home Alone’ and ‘Elf’

If you have not watched Elf at Christmas you have been living under a rock!

Here’s a few Christmas jokes to get you in the festive spirit! 

Why did Santa’s helper see the doctor?
Because he had a low “elf” esteem!

Who delivers presents to baby sharks at Christmas?
Santa Jaws



Who is Santa’s favorite singer?
Elf-is Presley!


Don’t say we don’t look after you!

See you in 2018!





Harry Potter and the Grad Trainee Blog

Not much beats sitting on your favourite armchair/sofa/cushion to read a book at Christmas time. I racked my brains very hard to think of a book that makes me feel Christmassy – A Christmas carol, Little Women or even How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But none of them make me feel as festive as re-reading a Harry Potter for the umpteenth time.

“Come on, cheer up, it’s nearly Christmas.” (Classic Hagrid quote – couldn’t agree more)


And let’s face it at Hogwarts they have THE BEST Christmases. Not only do they get to have a feast (and not have to do any of the washing up), it’s normally snowing and they get some cracking presents. At the core of why people love Harry Potter is the distinctly different characters, and every one of them has their own present giving style.

“Oi! Presents!” (Ron one Christmas)

I thought I’d give you a whistle-stop tour of the different gift-givers in Hogwarts. Which one are you most like?


Hermione – well thought out and practical. Something you should have rather than you want. Expect a guilt-inducing homework planner, a quill or a broom-polishing kit.

Ron – wildly last minute. Expect something Quidditch-themed or novelty (like dungbombs).

Hagrid – well-meaning but ultimately terrifying. Think a purse with fangs.

Dobby – again well-meaning but ultimately terrifying, but this time for reasons of intensity. Expect a heartfelt painting or a pair of odd homemade socks.

Durlseys – absolutely dismal. Worse than Scrooge. Presents given to Harry include: a fifty pence piece, a tissue and a toothpick. I hope you don’t have a Dursley buying you presents this Christmas.

Mrs. Weasley – Next-level homemade gift goals. You will get a homemade knitted jumper and a cake of some sort. Considering Mrs. Weasley makes a jumper for everyone in her family (eight people) and others like Harry, I think she may be the ultimate Christmas gift-giver. If you’re anything like her can I request a present from you this year please?


There you are, a brief idea of what magical Christmas presents are like. Perhaps it’ll give you some inspiration for presents to buy/make for your favourite muggles this year. I hope you get what you want this year, unlike poor old Dumbledore:

“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”

I hope you have a merry Christmas and get some good gifts. I recommend treating yourself to a Harry Potter book or two.



Letters from Father Christmas

To help us all get into the festive spirit, the grad Capture 1trainee elves had a huddle. We thought about how to best combine the festive season with our favourite Christmassy books to present you with this selection box of our favourite festive books or stories over the next week.

I – very unsurprisingly for me – chose ‘Letters from Father Christmas’ by J.R.R Tolkien. Largely known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, this books spans a family tradition for the Tolkien family that began with his return from the First World War, and would last for around 23 years for his 4 children.

Each year for his children he would write his children letters that were from – you guessed it – Father Christmas himself (or in some cases his elvish secretary). These letters would range from the general antics and misadventures that he and his helpers experience at the North Pole. Whether this would be bat-riding goblins (not very Christmassy), or his helper the North Polar Bear (a little more Christmassy).

An example of this letter is below, and doesn’t look too dissimilar to some of our Nursing Scrapbooks that you may have seen from one of our earlier posts:

Capture 2
Image from: http://www.openculture.com/2013/12/read-j-r-r-tolkiens-letter-from-father-christmas-to-his-young-children.html


Let the festivities begin (soonish)



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.