Category Archives: Teaching

A blog by our UCL placement student, Anne Carey

As a full-time MA Library and Information Studies student at UCL, I was assigned a work placement through our professional development module. I was so delighted to get started at Brunel University London, as I had requested special collections or academic library experience, and my perceptive course faculty found me the perfect place to do both.

The plan was to set me up three days a week with Katie Flanagan, the Special Collections Librarian, in Brunel Library Special Collections and two days a week with Joanne McPhie, the Academic Liaison Librarian for the Department of Life Sciences, who would introduce me to everyone in the main part of the library and show me the inner workings of the academic side of things. On my first day I felt so welcomed by everyone and that feeling continued for the entire two (and a bit) weeks.

That first week consisted of a lot of academic library experiences that were completely new to me. I was lucky enough to shadow people who had all kinds of roles that I had heard of but hadn’t seen in action before. I was so grateful for everyone to take time out of their day to talk me through all the different aspects of their jobs. I got a crash course on cataloguing with Symphony and the chance to see how the system is managed. I also got exposed to Scholarly Communications, which really opened my eyes to the sheer amount of time needed to keep the university repository, Open Access publishing, and REF compliance up and running. The Academic Liaison Librarians were another wonderful team I spent a lot of time with. I got to shadow teaching sessions, which were helpful as a librarian who may be in their shoes one day, and as an MA student myself! I also got to sit and talk through managing reading lists, book orders, and collection management. I even got to sit in on a vendor meeting and a few staff meetings, and that gave me a lot of insight into the day-to-day reality of the job.

On the second week, I got the chance to dive into Special Collections. I had a bit of experience in a similar collection before, but it was so nice to get another chance to work hands-on with special collections. Katie was great and guided me on rare books cataloguing and showed me some excellent resources. Their Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies is amazing, and it was a lot of fun researching the blog post I wrote for International Nurses’ Day. It was a privilege to catalogue some of the published works in the collection as well. As the week went on, I got more confident cataloguing rare books and got some really great career advice from Katie and Joanne.

Katie and Alison, my placement co-ordinator, agreed I would come back for three days later in the month. In that time, I got more cataloguing under my belt and had some very interesting discussions on the in-and-outs of running a Special Collections library solo. After finishing up my final three days, I am so pleased with how much I learnt at Brunel University London. I am truly grateful for all the help and support from the lovely staff. It was such a wonderful experience and I am very sad to be going!

A huge thank you to everyone!

Posted on behalf of Anne Carey, UCL Library and Information Studies MA student

 

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50 objects 40: the LibSmart Point

A post by Subject Liaison Librarian Joanne McPhie.

Some items in our blog series Brunel Library 50 Objects have long histories and fascinating pasts, but Brunel Library is also about looking forward as well as back. This week’s object, the LibSmart Point desk, is a relatively recent addition to the Library, but one that could play a part in many lives going forward.

LibSmart is a dedicated study skills package run by the Subject Liaison Librarians. It is designed to support students with academic practice, information literacy, and employability skills they need to get the best out of their time at university and beyond. The LibSmart Point plays a key role in the package.

libsmart

This is the place where users can come to speak to a librarian to get help in finding and using resources, referencing or just to have a chat about their studies. It is located in what is another new area of the Library, the Learning Commons on the first floor. This is a flexible space where users can come to study in groups, use the floor space for projects or attend small workshops run by the Academic Services team. Nestling in the corner of the room, the desk is staffed from Monday –Thursday 1-6pm and Friday 1-5pm during term time.

If furniture could talk the LibSmart Point would already be able to tell many stories. Narratives beginning with moments of confusion, anxiety and panic in student lives resolving in flashes of epiphany and revelation as users understand the resources and their own capabilities. Having had the privilege of working on there this year I value it as a point of connection with our users, where we can take the time to sit down and have an actual conversation. Knowing that the work that is done there may impact on a current grade then a future career and life is powerful stuff.

So, although the plywood and metal contraption that is the LibSmart Point may not have inherent value and a rich history, it is nonetheless one of the unique items in housed in the Library.

For further information about the LibSmart programme, either drop by the desk in Learning Commons or see our LibGuide.libsmartpointbright

libsmart2

New reading room

New reading roomWe’re delighted to announce that our new reading room is open. Our new facility offers a much improved space for researchers with dedicated reader spaces, sockets to plug in laptops, better lighting and reference books on hand to support the primary sources from our collections. It is also much easier to access, straight down the corridor on level 3 from the green staircase/lift.

You can find out more about accessing our collections on our webpage.

 

Our new space is also available for group workshops, where material from the collections can be put on display for your group’s use. We have further information available on our teaching and learning page, or please contact special collections if you would like to find out more.

New reading room 2

Writing the 1940s

Ever wanted to find out more about writing historical fiction and give it a go?  Our FREE workshop on Tuesday 26 May, between 6 and 8pm is the place to find out!

Historical fictionWe’ll be looking at primary sources from the 1940s, all specially chosen from Brunel’s Special Collections. You’ll have the opportunity to read and handle original documents, to help you find inspiration. The tutor, Emma Filtness, will help you plan and begin writing a poem, story or other creative piece that explores the time period. This workshop is suitable for those new to writing historical fiction as well as those more experienced who are looking for fresh inspiration and the chance to work with original documents.

The workshop is free, but places are limited so that everyone can have a chance to see and handle the documents. Please book a place in advance. If you have any questions please email Special Collections.

How to use Special Collections

We get a lot of visitors who haven’t visited a special collections library before, so this updated guide is aimed at helping them. If you have any questions please get in touch with us. The guide features Bendy Brunel, whose Day in the Library you can also see on Pinterest.

ArchivesHub

Bendy Brunel checks the catalogue

You can decide what Special Collections manuscript/archive items you’d like to see by searching our archive catalogue. You can also search for printed books (not manuscript material) on our library catalogue. Further details about individual collections, and detailed finding aids, are available on our collection webpages.

Booking appt

Bendy composes an email to request an appointment

To make an appointment to view the items, or if you need help with searching please get in touch with us by emailing special.collections@brunel.ac.uk Access to Special Collections is by appointment only. You will find further details about access, including opening times, on our Special Collections guide.

Lockers

Bendy uses one of our lockers

When you arrive at Special Collections you will be asked to leave any bags, coats or umbrellas in a locker or in a locked area. New readers have to fill in a reader registration form on arrival. Before using Special Collections, you must have clean hands. We don’t wear gloves to handle items (you can read guidance from the British Library on why we don’t here). But don’t worry, there are toilet facilities (including an accessible toilet) adjacent to Special Collections.

Sink

Bendy washes his hands

3 items

Bendy views three manuscript items.

Once you are ready, Special Collections staff will bring out a maximum of three items at a time for you to look at. They will also show you how to handle the items correctly. Please ask them for help if you are unsure.

Using book

Bendy uses a “snake” weight whilst studying our facsimile of Shakespeare’s First Folio

If you have requested books you will be given some foam wedges to support the book whilst you look at it, and some “snakes” to hold the pages open. Again, Special Collections staff will show you how to use them.

Invigilation

Bendy is invigilated whilst studying a book

Whilst you are looking at Special Collections material a member of staff will be watching. Don’t worry about this, we invigilate all of our users and it is simply to ensure the security of our unique and rare Special Collections, and to make sure we are there to help you, should you need assistance.

Laptop

Bendy uses his laptop to take notes

There are some restrictions within Special Collections. Pens and Post-It notes aren’t allowed. Laptop computers are fine.

Pencils

Bendy takes notes with a pencil

Pencils and notepads are also OK. Photography (without flash) is allowed of items for personal study and research, but you will need to fill out a form before taking photographs, and specify what images you are taking.

Photographs

Bendy makes sure his camera has the flash turned off

Coffee

Bendy has a well-earned coffee break

Finally, food and drink are not allowed in Special Collections. However, there is a coffee shop on the ground floor of the library should you need to take a break. We hope this has answered most questions about how to use Special Collections, but please get in touch if there is anything else you would like to know.

Explore Your Archive week

Picture of a letter from the Blount archive

Letter from the Blount Archive

Explore Your Archive week is an exciting national event in which archives all over the country are showcased and promoted; and we at Brunel Library are getting involved.

Here in Brunel’s Special Collections we have an interesting and diverse range of archival collections and we’re inviting you to come along to one of our drop in sessions and find out more about the archival treasures at your fingertips, and how you can access and use them for your essays and assignments.

You’ll find us on Level 3 of the library, accessed by the green staircase/lift.

Drop in sessions:

Monday 10th November 2 – 4 pm English/Creative writing Come and find out more about our literature collections and the different ways in which they have been used in creative writing. We will have items from the collections out for you to see, and then at 2.00, 3.00 and 3.30 pm brief talks will be given from people who have used Special Collections in their research and teaching. These will be interspersed with readings from creative writing inspired by the collections. There will be plenty of opportunities to find out more and ask questions.

Check out these blog posts to find out more about the collections that have been used for English and creative writing: Writing back and Teaching from the archives.

You can also get a flavour of the collections on our Special Collections guide for English.

Tuesday 11th November 10 am – 12 noon Any subject Maybe you can’t make it to one of the subject-specific sessions, or maybe you’re interested in a different subject to English or History? Then why not join us to find out more about what our collections offer for both English and History/Politics, but also other subjects?

There will be collection items out on display for you to see and handle, plus plenty of opportunity to ask questions and find out more.

Wednesday 12th November 2 – 4 pm History/Politics Drop in to discover which Special Collections you might find interesting for your assignments or dissertation. There will be collection items out on display for you to see and handle, plus plenty of opportunity to ask questions and find out more.  There is more information on our Special Collections guide for History and Women’s history.

On tunnels and female freedom fighters: archives inspire local writers

Guest post by Emma Filtness, Creative Writing Tutor

Over the course of this academic year, I have run two more writing workshops with Brunel’s Special Collections. The first involved a session with the Creative Writing class from the Brunel Arts Centre – a mix of staff, students and members of the public – the second with the London Borough of Hillingdon’s Creative Writing group based at Uxbridge Library.

The participants spent an evening browsing a selection of materials from across the collections. The materials were introduced by Katie Flanagan, Special Collections Librarian, who provided the writers with some information on the specific item and the archive or collection it was from, including entries from The Burnett Archive of Working-Class Autobiogrpahies, editions of the Ladies’ Home Journal from the 1940s and 1950s, items from the South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive (SADAA) and books and memorabilia from the Channel Tunnel Association collection. Participants then picked an item that particularly appealed to them and used it as a springboard for creativity, producing poems, short stories and articles in response to the item they chose.

All our own workA poem and a short story inspired by materials in the collections were recently in an anthology on display as part of the All Our Own Work exhibition at Brunel’s Beldam Gallery.

Memory is a poem by Viraj Chouhan, an Anthropology Master’s student, inspired by an article in issue 18 of Outwrite, a feminist newspaperfrom the South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive. “It described the plight of Zimbabwe’s female freedom fighters who had participated in the guerrilla struggle for independence from white colonial rule,” said Viraj, speaking about the article that inspired his poem. “Soon after achieving an independent state, they were somewhat spurned by society, particularly older women who were loathe to let their sons marry these strong-willed girls.”

TunnelsOubliette is a short story by Joseph Norman, an English PhD student and Brunel staff member. His story was inspired by The History of Tunnels by Patrick Beaver in the Channel Tunnel Association archive. “If I’m honest,” said Joseph, “I judged the book initially by its cover: for this edition, a wonderfully gloomy photograph of workers down a coal-mine. This image spoke to me of hardship and toil in an environment largely unfamiliar to myself, and – allowing my imagination to stray somewhat – with connotations of mystery and buried secrets. Flicking through, I isolated key words and phrases that caught my attention. I was struck by the variety of uses that tunnels have had throughout history, but more by the small details of life underground. Most important of the phrases that I chose was “an underground global system to connect the major cities of the Earth,” which forms the premise of my story. During the workshop I wrote a very loose and rambling first-person account of one man’s time working underground. Later I used this as a basis for a dystopian narrative of a man enticed into working underground, seeing the work as an escape from a suggested traumatic past. This gave me plenty of scope to play with metaphors linking tunnels and digging with remembrance and forgetting.”