Switching to a new library world

Between leaving school and going to university I spent a year working as a library assistant in a public library service; not a branch library but the headquarters of the service. The Library HQ had a large reserve stock, supplementing what was held in the branch libraries, and some specialist stock (standards, sound recordings, music & drama). It received many requests from branch libraries every day so things were always busy. I had already decided that I wanted to become a librarian and this temporary job gave me a useful introduction to some basic bibliographical skills, book handling skills (shelving, tidying) and practice at clerical tasks.

There was a group of half a dozen library assistants and we cycled through various different departments on a monthly basis.  At least, that was what was supposed to happen but after a few months the cycling stopped as we were short staffed. One unfortunate person got stuck on general duties but I was lucky to be in the Music and Drama section at that point and I spent six months there altogether. Our job in this section was lending out sets of orchestral parts, vocal scores and plays. This was great for me as I was a classical music fan and keen on singing in choirs.

Fast forward nearly 50 years. My career in biomedical libraries is completed and I’ve retired. I’ve spent a goodly amount of my spare time during those years singing in choirs but I’ve stepped back from that too. What next? It’s time to combine my library and musical expertise, and give something back to the world of amateur music making.

Eighteen months ago I started volunteering for the CYM Library – a music library that lends out orchestral and vocal sets. Mostly we lend to amateur groups – choirs and orchestras. Once again I am counting vocal scores, checking orchestral sets are complete, rubbing out pencil markings, checking our catalogue and the shelves to see if we can satisfy a request, making up parcels.

The CYM Library is an independent charity with one paid (part-time) member of staff plus several volunteers. It is self-funded, though occasional external grants make it possible to purchase new stock. It’s been good to feel that I’m contributing my time and skills to a worthwhile cause.

Obviously it is a very different library world from what I’ve been used to, but there are overlaps and parallels.  Some of my ‘transferable skills’ come in useful too.

Anyway, don’t be surprised to see a few posts here from the world of music libraries.

About Frank Norman

I am a retired librarian. I spent 40 years working in biomedical research libraries.
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