The 3rd of January marks the Festival of Sleep, an unofficial calendar event that encourages everyone to rest after the busy holiday period.
Given this, and that it is a new year, I thought that it would be a good time to highlight the importance of sleep. More specifically, the role that sleeping plays in being a successful student. As well as giving you all some top tips on how to improve your sleep.
Why is sleeping so important for your studies?
Here are 4 reasons why students should make getting a good night’s sleep a priority:
1. Sleep gives you energy
This is definitely the most obvious reason, but when we don’t get enough sleep, we don’t have enough energy to get through the day. In turn, we might not have enough energy to attend our lectures or study. If this happens frequently, then it’s easy to see how this could impact our academic performance as we would miss out on course content.
2. Mental and Physical Health
Sleeping plays a vital part in our body and brain functioning properly. When we are deprived of our sleep, we are more at risk to both physical and mental illness (Norbury & Evans, 2018; Harvard Summer School, 2022). It is clear to see why this would also impact our studies. When you don’t feel the best in your body, you don’t always perform as well in day-to-day activities.
Poor sleep also leaves us more likely to have low mood. This includes being more irritable and easily stressed (Harvard Medical School & WGBH Educational Foundation, 2007; Harvard Summer School, 2022). When studying, you need to be able to manage the stress that comes with your workload. This links back to your mental health as continually missing sleep will have a big impact on your mood and mental wellbeing.
4. Problem solving
According to Cappello (2020), sleeping can improve our ability to solve problems and our critical thinking skills. Both of these skills are useful for our university studies.
5. Consolidation of memory
This is potentially one of the most important ways that sleep supports academic success. When we sleep, new information that we have learned in the day is consolidated and made into a solid memory (Harvard Medical School & WGBH Educational Foundation, 2007). When studying, you will learn a lot of new information on a daily basis. Getting the right amount of sleep, as well as revising, will help you to memorise what you have learnt (Cappello, 2020). This is best summarised below:
“When we sleep, brain oscillations help new vocabulary to become better integrated with our existing knowledge. This means that when we wake up, we have stronger and more useful memories of the new material.”
(Gaskell & Henderson, n.d.)
Improving your sleep
Given all the information above, you can see how sleep plays a big role in our studies. If we do not get the right amount of sleep or if it is poor quality, then there are negative consequences that we can be susceptible to. It is clear that we need to make sleeping one of our top priorities.
However, this is often easier said than done. Sometimes it can seem impossible to make good sleep a priority, especially when there are factors beyond our control that impact our sleep (Harvard Summer School, 2021). For example, your mattress may be poor quality, you may live in a noisy area or you may have pre-existing health conditions (Harvard Summer School, 2021). Unfortunately, there are a lot of factors that can stop us from getting the sleep that we need. But, there are still small steps that we can take to ensure we are doing the most that we can to get good quality sleep.
1. Know how much sleep you need
There is a lot of information online regarding how much rest we need. The recommended amount varies depending on your age group. According to Harvard Summer School (2021), people aged between 18-25 need 7-9 hours of sleep a day. With anything under 7 hours a night leaving us “chronically sleep deprived” (Norbury & Evans, 2018:2). While this may give us some guidance on how much sleep to get, it’s not specific to individuals.
While researching this blog, I found some advice that may help you find out how much sleep you need. All you need to do is ask yourself, ‘how long do I sleep for when I don’t have to get up?’ (Harvard Summer School, 2021). For example, on a weekend do you get a couple hours extra in bed than you do during the week?. This is a great way to start the the journey of making sleep one of your priorities.
2. Limit your caffeine intake
If you’re anything like me, you love a good brew throughout the day. I know that I usually have an extra coffee if I am feeling particularly tired and have low energy. But, consuming too much caffeine, especially near bedtime, can be detrimental to your sleep (National Health Service [NHS], 2021). It can be particularly bad if you get yourself into the routine of not being able to sleep, consuming caffeine to give you the energy you need and then not being able to sleep again. One way to combat this is to limit your caffeine intake or swap to decaffeinated beverages near bedtime (NHS, 2021).
3. Be consistent
If you want to improve your sleep hygiene, you need to be consistent (Chandler, 2019). It’s not ideal to try and ‘catch-up’ on the rest that you have missed by sleeping for extended periods of time on a weekend or by napping (Harvard Summer School, 2021). Rather, you need to be consistent in your sleep routine, including when you go to bed and when you wake up. I know this isn’t always possible with the demands of your studies, work, family and student life, but you should at least try to make your sleep routine a priority.
4. Relax before bed
Part of every bedtime routine should be a wind-down period, where you relax before sleeping. Reading a good book or evening using an app for guided meditation are some ways that I like to unwind before sleeping. This time is important so that you can do something you enjoy and help you to forget about the stresses from your day. Don’t forget that you can always check out the Library’s Leisure Collection for your nighttime reading!
Another way to help you see your bed as a relaxing space is to minimise what else you do in your bedroom (Harvard Summer School, 2021). This is particularly important for students that study and rest in one room. If this is the case, you need to be able to separate your space into work zone and a relaxation zone. Although it might seem comfortable to sit and do your studying in your bed, it is best that you use your desk as your work zone. You could also work in the Library if you live near campus or in a local coffee shop whenever possible so that your bedroom is solely a place for relaxation. You can read more about the importance of your study environment in our SkillsGuides.
5. Don’t forfeit your sleep
Sometimes you may feel like the only way you can keep up with the demands of your studies is by pulling an all-nighter (Harvard Summer School, 2021). Maybe you need to cram in some revision for an exam the next day or you have an essay deadline that is fast approaching. But, forfeiting your sleep is the last thing you want to do. As mentioned, sleeping is essential for strengthening your memory and recalling information, as well as being able to concentrate (Cappello, 2020). So, you actually need to get your rest before any form of examination.
Being able to manage your time is an extremely important skill for all students to learn. Hopefully, by planning your schedule, you won’t have to sacrifice your sleep to keep up with your studies. An easy way to start this is by looking at your modules and writing all your assignment deadlines and exam dates in your diary. That way, you know what you need to study for and focus on first. You can also plan the time you will spend on reading, revising, working and doing things you enjoy. In doing this, you should be able to avoid cramming in your revision last minute and staying up all night. To learn more about time management, check out our SkillsGuide for more tips.
Catching your zzz’s
If you have learnt anything from this blog, it’s that sleeping is super important. Not only does it play a huge part in keeping us physically and mentally well, it also helps us succeed as students. So, make your sleep routine a priority this year.
Norbury, R. & Evans, S. (2018) Time to think: Subjective sleep quality, trait anxiety and university start time. PsyArXiv. Available online: https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/9eaqr [Accessed 01/01/2023].
November 23rd marks Doctor Who Day. A day which celebrates when the iconic sci-fi show first aired in 1963.
You may be asking, “But what has Doctor Who got to do with the University Library?”.
Well, I know it seems a little bit random, but stick with me. As a Doctor Who fan, I couldn’t pass up on the chance to celebrate this day and I am always open to trying new things with the Library blog. So, that got me thinking, “How can I incorporate celebrating this day through the Library social media?”. As you may have guessed by the title of the blog, I came up with comparing the University Library to the TARDIS. As it seems, they actually have quite a lot in common, so let me tell you how!
Comparing the TARDIS and the Brynmor Jones Library.
1. You can travel through time and space
The TARDIS is the Doctor’s method of travelling through time and space. It stands for ‘Time And Relative Dimension In Space” (BBC, 2014). The Doctor and their companions have been able to see different planets, the end of the world and so much more using this spacecraft.
Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of technology, but we do have millions of resources in our collection. Using books, journals, archive material and more, staff, students and associate members are able to travel through space and time in their own way. Not in a physical sense, but in the ability to read and learn about our past and future. A little bit cringe, I know, but it’s true! The volume of sources available through the Library enable you to find information on anything you can think of throughout time and space.
2. They’re dimensionally transcendental
One thing every character notes about the TARDIS when they first encounter it is that it is bigger on the inside than the outside. The same can definitely be said for the Brynmor Jones Library.
While you may look at the Library and think “it’s huge, how can it be any bigger?”, what you don’t see when you look at the exterior of the Library is the basement.
Below the Tower and the ground floor is the Library basement. Here you can find art, overstock books that are no longer in use, and old theses. It doesn’t stop there as you can also find the Hull collection, closed access material, closed journals, the South East Asia collection and so much more housed in the basement.
On my tour around the Library, I found that the basement was like an endless maze, with each room leading to another.
In addition to the physical space in the Library, we also have eBooks, access to eJournals and other online resources. Therefore, what you have access to through the Library is so much more than the 7 floors of the physical building.
It’s easy to say that like the Doctor’s TARDIS, the Library is bigger on the inside than the outside.
3. The inside
Due to the enormous size of the TARDIS interior, many episodes of the show have depicted the different rooms that you can find in the spacecraft. This includes bedrooms, gardens, storage, a wardrobe, a swimming pool and its very own library (BBC, 2014; The Doctor Who Site, n.d.). In most episodes, viewers can see the control room which is just behind the doors of the TARDIS.
Now, the Library doesn’t include a swimming pool, but one could argue that the Welcome Desk on the ground floor is our control room. Here the team work effortlessly to support students, staff and visitors in using the Library space, facilities and more. Similar to the control room in the TARDIS, the welcome desk and the other various staff offices that can be found in the Library are essential to its day-to-day running.
We also have many other rooms and areas that you may not have expected. There is an art gallery and The Cube, which holds our rare books. You can find the Library café, a Student Kitchen, Teaching Rooms, Philip Larkin’s office, conference rooms and the Reading Room. Students can also book group learning rooms for study.
Access to these facilities is granted by your staff, student or associate membership and you will need your card to enter the Library. In a similar way, the TARDIS can only be entered by those with a key. However, the gallery and café are open to the public!
4. The 1960s influence
The exterior of the TARDIS is a Police Box from 1963 (BBC, 2014). The TARDIS is meant to be able to blend in with its environment. In 60s Britain, the TARDIS will have done so as Police Boxes were used as a way of contact before mobile phones and walkie-talkies (BBC, 2014). The TARDIS is still presented as a Police Box due to a fault.
The Brynmor Jones also has a sixties influence for its exterior. The original Library was built in the late 50s and officially opened in 1960. The Tower block extension was added to the Library in the late sixties. In 1967 it was renamed the Brynmor Jones Library after the University’s Vice-Chancellor at the time.
The Library has since been redeveloped to meet the needs of staff and students in the 21st Century. But, you can still see many of the Library’s original 60s features including the light-well on the First Floor and the skylight.
While the TARDIS was designed to blend into its surroundings, it is safe to say that the Library definitely does not. This place of study towers above all other buildings on campus and easily identified by all.
I hope you have enjoyed this little blog for Doctor Who Day, I certainly had fun writing it.
I will leave you with a Doctor Who quote to remind you just how great your University Library can be. Here you have access to the best sources and facilities for being successful in your academic learning and beyond.
“You want weapons? We’re in a library! Books! Best weapons in the world! This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself!”- The Doctor David Tennant
The Doctor (David Tennant) from Doctor Who, ‘Silence in the Library’, Season 4, Episode 8.
Disclaimer- This blog will discuss the topic of mental health. The writers of this post are not professionals, but former students who want to help current students know what is available to them at the University.
The 10th of October marks World Mental Health Day. The theme for this year is ‘Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority’.
To highlight the importance of this day, Jess and Nat (two former students and now, interns at the University) have come together to write this blog. Here we will promote the resources that are available to students (and staff) across the University campus to promote good mental health. We want to show that mental health and wellbeing is a priority!
We have also included a list of resources including apps, books and podcasts that we have found useful for promoting our own wellbeing as students.
The Library is the hub of the University. Here you can find many resources and facilities to promote student wellbeing. When I studied at Hull University, I didn’t know about all of the support available to students in the Library. So, my aim here to share these in hopes that you can make the most out of what is available to you.
Reading Well Collection
The Reading Well collection is a good place to start. It is a small collection of material that are available to staff and students at the University. The topics covered in the collection include mental health and young people’s mental health, as well as long-term health conditions.
The books in the Reading Well collection are there to help you understand your own feelings, as well as to offer guidance on how to cope with them. They are a form of self-help, but can also be used alongside professional support.
You can find the Reading Well collection in the Reading Room on the 1st Floor of the Library. It is in a quiet corner where you can sit, read and reflect.
Here at the Library, we think that taking a break from your studies and having a work life balance is really important for your mental wellbeing. That is why we have a list of ways in which you can switch-off from your academic endeavours and make time for yourself.
Taking a break from your studies
One of the best ways to take a break from your work in the Library is to visit the Café. Here you can give your eyes a break from staring at your screen and enjoy a nice coffee. You can also find a range of cold drinks, sandwiches and snacks which are perfect to fuel you for a day of studying. You’re welcome to eat your own food in the Library Café and make yourself a cuppa in the Student Kitchen on the ground floor.
Similarly, the Library is trialling a Student Kitchen which can also be found on the ground floor. This is perfect for those who like to study late at night or over the weekend. Here you can warm up your food, make a cuppa and take a seat away from your desk.
Another way in which you can promote your wellbeing is by enjoying the Art Gallery and Exhibition Space on the ground floor. This is free and open to everyone. You can visit the gallery with your friends, family or by yourself. Once again, this is a great way to have a rest away from your workload and do something a little bit different.
You can also find the Leisure Reading Collection in the Reading Room on the first floor. Here you can borrow a selection of books to enjoy in your spare time outside of your studies. Du Sautoy (2021) notes that reading for pleasure can help to prevent or reduce mental health issues, improve your ability to cope with external pressures or situations and improve your sleep to name a few benefits. So, don’t forget to check out the Leisure Reading Collection and make time to do things that you enjoy.
The Reading Room is also the home of the Spotlight On display. This is a reading list created by the Library Team each month. It is a small collection related to one theme. The current theme for October is Black History Month. Previous themes have included: Mental Health Awareness, Halloween and Books vs Film. The Spotlight On collection is great way to get inspiration for your leisure reading.
You can find other suggestions on how to switch-off here.
The Skills Team offer online and on-campus support for students and academic staff. We know from personal experience how looming assessment deadlines can quickly make us feel worried and stressed. I think that it is important recognise that you are not alone in these feelings and that there is support for you. The Skills Team can help provide academic support and in turn, reduce the stress that students may experience when it comes to their assignments.
The SkillsGuides are free online self-help guides that cover many areas of study.
One of the most helpful SkillGuides is on time management. This is essential to help prevent or minimise the stress and worry you can feel around assessment deadlines.
One of the easiest ways to manage your time is to use a diary or a calendar. This way you know what you have to prioritise- your lectures, child-care, work. With this in place, you know what time you have left to make social plans and take time to relax and do what you enjoy.
It is also useful to look when your assessment deadlines are in advance. Do this for each module you are doing so that you can prioritise your tasks and make your workload more manageable. You don’t want to have three deadlines within the space of a week and not realise this until last minute.
Tools like the Eisenhower Matrix can also help you manage your workload and avoid stress and burnout.
Other SkillGuides include help when it comes to referencing, essay structure, how to revise effectively and many more! Having these resources is great for when you’re studying late at night or want to find an answer for a quick question you may have. Once again, this is can help to reduce the stress that can come with academic study as there is support available whenever you need it.
For even more help with your studies, you can book online and on-campus appointments with a member of the Skills Team. This is good for your peace of mind as there is support available to you should you need it.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. In the Library, you can ask to see a Mental Health First Aider who will support you in getting the care that you require.
You can talk to any Library staff member at the Welcome Desk or message us via the Library Live Chat on our website. We offer out of hours support on weeknights and weekends, so you can come see us and we can direct you to the right support services if you’re not sure where to start.
I work in the Mental Health and Well-being department, but it wasn’t until I started working at the university that I realised how much I had neglected these services as a student.
Throughout my time at University, I struggled a lot with my mental health, only turning to support in that split-second moment when things were at rock bottom. I had a few sporadic appointments with the team but never saw anything through, often ignoring follow-up appointments.
Now that I’m working and seeing things from the other side, I really regret not utilising them more. The team are committed and there’s so much support available. If I had taken my mental wellbeing seriously, then I think my uni experience could have been a lot different. As it’s Mental Health Awareness day, I really want to stress that although mental illness is out of our control, there are things that we can control to help us manage.
Finding the right pathway for you
There are a few different pathways to support here at uni so I’m going to outline them all here so you can choose which route is best for you.
Firstly, there’s a small team of trained mental health practitioners here on campus. Their aim is to help you to develop your confidence and independence in managing the challenges that you face during your student journey. They work with a variety students who experience all kinds of different mental health and wellbeing difficulties. Students or applicants can access the team by completing this self-referral form, this helps give an overview of your current situation. Once you’ve completed the form, the team will respond within 3 working days so keep an eye on your portal. But don’t stop reading as there is more immediate support that we mention a little further down too.
Bringing up mental health with someone you suspect is struggling can be difficult, if you notice one of your friends or fellow students is suffering you can raise a concern for a student form here to let us know.
Student Assistance Programme
The university has recently partnered with the company Health Assured, to provide the students of Hull uni with the Student Assistance Programme (or SAP because we love an abbreviation.) Health Assured are the UK and Ireland’s most trusted independent health and wellbeing provider, making a positive difference to over 15 million lives.
One service we found particularly helpful was their financial support. It’s good to know that you’re not alone with your financial worries!
SAP also cover a range of other topics that may be impacting your mental health. You can find out more on their website. Also remember that SAP is a 24 hour support service, so you can get in touch with them whenever you need to.
My Healthy Advantage
Health Assured has an app called ‘My Healthy Advantage’ which is free for every student at The University of Hull to download, when you’ve downloaded it via the app store you just type in the unique code: MHA148306.
The app has a 24/7, 365 helpline, with calls answered by experienced in-house counsellors, and legal and financial specialists.
I’ve been trying out the app for the last few weeks and I’ve really been enjoying it. It reminds me of the Headspace or the Deliciously Ella app that I’ve previously paid a lot for. My Healthy Advantage has all the same content; meditations, recipes, workouts and breathwork – the catch? This one is entirely free! It gives personalised wellbeing content, including videos, webinars, mini-health checks and health coaching. It’s like having my own mini-guide in my pocket, reminding me to breathe, move my body and stop being so hard on myself. I struggle with sleep, so I signed up for their 4-week get better sleep course and I’ve already noticed such a difference.
Even if you’re not struggling now, I would recommend downloading it because the information is so accessible and helpful. If you have a spare few minutes in-between lectures, have a read-through and you never know if you’ll stumble across a piece of information or advice that could really help you out at some point down the line.
The other day, I had to do a presentation to a big group and because I’d stayed consistent with my breathing and meditation exercises, I was able to calm myself down beforehand. I’ve linked one of their articles for looking after yourself here.
Moving your body to help your mind
When I was in the pits of my depression, the most annoying thing people said to me was ‘have you tried exercising?’, the answer was always ‘no’. I didn’t feel like doing anything, let alone going to the gym. But, although it pains me to admit it, exercise has been one of my biggest saviours.
I’m not saying you need to do a load of burpees – unless you enjoy them, which I firmly do not. For me it was walking. I started with a short walk and gradually increased it. Now I walk for hours a day, and I’ll listen to a podcast to keep my brain stimulated from anxious thoughts. It can be any form of movement, if you hate walking that’s fine, maybe you like swimming or throwing your limbs around to your favourite songs – the key thing is that you enjoy it. This is time carved out of the day just for you, that sends the message to your mind that you matter.
Active Wellbeing Programme
If you don’t know where to start, you can contact any member of staff about the Active Wellbeing Programme over in the uni gym. The Active Wellbeing Programme is a five or ten-week sport and fitness programme for students at the University of Hull who need a little support to improve their mental wellbeing. Our team will provide one-on-one support throughout the programme, attending sports and fitness sessions and offering guidance throughout.
Here are just some of the benefits –
Integration into University life
Improved mental health and confidence
Meeting new people
Strength and conditioning coaching
Coaching and session delivery
The programme is designed to meet your individual needs and is based on your interests and availability. For more information or to enrol, email email@example.com or find their website here.
But, don’t just take our word for it. As 100 per cent of previous participants would recommend the Active Wellbeing Programme to others!
Starting uni can be really daunting, especially when you don’t know anyone. The Hull University Students Union is a great way to meet new people and make friends. They have plenty of societies for you to join and meet people with similar interests. This can help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation, so check out what societies are out there!
Sort out your socials
In an ever-increasing digital world, it’s easy to get swept up in all the bad news. Or to look down your social media feeds and people posting the perfect, most presentable parts of themselves. That’s why its important to sort out your socials and use it in the right way.
I would always complain about Instagram making me feel bad but the only thing making me feel bad was the accounts I followed. It’s easy to spend hours scrolling and comparing your life to these unrealistic. But the chances are that you won’t feel great afterwards. If you make your feed a space for things that spark joy and inspiration, like cat videos or relaxing cooking content then that’s a step in the right direction.
This advice isn’t necessarily related to the University, but I think that everyone can benefit from it.
Here is a list of apps, books and podcasts that we have complied. These resources have helped our mental health and wellbeing during our studies and now!
It’s good to fill your devices with apps that add to your mental wellbeing. Many apps offer guided meditation and other mindful resources, help you stay on top of your fitness and just give you enjoyment.
Our most-used apps:
My Healthy Advantage– Free for every student at The University of Hull to download, just type in the unique code: MHA148306. The app has a 24/7, 365 helplines, with calls answered by experienced in-house counsellors, and legal and financial specialists.
5 Minute Journal App– A way to make sure you have your journal with you wherever you go at whatever time. This app can help you have a more positive outlook on life by reflecting on each day.
Audible– A great place to find thousands of audiobooks and podcasts. After a free trial, it is currently £7.99 a month. It may be a good option for those who like to listen to their books when they’re on the go.
Or for a free alternative, search the Library which will give you free access to audiobooks, music and films.
Find audio recordings (including audiobooks and music) here.
Find films, tv and radio here. We recommend Kanopy to all students!
Flow, Clue and other menstrual cycle tracking apps- These help you to keep on track of your menstrual cycle and stay in tune with your body.
Headspace: Mindful Meditation, Calm and other meditation apps – Guided meditation to help you sleep better and relieve some of your stress and worry. The Calm app is similar to Headspace. You can try a free trial for them both and see if they work for you.
Medisafe– A free app where you can input the medication you take and set reminders so you remember to take them. You can also share your schedule with those that you trust so that they can remind you to take your medication should you forget.
As we mentioned earlier, reading can be great for your mental health and wellbeing. Whether you like to read self-help books to understand yourself a little better, or like to snuggle up and relax with a good piece of fiction, there’s a book out there for everyone.
Don’t forget to check out the Library’s collections
Dr Russ Harries suggests that we get caught in ‘The Happiness Trap’, which makes us unhappy in the long run . Mindfulness is Harris’ way of escaping this trap. Here we learn how to reduce stresss, manage our feelings and remove doubt from our lives.
Haig is University of Hull alumni. In this memoir he recounts his experience with depression and how he overcame his illness.
We love to have a balance between funny and educational podcasts, there’s only so much self-help information you can take before it becomes all-consuming and overwhelming. Sometimes the best thing for your mind is listening or watching something for the pure enjoyment of it. Science has proven that listening to, or watching comedy shows makes us happier people who take life less seriously.
Our favourite feel-good podcasts:
Deliciously Ella – Ella breaks down the latest wellness trends and advice with special guests in the industry, separating the myths from the facts so you know what habits are worth starting.
How to fail – Elizabeth Day interviews a range of celebrities, writers, actors, and comedians about three times they’ve failed in life, it’s really reassuring to know that even your fave celebs fail.
Happy Place – There’s something about Fearne Cotton that is just so comforting, she interviews everyone from professional athletes, entrepreneurs, monks, motivational speakers, great thinkers and celebrities, and the conversations are heartfelt and candid. The Dave Grohl one is Nat’s absolute favourite!
Off-Menu– Combining food and comedy, need we say more? Comedians James Acaster and Ed Gamble invite a celebrity guest to share their dream menu, listen with caution as you’re sure to laugh out loud.
The Sleepy Bookshelf– This podcast series is perfect for those who need a little extra help getting a good night’s sleep. Here you can listen to classic literature in a calm and soothing voice, which will help you relax and drift-off.
The Psychology of your 20s– Jemma Sbeg is an informal, chatty host who discusses different topics each week. These include: imposter syndrome, grief, social media and more. We found that this podcast makes us feel not so alone when it comes to big life changes and common feelings that can make us feel isolated.
Who to contact
If you need urgent help to stay safe between 9 & 5 pm, let the team at Central Hub know. Out of hours, you can use SAP which will help you access NHS support. You can also contact the NHS using the emergency numbers 999 or 111. Here’s a useful page on the NHS website about mental health.
Starting university can be quite a daunting prospect. There is a lot to learn in a short space of time. When I started at The University of Hull in 2018 I had to find my lecture rooms, meet new friends and discover new learning styles.
It is for this reason that I missed out on some of the excellent features of the Brynmor Jones Library. Now don’t get me wrong, I spent a lot of time studying in the library and took books out often. But, I definitely didn’t utilise the full potential of the library when I had the chance.
Now I am an intern at the university library and I have finally had the opportunity to explore the space and all it has to offer.
So here are a few things I wish I knew as a student about the Brynmor Jones Library. I hope that this encourages you make the most of your time here and enhance your studies.
My tour of the Brynmor Jones Library started all the way up on the 7th floor in a room called The Cube. No, I am not talking about the gameshow hosted by Phillip Schofield. Rather, The Cube is where the library houses its rare book collection in a temperature-controlled environment.
According to my guide, Helen, the rare book collection was started by the Vice-Chancellor at the time, Brynmor Jones, after who the library was named.
The collection boasts titles that are over five hundred years old. As well as many rare, first-edition and signed copies of texts. Some of my personal favourites housed in The Cube include a first edition, signed copy of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a signed Rudyard Kipling collection and first edition copy of Peter Pan (University of Hull, 2020b).
The Cube also has ongoing project work that you can see. Here, work experience students and library volunteers get to create themed displays and highlight the variety of rare texts that are available in the library. One display focuses on tragic love and the other, war. This emphasises that it is possible for many students to find a rare book that may enhance their studies at the university. As well as giving students the opportunity to get involved with archive work.
I think one of the most important things to note about the Brynmor Jones Library rare book collection is how accessible it is to students. All you have to do is fill in a form online to arrange an in-person viewing of these marvelously preserved texts.
During my own time at the university, I missed on utilising this collection due to a sense of nervousness surrounding these fragile pieces of work. But, when I did finally see this collection my worries dissipated almost instantly as the staff were welcoming, approachable and passionate.
So, do not miss out on your chance to visit the rare books held at the Brynmor Jones Library and get to hold a piece of history in your hands and enhance your academic research
Philip Larkin’s Office
Next on my tour of the Brynmor Jones Library was the office of Philip Larkin.
In 1955, Larkin joined the University of Hull as a librarian (Orwin, 2021). There he played a vital role in the redevelopment and expansion of the library (Hull History Centre, 2022). To this day, his office is preserved in the library and well worth a visit.
Stepping into this room was like stepping back in time. Here you will find the original electrical fire place and Larkin’s own type writer. Its charm comes from Larkin’s more personal items such as his collection of rather stained, well used mugs and the selection of vinyl records.
My time in this room was brief, but certainly very interesting. More Larkin memorabilia can be found at the Hull History Centre which has strong connections with the library. You can also click here to read more about Larkin’s office and his time at the library.
Down in The Basement
One thing I did not know about the library when I was a student was that as well as having eight floors above ground, there is also an extensive space below the library.
Next time you grab a coffee in the university library, just think about what could be below your feet. There is a labyrinth of old journals, books and pamphlets. Most of these have be digitalised or replaced with newer version, and some have been considered too controversial to access. Additionally, there are rooms full of different art works from the gallery and boxes quirky of items.
What I enjoyed when visiting the basement was the sheer magnitude of it. I believe you could spend all day down there and not have the chance to discover everything it stores. My guide also told me some eerie stories from staff who have felt and heard strange happenings in the basement.
Most of the material found in the basement can be accessed by the Library Search. This gives students an even larger option for sources and research.
On the ground floor of the Brynmor Jones library is the art gallery. This space is free to access whether you are a student or member of the public.
The collection of art held in the library began with a yearly fund of just £300 (University of Hull, 2022a). Despite this, the gallery is an impressive feature to admire.
The gallery has its staple collection of pieces and an exhibition space that changes regularly. Currently, you can see Larkinworld 2 by D J Roberts, which is part of Larkin’s centenary celebrations by the library (The Philip Larkin Society, 2021). This exhibit is available to view until the 25th of September, but I already look forward to seeing what is there next.
That concludes my list of things I didn’t know about the Brynmor Jones library when I studied at the university. I suggest you make the most of these fantastic facilities when you can. Whether you need to access rare materials for your studies or just fancy a cultural day out.
If you’re anything like me, you might not have explored archives in your life. They’re just of dusty old documents anyway aren’t they?
Well some may think so, but I certainly don’t!
I went on a tour around the Hull History Centre and got to explore its archive material. Here is my experience of the the archives and how you can use them.
What is the Hull History Centre?
The Hull History Centre is situated in the heart of the city. It’s a building that definitely stands out with its unique architecture and swirly logo. But what actually is it?
The Hull History Centre is a collaboration between the University of Hull and the Hull City Council (Hull History Centre, 2017). It houses the archive material from both of them (Hull History Centre, 2017). Their aim, as stated on their website, is to “make history available to all, for research, for learning and for leisure” (Hull History Centre, 2016).
So, what counts as archive material? Archive material includes: dairies, photographs, maps, books, wills and everything in between (Hull University Archives, 2022a). What they all have in common is their “historical significance” (Hull University Archives, 2022b) as they give us a glimpse into the past and how people lived.
Are Archives Useful?
I’ve laid out in simple terms what archives are, but maybe you are wondering why archives are useful.
To put it simply, archives are there to be used! Whether you want to find out a little bit more about your family history, explore the exhibitions or research collections for your studies, there is something for everyone.
For Research and Learning
As I have mentioned, I never used archive material or the Hull History Centre when I went to university. But, I wish I did. After searching through the archives last week, I know there is definitely material that could have enhanced my studies as an English and Philosophy Student. Specifically, the material on Hull’s animal rights activism given that my thesis focused on animal ethics.
The SkillsGuides lay out some reasons why you may want to use archive material in your own studies. This includes to develop or critique an argument and to add historical, realistic context to your writing (Hull University Archives, 2022c). There are also more creative uses listed here which include using raw materials for films, artwork or for character development (Hull University Archives, 2022c). It is clear that archive material can come in handy for lots of different subjects. It is not just limited to history students.
The Hull History Centre isn’t just open to researchers, students and historians. Anyone can go and enjoy the facilities on offer. There is a small library collection of books concerning Hull on a variety of different subjects. Families can visit and see the exhibitions that are currently on display, or find the online exhibits here. There are also refreshments available in the small café.
If you’re interested in researching your family history, you can use their computers and different family history tracing websites. You can then request archive material based on any distant relatives that you find.
I have already planned to take my grandma on a day out!
The Archives Made Easy
In an effort to make sure that you use the archives, here I will highlight the things that I found useful when searching the archives for the first time.
For a more in depth look at using the archives, the Hull University Archives team have created a fantastic, in depth SkillsGuide on the archives that you can find here. But, this is what helped me the most.
1. Firstly, you can find guides on the different themes that are prevalent in the archives
This is a great place to start if you’re unsure of what is available in the archives.
Within each of these themes, there is a list of key subjects and collections. These lists give you a place to start when it comes to searching the archives. This will further narrow down your research and help you find what material could be useful to you.
For example, within the theme of ‘Women’, there is a collection of materials on Winifred Holtby. I could then use this reference (L WH) to search the Hull History Centre catalogue for all material related to Holtby. This can cut down your search time massively.
2. There is a specific SkillsGuide to help you find diverse voices within the archives
Given the way that history has been recorded, it can be even more difficult to find diverse voices within archive materials. This includes the voice and perspective of women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of different ethnicities. These are the voices that have often been erased or deliberately omitted from the records.
In order to highlight these voices there is a SkillsGuide on them. Once again, this provides a good starting point for how to search for these voices at the Hull History Centre. There are also external links to other online archives that included them.
3. How to request archive material
I think one of the most nerve-wracking part of the archives is requesting the archive material. But like all things, it seems like a daunting task until you actually do it.
Let’s say you have found something in the archive collection that you think is useful to your studies or an interesting piece of family history. How do you go about requesting it? And why can’t you just pick it up off a shelf?
I recommend requesting archive material from the Hull History Centre in advance. The best way to do this is to directly contact the team there. Don’t worry, they’re all friendly! With the team, you can directly arrange to visit when it’s best for you within their opening times.
In order to preserve the material that is housed at the Hull History Centre, it has to be stored in a controlled environment. This includes the temperature and humidity. Trust me, having a jumper is a must when it comes to visiting the Hull History Centre. Especially if you’re like me and start to feel the cold very quickly. But, for these reasons, you can’t just wander in and pick up a pamphlet from the 1600s.
I think this is part of the reason why students and people in general may not use the archives. These items seem untouchable when they’re all locked away. But, I found last week that this isn’t the case. In fact, the materials are there to be used! They just have to be looked after so that future generations can also use them.
4. What to expect on the day
So, you have requested your archive material by having a lovely chat over the phone with one of the team. But, what will it be like on the day?
I can guarantee you one thing and that is, you will get cold, so take a jumper first and foremost! This is because the Searchroom, the place where you view the archive material, is also temperature controlled.
In the Searchroom, you can have your laptop, paper and a pencil (no pens!) (Hull History Centre, 2017b). The rest of your personal items can be stored in the lockers (Hull History Centre, 2017b). If you get a little hungry, then you can leave the room and buy some snacks or a coffee in the café. You’re going to have to fuel your brain for a day of research.
And like all things, it is not as scary as you think.
What I Found
Finally, I am going to end this post on my experience of the Hull History Centre.
Exploring the archives for the day and getting to see behind the curtain can only be described by me in one way. It’s like when you clean your messy room or start packing to move house. Bare with me on this analogy, you will see where I am going. As you’re cleaning or packing, you’re rediscovering different trinkets, old gadgets, books and pictures. Maybe you find a Now That’s What I Call Music CD and have to listen to the pop hits from 2007. All of these items are things you have forgotten about. But now, all the memories of your past are coming back to you. As soon as you put down one item, you find another and the cycle continues. Then, when you look at the time, you see that you’ve spent hours looking at a pile of belongings.
Well, that was my experience of the archives.
Now, that’s not to say that all of the material held in the archives will bring the same level of joy as finding your old Tamagotchi. It is history after all. As I have previously highlighted, many voices have been deliberately omitted and some material is shocking and even offensive. But, it is preserved as one account of the past. My analogy of the archives only serves to highlight how it felt to explore the Hull History Centre as a whole and the curiosity that comes with searching the archive material. I was intrigued by the volume and variety of the items housed there. Though I realise that not everyone will feel the same way that I do.
Some of my favourite pieces in the material include one of George Gray’s microscopes and Larkin’s personal book collection (there is a lot of Shakespeare). I also enjoy listening to true-crime podcasts, so the different crime and trial records were fascinating.
That concludes my day of searching the archives at the Hull History Centre. I hope this has highlighted how accessible and useful archive material can be, whether you’re a student, a historian or just want to know a little bit more about the past.
Hull History Centre (2017a) Our policies. Available online: https://www.hullhistorycentre.org.uk/about-us/about/policies.aspx [Accessed 07/09/2022].
Hull History Centre (2017b) Searchroom. Available online: https://www.hullhistorycentre.org.uk/about-us/about/policies.aspx [Accessed 07/09/2022].
Hull History Centre (2016) Our vision and mission. Available online: https://www.hullhistorycentre.org.uk/visit-us/our-facilities/searchroom.aspx [Accessed 07/09/2022].
Hull University Archives (2022a) Understanding Common Record Types, SkillsGuides, University of Hull. Available online: https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/common-record-types [Accessed 07/09/2022].
Hull University Archives (2022b) What are Archives, SkillsGuides, University of Hull. Available online: https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/archives-basics/what-are-archives [Accessed 07/09/2022].
Hull University Archives (2022c) Archives- The Basics: Using Archives, SkillsGuides, University of Hull. Available online: https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/archives-basics/using-archives [Accessed 07/09/2022].
My name is Jess and I recently started my role as an intern at the Brynmor Jones Library.
Find out what I have learnt in the first week and why it has already been beneficial to my future career.
The application process
Up until two weeks ago, I worked in a pub as a supervisor. It definitely wasn’t what I expected to do after getting an English and Philosophy degree from the University of Hull in 2021. But, it meant I could pay for my rent and the cat’s food.
One day, I received an email from Student Futures. It contained a long list of different internships available within the University. I scrolled through and found one entitled ‘Social Media and Communications Intern’, at the Brynmor Jones Library. I got excited as soon as I read it. Working in an academic library had always interested me. I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I had to apply.
The downside? The deadline for applying was the next day and I had to start a night shift in a couple of hours. I needed to attach my CV and a cover letter. I had never written a cover letter in my life. The pressure was on.
Luckily, I managed to apply for the role and make it to the bus stop on time.
The next day, I had an email from Lee who works as an Academic & Library Specialist. We arranged to have an informal chat for later on in the week. I was nervous, but in retrospect, I didn’t need to be. The chat with Lee was very relaxed and gave me a chance to express my interest in the role.
Not long after, I found out that the internship was mine. After we agreed on a start date, I signed my contract. All I had left to do was sort out my sleeping pattern and wait until my first day.
My week so far
Throughout the week, I have been introduced to many different Library staff members. What they have in common is that they have all been extremely kind and willing to help. This has made settling in rather easy.
I have also started to develop skills related to social media, as the title of my internship applied I would. This process started with me learning about which social media platforms the Library use. The team and I also discussed what aspects of the Library social media we believe could be developed. So far, I have been given training on Hootsuite, Canva and the different types of image licensing and copyright. As well as mandatory training on diversity and data protection.
It has also been important for me to learn about the Library facilities and what is available to students, so that I can promote them.
Using all this information, I have been able to draft some posts for social media and I’ve written a couple of blogs. I have found this aspect quite challenging as the last written work I did was my undergraduate thesis in 2021. It has been strange to go from academic writing to writing more informal blog posts. This has been especially hard when my previous job didn’t rely on me being creative. As the week has progressed, I have found it easier to come up with some fun ideas. So, I am sure it is a skill I will develop further over the next few months.
And lets not forget that I have received my very own iconic, yellow Brynmor Jones Library lanyard.
What I enjoy about being an intern
One brilliant aspect of being an intern at the Library has been the networking opportunity. In one week, I have spoken to a lot of different people, all with extremely different backgrounds. It has become clear to me that there is more than one way to work in an academic library. This has been very reassuring to learn as I believe it will be applicable to many job roles.
My tour around the Brynmor Jones Library with Helen was also really exciting. You can read more about my experience of the tour here.
In the upcoming weeks, I will also get the opportunity to tour the Hull History Centre, which is linked to the Brynmor Jones Library. The team I work with have really encouraged me to pursue my interests and have happily accommodated my request to also gain some experience in the archive sector. This will be important to decide the next steps in my career or studies.
Another aspect of being an intern in the Library that I have enjoyed is that it is an environment that is constantly changing and adapting to community needs. This means that my day-to-day routine so far has never been the same.
And finally, probably the best part of being an intern is that the stereotype that librarians love cats is proving to be true. Meeting and office-talk often entail us all talking about our pet cats in some way or another.
What i hope to learn in the next few months
One of the initial reasons that I applied for the Social Media and Communications Internship at the Library is that I wanted to gain first-hand experience of working in such an organisation. I have already discovered the large variety of job roles available in an academic library, and I hope to get to know more.
In terms of social media and blogging skills, I am looking forward to engaging my brain in a more creative way of working. I also think it would be beneficial to the Library if I could create content in the form of short, informal and aesthetic videos. The purpose of these would be to showcase the Library and its facilities in a way that I believe modern audiences would engage in. This is something I haven’t tried before, but I am aiming to gain confidence in video recording and editing.
It will also be good to meet the new interns that are joining the Library in the next few weeks. This way, I have a support network of not just staff who have worked in the Library for years, but also those who are in the same boat as me and trying something completely new.
I can confidently say that there have already been many benefits to being an intern at the Brynmor Jones Library.
Yes, it has been quite a nerve-wracking process, but ultimately it has been good to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone.
I am only one week into a ten-week journey, and I have already started to gain new skills from working in a different environment. The training that has and will be provided will no doubt enhance my CV and career prospects. Plus, I have made lots of worthy connections who have already offered a lot of support and guidance.
If there is one thing that you can take away from this blog, it’s that if you get the opportunity to do an internship in an academic library, then do it. You’re sure to learn something new, and you will definitely find a fellow cat lover!
Philip Larkin, 1983. On the Brynmor Jones Library, from Collected Poems, 1988.
Larkin at 100
Given what would have been Larkin’s 100th birthday on the 9th of August 2022, our latest blog post focuses on Larkin’s career as head librarian at the Brynmor Jones Library. This includes what Larkin contributed to the library during his employment, and how his presence can be observed within the building today.
Hull University Library in the 1960s
Larkin’s biographer, and a poet in his own right, Andrew Motion wrote that ‘in all the libraries which employed him. Larkin combined the roles of scholar, technician and administrator’ (Goodman, 1999). At the time in which Larkin was employed at the University of Hull in 1955, he had held previous employment at several libraries from 1943 onwards. These being: Wellington Public Library (1943-1946), University of Leicester (1946-1950), and Queen’s University in Belfast (1950-1955). As Andrew Motion states, Larkin’s role as librarian involved multiple duties as part of the position.
This can be evidenced through Larkin’s career at the University of Hull, as he oversaw the transformation of the library alongside the university’s vice-chancellor of the time Professor Brynmor Jones, from which the library now takes its name. As of Larkin’s employment in 1955, the library contained 124,000 items and employed just 12 staff to support the 727 students of the university at this time. Larkin ‘presided over its transformation during the next two decades. A new purpose-built library was opened in two stages in 1960 and 1970, and by 1985 there were over 750,000 items in stock, a computerised catalogue and circulation system, and over 80 staff’ (Hull History Centre, 2017).
Larkin and the Library’s Transformation
At the time, the university library was one of the first to be redeveloped in post-war Britain. The task was understood to be challenging, given that Larkin had no previous experience in the architectural field. Larkin’s muse and co-worker Maeve Brennan recalled that Larkin worked on the project ‘far removed from library staff…he spread out the plans for the new building and worked on them most afternoons. We had strict instructions that his whereabouts were not to be revealed nor was he to be interrupted except on matters of urgency’ (Goodman, 1999).
During this construction, the progress was split into two stages and would involve the production of a three storey building complete with the addition of reading rooms. It was Larkin who made several suggestions to the university concerning the library’s layout during this period. This was specifically in regards to the university’s initial idea of separating the book stacks from the students within the building. The university accepted these recommendations, and certain aspects of Larkin’s attention to detail can be observed in the building’s inspired modern lighting and coloured stacks to this day. During this period, Larkin worked closely with the architect for the project and photographed the progress as the building was constructed.
Larkin as Poet and Librarian
It is evident that during Larkin’s time at the University of Hull, his role blended between librarian and poet. It was during this period where Larkin produced his celebrated works The Whitsun Weddings (1964)and High Windows (1974). Despite the critical acclaim, Larkin chose to remain a private individual, even turning down the position of Poet Laureate in his attempts to avoid the limelight.
The poet seemed to prefer his role as librarian, once stating in an interview that ‘librarianship suits me…it has just the right blend of academic interest and administration that seems to match my particular talents’ (Goodman, 1999). The university staff and students that interacted with Larkin during this period have given a mixed retelling of their experiences, many of which can be observed in the University of Hull Alumni Association’s blog which highlights particular memories of Larkin.
Larkin’s Presence Today
Larkin’s presence in the Brynmor Jones Library remains to this day, within the preserved location of the librarian’s office. This has been the office of the University of Hull librarian since 1959, when the first phase of the library was built under Larkin’s supervision. It was used by Philip Larkin from 1959 until his death in 1985. He wrote to his mother that ‘my room is so beautiful I can hardly believe it. I’m afraid it will make everyone so green with jealousy that I shall be the most hated person in Hull’ (Pearman, 2014). After Larkin’s death, his secretary, Betty Mackereth, with whom he had a secret love affair with, shredded the thirteen volumes of his diary in this office, in accordance to his wishes.
A number of things are original to the room to this day: the bookcase; the electric fire and its surround, the parquet flooring and the desk. The desk has a brass plaque commemorating its use by Larkin. He boasted that it was ‘larger than that of President Kennedy’(Pearman, 2014). It was restored as part of the redevelopment of the library, and improved. The top of the desk is now real leather in place of the original leatherette. The typewriter is Larkin’s personal Olivetti Lettera DL.
The collection of books in the bookcase is the Brynmor Jones Collection. It was assembled by the library in honour of the university’s Vice-Chancellor Sir Brynmor Jones when he retired in 1972. It consists of first editions of titles published between 1890 and 1940 that were nominated by the university’s academic departments as being of particular importance. The period of 1890 to 1940 is also the focus of the University Art Collection. The ‘Librarian’ sign on the door, pictured above, leads directly into the office from the first floor of the library and is original to the 1959 building.
There were some particular objects that Larkin kept in his office during his employment, one of these being the pottery frog money box from circa 1970. This is a reminder of Larkin’s poems Toads, written in 1954, and Toads Revisited, written in 1962, about the necessity of going to work to earn a living. When asked by an interviewer, ‘how did you arrive upon the image of a toad for work or labour?’ he replied, ‘Sheer genius’ (Phillips, 2003). There is also the Hermes 3000 office typewriter situated near the bookshelf, circa 1969.
As pictured below, there are also three mugs of Larkins on display: a Queen Elizabeth II coronation mug, a D.H. Lawrence mug, and a lettered ‘P’ mug. Larkin’s nameplate can also be observed, as well as a collection of vinyls of Larkin reading his poetry.
The Modern Day Brynmor Jones Library
Following Larkin’s involvement in the transformation of the library, the building has since had another upgrade. Work began in 2012 and was completed by 2015, with the Poet Laureate of the time, Professor Dame Carol Ann Duffy opening the site. The library’s collection is now slightly larger since Larkin’s time. We now house over one million books in the building, alongside other physical and digital resources. Larkin’s presence within the Brynmor Jones Library is important to discuss, as are the contentious aspects of his character.
This month, the University Library’s Twitter Conversation highlights the contentious aspects of the poet’s life and challenges us to consider how we feel about his poetry in this context. The University Archive and the Hull History Centre contain manuscripts, drafts of poems and novels, photographs and Larkin’s jazz record collection. These materials can be requested at the Hull History Centre for viewing. If you would like to follow the Conversation, you can do so below.
As online meeting becomes more commonplace than ever, the Academic Libraries North conference 2022 was no exception, and the organisers did an excellent job emulating the benefits of an in-person conference online.
This year’s spotlight was on inclusivity, particularly on the actions our institutions take to improve equality and diversity. The event was split over 2 half days, giving delegates plenty of time to digest the wide range of content and consider how these ideas could be more widely shared.
ALN hosted a series of talks, presentations, post-break-out session chats, networking opportunities, sponsor booths and competitions using the virtual event platform, Hubilo. Conference delegates were able to discuss ideas and speak with sponsors in between sessions. Aiding connections and interactivity allowed the conference to flourish and receive widespread positive feedback.
Academic libraries and trans allyship
One of the event keynotes, Kit Heyam, began the conference this year with a session on academic libraries & trans allyship. They explored what is meant by the terms sex and gender by breaking down key concepts and encouraging all attendees to think about whether their institutions go far enough to protect our students e.g. manually updating databases to reflect appropriate pronouns or treating protected characteristics on library record notes sensitively.
Kit also advised that we can all signpost individuals who may use problematic language in no bad faith to more information and to think about and reconsider this. It was fascinating to listen to a passionate and knowledgeable speaker explain that while misconceptions are natural, they can be addressed critically and kindly when there is a willingness to learn.
Community engagement, period dignity and being a diversity ally
The conference hosted several lightning talks, which made me wonder whether our offerings align with other academic libraries. Lancaster University Library presented a piece on community engagement. As well as organising clothes mending sessions, a library festival and collaborating with the Lancaster Black History Group, Lancaster has also launched a community library card for members of the public aged over 16 and with which they can borrow 6 books at a time.
Teesside University Library discussed their period dignity campaign driven by a particular desire in the northeast for access to period products. It was an eye-opening presentation which pointed out the loss of education and deterioration of general health as a result of period poverty.
I was pleased to see our very own Sarah Pymer discuss the Archives & Records Association Diversity and Inclusion Allies. The group aims to focus on equality, diversion and inclusion through working practice, professional training and driving standards. Some positive steps have already been taken here, specifically around balancing gender within the archiving profession.
The care that binds: of stories yet untold
The second day of the conference was opened by the Associate Director for Research at the University of Nottingham and keynote Josh Sendall. This presentation was an inspirational and optimistic outlook for the future of equality within academic libraries. The key messages here were around promoting intellectual freedom to access all information and how neutrality and social justice can work together to achieve true equality. Josh touched not only on the importance of diversifying library collections by including marginalized voices but also promoting and celebrating this and demonstrating professional pride in doing so.
It is certainly worth praising the sessions given by the gold sponsor of the conference Kortext and both silver sponsors, Anybook and Adam Matthew. While familiar with the work of these platforms, companies and publishers respectively, it was useful to gain a deeper insight into the fantastic work they do to assist our collections.
Kortext hosted a talk on building a case for free eBooks at the University of Derby with a key focus on accessibility tools offered such as note sharing, highlighting and open conversations. Anybook discussed their practices, including how they give a proportion of the money made from selling books to the libraries and allow the libraries autonomy on how this money is spent whether this is on the collection or donated to charitable organisations. Adam Matthew were keen to highlight their work with various libraries to make lots of exciting materials available. One notable example of this was the diaries of Anne Lister, whose life as a landowner and historical lesbian figure has been portrayed in the BBC series Gentleman Jack.
Stand-out moments from the conference for me were the short papers on decolonising the library collection from the University of Essex and recruiting diverse candidates into the library customer assistant roles at the University of Manchester.
Decolonising the Library Student Champion Project
At the University of Essex, the library recognised a lack of diversity in its collection and enlisted the help of students. A series of workshops were held to encourage free discussion, and a brilliant video was made by students to explain the importance of decolonisation and diversification and the impact on the student body. During Q&As, I asked whether there had been challenges encouraging academics to diversify their reading lists, and I was happy to learn that most had welcomed these changes with a full understanding of the significance of this work.
Addressing barriers to inclusion in the recruitment process
Perhaps due to my own role as a customer experience team leader, I had a particular interest in how Manchester went about recruiting diverse candidates into their library customer service team. During a recruitment event, there was a big emphasis on encouraging those who lacked library experience but could offer other relevant skills to consider a customer service role. A video was shown at the event demonstrating what the day-to-day role looked like as well as a talk on demystifying the application process and an outline of the library 2030 vision. The University of Manchester Library saw an increase in disabled candidates, candidates under 20, candidates over 60 and LGBTQIA+ candidates.
A wonderful panel discussion brought the conference to a close, and each participant was given the opportunity to share one thing we can all do to increase inclusivity. These included to keep talking about EDI, widening perspectives, sharing lived experiences, training to see through a diversity/anti-racist lens, being led by what others are going through and, of course, being kind.
Many thanks for having me this year, Academic Libraries North. I have taken so much away from this conference and I am completely inspired to keep listening and to keep learning.
*Extra thank you to OCLC for donating the prize I won for my entry to the photo competition in which delegates were asked to submit a photo of where they were accessing the conference from. Small thanks also to my toddler, Frankie, whose cuddly Moomin toy, I believe, swung it for me.
This post is authored by Ruby Hill, one of our University Library Customer Experience Team Leaders.
In July, the Brynmor Jones Library welcomed two work experience students from local schools. Sev and John both worked with staff for one week, and kindly agreed to tell us about their experiences.
My week at the Brynmor Jones Library started on Monday with a morning of induction and health and safety with Helen. During the week, I was shown a lot about how the library works.
I got a chance to work with the rare books collection in the Cube and created a display cabinet for the University Open Day. It was themed around tragedy and romance, with books including Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers.
Between creating the display cabinet and researching the books used inside it, I got to work in Collections on the library database, and in the basement doing stocktaking. I was also in the Reading Room quite a lot doing available holds and KDL tagging.
Working with the rare books with Helen was my favourite part of the week!
This week at the University of Hull has been interesting and really enjoyable. When you mention a library, many people will have the image of a dull and boring place, but that’s not always the truth – some libraries go above and beyond to make it interesting and useful to all, and the Brynmor Jones Library is one of them.
I also started making a display case of some of the rare books, which I found really interesting. My theme being war, I picked out some of the most memorable and impactful books as a way to remember some of the wars that shaped our country.
The library staff were very nice and welcoming, and they kept me busy and engaged. It was fulfilling knowing that I was helping out.
This post is authored by Sev and John, two of our work experience students (July 2022).
Each month staff from the Spotlight Team at the Brynmor Jones Library create a Reading List and book display in the Reading Room based on a particular theme to create a ‘Spotlight On’ Collection. In June, we are highlighting work relating to Decolonising and Diversifying Collections, and sharing some book recommendations provided by students and staff.
What is decolonisation and diversification?
Historically, academia has been dominated by white male voices. It is hard to believe that university study was once a male-only pursuit, with women very rarely admitted before the 19th century. Today, universities are incredibly diverse places with people from all walks of life and all over the world.
Yet this is not always reflected in library collections. The purpose of decolonising and diversifying libraries is to ensure that people who are marginalised by society’s perspectives – for example, by race, ethnicity, physical ability, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation and socioeconomic class – are better represented in universities and academia, by diversifying the books in library collections.
But decolonisation and diversification are not about the number of books by and about, for example, black and LGBTQ+ writers on the shelves. It is one thing to add books by marginalised authors to our collection – true decolonisation and diversification are about engaging with those voices while casting a critical view on the existing works of white, male writers who have dominated academia and publishing for so long. It is not about the erasure of those voices, but about challenging longstanding biases and widening our intellectual vision to include diverse perspectives and experiences.
Creating the Spotlight Collection
The Spotlight Team put a lot of work into discovering and promoting diverse library resources. Researching and creating the collections often reminds us just how extensive our resources are. We are always excited to discover hidden gems, but it can be difficult deciding which resources to include in a Spotlight collection. With this theme, we felt it was important to seek input from our academic and student community to ensure our list, while only a snapshot of the immense resources available, included the voices of those we seek to represent.
We initially contacted Dr Nicholas Evans of the Wilberforce Institute (WISE), who showed great enthusiasm and put us in touch with historian Channon Oyeniran and two WISE PhD students with interests in decolonisation, Jen Nghishitende and Fred Bricknell. We also received some excellent recommendations from Dr Catherine Baker, senior lecturer in 20th Century History.
“Decolonizing Colonial Heritage is a fantastic series of essays that deploys a truly global approach to studying the legacy of European colonisation in multiple societies. Such comparative analysis highlights the need look beyond national frameworks when discussing the legacy of imperialism. I especially loved the essay on Cape Town a port city influenced by Portuguese, Dutch and British imperialism.”
Dr Nicholas Evans
Channon Oyeniran, historian, educator and author, is a former MA student of the Wilberforce Institute. Now based in Canada where she is Vice President of the Ontario Black History Society, Channon recommended How to Be an Antiracist (2019) by Ibram X. Kendi. She talked to us about why decolonising collections in libraries is important.
“Libraries are the gatekeepers of knowledge and should therefore have an abundance of knowledge in different subject areas by different people who have different experiences and who come from all walks of life. It is important for people to go into a library and feel represented, see themselves in the books that are on the shelves and learn about diverse subjects.”
Jen Nghishitende, a current PhD student at WISE, enthusiastically recommended Dr Roselyne Masamha’s thesis titled The education experiences of Zimbabwean nurses recruited to undertake pre-registration nurse education in the UK. Dr Roselyn Masamha is a University of Hull lecturer in learning disabilities nursing whose research interests include experiences of disadvantaged groups, inclusive education and decolonisation. Jen praised Dr Masamha’s thesis for offering “a new perspective on shaping knowledge production, challenging the ‘traditional’ way of knowing in academia by producing academic work that accentuates the voices of her co-producers while embedding herself in the research by occupying the dual role of researcher and participant.”
Fred Bricknell, also a PhD student at the Wilberforce Institute, has previously developed reading lists for the History module Global Britain. His recommendations were The Brutish Museums: the Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution (2020) by Dan Hicks and Museums and Atlantic Slavery (2021) by Ana Lucia Araujo. Fred described The Brutish Museums as “the one book anybody seeking to understand calls for cultural restitution in modern Britain must read”. Talking about Museums and Atlantic Slavery, Fred told us the book “explores how the histories foregrounded in our national museums often omit uncomfortable truths” while emphasizing that “the fact they are uncomfortable does not make them any less true”.
Dr Catherine Baker took time out of her very busy assessment period to suggest three resources. On Empireland: How Imperialism has Shaped Modern Britain (2021) by Sathnam Sanghera, Catherine said, “struggles over historical memory and national identity in former Yugoslavia are among my main research interests – this book offers food for thought about those same questions in the country where I live and work”.
Also recommended by Catherine is a new addition to the Library: The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice (2021) by Shon Faye. Catherine described The Transgender Issue as “an accessible and empathetic account which connects up the inequalities facing trans people today into an explanation of what makes transphobia so systemic, and integrates them through focusing on the context of ‘justice’.”
These are just a few of the resources included in the Spotlight Collection, and all are available via the Library or Open Access. The full collection can be found in the Reading Room in the Showcase Corner.
How can I get involved?
You can find out more about the Library’s work on decolonising and diversifying the collections on the Library website.
We are keen to receive recommendations from students and staff for these collections. If you are a current student, you can do this by completing a Suggest a Purchase form and ticking the checkbox for diversifying and decolonising the Library.
Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you don’t miss our Spotlight On: Decolonising and Diversifying Collections posts throughout the month of June.
Special thanks to Jen Nghishitende, Channon Oyeniran, and Fred Bricknell, and to Dr Catherine Baker and Dr Nicholas Evans of the wonderful History@Hull department.
Read more about decolonisation in our Twitter thread, Maggie is our Collection Development Manager responsible for Library and Archive collections at the University of Hull. Sarah is one of the University Archivists at the Hull History Centre, and also an @RL_UK Professional Practice Fellow 2022.