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General Hull University Archives Interns Internships Library insider Library services

Things I didn’t know as a student about the Brynmor Jones Library

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.

The Brynmor Jones Library on a sunny day

The Cube

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).

Staff member holding open a rare book from The Cube

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.

A collection of mugs and beverages from a birds-eye view

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.

The Brynmor Jones Library basement

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.

The Gallery

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.

People enjoying the art displayed in a gallery

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.


For Reference

Hull History Centre (2022) Archives of the University of Hull Brynmor Jones Library. Available online: Archives of the University of Hull Brynmor Jones Library – Hull History Centre Catalogue [Accessed 25/08/2022].

Orwin, J.L. (2021) Philip Larkin biography. Available online: PHILIP LARKIN BIOGRAPHY – The Philip Larkin Society [Accessed 25/08/2022].

The Philip Larkin Society (2022) ‘Larkinworld2′. Available online: ‘Larkinworld 2’ – The Philip Larkin Society [Accessed 25/08/2022].

University of Hull (2022) Art Gallery. Available online: Art Gallery | University of Hull [Accessed 25/08/2022].

University of Hull (2020) The university library part 1- our buildings, collections and people. Available online: The University Library Part 1 – Our buildings, collections and people | University of Hull [Accessed 25/08/2022].

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General Hull University Archives Interns Internships

Searching the Archives: a day at the Hull History Centre

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?

An image of the Hull History Centre where Hull’s archive material is kept. It is a building that is beige in colour with lots of grey windows on the lower floor. The right hand side of the building has a unique shaped metal roof that is supported by curved wooden beams along the building. This righthand section is also fully glass.

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.

A person reading a book in between two archive drawer units. There is a table and chair in front of the person that is covered with books.

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.

For Leisure

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

A screenshot of the SkillsGuide webpage on research themes. The different themes include: crime and punishment, leisure, literature, seafaring, politics, war, health and wellbeing, buildings and women.

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.

A screenshot from the SkillsGuide website. The image reads “Key Collections” and is followed by a list of subjects within the theme of ‘Women’. There is a large purple arrow pointing to the subject entitled “Papers of Winifred Holtby (L WH). This is to highlight what I would search the Hull History Centre archives for if I wanted to research Winifred Holtby.

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.

A screenshot from the SkillsGuide website entitled ‘Diversity in Archives’. It has four themes along the bottom of the page, these are: Search Strategies, Women’s Voices, Ethnic Minority Voices and LGBTQ+ Voices.

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.

A close up photo of an Adélie penguin. It is stood on the snow, which looks both white and blue in colour, with it’s wings stretched out.

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.

A picture of one of the windows in the Hull History Centre. On the window, it has a matt, light grey sign that reads “Library & Search Room” with an arrow pointing to the right. The window has a lot reflections.

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.

Jess’ Highlights

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.

An image of six classic literature books in low lighting. The books are in a variety of colours and appear to be old and worn.

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.

You can check out more of my blogs here.


For Reference

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].

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General Interns Internships Library insider

My First Week as an Intern

Jess, the intern, stood smiling in front of a statue of William Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon

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.

Spongebob and Patrick running around with a look of panic via Giphy.

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.

Mayor Quimby stating “This is the most exciting thing” via Giphy.

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.

Hull History Centre

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.

Jess’ cat, Mouse. A white cat laid on a wicker chair with an orange cushion.

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.

A laptop, phone and camera placed on top of a wooden table

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.

Final Thoughts

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!

Dwight Schrute with the caption “Do it! Now!” via Giphy.