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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.
Categories
General Hull University Archives Library insider University history

‘A Lifted Study Storehouse:’ Philip Larkin and the Brynmor Jones Library

By day, a lifted study-storehouse; night  

Converts it to a flattened cube of light.  

Whichever’s shown, the symbol is the same:  

Knowledge; a University; a name.

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.

The recently developed library is a modern facility at the heart of the campus.
An illustration of the redevelopment of the Brynmor Jones Library. 

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's involvement in the library's redevlopment in the 60s played a role in the modern, technology-enabled library that can be observed as of today.
From the Estate of Philip Larkin.

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.  

The original Librarian sign from the 1959 redevelopment can still be observed on the first floor today.
The original Librarian sign from the 1959 building.

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.

The original bookcase hosts the Brynmor Jones collection, and is positioned at the back of the room.
The Brynmor Jones book collection.

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 mugs are part of a wider collection of Larkin's possessions, that are available to view upon request at the Hull History Centre.
Larkin’s mug collection.
A vinyl of Philip Larkin's reading of his popular collection 'High Windows' can be observed.
A selected vinyl collection.

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.


For Reference

Goodman, Richard. (1999). My Particular Talents. Humanities Collections. 1(2), pp.45-60. [Online]. Available at: https://philiplarkin.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/my_particular_talents_rgoodman.pdf

Hull History Centre. (2017). Philip Larkin. [Online]. Hull History Centre. Available at: https://www.hullhistorycentre.org.uk/research/research-guides/philip-larkin.aspx

Larkin, Philip. (2014). A lifted study-storehouse. In: Burnett, Archie. (Ed). The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin. London: Faber and Faber Limited. 

Pearman, Hugh. (2014). After this it will be all Danish butter-factories. [Online]. RIBA. Available at: https://www.ribaj.com/culture/philip-larkin-and-the-architects

Phillips, Robert. (2003). The Madness of Art. New York: Syracuse University Press. p.23.

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General

Spotlight On: Decolonising & Diversifying Library Collections

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.

Spotlight on Decolonising and Diversifying Collections

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.

Diversification focuses on ensuring many voices and perspectives are heard. This means purchasing materials created by, and about, marginalised people.

Brynmor Jones Library

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.

Book recommendations

The book cover for Decolonizing Colonial Heritage

Dr Nicholas Evans’ top recommendation for the collection was Decolonizing Colonial Heritage: New Agendas, Actors and Practices in and beyond Europe (2022).

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.”

Channon Oyeniran

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.”

Book cover for The Brutish Museum

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”.

Book cover for EmpireLand

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”.

Book cover for The Trans-gender Issue: An argument for justice

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’.”

Thirdly, Catherine highlighted LGBT Activism and Europeanisation in the Post-Yugoslav Space: On the Rainbow Way to Europe as “a thought-provoking collection that illustrates the complex ways that LGBTQ+ activism in former Yugoslavia relates to cities, nations, governments, and the idea of ‘Europe’ itself, by a team of authors with deep ties to LGBTQ+ scholarship and activism in the post-Yugoslav space”.

The spotlight bookshelves in the reading room showing our Spotlight on Decolonising and diversifying the collection
The Spotlight display in the Reading Room

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.

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General

Procrastination & Time Management

Learning how to manage your time effectively is crucial to any student’s time at university, but also something you will need to take into any job/career. We, interns, are no different, the techniques we learnt as students to help us tackle procrastination have helped us manage our time whilst in our current roles. Here are some tips from each of us to help you with your studies (and avoid procrastination along the way!).

A photograph of alarm clocks. Procrastination can make time disappear!
Image from pixabay: Alarm clocks

Beating procrastination the old fashioned way

By Joanna Rawnsley

I’m old fashioned because I keep everything in a paper diary, if I keep things on my phone, I end up looking at them more often which leads to me procrastinating. When doing my work, I always put my phone out of my line of sight: out of sight, out of mind. Back when I was doing my assignments, I’d even turn it off, or onto “do not disturb” and put it in a drawer. That way I wouldn’t be distracted by notifications, and I’d be solely focused on the task at hand.

Speaking of tasks, every morning before I start work, I write a daily to-do list for that day. As I go about my day, I tick off any tasks I’ve completed, you don’t realise how satisfying it is to tick off tasks until you do it. I also write down any deadlines in my diary when I get them, so I always know when things need to be in. I do, however, use my phone for reminders. Having an “annoying” alarm going off helps remind me of meetings and deadlines, this way I’m less likely to forget things and I always have a calendar handy.

via GIPHY

Another way to help with procrastination is taking short breaks between classes, studying and work, especially if you’re working at a screen. Now bear with me, I’m serious about this! It’s good to take a break every hour or so to give your eyes a rest and stretch your legs. According to the Well-being Thesis taking “micro-breaks” throughout your workday will not only improve productivity but will also help with stress and your overall well-being. Getting a drink and/or talking to a peer for a few minutes helps you relax and then when you go back to your work, you will be more focused and more efficient. This also helps prevent you from burning out at the end of each day. I for one have been known to turn my laptop off and spend my evenings scrolling through social media and watching TV due to feeling lethargic after work. So, take breaks when you can and stay hydrated!

Now I’m going to go get a drink and take a micro-break of my own.


Time management in the workplace

By David Moore

Throughout this Internship, I have had to schedule my time between different people and their required designs. How I started this, is a week at a time and planned the following week ahead of time for example on one occasion I had to finish editing videos and complete Halloween designs in the same week. I was stressed at first but planning and preparation and doing the video first left me enough time to complete two designs a day so I could finish the work by Friday. What stopped me from getting distracted was I tried to mix my design work, so I was not doing the same work repeatedly. So, one day I would do videos on After Effects and on another day, I would create my own images on Photoshop and create slides and descriptions of work ideas for new images on PowerPoint or I would separate hours of the day to do a mixture of them all.

This is my first work experience and I have found the time management quite challenging as I am not a morning person as it took some time to get used to the hours but once I got into a routine, I have enjoyed my experience. It is important to me to keep a routine, so I do not lose track of where I am.

via GIPHY


Avoiding procrastination with the right mindset

By Codey McShane

For me, the most important aspect of managing procrastination and my time for study was getting into the correct mindset. While I was at university, I found it easy to beat myself up for procrastinating, which would only make me want to study less. When thinking about doing my work evoked feelings of guilt or made me feel under intense pressure, it became way harder to get anything done at all. For me, what helped was accepting and forgiving myself for procrastinating – there was no point dwelling on what I’d already done, and all I could change was what I was going to do. I didn’t pretend that it hadn’t happened, but I recognized that I could still turn things around and give myself a fresh start.

via GIPHY

It was incredibly freeing to be able to let go of these feelings of anxiety and realize that so long as I began working now, whatever I produced would be the best work I could’ve done starting from my fresh start. Of course, this isn’t a method that will work for everyone – there is no magical cure-all for feelings of anxiety or stress that may prevent you from being able to work. The answer may be different for you (e.g., therapy, medication, journaling, exercise, dieting, mindfulness/meditation). But if you can get yourself into the right frame of mind in whatever way works for you, I found it way easier to apply some simple methods to mitigate my procrastination.

Here are some tips that worked for me:

  • Structure your time.
     The simple act of creating a daily schedule for when I would study helped a lot. Having a planned-out routine for when I would study and when I could relax made it a lot easier to power through it.
  • Find your incentive to work.
     Once I planned out exactly what and when I was going to be studying, I got a big sense of satisfaction by being able to cross that task off my list when I had finished doing it. Figure out what motivates you and use that to your advantage.
  • Starting is the hardest part.
    Once I was studying, I tended to not get distracted. But getting there in the first place sometimes felt impossible. Studying when you don’t want to requires discipline; I had to do the work even though I didn’t want to. It helped me to think things like “Just do this first task, and then you can stop if you need to.” Once I’d completed that first task I was past those initial feelings and could then continue with my schedule.

Cutting distractions to avoid procrastination

By John Weightman

Procrastination was a problem for me when I first started out as a student so much so that I would sometimes have YouTube clips playing in the background while I was supposed to be concentrating on work. However, I soon realized I couldn’t keep doing this as even though I would get the work done it would take much longer and lead to stress as deadlines loomed. As has already been mentioned one way to solve this was to turn off my phone or other distractions. But sometimes we find it difficult so what I would occasionally do is listen to relaxing sounds or music nothing loud or distracting. It was just something that helped me concentrate though now more frequently I also go along with the method of just turning off my phone.

A photograph of a mobile phone sitting on top of a book. This kind of set up leads to procrastination! Put the phone away and out of sight.
Image from Pixabay

Another good way to avoid procrastination is to think about the different places you have been when studying where were you the most focused? Where were you most distracted? Is there anything you can do to make studying enjoyable?

So, in my case, the music made it more enjoyable for me and I also found that working in a different environment to the one where I spent my free time was beneficial. For example, as a student, I found I did more work in the library than I did in my room as there were just more distractions but at the library, the people around me were working which motivated me to work. I carried this on after I was a student too as when I’m working now, I have a separate room where I can do work and it doesn’t have things like a PlayStation.

It is important to remember though that what works for one person might not necessarily work for you.  For example, studying with friends may limit your productivity. But for others, studying in groups can help to increase motivation and avoid procrastination.

Managing time

So, if we have got our procrastination under control how would I manage the time I have to work. Breaks as we have covered are important, I would often do something fun which for me is playing the guitar. I would say right I am going to write for maybe an hour then I’ll play the guitar for 20 minutes and let my mind concentrate on something else. Alternatively, you could try something like exercise which you may not believe but actually works in the same way sleep does. It can focus your state of mind, helping you to clear your head and boost your brainpower in between study sessions. If you don’t exercise much maybe aim for a 10-minute run/workout here and there, steadily increasing the amount you do as you go on.

via GIPHY

Finally, as a history student planning and research was also very important for me. If I managed my time well it would allow me to process new information and plan how I was going to use it which can help you to avoid having to re-read and repeat any research. One way of effectively planning before researching is to make a list of everything you want to find out so that you can make notes below each subheading as you go. Rather than writing out information just anywhere, if it is stored in the correct place on paper, it will then go to the correct place in my mind.

Categories
General

Explore Your Archives 2021

Endless discoveries to be made!

Every November the archives world takes a week out to celebrate our collections, encouraging everyone to #ExploreYourArchive.

At Hull University Archives we’re always discovering interesting things hidden away in our collections and the national #ExploreYourArchive campaign is the perfect opportunity to show them off.

Archive Animals

With so much to choose from, we found it hard to narrow down our choices for this blog so we set ourselves a theme, ‘Archive Animals’ because why not! The rules were simple: all items must feature an animal in some way, and no animal type could be repeated. After much ‘ruminating’ (sorry) these are our top five…

1. Dogs have feelings too

Who doesn’t love a dog?! Okay, some people, but here at Hull University Archives we just can’t resist their fluffy little paws and waggy tails. Our first selection was difficult, there are just so many options (including a rather stern looking Victorian lady wagging her tail at an upright lapdog). But, in the end, we went for this one:

U DBV2/30/8 – British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection stall, mid 20th cent.

From the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection collection, this old English sheepdog is just begging us to sign a petition against live animal experimentation in the early 20th century.

The British Union (BUAV) was formed in the late 19th century by Miss Frances Power Cobbe to raise public awareness of vivisection and to campaign against it. Aside from photographs, the collection contains publicity material, notes and reports, newsletters and publications, minutes and correspondence. The material is vital evidence of early animal rights activism.

Explore the contents of the collection further here.

And just because we’re nice, this is the one that almost made the cut:

U DDCA2/54/87b – Photographic print from the Stapleton Family of Carlton Towers collection, early 20th cent.

2. A bunch of asses

At 3pm on 23rd August 1837, a group of 10 students, accompanied by two staff from Haxby School near York, set out on a multiple day excursion around North Yorkshire. The trip was recorded in a wonderful little journal written by one of those students, Hewley John Baines.

Baines describes visits made to Hambleton Coxwold, Byland Abbey, Rivaulx Abbey, Duncombe Park, and Helmsley. He notes the sites and monuments visited by the group and includes sketches of the same.

But the reason we love this item is the central role played by animals in the trip. In the opening lines, Baines tell us that seven members of the party were mounted on donkeys, whilst five rode horses and ponies. He later recounts (with below illustration) how a Master Smith’s donkey took to sitting down, which caused the rider to slide off his mount backwards leading to much laughter amongst his companions.

U DDBH/27/3 – Illustration of Master Smith from the journal of Hewley John Baines, 1837

And finally, we are told that at Easingwold the group heard several remarks on the figure they cut:

Some cried ‘Tail them’! Others shouted, ‘These chaps have just come from the ass market’!

Journal of Hewley John Baines, 1837

Such accounts of youth experiences are rare in archives and so are a fantastic find when we do see them. This one comes from the Baines Family collection.

Explore the contents of the collection further here.

3. Do you think you can get an education by just swanning around!

Our next item is from the aptly named Miscellaneous Local History collection, a collated collection begun by our first archivist Norman Higson. The collection covers anything and everything local history related, from 19th century local recipes to Acts of Parliament. But one particular item stood out for us:

U DDX/16/227 – Inside cover of the arithmetic exercise book of Miss Ann Lamb of Rudston, c.1850

It is rare that we find evidence of female education prior to the 20th century in the archives. So, this exercise book, belonging to a Miss Ann Lamb of Rudston, is a fantastic discovery.

When we think of the education of young ladies during the 19th century we tend to bring to mind Jane Austen-esque images of embroidery, European languages, and rudimentary history or geography. But Miss Lamb shows us that women can be both logical and creative at the same time with her swan illustrated front cover. The subject of her studies, arithmetic, was traditionally considered a male province. Nevertheless, here we have an East Yorkshire girl learning maths, and, not only that, she’s doing it with an artistic flair!

Explore the contents of the collection further here.

4. Old McDonald had a farm

Here we have an ode written by poet Hubert Nicholson to that humble beast of burden, the ox:

U DNI/1/1 – Poem ‘A Yorkshire Farm’ by Hubert Nicholson (journalist, novelist and poet)

Part of Yorkshire’s rural landscape for longer than records can tell, the ox features regularly in agricultural records and accounts kept by ancient landowning families. In fact the ox was so entrenched in the daily life of our medieval communities that it even lent its name to a unit of measurement: the oxgang, a measure of area based on how much land could be tilled by one ox in a season.

Explore the contents of the collection further here.

5. The mower stalled, twice

Any Philip Larkin enthusiasts should recognise the above as the opening line of one of his more famous poems, The Mower. Inspired by a tragic incident with a hedgehog and a lawn mower, we really hope that the little guy in this next item was not the source of his inspiration:

U DLV/3/222/4 – Photograph taken by Philip Larkin at his Pearson Park residence, 20th cent.

Most people will know of Philip Larkin the poet, and those of us who work in the University Library are well aware of Larkin the Librarian, but Larkin the Photographer is a less well-known entity.

In recent years we’ve seen the publication of a number of illustrated works written about Larkin. These illustrations have been largely selected from his own photographic collection. Amongst the selfies (yes, Larkin was taking selfies before phone cameras even existed!) and the photographs of family members, holidays, and girlfriends, we’ve discovered lots of animal pictures – many of them cows, strangely enough.

Explore the contents of the collection further here.

Over to ewe

If your interest has been piqued why not discover more at Hull History Centre? Check out the website and our online catalogue.

Need support using archives? Check out our Archives SkillsGuides. Topics include the theoretical basics, search strategies, uncovering diverse collections, online primary sources, material held at Hull History Centre, and palaeography. Want to chat to someone about resources available for your own coursework or research? You can email us at archives@hull.ac.uk to ask a question or arrange a chat.

Categories
General

Final Blog – This is the End – David Moore

After 12 weeks of work experience and how time has flown by, my internship is at an end and what an experience it has been.  From meeting new people, learning new skills and gaining experience within a working environment. 

So, after the first week which was hectic but enjoyable my work began from learning how to do timesheets, something that I have never done before to drafting design ideas for projects.  Throughout this journey sometimes I felt that my head was going to explode with information, which included searching websites and mandated training, but I overcame each obstacle and enjoyed every moment.  With the help of Lee and members of staff including other interns (Jo & John), it showed me a guiding light into the unknown and this has been a good learning curve for me.

During this time, I have gained a clear understanding of my role Visual Design Intern which is to help the other Interns design images and videos for the Skills Guide and Digi skills.  This involved creating images, of which I used PowerPoint, to create these icons I had to change the size, colour and merge them together to create simple images.  For the videos, these are instructive videos on how to create blogs, magazine articles, letters, opinion pieces and wikis.

For example

Skill guides

  • YouTube Videos – These videos are to show how to do blogs and shows examples of letter to editor, magazine articles, newspapers etc. 
  • Public Communications SkillsGuide – I helped with images.
  • Helped with other designs and images as required.

Digi Skills

  • Digital Tools – created images for the titles of topics.
  • Images based around public holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Bonfire Night etc, for example the title was Fear of Missing Out and the holidays was Halloween.  The image I created is

Conclusion

The end of the journey has come around quickly and I am thankful for the experience and gained a lot of knowledge.  I have met a lot of new people, explored the university as a staff member which showed me how things work in a working environment and having the chance to work in an office if only for a few days (working from home was great too).  Thank you to all the staff members of the library for helping me along my journey and this opportunity for which I am grateful.

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General

Mental Health Support in the University Library

By Katie Austin

Being away from home for the first time and having to juggle academic life, relationships, socials, and finances can be daunting. Some students thrive but others may need a helping hand. Many of our Library staff are trained Mental Health First Aiders so please reach out to one of us if you are feeling overwhelmed. We can give you our time, useful advice and direct you to specialist services in case you need extra support within the University or further afield.

The University Library can be a busy and bustling place however it also hosts areas of peace and quiet contemplation. In the corner of the Reading Room on the first floor, you will find our Switch off Zone. This is an area with comfy chairs, a peaceful view, mindfulness colouring books and word searches to complete at your leisure. It’s a place to switch off your devices and simply relax for a while. No need to book, please just settle in and unwind.

Nestled alongside the Switch off Zone is a collection of books aimed at supporting your mental health. The Reading Well collection includes books on managing stress, grief, shyness, depression, eating disorders and insomnia among many others. These titles can be borrowed just like everything else, please check them out using the self-service machines within the Reading Room.

Finally, please ask for help if you are struggling with any area of your student life. All of the Library staff are easily identifiable by their yellow lanyards and are happy to signpost and support in any way they can.

You can see the comfy seat and available activities in this photo of the Switch off Zone.
Reading Room Switch off Zone

Categories
Academic literacies General Skills Team

Can Music Help You Study?

In the past 30 years, there has been much debate over whether music can help you study. In 1993 Dr Gordon Shaw reported that a group of college students increased their IQ by as much as nine points just by listening to classical music. However, 10 years later some researchers looked into it and discovered very little evidence for this. This does not mean music has no benefits and though it can’t magically make you more intelligent there are ways, we can use it to assist in our studies and it may also help our brains in other ways.

Marco Verch Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Music as a reward

You probably remember those long nights of studying; you tell yourself I’m going to study this subject till this time, and you think you’ve planned everything perfectly. However, you find yourself losing motivation and by the end of the session you’ve only done half of what you wanted. This is where the reward method comes in, you promise yourself a reward for the end of the study session, such as the latest episode of a show or eating that delicious Ice Cream. Well, this works with music too, research from 2019 suggests music can activate the same reward centres in your brain as other things you enjoy. Rewarding yourself with your favourite music can provide the motivation you need to study, so you can listen to all your favourite music during study breaks.

Memorization

According to a 2014 study, listening to classical music while not making you more intelligent seemed to help people perform better on memory and processing tasks. These findings also suggest certain types of music can help boost memorization abilities and other cognitive functions. Music helps stimulate your brain, similar to the way exercise helps stimulate your body. The more you exercise your muscles, the stronger they become and much in the same way this stimulation is like a cognitive workout for your brain.

Increase focus

According to a 2007 study from Stanford University School of Medicine, music specifically classical music, helps your brain absorb and interpret new information more easily. They also found that music can engage your brain in such a way that it can train you to pay better attention to events and more accurately predict outcomes. So, when you are studying if you struggle to make sense of new material, listening to music could make this process easier. You can also link the ability to make better predictions about events to reasoning skills. Improved reasoning abilities won’t help you pull answers out of thin air, but you may notice a difference in your ability to reason your way to these answers based on the information presented.

Other ways to use music for study

Music can also help reduce stress and promote a more positive mindset. Studies have shown that a good mood generally improves your learning outcomes. You’ll likely be more successful in your studies when you’re feeling good. Also, if you are musically inclined, you could consider writing a song based on what you are studying as our brain seems to process learning songs differently, making it easier to remember. For example, have you ever listened to a song you haven’t heard in a long time and out of nowhere you can just remember the words.

Here It Goes In Living Color GIF by Justin - Find & Share on GIPHY

Music to avoid

Whilst research suggests music may benefit your studies it may not always help:

  • If you listen to loud music with lyrics while trying to read or write it tends to be less efficient and you may come away not making the most of your study session.
  • Loud or agitated music can adversely affect reading comprehension and mood, making focus more difficult.
  • Some Students who use music to help them memorize may need to listen to music while taking the test in order to reap the benefits of this study method,

What could you listen to?

As we’ve discussed most research suggests music without lyrics is the most beneficial for study so when choosing music for studying here are some genres you could try.

  • Classical – Most classical music is mainly instrumental
  • Electronic Music – As long as it’s not really loud and has no lyrics
  • Ambient – A form of instrumental music that uses layers of sound rather than a structured musical beat or melody meaning it has less distractions.
  • World Music – Various kinds of ethnic, folk, and indigenous music from around the world even songs with lyrics might work as long as you don’t know the language.
  • Instrumental Jazz – If you stick to more mellow songs.
  • Instrumental and Atmospheric Rock – If they aren’t loud songs

How to listen to your music?

Most streaming services like Spotify have playlists designed for studying. Whilst you can listen to these for free on some services you can subscribe and get a student account with a discount (available on most streaming platforms) and you won’t get blaring adverts. Most streaming services like Apple Music or Amazon Music have similar playlists, or you can create your own. YouTube is probably the best free source for music although you may get some adverts. Here are a few study playlists you could try.

Spotify Playlist

Apple Music Playlist

Apple Music playlist

Amazon Music Playlist

YouTube Playlist:

This article was written by John Weightman, Digital Skills Intern