The Library Life of an Apprehensive Apprentice

What’s up? (Some delightful ceiling tiles; the clock; a fire exit sign… Sorry. Easily distracted.) Hello, I’m Nathan, the library apprentice at SWFT. If you’ve been into the library in the Education Centre at Warwick Hospital in the past year, chances are, you’ll have seen my face (hopefully friendly, but possibly petrified) poking up above the enquiry desk to the right of the door. My apprenticeship officially got underway in January and so far, fingers crossed, so good. Being completely new to both the NHS and the library sector, it’s been a steep learning curve. It’s easy to feel out of your depth in a Knowledge and Library Service when you have no knowledge!

I’m getting there. Despite what my favourite mug says (‘It’s too peopley outside’) this is a unique opportunity to meet and share knowledge, not to mention the occasional joke, with colleagues from absolutely every corner of the hospital, the wider Trust, and further afield, so I want to make the most of it and do the best job I can. Whether you’re new to the Trust and trying to complete your e-learning, or looking to find that one book or journal article that will finally get your research project into gear, I hope you know you can always ask in the library.

My typical day goes a little something like this. I pick up any books that have been returned or sent from other libraries, and check to see if any of our own books need to be posted out. While I’m out and about among the shelves, I check that they, and the desks and workstations, are tidy and safe, and that the clocks and printer are working. Back at the desk, I make sure that anyone who has registered for our services is checked and authorised, and that any article requests and other queries are dealt with. If it’s quiet at the desk, I’ll have time to do the background admin, such as processing new books so that they’re ready to lend out. I’ll also spend some time checking and posting to social media, helping plan library displays, or designing posters and other materials to raise awareness of the Knowledge and Library Service among staff and students. Of course, the heart of my job is to ensure that people are able to use library spaces and services to their full potential, so please don’t hesitate to let me know of any issues or little frustrations.

My apprenticeship is also giving me opportunities beyond the enquiry desk. Each week, I get a day working offsite. Not only does this give me some time to really get my head down and complete my written assignments, there are also fantastic opportunities to snoop behind the scenes at other organisations. I have shadowed in other types of libraries, records management and archives, which has even included a day at the British Motor Museum. As any apprentice worth their salt will tell you, it’s all about getting those ‘off-the-job hours’ under your belt, and I’m relishing these opportunities to spread my little apprentice wings and soar to new heights of ‘Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours’ (KSBs).

From these dizzying heights, I’m finally starting to get my bearings. As a team, we’ve been working to modernise and streamline our services. I’ve been involved in the roll-out of a new online tool for NHS library staff to track down journal articles more quickly (we even manage to do it legally…). I’ve been busy populating the shiny new West Midlands Evidence Repository with metadata entries, showcasing the amazing research that SWFT colleagues produce. At this point, I even have quite a good grasp of where to find the books (although, just like you, I’m slightly puzzled by quirks such as why Anatomy and Physiology get two separate classifications, as do Obstetrics and Gynaecology, while other entire disciplines, such as Anaesthesia and the Allied Health Professions, are awkwardly bundled into other sections. And I’m finally starting to grasp how a vast, sprawling, eclectic assortment of NHS roles and organisations somehow – miraculously? – tessellate to produce the well-oiled, national lifesaving machine we’re so proud of.

I’ll see you in the library.