Five lessons I’ve learned from the Library

When I found out I had to do a week of work experience as part of sixth form, I wasn’t really looking forward to it.  Even though I was thinking about working in a library, and University of Warwick Library especially seemed interesting (not to mention convenient location-wise), I worried a lot about not knowing enough about the library to get anywhere or do anything. That fear was amplified by the fact that pretty soon, I’m going to be applying to unis, and I know absolutely nothing about them. If you’re reading this article, you might be in the same boat, so here are 5 key lessons I learnt at University of Warwick Library.

By Sam, our work-experience student.

Libraries. Are. BIG.

Some library bookshelves with books on
Image credit: jarmoluk

Okay, so maybe not all libraries, but University of Warwick Library is. There are books on basically everything, and anything that isn’t in the library is probably in the archives. What I didn’t expect was how much went into keeping on top of all that, and how many people are needed.

I thought that there were maybe only a few different jobs to do, all of which included stacking shelves and checking books out. I could not have been more wrong. There’s some overlap, but every person has a distinct role, and so much goes into the library that we take for granted. Cataloguing & collections, customer support & community engagement, resources & research- every single part of the library is designed to help students. Take advantage of that and use their knowledge!

The library connects to everything.

Lots of different coloured people counters on a piece of paper with lines connecting them
Image credit: geralt

In the (super unlikely) event that the answers you need aren’t in the library, the staff can still point you in the right direction to find them: if you talk to pretty much any library staff member, they’ll tell you where to go or who to talk to, which is a huge relief. Plus, the Academic Support Librarians work right alongside your professors & lecturers to sort out the resources you’ll need for your course!

For me, the thought of starting university has been more than a little terrifying, mostly because I thought I’d get lost all the time and have no idea where to go to find answers- usually I’d end up deciding to go live in a cave in the wilderness instead. One of the most valuable things I learnt during the week was that you can get information so easily if you just ask the library staff (and that going to uni is definitely better than living in a cave).

The library is more than just books.

A large number of different coloured post-it notes with handwritten messages on them
Image credit: Pexels

One of my major worries about going to university was (and sort of still is) how I’ll manage to balance studying, my mental health, and my social life. Luckily, the library is here for that too. It doesn’t just connect you to information; it can connect you to other students and help you care for your mental health.

I got to work with the awesome people in Community Engagement and Marketing, and they work so hard to get people into the library and working with other students. Pretty much every weekday, there are events like Mindfulness, Write Here Write Now, and tons of Study Happy workshops to get you active, working with other students, and in tune with your mental health.

PLEASE don’t put books back randomly on shelves.

a large bookshelf with books on
Image credit: AhmadArdity

I’m absolutely guilty of thinking that so long as I put the book back in the right general area it’ll be OK… right?

Yeah, not really. Working with the Collections team has made me realise just how important it is to follow the instructions on the signs or your Library Account. For one, the books have to be in the right places, or they’re basically lost until they get found on the next round of Collections (and again, the library is huge so that might take a while). For another, knowing what books have been taken out and how often is really helpful data for the Collections and Resources teams- knowing how popular a book or topic is means they know how much to order in, if anything has gone missing, and where they need to expand.

Putting the books where the Library says when you’re done helps the staff, and it helps you.

Library people want to help

Scrabble letters spelling out the word support
Image credit: Wokandapix

Working at a library or in the archives is seriously hard work. Depending on their job, staff members have to balance the different departments, legal requirements, organisation, data collection, financing, event planning, software, hardware, and more. It’s a huge job no matter what the specific title, but every single person who talked to me at the library or the archives is passionate about what they do, and works incredibly hard to make the library services accessible, helpful, and most importantly, student-centred. Every single person talked about how much they love their job and love helping students at every level of their degrees.

The most valuable lesson I learnt over the week is that everyone at the library does what they do because they want to help you– so take the help, and if in doubt, find a library.


What advice would you give to people currently applying to university? And if you’re applying, what else do you want to know? Leave a comment below, tweet us @warwicklibrary or email us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk

Header Image: geralt

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