My name is Anna Kerr, and today I am writing about my experiences volunteering within the library at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. I have been volunteering at the Trust since November 2016, and during my time working here I have gained a variety of skills, as well as learning more about what library work entails. I have been taught how to label and shelve books, use library catalogues, navigate different classification systems, and create archival boxes, as well as how to handle and shelve rare books, pamphlets, costume designs, playbills, and more. I have learnt more about what the role of a librarian involves, a position about which I had known little before beginning my volunteer experience at the Trust.
Mareike, my supervisor, is not just responsible for making new acquisitions or cataloguing; she is also constantly looking for new ways to promote the collection and engage readers. For example, she has enlisted my help in researching topics for the Translating Shakespeare blog series, which has included various research projects ranging from Native American translations of Shakespeare to Estonian national holidays. During my time volunteering at the Trust, I have also had the opportunity to take the initiative on independent projects. Recently, I have been researching and translating the titles of books donated to the Trust by King Rama VI of Thailand, who first translated Shakespeare’s works into Thai. This, perhaps, has been my favourite aspect of library work; the chance to learn more about, and gain an insight into the lives and thinking of historical and literary figures. Interestingly enough, during my time working with this collection, I have learnt that King Rama had a dog called Jarlet, liked to draw caricatures, and enjoyed detective stories. I think out of all the books within the library collection, the King Rama books are probably my favourite because of the connection I have developed with them—I now feel as if I know King Rama quite well.
As a result of my time spent volunteering at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, I have recently found a position working as a Collections Assistant at the University of Warwick Library on a temporary reclassification project. I believe I have been successful in securing this position because of my time spent volunteering at the Trust, and in particular because of the help and training my supervisor Mareike has given me. I am really enjoying my experience working at the University of Warwick Library, largely because of the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of books that pass through my hands each month on many varying subjects, such as Jazz Music, Latin, Indian and African Literatures, Modern and Fine Art, and more. The variety and size of the collections are perhaps the two most striking differences between these two libraries. However, I believe that in the future, when I find my own position working as a qualified librarian, I would like it to be at a library similar to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s library: small, specialised, and with lots of history and character.
Find out more about volunteering at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.