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Volunteering 'Behind the Scenes'

Discover more about what it's like working as a 'behind the scenes' volunteer at SBT.

Emma Birks

Do you want to discover how to look after our collections with the conservation team? Ever wondered what sorts of fascinating books we have in our library and how it is run? How about finding out about our Access Project and see how you can be involved in shaping the visitor offer?   

Here at the Trust, we have a wealth of volunteering opportunities available. Read below to discover why Reuben Grace, a Library Volunteer, loves heading down to the strong rooms and handling rare books.

​Summer library volunteering - Reuben Grace

Over the summer I have been volunteering in the Library at the Shakespeare Centre, finding and re-shelving books and adding to the online catalogue. It has been great to find out more about how the library works. I have just graduated with a History degree from Exeter University, so I’ve had a lot of experience of using libraries, but it’s great to see what goes on ‘behind the scenes’!

Mostly I’ve been finding and re-shelving books in the Reading Room or in the strong rooms. I was surprised at the size and variety of the library collections here – from Shakespeare’s works to local history. I’ve been able to see and handle some great books, including some translations of Shakespeare commissioned by foreign kings and presented to the Queen as a gift! The library collection is huge – today I have been moving books around in one of the strong rooms to try and make more space for all the foreign language editions of Shakespeare’s works we have.

The library also has a huge collection of periodicals (over 200 titles) which needed to be added to the online catalogue. This work has been quite interesting as the collection covers all kinds of titles from scholarly journals on Renaissance theatre to a local magazine that was entitled ‘the snail’ at one time! The online catalogue makes the library’s fantastic collections much more accessible.

The work hasn’t been too onerous – there has been plenty of time for tea breaks and (very occasionally) cake! Working in the strong rooms has also been fun – with the big heavy doors it feels rather like going into a bank vault! Finding early printed books for readers is particularly interesting as the books are so old. It’s a great feeling to know that my work helps readers with their research, especially as I was so recently in their position!

We have lots of opportunities for volunteering in roles like Reuben's, including Conservation Volunteers, Library Volunteers and Access Volunteers.

Take a look at our Volunteering Opportunities and contact [email protected] to find out more​ about how you can get involved too!