Work experience at the Pendlebury – their story/our story

This is the second year that we have had Year 10 students from local schools for work experience at the Pendlebury Library. Catherine and Tom spent two busy weeks at the Faculty of Music: one part of their time they spent in the library, the other they supported the Faculty’s Music Outreach Officer in her activities.

Pendlebury Library: Shelves with unbound Music boxes (before the big move, July 2011) ; photographed by Clemens Gresser

We tried hard to give Catherine and Tom a variety of tasks to do, but also to give them a realistic view of professional life. Both learned how to issue and discharge items on the library’s stock management system, learned various processes to make library items ‘shelf-ready’, and gained an insight into how there can be a fair amount of physical work involved in libraries; I think both were surprised how tiring moving books, as opposed to just shelving items, can be.

One little project they started was to build on the work completed by Rachel Ambrose Evans on the Julian Andrews Collection. Catherine and Tom started labelling the LPs in the collection, so that it will be easier for us to find and fetch them for library users. Whereas this might sound like a dull task, it is work for which we often don’t find time during the year, and Catherine even commented on it by stating that it ‘was really enjoyable as I was able to sort through many albums produced by [the label] Jazz Legends, and the sheer size of the collection, in my opinion, was awe inspiring.’

Outreach: instruments made of junk

The other part of their two-week stint at the Faculty of Music included helping with outreach activities, masterminded by our Outreach Officer Ruth Hardie. These included a workshop for a visitting year 10 music class on the Faculty’s Javanese Gamelan, a collection of instruments which belongs to the Faculty. Catherine found that these two sides of work at the Faculty ‘really gave me a great understanding of how dynamic university life’ and ‘studying at Cambridge University’ can be.

Another interesting experience was a visit to a local school for students with special educational needs. Catherine and Tom helped Ruth to run a workshop there. Tom found this to be the ‘highlight of our two weeks’; he describes what happened:

we taught the pupils to make various instruments out of bottles, string, cardboard and many other waste objects. We later helped them to perform in the style of “Stomp”, using the instruments they had made, and other equipment such as chairs and newspapers. This was a great insight into how workshops like this are run and what is important to make it happen.

Both our work experience students also provided assistance to the Music Faculty’s offerings as part of the University’s Open Days. Catherine, who told us that she is considering studying music, remarked that:

the open days for the Faculty […] proved to be very useful as it allowed me to gain knowledge of not only the University of Cambridge’s course, but a little bit about what can be expected at music degree level elsewhere.

If you are a local student looking for work experience, please contact us to discuss this informally. The only disclaimer we must make: we cannot take two students from the same school at the same time, and there are times of the year when we cannot accommodate any temporary co-workers. But we would be happy to consider having you as work experience students at our library!



About Clemens Gresser

Between August 2010 and September 2021 I worked as a librarian at the University of Cambridge (Cambridge, UK); the last six years of that time I was at the Faculty of Divinity Library. Between August 2010 and November 2013 I was the Deputy Head of Music at Cambridge University Library and at the Pendlebury Library of Music. Between December 2013 and September 2015 I was the Librarian at the Marshall Library of Economics. Since September 2021 I have been the Heythrop Librarian at the London Jesuit Centre.
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