MusiCB3: What has your road to librarianship been?
HS: My journey to librarianship has taken me to places from Essex to Zimbabwe! I used to be in and out of our public library in Upminster, Essex all the time as a child, and got a Saturday job there when I was 16. After my A levels, I applied to Loughborough University to study on their newly established Library and Information Studies degree course. It was the first year of the course, having been upgraded from a 2-year college diploma to a 3-year degree course, and I studied librarianship skills, a foreign language and a second subject for the first two years of the course – (this was in the pre-Internet days, and when computers were rare in libraries!). Because I was interested in working in medical libraries, I studied twice a week at Nottingham University with the medical students. This led to the bizarre situation of me being issued with a dissection kit (which I still have) and dissecting the human body in the medical school – fascinating! I also had the opportunity to do my work experience placement for two months in Zimbabwe, at the University Library of Zimbabwe and the Medical Library in Harare, which was a fabulous opportunity to travel and experience an emerging library profession.
Before working at the Pendlebury Library, where have you been?
HS: I’ve worked in a wide range of libraries, starting off in the medical library field in London, including a placement at St Thomas’ Hospital and my first full time job at the King’s Fund (a health policy charity). Following a move to East Anglia, I worked for Suffolk public libraries as a reference librarian firstly in Ipswich Library, then Bury St Edmunds Library. I then moved to Cambridge and worked for Cambridgeshire County Council as Local Government Librarian in a small specialist library in Shire Hall. Following redundancy from the council in 2007, I joined the University as Assistant Librarian at the Haddon Library of Archaeology & Anthropology, before moving to the Pendlebury Library of Music in January 2009.
What do you like most about the Pendlebury Library Music Collection?HS: The large collection of sheet music that we have. Although they are stored in boxes, and so the covers are not immediately on display, there is a wide range of music for study or performance, including (as I discovered last summer) the “34 National anthems : published [in 1943] in celebration of the Olympic Games” (Classmark: 881.X.N1)
Do you read any foreign languages?
HS: Not very well! I learnt French and German at school, but that was a long time ago, although I have been trying to brush up my French as we often go camping there. I also studied Russian at Loughborough University as part of my library degree – there was a choice of Chinese or Russian, as they were at the time the two countries with the highest publishing output. All classes were conducted in Russian by a visiting lecturer from Nottingham University, who taught us how to say “I don’t know”, so that we could answer all his questions in his mother tongue! It was very useful to learn the Cyrillic alphabet, but alas, without practice, I’ve forgotten a lot of it.
What do you like about working in Cambridge most?
HS: I love the history of the city and the fact that you can get everywhere by bike. It’s great being able to walk through King’s College at lunchtimes to get into town, and to appreciate such beautiful surroundings.
Best day at work?
HS: One when it’s busy and there’s lots going on. I enjoy the buzz in the Faculty when a lecture finishes and the students pour into the Pendlebury full of enthusiasm and questions.
Worst day at work?
HS: A couple of winter’s ago, on an icy morning, when I came off my bike on my way to work. When I arrived late, I discovered another member of staff had also come off her bike and was on her way to Addenbrookes Hospital – so spent my day in the Pendlebury nursing various sore bits and feeling sorry for myself!
What is/are your most favourite composer(s)/type(s) of musics?
HS: I don’t have a particular favourite – a major part of my job is cataloguing CDs for the Pendlebury and I can appreciate a wide range of music. I’ve become more interested in jazz, following a large legacy of Jazz recordings received at the library recently – the Julian Andrews Collection.
Where did you live before moving to the region?
HS: I’m an Essex girl, born and brought up in Upminster – at the end of the London Underground District line. When working in London, I lived near Wimbledon, which was great for going to the tennis after work. I then moved to Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk before moving to Cambridge in 1992.
What is/are your instrument(s)?
HS: I play the piano purely for pleasure (and not to a particularly high standard!) and have recently inherited a piano accordion, which I am attempting to teach myself – it’s like trying to pat your head and rub your tum at the same time – the co-ordination is the most difficult thing!
Any hidden talents?
HS: Not that I’m aware of!
Helen Snelling has been working at the Pendlebury Library of Music since 2009.