Volunteering with GWL’s archives

Jennie volunteered with us in 2012 and 2013 before moving away from Glasgow.  We’ve kept in touch and she recently reflected on her time volunteering with GWL…
Detail showing memorial notices from Josephine Butler Society archives
Detail showing memorial notices from Josephine Butler Society archives

Volunteering with GWL was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I came across the library while conducting research for my masters in gender history at the University of Edinburgh. They hold the collection of the Josephine Butler Society, who was a prominent feminist of the mid to late nineteenth century. It was an absolute windfall finding her materials so close to where I was studying and really helped me develop the ideas and arguments in my dissertation. The then archivist Hannah was so helpful and couldn’t do enough to get me the information I needed. In fact, Hannah and Laura, GWL’s other fabulous archivist, gave me the encouragement to pursue archiving as a career and apply to the University of Glasgow to do a master’s degree in Information Management and Preservation.

Living and studying in Glasgow allowed me to volunteer at the library with the help of Gabrielle, the Volunteer Co-ordinator. There was no limit on what I could do within the library as any help I could give was greatly appreciated by all within the team, something which I had never experienced before. Volunteers are key to the GWL experience. I was on the reception, I was taught how to use the various systems used to issue books, I was taught how to shelve books properly and given my own project in the archive to sort and put into order. This was incredibly valuable experience that no one else in my class had been given and, under the careful guidance of the current archivists Laura and Lindsay, gained an incredible insight into what the career of the archivist was actually like. I also had the freedom to examine collections that had not been properly catalogued yet and made available to the public. This was incredibly useful for my master’s dissertation for which I used GWL as a special case study. My working relationship with Laura and Lindsay made the whole process so much easier and helped me get a first on my dissertation.

I still refer back to the research I did in GWL as I am now doing a PhD at the University of Leicester. It is a comforting thought to know that my former colleagues in GWL are only an email or phone call away. I know I’m always welcome to come and see them or attend any of their events and, of course, ask if their archive holds anything that may be of relevance to my current research.

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