Revelations from a three-month student placement

Hi there! My name is Ronja. I’m a library and information science student from Germany. As part of my studies, I got to spend the first three months of this year on a student placement at the Glasgow Women’s Library. That time went by so quickly! It’s been almost a month already since I’ve had to say goodbye to Glasgow and travel back home! So, it seems like it’s due time for me to take a moment to reflect on the experiences from my time spent at the GWL.

To make it short: Working at the GWL was full of revelations for me.

That might seem like a somewhat dramatic choice of words, but I’ve put a lot of thought into it and it definitely feels appropriate.

The revelations started coming pretty much immediately upon my arrival. Some felt more like a “librarian culture shock” at first. For example, finding out that the GWL’s lending library grows solely through book donations was rather baffling. Especially after sitting through a lot of seminars about acquisition strategies in my previous semester. It was incredibly fascinating to see such a different way of doing things in action.

Another revelation came through getting to know all the lovely people working at the GWL, be those regular members of staff, volunteers or fellow student interns. The GWL is of course much more than a “simple library”, but a part of me still expected to mostly meet other (aspiring) librarians and information scientists there. So, I was a bit surprised to meet such a myriad of people of all ages and with so many different personal and professional backgrounds. And everybody’s thoughts and contributions were getting valued and recognized in the same way. There really is nothing to lose and everything to gain from having a diverse and inclusive workspace. This sentiment can’t be repeated enough.

The most important revelation of all came through meeting the people visiting the GWL. Over the course of my studies in Germany I’ve heard a lot of talk and discussions about libraries being so-called “third places”, i.e., community spaces that are open to all, where people can spend time, relax and meet others free from outside pressures. For the longest time I’ve thought, that stuff sounds kind of nice and all, but it wasn’t the part of library work I was most interested in. I was more excited about working with books than working with people. (Yes, I’m not exactly a social butterfly.)

However, my time at the GWL has shown me what a public library can really mean to people, to a community, when the social parts of the library work get the proper attention. And it actually does feel pretty rewarding after all to help visitors out directly, to give them the GWL-typical warm welcome and to see them settle in and feel at home.

In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the GWL. I learned a whole lot and it has definitely impacted my outlook on libraries in general and on my future career prospects.

I’m endlessly grateful that I got to make these experiences, that all these people welcomed me with open arms.

And if there’s someone reading this who just found out about the Glasgow Women’s Library: definitely drop in for a visit or check out the ways to get involved! I can’t recommend it enough.

Cheers, Ronja x

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