Volunteer’s Voice: Sophie

This week is Volunteers’ Week and we are celebrating the wonderful work done by our volunteers and thanking them for all the hours and effort they put into making the museum the best it can possibly be.

To showcase our brilliant volunteers every day this week we will be posting across our MERL and Special Collections social media, including blogs written by the volunteers themselves about what they do, why they volunteer and why they love it. Today we have Sophie, who volunteers with the MERL and Special Collections library team.

Sophie and Wizard of OzSince November, I have been working with Library Assistant Helen on various different collections and learning a lot through her willingness to answer questions and also her confidence to let me have a go on my own. I have been learning about lots of the different stages of book processing and it’s great to be able to see the books through from delivery to shelf.

There is a wide range of collections here and, with my love of theology and literature, I have found much that is very interesting. For the last few weeks I have been downloading and updating records for the Wizard of Oz collection which we are trying to get ready quickly as it’s already in use! I didn’t know that there were so many versions of the Wizard of Oz, some cheaply made with slightly creepy illustrations and others with beautifully drawn imaginative illustration, some pop-up, some film-oriented, and aimed at all different ages.

The wonderful thing about volunteering in Special Collections is the sheer diversity in the subjects it is possible to work on. Far from the famous and popular Wizard of Oz, I have also spent some time with the obscure life’s work of Anders Retzius whose beautiful, carefully written and drawn leather-bound book would interest those with a very specific focus on ‘myxine glutinosa’, or ‘hagfish’.

One of the Librarians, Liz, has also been giving short lessons on various elements of librarianship, the most recent being on the history of paper which was fascinating and informative, especially for those of us who were unaware of the mysteries of, for example, watermarks. For me, preparing to begin a Graduate Traineeship in Librarianship, working in Reading University’s Special Collections has given me a good introduction to the many facets of a complex career.

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