THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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Experts and directors at the British Library blog about strategy, key projects and future plans Read more

04 October 2018

Collections in Verse – bringing exhibitions to life through poetry

Claire Stone is Senior Creative Producer at Poet in the City, an arts organisation bringing poetry to life beyond books. In celebration of National Poetry Day, we caught up with Claire and shine a spotlight on Collections in Verse, which aims to take British Library exhibitions across the country through poetry.

Claire Stone, Senior Creative Producer, Poet in the City
Claire Stone, Senior Creative Producer, Poet in the City

Can you tell us more about Collections in Verse and what inspired this project?

Collections in Verse is a collaboration between the British Library, Poet in the City and public libraries in Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Reading and Exeter – all part of the Living Knowledge Network – to explore a new approach to touring exhibitions using poetry.

The partnership started in response to a challenge – the British Library has fantastic exhibitions but these are limited in the places they can tour due to the high levels of care the objects require – so how can we increase the reach of this amazing content, so that it can be enjoyed by more people?

Poet in the City had been using poetry commissions as a way to open up and explore heritage with a modern audience, with partners such as St Paul’s Cathedral and the Culture Mile. We find that poetry is an excellent medium for opening conversations – and wanted to know whether we could tour the content from British Library exhibitions through words and stories, rather than objects.

So for our first pilot with Leeds Libraries, we have commissioned three phenomenal poets of Caribbean heritage, living and working in Leeds to respond to the Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land exhibition currently on at the British Library, and help us create new poetry and events that tell the legacy of Windrush in Leeds today.

We would love to hear more about these poets.

Khadijah Ibrahiim, Malika Booker and Vahni Capildeo each bring a unique and beautiful style and approach to their work, which is a joy to work with. For example, Khadijah Ibrahiim is a fantastic community organiser and activity for her local city of Leeds, championing poetry and Caribbean culture in all its forms. Malika Booker and Vahni Capildeo have both been the Douglas Caster Fellow for Poetry at the University of Leeds, and bring their fantastic creative minds to bear on this project.

Collections in Verse poets Khadijah Ibrahiim, Malika Booker and Vahni Capildeo at the British Library’s Poets Circle
Collections in Verse poets Khadijah Ibrahiim, Malika Booker and Vahni Capildeo at the British Library's Poets Circle in St Pancras

Their research for this project takes them into the impact of Windrush women on the textiles industry in Yorkshire; our understanding of ‘Journeys’ – the everyday movements and relocations that make up our lives, and our senses of home; and music as a form of social commentary, from hymns and folk songs to Soundsystem culture.


Collections in Verse poet Khadijah Ibrahiim reading ROOTS RUNNIN II from her collection Another Crossing, honouring her great grandmother Tamar McLaren.

Windrush is a living and breathing part of their heritage, and we couldn’t ask for three better poets to have on board for this project – it’s a pleasure to work with each of them, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with!


Collections in Verse poet Malika Booker reading SALTFISH from her collection Pepper Seed, inspired by her mother’s work as a nurse in the UK.

What's coming up next for Collections in Verse?

We have just completed our first wave of community engagement in Leeds, and over the next six months we will be developing an ambitious programme of events to celebrate the commissions, including a Leeds Central Library takeover and pop-up performances and installations at the branch libraries in March 2019.

Looking ahead we are looking forward to setting up the second year of Collections in Verse projects, with our library partners and poets in Sheffield and Newcastle – who are responding to upcoming exhibitions at the British Library such as Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War. We can’t wait to get started!

And just around the corner is our first sharing of our Leeds poets’ new material from their Windrush commissions at Ilkley Literature Festival on 10 October. We’re delighted to be sharing a platform with this fantastic festival of words in West Yorkshire.

How can people get involved in Collections in Verse?

Come to our events in Leeds! You can sign up to the Poet in the City mailing list to find out more about the project here; and we are always open to collaboration, so if you’d like to get in touch you are welcome to send me a message at claire@poetinthecity.co.uk to carry on the conversation.

It’s important that we shift the perception of public libraries as ‘static’ spaces for books only, to ‘live’ cultural spaces where you can make and experience new work. The libraries we are working with as part of the Living Knowledge Network are incredible and active services for their communities, and we want to help bring people closer to their local libraries, the British Library and to poetry. We hope the people who engage with this project will feel that public collections belong to and represent them. And if we can make libraries a home for live poetry along the way, all the better!

Content and Community Team

29 August 2018

Meet our apprentices in Boston Spa

IMG_9458_sq_peter_carr_photography

Here is another opportunity for you to hear from the British Library apprentices.  Following on from our previous post, Ruby and Joe share their experiences of working at the Library's Boston Spa site in West Yorkshire.

Although the journey may be drawing to a close for some of our current apprentices; we need to get ready to welcome a new batch of bright, ambitious people joining the programme for the next year.

If you feel inspired by the feedback given from our apprentices, don’t forget the applications are still open – you’ve got until 31 August to apply, don’t miss out on the chance to be in a role you love.

IMG_9350_sq_peter_carr_photographyAll photos by Pete Carr.

Ruby Garlick

Digitisation Team

Boston Spa, West Yorkshire 

Tell us a bit about what you were doing before applying for the apprenticeship?

I studied drama at 6th form college and discovered that it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I did feel a lot of pressure to go to university as all of my friends were talking about going. I was researching the different career routes and options available to me, and trying to discover what would be the best next step to take in terms of my career and what interests me.

How did you find out about British Library apprenticeships, and what motivated you to apply?

I found the apprenticeship advert whilst looking on the gov.uk website. I have always loved books and had wanted to visit the British Library down in London, so it instantly caught my eye. When I noticed the placement was only a few miles from my house I was amazed because I had never heard of, or seen, the Boston Spa site before. Straight away I began researching the Library and knew shortly thereafter that I had to apply because of how great of an opportunity it would be.

What is a highlight of your time working at the British Library?

Working for such a recognised organisation, and seeing all the different departments that play a part in the overall succession of the nation’s library from an inside perspective has been a valuable experience for me. The highlight of the apprenticeship for me has been being able to handle all of the rare and magnificent collection items, I never thought I would have access to such delicate and old manuscripts. I made a really good friend here too, who is also an apprentices, we spend a lot of time together which is nice.

What kind of challenges have you come across since starting the role?

Working with the digitisation equipment was a challenge. I hadn’t any experience with any machinery like it prior to starting my apprenticeship; understanding the software used and getting my head around the equipment took practice.

What’s next for you once you’ve completed the apprenticeship?

I am hoping to carry on to the next level course in business administration and continue with a career at the Library.

What tips would you give anyone thinking about applying for an apprenticeship?

Research the Library and get to know a bit about it before applying; this will help you in both your application and interview.

IMG_9437_peter_carr_photographyAll photos by Pete Carr.

Joe White

Technology

Boston Spa, West Yorkshire 

Tell us a bit about what you were doing before applying for the apprenticeship?

Before starting at the Library I was a supervisor for Speedo, the swimming company. I was originally planning to go to university and when I found out about this apprenticeship, I jumped at the chance. I had no huge pressure to go to university, some of my friends went but my closest friends chose not to.

What has it been like working at the Library?

My team is interesting and everyone is very nice, it’s great to work closely with other apprentices from different departments. I like working in an open plan office; it’s quite nice as everyone works together.

What is a highlight of your time working at the British Library?

My highlight has been building a survey from scratch, it’s been quite interesting and allowed me the chance to work with Jason and Ewan who are also apprentices in the team.

What’s next for you once you’ve completed the apprenticeship?

I would be interested in staying on at the Library to do a level 3 Apprenticeship in I.T.

What tips would you give anyone thinking about applying for an apprenticeship?

My tip would be to apply for everything you can to give yourself the best chances and the Library is a great place to work as you get lots of benefits such as flexible working hours. There is a social club which is very good as you can meet people from all over the Library.

Content and Community Team

 

24 August 2018

Meet our apprentices

The British Library’s apprenticeship scheme, which started in 2017, gives us the chance to help grow our business processes and shape how we interact with our users in the future, whilst also providing career enhancing opportunities to others.

Whether you’ve just left school or looking for a career change, we have something for you. There are numerous opportunities across our sites in St Pancras, London and Boston Spa, West Yorkshire with at least 30 hours paid work a week, plenty of training and study opportunities and the chance to learn from our experienced staff.

As our first intake of apprentices near their graduation, we caught up with them to find out what the journey has been like for them. Hear how each and every one of them has grown, not only their skills and knowledge, but their confidence too; it is amazing to see how far they have come as they’ve picked up new techniques and information through their experience working at the Library. Now, over to the apprentices…

Sophie
Learning Team, Adult Courses Programme
St Pancras, London

Sophie

How did you find out about British Library apprenticeships, and what motivated you to apply?

I was actually on the British Library website buying a ticket for the Harry Potter exhibition when I spotted the ‘jobs’ section I saw the listing for the apprenticeships and immediately jumped at the chance! The description had exactly the combination of work-based learning that I thought would most suit me. I decided I really wanted to go for the Adult Learning apprenticeship as I was interested in their adult courses – they’re incredibly varied but each one is linked to the Library, helping to create another level of engagement with the Library’s collections. The role also included elements of events and project management as well as customer service, making it possible for me to learn a whole range of new skills.

What has been a highlight of your time working at the British Library?

For me, it was working on the course programme during the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition. Seeing how the course tutors used the exhibition and the amazing manuscripts and other artefacts on display to help engage and inspire the attendees was brilliant, and I got to see the exhibition several times which was definitely a perk.

Sophie with her manager Katy who oversees the Library's Adult Learning programmeSophie with her manager Katy who oversees the Library's Adult Learning programme

What’s next for you once you’ve completed the apprenticeship?

I’ve just started a full-time, permanent job within the Library as the Business Support Officer for the Culture and Learning and Higher Education departments, so I’ll be continuing in that role. I would never have been able to apply for the post without the experience and knowledge the apprenticeship has given me.

Sheila 
Visitor Experience Team
St Pancras, London

Sheila

Tell us a bit about what you were doing before applying for the apprenticeship?

For almost 20 years, I was working as a College and University Library Assistant, in my home town. Before studying for my undergraduate degree, I had qualified as an NNEB Nursery Nurse.

What has it been like working at the Library?

For me, the experience has been very positive and life affirming. There has always been at least one person in every department, that has gone above and beyond their duty in supporting and helping me to achieve the skills I needed, to accomplish my various tasks. I’ve learnt how the different departments work with each other and how the organisation works as a whole. This is a privilege that many permanent staff have not had.

What kind of challenges have you come across since starting the role?

Having to master new procedures and processes all the time, means that I have had to hit the ground running and integrate into teams very quickly. Sometimes, I feel as if I am completely out of my comfort zone, until it all suddenly clicks into place and then that is very satisfying for me. Not only are there new teams to negotiate, but new technological systems to learn at an accelerated rate. Also, there are many diverse types of customers to service, with very different needs and expectations.

Sheila helping a visitor at the Information DeskSheila helping a visitor at the Information Desk

What’s next for you once you’ve completed the apprenticeship?

I am hoping to continue to work in the Heritage, Culture and Education fields within my home town again. Plans for a new Archive and Heritage Centre have been approved for the near future and I am already involved with fund raising activities for that project.

Content and Community Team