This week sees the conclusion of our 5-week annual Summer Internship scheme, offered to an early career librarian or conservator depending on the project selected for completion by Magdalene Library staff. This year we ran a librarianship internship with the aim of completing the online cataloguing of the 20th century material in the Old Library. The library staff are pleased to report that we have fulfilled this aim, thanks to Laura Cagnazzo who is this year’s Old Library Intern. Laura has written a blog post for us about her time here:
‘The news to have been selected for the Summer Internship at Magdalene College Library came to me as an unexpected, and strongly desired, surprise. My five weeks in Cambridge passed so quickly, but they left with me a treasure of acquired knowledge and abilities, as well as fond memories of beautiful places and, above all, smart, kind and passionate people.
I decided that libraries were to be my professional choice during my academic studies in Italy, when I visited several institutions across the country for research purposes. A 50 pence coin, a limited edition dedicated to the 150th anniversary of public libraries, found on a pavement during my wanderings around London, became the reminder of my goal. Volunteering, work experience, and visits to various libraries made it clear to me that special collections and rare books especially attracted my interest. This is the reason why I made sure, once I saw the opportunity of this internship, I would try my best to grab it.
I am currently completing an MSc in Information & Library Studies at the University of Strathclyde, started last September with the aim of progressing my career in the information sector. The course provided me, along with many other things, cataloguing skills that proved useful for the project I have accomplished at Magdalene, focusing on adding bibliographic descriptions of the Old Library collections to the online catalogue. The majority of the books considered by this project were post-1850 works written by significant English authors, such as Arthur C. Benson and Charles Kingsley. Nonetheless, during my last week I had the honour of being introduced to the fascinating and intricate art of cataloguing rare books, including a wonderful, tiny 17th century edition of the Divine Comedy, by my illustrious compatriot Dante Alighieri. Despite general perceptions (or better, stereotypes), cataloguing is not a tedious, mechanic, repetitive task: it requires great attention to details and focus, and you never know what to expect when you open a book! Letters, (hard to decipher) inscriptions, photos, past librarians’ annotations: each volume contains a world of its own and has its own story to tell.
The visits to some of the numerous Cambridge libraries, kindly arranged for me by my lovely supervisor Catherine Sutherland, granted me the chance of a privileged ‘behind-the-scenes’ view of libraries services. I met brilliant and enthusiastic professionals, keen to share with me their expertise and ideas. I got to turn through the pages of wonderful 13th century manuscripts and was shown the VLE (‘Virtual Learning Environment’) in addition to other useful electronic resources available to the students. I was taken on tours to restricted-access areas and was shown the elaborate process of creating a metadata description for manuscripts. I also assisted with everyday library activities, such as book ordering or dealing with image requests. What struck me, in a very positive way, is the collaborative attitude of librarians, who are happy to share their knowledge rather than keep it to themselves, and seek for help when in need, knowing that someone will be glad to provide it. I believe that is the way to go for libraries, especially in a time when the swift technological turnover is challenging the ability of the information sector to stay relevant and up-to-date.
It was no doubt the best time of the year to enjoy Cambridge: it was very pleasant walking across the Fellows’ Garden and the College’s courtyards, admiring the meticulously maintained gardens in bloom, and observing the punters telling their (unlikely to be real!) stories to groups of surprised tourists, with the fresh summer breeze carrying around the sweet scent of lindens. I will bring back home with me affectionate memories of this experience, not only for the highly valuable learning outcomes which will assist my professional development, but also for the kindness and generosity of the people I met.
I seize this opportunity to express my warmest thanks to Dr. Jane Hughes, Ellie Swire, Tom Sykes, and a special one to Catherine Sutherland, for their support and advice. I wish best of luck to whoever will succeed me in this post which, undoubtedly, has been one of the best experiences of my life.’