I am now on the rota at the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service. This means I work alongside the other staff to assist the public with their queries. Being on the rota includes working in the office to answer emailed enquiries, conducting inductions for new customers, and working at the Explore the Past desk. I love these parts of my role: I have the opportunity to learn about what other people are researching, and to learn about all the different archives that we hold, to help customers find the treasure they are seeking.
Inductions give me an opportunity to learn about the specific needs of customers, what they are looking for and what they are researching. By listening carefully to their query I can point them towards the most useful documents. At the moment I find this tricky, as I am still learning about all the different records we hold. Just when I think I know it all someone asks about records I didn’t know we even had and I learning about something new. This week I learned that we have census records on microfilm to look up a particular address and acts of parliament from the eighteenth century. I also directed customers to parish registers, wills and newspapers on microfilm, showing them how to use the microfilm readers to view the documents.
Answering emailed enquiries is another great learning opportunity. When customers pay for a limited search I even get to do half an hour’s worth of research which is great fun. Its lovely to be able to help and it’s a great way to learn about all the records we hold by helping people to access them – with a lot of help from my very patient colleagues. It is especially nice when I am asked an easy question and I know I can answer it without having to ask anyone for help.
I also work behind the Explore the Past desk. This is the most visible part of my role. People come up to the desk with all sorts of library-related queries, and we deal with them all. We have many new users coming to use archives so I get involved in giving them inductions to help them find the documents they need, then take their order away to the strong rooms to find the box they want. This week we even helped a gentleman researching for the new Victoria County History for Gloucestershire. Finding things in the archives is like treasure hunting – rolling the shelf units around, getting out the steps and finding the right box. It is especially fun when I deliver the box to the customer and watch their eyes light up as they search through its contents.