Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Behind the Scenes: Outreach and events

Our Behind the Scenes topic this month is cross-departmental, focusing on the outreach and events programme. Although many staff in the Library have duties that involve public-facing work, there are a handful who spend a large proportion of their time planning, managing and carrying out the organised outreach activities.

Tours, Insights talks, and Library Workshops are held on a regular basis at the Library, and these can be booked in advance. Ross Macfarlane (Research Officer) manages tours specifically centred around the Special Collections, and Danny Rees (Assistant Librarian) focuses on the library User Services tours. Strongly focused around our academic audiences, these tours are tailored to meet the interests of each tour group and to ensure that we are giving people a good sense of how the Library’s holdings and services are relevant to them.

Insights talks are managed by Eleanor Lanyon (Library Outreach Officer) currently on secondment to the Wellcome Trust Events Team. The Insights talks are held on a weekly basis (usually on a Thursday), focusing on specific topics relevant to the Library and its holdings such as “The Occult”, “Fascinating Faces” and “Madness”.

Workshops are held a couple times a week and provide a forum for our users to learn more about how to use the Library’s resources more efficiently, to highlight the services that we provide, and to provide more information on research topics. These are managed by Lalita Kaplish (Assistant Librarian) and draw on expertise across the Library staff. Examples include “Wellcome Images” and “Plants and Medicine” among others.

Library also runs one-off or annual events that are geared toward particular audiences and help to raise the profile of the Library in the History of Medicine world and beyond. Phoebe Harkins (Assistant Librarian) is involved in the planning of these including the Medicine in Literature series, where authors who have used the Library collections for their working talk about their research processes. Authors including Phillip Hoare and Mike Jay took part in the launch of the series last year, and Michelle Lovric will be presenting her latest work “The Book of Human Skin” (Bloomsbury 2010) in July.

In order to coordinate all these internal events, a committee including key staff as well as Tracy Tillotson (Library Administrator) meet on a weekly basis. This ensures that there is good cross-departmental communication on all aspects of the events, and assures a high level of quality and relevance for the Library’s users. Tracy is the hub of much of this activity, liaising with the Trust Events team to make sure that Library events are coordinated with the rest of Wellcome Collection and the wider Trust as appropriate.

The Library is not, however, limited to its own four walls – externally-located events are also part of its outreach agenda. Events such as the Midsummer Picnics, activities in schools around medical humanities, and others are planned and managed by Eleanor, targeting a more general audience and younger groups.

The Library’s holdings are also displayed for public consumption in exhibitions. Wellcome Collection exhibitions usually incorporate a number of items, and items are loaned to external museums, galleries and libraries. Rowan De Saulles (Library Exhibition Liaison), manages all aspects of these loans, and is currently working on material to be used in the “Skin” exhibition coming up in Wellcome Collection in June.

Although it is impossible in the space of a blog post to detail all the work that goes into the Library’s outreach activities, it can be seen that there is a dedicated programme, and staff with time dedicated to supporting, promoting and contributing to them. These events add great value to the service the Library provides to its users, allowing our holdings to be used and understood creatively, and leading to a broader and deeper understanding of the subject of the History of Medicine across a wide range of audiences.

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