My experience volunteering at the South Wales Miners Library so far…

Tucked away in the far reaches of the Hendrefoelan Student Village lies the South Wales Miner’s Library, by far underrated and overlooked by the many occupants of both the Village and Swansea University. I myself can be accused of ignorance when it comes to knowing the existence of this quaint hidden gem. The Miners Library offers a tranquil and peaceful working environment, with warm and welcoming staff always on hand to help you find a certain book or answer any queries you may have.

However, ignorance does not diminish the activity that occurs here, as the library hosts all kinds of enterprise, from modern language classes to other specialty courses (and even being used as a filming location by Sky Arts!), receiving a constant hive of attention, despite being off the main campus location.

img_20161128_114806789Being passionate about literature and a lover of all things History, I am in my element here and I have been able to experience life on the other side of the issue desk – something I used to only dream about! – learning and developing skills typical of a Librarian (as well as drinking lots of tea!). I think many people (including myself) underestimate all the hard work and effort our librarians do, and my time here has taught me to appreciate the work they put in and the niche organisation that is required in a library, as well as providing an escape from the busyness of university life.

Volunteering here, as a native Englishwoman, has also given me an insight into aspects of Welsh history I never really contemplated. Something I have been working on img_20161128_114753436includes organizing donations and archives in the SWML collections, managing material such as pamphlets, newspaper clippings, posters and leaflets associated with Co-op Societies in South Wales. It was especially interesting to see guides and rule books which dictated how members should act and directing how employees should be treated; in particular, what was required of a woman in the role of secretary!

Another part of the library I got to experience in my first semester here was a locked room, out of sight from the usual visitor. This room plays host to a wealth of literature, documents, posters and archived material, posters from old exhibitions and even old Halls of Residence signs from Clyne Gardens, where one of my friends parents used to live when she was at Swansea University! There was one room which housed thousands of antique books from Miner’s Institutions and private collections, and as soon as you opened the door the smell of aged paper hit you like a tidal wave. Such an extensive collection give you an insight into what topics and subjects interested the workers, and the majority of books were of a historical, political, or religious nature. I was able to gain an understanding of the importance of archiving for the storage and maintenance of books and old manuscripts, which is paramount to special collections such as these. It’s a shame all this material is hidden away and tucked out of sight because there isn’t enough space on the shelves – I could have stayed in there all day!

Thankfully, I am able to return to the library for the current semester to continue to wonder at the extensive materials stored here, and build upon my skills as a librarian. img_20161128_114850264_hdr

by Silke Davison, 3rd Year Classics student.