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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

First impressions: working with the Wellcome Trust

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Good practice, Library workforce

Kevin McCallister gets off the plane in the film Home Alone 2 and realises he is in New York, introducing a great sequence with him wandering, awestruck, around Central Park, gazing up at the enormous buildings as if he cannot really believe that he is there. Apart from the fact that I got off a train at Kings Cross, and that I actually knew I was in London, that was just like me on my first morning: walking up Euston Road pulling a suitcase, like a little boy with a massive grin on his face.

Facade of the Wellcome Trust building Credit: Wellcome Library, Loncon. Wellcome Images Facade of the Wellcome Trust building in Euston, shot during the daytime. 08/11/2012 Facade of the Wellcome Trust building Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 4.0, see
Facade of the Wellcome Trust building
Photo credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

I am now just two weeks into my six month secondment at The Wellcome Trust in central London, and the grin is still here. My real job is “Acting Head of Libraries” for Wakefield Council, but here I’m working on behalf of The Society of Chief Librarians with the aim of exploring and scoping out commonalities between the public library Universal Offers and the objectives of Wellcome, with a view to proposing potential joint projects. It’s a broad brief that will also include a lot of professional development, and I’m very excited to have been given the opportunity.

The biggest big picture thing I’ve observed in my time here is the immense difference in the culture of the organisation relative to what I am familiar with – it isn’t better or worse, right or wrong: it’s just different. Very different. It’s difficult to describe in words; it’s more of a feeling. The air I’m breathing in is different, and I don’t think it’s the city smog.

In my experience of local authorities, every officer is very busy all of the time with too much to do to meet tight deadlines, and the perception is that you are doing more with less all the time. That can feel constricting. Here at Wellcome, everyone is busy too but somehow it’s a different kind of busy – a feeling that people working here have the space to breathe. People here (including me now – for I am one of them), rush from one meeting to the next, they have crammed Outlook calendars, but somehow seem to have time enough. I have yet to hear anyone complain about being too busy – something I heard daily and said it myself often enough in my “real” job. It is very refreshing.

So – what am I actually going to do? If I’m going from “A” to “B”, I’m at “A” now, and I know what “B” is supposed to look like in the end, I just don’t know right now exactly what the journey is going to look like. The practical outcome of the secondment, or “B”, is to produce a written report for SCL and Wellcome, to include costed proposals for projects that would support the strategic aims of Wellcome and public libraries.

I’ve been asked to write a regular blog post for the Taskforce during the next six months, so I will update you on my progress as I go. I’m also posting regularly on twitter as @LibrariandyW. I hope the rest of the journey will be as fun and inspiring as the first two weeks.

Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce

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