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Charlotte Kelham, Collections Supervisor (Logistics), University of St Andrews Library

Category: Meet our Members

This blog is part of our Meet Our Members series, focusing on different CILIPS members and their careers.

My name is Charlotte, and I work as Collections Supervisor at the University of St Andrews Library. I’ve been in the role for five years now, and I really enjoy it. My average day has changed quite dramatically in the past five months, but before I began working from home due to Covid my work mostly involved dealing with the physical content of the library. I am part of quite a large team – there are eleven staff in the Collections team, though only three of us are full time. I work very closely with the Collections Manager, and with other teams across the rest of the library, especially Cataloguing and Academic Liaison.

A substantial amount of my role in the Collections team is supporting teaching and learning, ensuring that staff and students have access to the books and journals to meet their study and research needs. I use the library management system to get data about usage, and then use Excel in order to make decisions about loan periods, if we might need additional copies, or if a book could come off the open shelves and go into the store. The general collections have some real treasures, and one of the most enjoyable aspects of my role is curating displays, my favourite being “Don’t Judge a Book by its cover” – where the criteria was titles to make you laugh, and then think.

The ‘Logistics’ part of my role comes in with stock moves – be it transferring collections between buildings or moving low use stock from the open shelves to store to make room for additional study spaces. Moving several hundred metres of stock over the summer vacation in hot, dusty conditions is exhausting but results in a great sense of achievement. However, these were all small scale compared to the planned project transferring all the library’s lower use material from its closed stacks to a secondary library site as part of the university’s professional services relocation. For me it involved lots of tape measures (and cursing that shelves are not exactly 1m long), rationalising collections, weeding stock, and merging existing stores, as the existing store had grown somewhat organically in the past.

In St Andrews, the main way in which we weed our collections and create space for new material is through involvement in UKRR- a collaborative collections management policy that helps participating libraries reduce the shelf space required by low use print journals. One institution and the British Library hold a run in perpetuity and other institutions can weed their own holdings– see

Currently, my role is less about the paper and more about the digital, as I am supporting the Academic Liaison Librarians and the Reading List team with creating online reading lists for the new semester. I’m spending a lot of time with ebooks and e-journals, but I’m certain there is always going to be a place for print.

I started off in libraries by doing some summer holiday work experience at my local public library when I was a student, and never looked back. I was a Graduate Trainee in Nuffield College Oxford as part of the Bodleian Libraries Graduate Trainee Scheme, which was a great introduction to a career in librarianship, and then did my Library Masters at Sheffield in 2013. I’m currently working on my Chartership portfolio, and hope to get it completed by Christmas. Being a member of CILIP has been a great way of meeting people in other sectors, and introducing me to new ideas. My advice for people joining the profession would be flexible about where you go – I never expected to end up in Scotland, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve made for my career.

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