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New Voices Case Study by Debbie Martin

Category: New Voices, New Voices

This New Voices Case Study was written by new professional Debbie Martin, Archives Assistant at HarperCollins UK. If you would like to write for New Voices, please get in touch with

Photo provided by Debbie Martin

Hello, I’m Debs and I am an Archives Assistant at HarperCollins UK in Glasgow. Broadly speaking, my role is to help support the archivist in maintaining and developing the archive service provided by the company. In doing so, I contribute directly to the preservation of 200 years’ worth of literary history, helping to ensure its longevity. More specifically, my duties involve assisting with company and public enquiries, creating social media content and internal communications, and cataloguing the records of HarperCollins most recently acquired imprint, Egmont Children’s books. The Egmont collection is a particularly large-scale project which I have just started to catalogue, but I am already thoroughly enjoying the mix of records I am discovering as I make my way through the boxes.

How have I ended up in this career path? Well from a young age, I always knew I wanted a career that allowed me to work with history in some capacity. I have always been a prolific reader and enthusiastic about learning and information, so developing a career in archives seemed like a natural conclusion. Having already graduated with a History MA (hons) from the University of Glasgow, and knowing I would need further qualifications should I wish to pursue a career in archives, I returned to do the Masters in Information Management and Preservation, graduating in 2018.

My very first experience of working in archives was as a volunteer for Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives on a project with the local Harbour Board in 2017. It was an incredibly interesting project in which I helped with the box-listing, cleaning, digitisation, and repackaging of glass plate negatives and lantern slides, along with the cleaning and box listing of building plans. I also got to spend a couple of days in their search room where I was introduced to using CALM and assisted them with public enquiries. Being able to gain such practical experience, along with an understanding of how archives work, prior to the Masters course really helped confirm to me that I was on the right career path for myself. I volunteered one day a week with the archives, and it was always my favourite day of the week.

Further practical experience was gained during my two-week work placement at Glasgow University Archives as part of the Masters programme, and then following the end of the Masters I volunteered at Falkirk Archives for five months before ending up on a six-month internship at HarperCollins in 2019. I feel very fortunate to have had such a wide range of experience between university, council, and business archives, and would certainly recommend to anyone starting out in the profession to try and vary their work experiences where possible, as it may provide a clearer idea of personal preferences.

I think my main advice for anyone thinking about a career in the information management profession is not to be put off by coming from a completely different working background. I come from a retail background and know that I developed many invaluable skills, such as excellent team work, communication, organisational, and problem-solving skills, that can all be applied in an archival environment. My other advice would be to have patience. I knew I wanted to stay in Scotland to work, as I spend a lot of my free time hiking, however there are certainly more opportunities available if you are willing to travel further afield. It has taken me a while to find myself in this new position and I have followed what I believe to be a common trajectory experienced by many new professionals in this field – volunteer experience, followed by short term employment or project work, before finally securing something longer-term.

Although I am still a new professional, I have greatly enjoyed all the experiences I have had on my path here so far. I love that I get to see, hear, read, handle, catalogue, and preserve history on a regular basis. And I love that I never know what the day ahead will bring. I am excited to be at the start of what I hope to be a long career in this profession, and I hope to take advantage of any opportunities to help with my professional development along the way!

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