James Hodgkin: Library Services Manager
How long have you worked at the NHM?
What were you doing before you came here?
My first library job was at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) which was a fascinating mix of nationalities and subjects. That persuaded me to be a librarian so I got a qualification from Loughborough University. My job before NHM was at Oxford University, English Faculty Library. Oxford was a wonderful place to work and live, but I don’t remember getting paid very much. I guess you were privileged to work there and competition for jobs was huge.
What does your average day look like?
I don’t have average days anymore. Since I became a “manager”, anything can be thrown at me and the day job will be working on various projects. This is really interesting and pushes me to keep learning. It is not the usual museum library because of the quantity and quality of the NHM’s scientific research. We are undoubtedly playing catch up but the areas we are developing have far more in common with the university sector. I look after customer services and this also means our external users. We have been getting busier over the last 5 years which is great and it is fascinating to see the variety of visitors from all over the world coming to use our unique collections. We are regarded as a national collection as well as a local library supporting NHM research – this can be a tricky balance to maintain!
If you had to pick one favourite from the L&A collections what would it be?
I don’t really have much to do with the collections anymore which is a shame so all my favourites will come from my time as an Earth Sciences Librarian. I have a soft spot for William Buckland: a fascinating and slightly bonkers contradiction of a man whose work supported the theory of a biblical flood but was also quite ground breaking in hinting at modern developments in geology and palaeontology. Check out the background image on our twitter page – a beautiful fold-out from Geology and Mineralogy Considered with Reference to Natural Theology (1836).
Do you have a favourite place or object on display in the Museum?
Place = Top of the main staircase next to the Giant Sequoia. Object = I love some of the retro galleries like Human Biology. It was a totally different way of designing museum galleries (no specimens!). I think we are moving towards more science and collections on public display which is great. The Polar Bear is my favourite object – huge paws.
If you had to spend the rest of your life as an animal, what would it be and why?
A duck. I love being on or around rivers and canals, they can walk, swim and fly plus they are smart enough to be tame and get fed by humans. Am I also allowed to say they taste good?