– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

Q&A: time, gentlemen, please

Q: Another good question from @RussWrites to #AskACurator: Do you get annoyed if people don’t want to leave the museum [or archive, or library] on time at the end of the day or is it a compliment?

A: I’m always glad to hear that researchers have had a good day, but it really is important to plan the day’s work, keep an eye on the time, and pack up promptly when advertised reader hours are coming to an end. I hate having to hurry people or sound like a jobsworth, but I’m not paid to stay late and I can’t just take time tomorrow or some other day, because other researchers will be turning up on time. I can’t very well take a hint from this post’s title and invest in a handbell – ridiculous for a room occupied by only a few people.

The fact is, many archives, and small and/or specialist libraries, only have one or perhaps two (or one and a half)  members of staff – who are trying to do a full day’s work of their own as well as invigilating and assisting researchers. There’s no leeway; there’s no faceless institutional system that automatically takes care of these things.  If a researcher stays ‘just another fifteen minutes’ to finish what he or she is doing, somebody is probably going to miss a train. Be aware that staff hours are often longer at both ends of the day than the advertised reader hours. Especially in small repositories, it comes down to individual courtesy.

P.S. Any researcher hoping for an enthusiastic audience is advised to avoid starting a detailed description of the day’s discoveries just before closing time! Archivists tend to love their work, and many put in unpaid hours to assist researchers and get the job done as they want it to be – but they don’t live there.

I shall finish what seems a rather negative post by saying that most researchers in person are efficient, courteous, interesting and a pleasure to work with!

P.P.S. Best response from the Twitter discussion from @Rupriikki: ‘Nice one! We are of course very flattered! (…And politely trying to go home at the same time.) They can revisit!’

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