Phoebe Harkins, Communications Co-ordinator, Wellcome Library

Phoebe Harkins, Communications Co-ordinator, Wellcome Library

Phoebe Harkins, Communications Co-ordinator, Wellcome Library


I’m Phoebe Harkins and I’m the Communications Co-ordinator at the Wellcome Library in London. Part of Wellcome Collection, we’re the free library for the incurably curious.  The first thing I’m going to say is that the Wellcome Library is an amazing place: come in and see us if you can. We’re one of the world’s major resources for the study of medical history, and we also offer a growing collection of material relating to contemporary medicine and biomedical science in society. We’re open to everyone with an interest our in collections. If you can’t visit in person, have a look at our website and blog.  There you go, shameless plug over.

How did I get here?

My first library job was at the University of Glasgow where I tried valiantly to learn everything I possibly could about libraries. It gave me a brilliant grounding in how this library stuff all fits together. Then I moved to the British Medical Association in London, Imperial College and then here to the Wellcome Library. My first degree is in history (a big chunk of it very handily medical history) and I did my PG at UCL Dept of Information Studies.

What do I do?

Last year I took on a new role and the ‘librarian’ bit fell off my job title, but my job is still all about the Library, its collections and our users. I plan and promote Library public events, including  ‘Medicine & Literature’ author talks  and  academic lectures. I work closely with our comms and marketing,  design and media teams, and I also work on audience engagement and social media. I still do a stint on the enquiry desk. It’s one of the most important and enjoyable bits of my job: I need to know our users, both online and in person and it’s also one of the best ways to discover more about our vast collections. You never know what the next reader is going to ask and given the breadth of our collections is could be absolutely anything.

Why am I tweeting?

Well I’m a huge fan of the concept of public libraries. I grew up in a house where we had to borrow books from the public library: there just wasn’t room to keep hold of very many given its size. But that never seemed a problem: I just nipped in and out of the local library maxing out my borrowing allocation. It seemed like a win-win situation: I got to read, listen to and watch an endless supply of brilliant things and the only problem was constantly underestimating how heavy my bag would be on the way home. This is still an issue. I couldn’t have got through school, uni and life in general without them. They’ve been a constant presence in my life since I was able to get a card for Glasgow’s libraries, and I visit my local library as often as I possibly can. In fact I’ll be going there after work this evening to pay the fine on my overdue books. Well, nobody’s perfect.

This week I’ll try to give you an idea of what my working life here at the Wellcome Library is like this week. We’re undergoing major development works over the next year or so , and it’s all rather hectic, but  hugely exciting.  I’ll also share some hopefully interesting things from the outside library world that I think you might be interested in.