Meet The Staff: Ellen Coates Collections Librarian and Volunteer Coordinator

Meet The Staff: Ellen Coates Collections Librarian and Volunteer Coordinator

Ellen Coates

Hi I’m Ellen and I’m the Collections Librarian and Volunteer Coordinator here at the PMI. My background is in history, honours degree in medieval history, and I finished my Masters Degree in Information Studies in 2015. When I’m not working at the PMI I’m on a few library committees and I’m a writer and historian- I run an historical blog called Historical Ragbag which you can see here:

I started at the PMI in 2016 as a staff member, but I was a volunteer from 2013 to 2016 working in the archives while I studied and worked casually. It was a great experience as an introduction to the world of libraries and I was incredibly excited when I was offered the position of Collections Librarian in 2016.

Since I began at the PMI my role has changed and adapted, including picking up the role of Volunteer Coordinator at the start of this year. Like everyone else at the PMI I work across a lot of different areas, but the core of my role is coordinating what we order for the collection and what we do with it once it arrives, this includes cataloguing and indexing.

I can’t really describe a typical day because it is always changing. But it can cover everything from: front desk work, answering phones, helping members with research, trouble shooting technology, indexing, cataloguing, managing the volunteers, running the blog, writing volunteer and collection policy, interviewing volunteers, determining what books we want to order, finding where to order books from, ordering books, running our outreach program (which as well as the admin involves driving to Sale once a month), writing conference proposals, holding high teas, running the PMI Twitter account, handling reservations, writing blog posts, writing newsletter content, making decisions about cataloguing policy, helping with grant writing, liaising with the Friends of the PMI, helping with events, managing periodical box transition, writing talks, giving talks and moving things from one to do list to the next.

I am certainly not the only person working on all these areas and one of the delights of the PMI is how fluid it can be, as we all jump onto different projects and work together across many areas. We all work closely to bring about the best outcome for the PMI. The PMI was my first library job out of the Masters and I’ve learnt an amazing amount across a wide range of areas. It’s fantastic being part of a small close-knit team and the autonomy we have to try new things and see what works has been liberating. I really love my work at the PMI and it is a privilege to be in charge of a 165 year old collection and to have the chance to grow it, adapt it and take it into the future. I believe fundamentally in the importance of the work the PMI does in preserving and protecting the history of Victoria in all its facets and making it accessible, and I hope to continue to be part of taking the PMI into the future.