In this August feature we meet Anastasia Kerameos, Serials Librarian at the British Film Institute (BFI), and member of the fascinating Magic Lantern Society…
How did you come to librarianship?
At school I loved the library with its wooden floors and shelves, the beautiful view of countryside out of its windows and of course the books themselves! My English teacher, acting as careers advisor, suggested a career in librarianship might suit me. To be honest, I hadn’t even considered that. I applied to study at the Polytechnic of North London (PNL) and, as they say, the rest is history.
Talk us through a typical day for you at work
My job is very varied, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. At different times of the day I could be working on donations, subscription renewals, cataloguing, future planning, stock relocation projects or, my least favourite, troubleshooting for our electronic resources. Each area requires different skills and solving problems keeps me happy! I also enjoy helping the public in the Reading Room, especially as you never know what you will be asked.
Tell us about an inspiring or surprising item in your collection
The library was fortunate enough to acquire a collection of books and catalogues relating to the pre-cinema period a few years back. Amongst these are lantern readings and a handful of lantern slides. These 19th-century readings were produced as an accompaniment to slide sets and hired out with them. They are very difficult to find these days and to have a whole collection of them is pretty rare. Funnily enough the slides we have in our collection, part of a Church Army series, have no accompanying text, but then the images speak for themselves. I would love to find out more about the artist who created them; T. Noyes Lewis.
Our pre-cinema collection is a fantastic research resource and, where the item’s condition allows, accessible on request but it sadly remains uncatalogued at present. It would be fantastic to collaborate with other collections matching slides to our readings and catalogues.
Image from Lucerna Magic Lantern Web Resource, www.slides.uni.trier.de/set/index.php?id=3005016. Accessed 1 July 2017.
Can you tell us about the Magic Lantern – how you found out about it, why you are interested in it, and what the Society does?
I knew nothing about the Magic Lantern prior to the library’s acquisition of the pre-cinema collection. However as soon as it came to my attention I fell in love with it and was determined to spread the word! The library had at some point previously been a member of The Magic Lantern Society. I renewed our membership and subscription to the Society’s journal, found myself going along to a meeting and joining the committee soon after that! Going to a magic lantern show helps you appreciate the experiences of past audiences and the artistry involved. The Magic Lantern Society helps to celebrate the past and create a future for the Magic Lantern.
What would be your dream acquisition?
Not exactly an acquisition but I would really like to be able to provide access to digitised (preferably freely accessible) copies of early film journals and trade journals such as the Hollywood Reporter, Kinematograph Weekly, Today’s Cinema, Picturegoer and Variety. The original print copies in our collection are beautiful and would remain accessible to researchers but when a researcher is pressed for time digital copies can make life a little bit easier.
One great tip for people starting out in librarianship?
Don’t underestimate the importance of formal study. The theory of librarianship is as important as the practice. Having invested time to it at the beginning of your career you then have the basis from which to shape the future of the profession through your work.
The best benefit about joining a society (e.g. library/special interest)?
Joining a society can give you the chance to meet fellow professionals and also, depending on how active you are, try out new experiences which you cannot in your own work. Any skills gained, whether chairing meetings or planning events, can then be added to your CV.
Alexandra Duncan, Central Saint Martins (UAL)