Living Knowledge blog

07 October 2019

Museum as Muck – improving working class representation in museums and galleries

I was proud to represent the British Library at the first Museum as Muck (a play on the term ‘common as muck’) Annual General Meeting last month, hosted by the network’s founder Michelle McGrath at the British Museum.

The AGM was a gathering of likeminded individuals who are thinking about working class representation in the museums and galleries workforce and the wider cultural sector.

On the train back to Yorkshire, where I’m based at the British Library’s site in Boston Spa, I thought about my own, accidental, journey into the cultural sector. In particular, all the things I wish I’d known before I applied for my post at the British Library and what it would be helpful to know when thinking about working with us, so here goes:

When I’m recruiting I don’t care:

  • Where you went to school
  • Which university you went to (if you went)
  • Who your parents are
  • Where you live
  • How old you are
  • If your auntie/dad/sister etc. works with us
  • What your gender identity is
  • What your sexual orientation is
  • What accent you have
  • If you have tattoos or piercings
  • If you identify as disabled – we can support you
  • If you have caring/childcare responsibilities – we can support you

What I do care about is that you will embody our values and strive to make the British Library the best institution of its kind in the world.

At the British Library we want everyone to show themselves in their best light and really shine when they apply for a role or come to interview with us.  These are some tips that I think will help you get the best out of your application:

When you fill in an application form:

  • Read the job profile and get a feel for what the job is – don’t rely solely on the job title
  • Find out more about the British Library and the team you would be working with – look at our website, read our blogs, read our Living Knowledge Strategy, check out our social media
  • Make sure you use real life examples of how you can/have demonstrated the requirements of the post
  • Speak to the recruiting manager – we always provide contact details of them for an informal chat about the role
  • Don’t use a generic application – tailor it to the vacancy you are applying for
  • Proof-read your application before hitting send

When you come to an interview:

  • Prepare – look at the job profile and minimum requirements and think about how you can provide examples on how you meet these, what attracted you to the role? Why do you want to work at the British Library?
  • If you’re not sure what the dress code is contact us
  • Expect to be interviewed by a panel of usually three people, and that they will take notes throughout the interview
  • Expect to be asked competency-based questions – these are questions where we will ask you to describe an example of a time when you…
  • Use the time in the interview to ask any questions about the role – we want you to be confident that we are the right employer for you
  • Use the opportunity to demonstrate through your examples how you embody our values
  • If you have any specific requirements, need a paper copy of the questions on the day, or have any access needs please let us know.  We will always try and find a way to accommodate requests
  • Most importantly be yourself – an interview is a two way process so now is a great opportunity to get a feel for whether we are the right organisation for you

If you do choose to join the British Library I hope you will feel welcomed and included and can see how we celebrate diversity in all its forms across our organisation.

We have staff networks for LGBTQ+, BAME, Disability and Gender and I manage a portfolio of work called Everyone Engaged where we are aiming to make the British Library an institution where everyone feels welcome.

We aim to celebrate diversity in all forms in our programming, through our staff networks and in all aspects of our work, in our most recent staff survey 82% of respondents said they feel proud to work with us, but we also recognise that there is still so much more that we can do.

If you are at an earlier stage in your career we welcome applications for work experience placements on both our sites in Yorkshire and London in early February each year and we have a fantastic apprenticeship programme which is open to everyone.

If you have any ideas on how we can be more inclusive or have any questions do get in touch via my email or on Twitter

You can find out more about the fantastic Museum as Muck on Twitter and Facebook.

Stephanie Robinson

Everyone Engaged Manager