In response to reader feedback, we’re pleased to announce that we now have two portable DVD drives available for loan. History students may be particularly interested in using these to consult items from the HFL DVD collection. The devices are quick and easy to use, compatible with most operating systems, and can be issued for two days (plus one online renewal). Please let us know if you have any feedback – we’re always looking to improve access to our collections.
At the History Faculty Library, we’re very keen to create the best possible environment for learning and research.
So, to celebrate #DyslexiaAwarenessWeek2019 and the neurodiversity of our readers, here is a guide to our accessibility equipment and how it could help if you are dyslexic, experience visual stress, or have any other barriers to learning.
WHAT IS DYSLEXIA?
Dyslexia is diagnosed differently across the world and there are many different hypothesized causes. As it is currently understood in the UK, however, dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that exists on a continuum and frequently overlaps with other types of learning difficulties or disabilities. Professor Margaret J. Snowling, author of the newly published Dyslexia: A Very Short Introduction and president of St John’s College, defines dyslexia as ‘a problem with learning which primarily affects the development of reading accuracy and fluency and spelling skills’, though it can also cause problems with speech. It affects phonological awareness, verbal memory, and verbal processing speed.
Poor spelling, slow reading and writing speeds, confusing similar letters (like ‘b’ and ‘d’) or your left and right, along with visual stress (discussed below), are all well-known signs of dyslexia. Some of the lesser-known difficulties that affect students at university-level, however, involve more systemic differences in structural thinking. These can make organization and time management, writing and structuring essays, note taking, remembering the right words in tutorial discussions, and finding your way around Oxford University’s many libraries a challenge.
Yet dyslexic ways of thinking can equally result in brilliant insights, creativity, and excellent pattern recognition. Though dyslexia is a neurodevelopmental disorder, it has little to do with education or general intelligence, and affects people of all ages and abilities in diverse ways. A holistic approach and a fair amount of experimentation are therefore required to find out what helps to overcome these difficulties and for dyslexic students to reach their potential.
HOW CAN WE HELP?
Friendly librarians and library assistants are always on hand in the History Faculty Library and Bodleian Libraries to show you how things work, help with shelf-marks, retrieve books and find resources. There is no such thing as a silly question!
We also have a variety of accessibility equipment so you can access the resources you need to learn.
Who can use accessibility equipment?
Anyone! If you think you’ll find it helpful, you may use any of the equipment, no questions asked.
What’s available and where can I find it?
Here’s a list of what we have available and where to find it. The equipment can be used anywhere in the Radcliffe Camera or Gladstone Link as long as it’s returned to its original location when you’ve finished using it.
WHAT IS VISUAL STRESS?
‘Visual stress’, also known as Meares/Irens Syndrome, is a common symptom of dyslexia. Yet not everyone with dyslexia experiences visual stress, and many who do not have dyslexia, do. It’s also a symptom of a whole host of other associated learning difficulties, disabilities, and illnesses that include attention deficit disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders (ASD), headaches and migraines, and traumatic brain injuries. Visual stress is a perceptual processing disorder thought to be caused by the way some brains process certain frequencies of light.
What is it like?
Those of us with visual stress interpret regular black lines of text on a white page a bit differently, resulting in perceptual distortions. Serif fonts like Times New Roman make it worse, as do particular colours. When I look at a page of text, for example, it can seem like things are moving in the corners of my vision and white ‘rivers’ constantly emerge from the patterns between the words and lines. I know that these distortions ‘aren’t real’, but my brain interprets the neural data from my eyes in this peculiar way regardless. The same phenomenon occurs with other regular high-contrast patterns like narrow stripes. It reminds me of the way TV screens sometimes appear on film with flickering lines rolling across them. In all, the blurring, double vision, and glare from the white page caused by visual stress present an extra barrier to absorbing and understanding a text and can lead to poor comprehension, eye strain, fatigue, headaches and migraines. It can be particularly unbearable if you are already tired.
What helps? Colour!
Though visual stress does not cause the cognitive problems that you might face if you are dyslexic, relieving this symptom can help with fatigue and aid focus.
Coloured acetate sheets can dampen perceptual distortions by reducing the sharp contrast between the white of the page and black of the text. These transparent plastic sheets can be simply laid over the page you are reading. It is a myth that these ‘cure’ dyslexia, but lots of people report that they do alleviate visual stress. A range of colours are available upon request at the staff desk in the Lower Camera, so if you think these might help, don’t hesitate to ask.
The History Faculty Library also has a variety of coloured paper to use in the printers for the same reasons, as well as coloured reading rulers that help stop your eyes wandering from the line that you want to read. Both are available on request. If you are reading from a screen, try changing the background colour of the document or reducing the brightness and enlarging the size of the text.
Other Assistive Equipment
Brain ‘fog’, procrastination, poor focus, and fatigue are also common challenges for dyslexic readers, so it is important to minimise distractions, support good posture, and make studying as comfortable as possible. Ergonomic equipment is available in the Lower Camera and Upper Gladstone Link to focus your attention and keep you comfortable. The History Faculty Library has ergonomic chairs, foot stools, book stands, and height adjustable desks for standing or sitting.
Daylight lamps at these desks can help prevent eyestrain, and a magnifier is available on request for texts with tiny fonts or help if you are visually impaired.
Ear plugs are available to muffle distracting sounds and if you find these uncomfortable, try listening to white noise tracks on a loop. There are also quiet laptop-free areas on the Gallery in the Upper Camera.
How do I get further support?
More information about the History Faculty Library’s Services for Disabled readers can be found here. There are many more ways that the University can give support if you are dyslexic that are not discussed here, so if you haven’t already, head to the University’s Disability Advisory Service to find out more.
We would love to hear any thoughts or suggestions about how the History Faculty Library can support you, so come and talk to us in person or email us at email@example.com.
HFL Disability Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Radcliffe Camera Gladstone Link Disability Contact: email@example.com
LINKS AND RESOURCES
Margaret J. Snowling, Dyslexia: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).
Jim Rose, Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties (An independent report from Sir Jim Rose to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, June 2009).
British Dyslexia Association’s website.
University of Oxford’s History of Dyslexia Project.
Watch Professor Maggie Snowling’s British Academy lecture on ‘Dyslexia: An Impairment of Language Learning’.
 Sir Jim Rose’s independent review for the UK government in 2009 defined dyslexia using the best evidence and remediation practises. It is still widely accepted today. It is worth noting that a discrepancy between ‘IQ-reading skill and actual reading level’ is no longer accepted as a diagnostic-criteria for dyslexia. See Jim Rose, Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties (2009) <https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/14790/7/00659-2009DOM-EN_Redacted.pdf>.
 Margaret J. Snowling, Dyslexia: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2019), 1.
 Despite the widespread acceptance of coloured lenses as a treatment for dyslexia, there is little evidence that specifically tailored colours for each person are required to gain the calming benefit of coloured overlays. Nevertheless, Professor John Stein’s research suggests that blue and yellow overlays may be most helpful. Read about his research here.
With the end of Trinity Term fast approaching, readers are advised that vacation borrowing for the summer will commence on Wednesday 26th June. Please note, this is 9th week, due to the History of the British Isles assessment for 2nd year History undergraduates. From this date onwards, HFL borrowing limits will increase to 30 items (short loans inclusive), with a due date of Monday 14th October. Wishing you all the best of luck in the coming weeks!
From Monday 4th March you may start checking books out for the Easter vacation.
You can borrow up to 15 books but from Thursday 7th March the limit goes up to 20 including short loans.
Please return or renew your current loans by Wednesday 6th March and remember to pay your fines.
Vac loans must be returned by Monday of first week in Trinity Term (29th April). Please don’t leave them at home or you will be fined!
A little survey, a BIG result
Between 21 January – 18 February we are inviting all members of the University of Oxford and Bodleian Libraries cardholders to complete our short online reader survey. This enabled us to assess user satisfaction and expectations of our libraries, collections and library services.
The survey seeks feedback on a number of areas including the provision of information resources, the libraries as a space for study, how staff interact with readers, information skills and support, and overall satisfaction with library support for research, teaching and learning.
We are using a standardised survey tool (LibQual+) for our Reader Surveys, although it has been customised to make it relevant for Oxford. LibQual+ is used by over 1,200 academic libraries worldwide and therefore enables us to benchmark our performance against comparative institutions. Find out more about LibQUAL+.
Take the 10-minute Reader Survey here.
If you have any questions about the Reader Survey 2019, please look at our FAQs or email Frankie Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Survey is open from 21 January – 18 February 2019 – All completed entries can enter into a draw to win one of ten £50 Amazon vouchers!
At the Radcliffe Camera, we process deliveries of Bodleian books ordered from our offsite Book Storage Facility (BSF) every weekday. Library staff scan in hundreds of interesting-looking items, but sadly we don’t get chance to read many of them!
A Glossary of Rochdale-with-Rossendale Words & Phrases by Henry Cunliffe was recently called up. Hailing from these parts, this book was always going to grab my attention, and reading through the glossary of terms from the Greater Manchester of the late-Victorian period was very entertaining.
Though Cunliffe’s chief aim in compiling the glossary was to encourage the continued use of local dialects, it would seem that his fears about them fading have been realised – whilst I am from Heywood (next-door to Rochdale), there were a lot of terms in the book that I didn’t recognise. At least we have the glossary to remind us of the things we’re missing. Some personal favourites (which might be helpful in a library context…) are:
Flopper-mouth, n. A noisy, talkative person
Skitterwit, n. A hare-brained person
Cure, n. A curious person
Shive off, int. Begone
Quicksticks, n. An instant; a very short time
As in: if any flopper-mouths or skitterwits cause bother, they will be told to shive off quicksticks!
We do welcome cures, though, so if anyone has any questions about ordering Bodleian books up to the library (or indeed any other aspects of using our resources) do approach staff with your questions. A large proportion of our 13 million books are kept at the BSF in Swindon, so if you ever need to consult one of them you can easily place a hold request on SOLO (our library catalogue) with a view to reading the book the very next day. *Please note, unlike History Faculty Library books, BSF requests are reference-only.
Some honourable mentions:
Snowbones, n. Hard lumps of snow left in hollow places after the rest has melted
Fank, v. to indulge fancies of love
Shiftless, adj. Void of energy or motive power
Please note, all reading rooms in the Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera (including the Gladstone Link) will be closed from Saturday 25 August to Monday 27 August inclusive. If you find you’re missing us (or our resources), why not access our collections remotely? Remember to use your SSO (Single Sign-On).
Wishing you a happy Bank Holiday weekend!
From Monday 9th July to Friday 31st August 2018, the section of pavement in Catte Street on the south east corner of the Radcliffe Camera will be widened in order to improve the route to the building for readers who require level access.
Access to the Radcliffe Camera via the South Gate will be maintained during the majority of the project and alternative access arrangements will be advertised in advance if required.
Some disruption and noise will unfortunately be inevitable and the work has therefore been scheduled during the Long Vacation. The work will take place between 07:30-16:30hrs and where possible, exceptionally noisy work will be undertaken before library opening hours. Alternative seating is available in the Gladstone Link or the Old Library and we apologise for any inconvenience caused by these essential improvement works.
Please contact us with any questions or feedback at email@example.com
As students leave for their summer break, we thought it might be useful to give some tips on continuing your studies and research while away from Oxford.
Scans for courses (eSet Texts) are of course also still available on the HFL WebLearn site.
2. Using a university library near your home: Under the SCONUL Vacation Access scheme, you can use the university library near your home during that university’s vacation time. You won’t be able to borrow (just as students from other universities can’t borrow from Oxford), but you can use their printed collections. Access to databases will probably not be possible but it’s worth asking. You will need to prove you are a student at Oxford so make sure you have your University Card with you and possibly a letter from your tutor as a reference. The latter is always needed if you need to access archives. We strongly recommend that you check the library’s opening hours, admission rules, etc. in advance. Libraries often schedule building work in summer so save yourself a wasted trip by checking first!
3. Finding collections in other UK university and research libraries: search COPAC to locate collections in other UK libraries. It also includes the British Library. This is a really useful search tool. Depending on your subject, you may find specialist libraries (e.g. SOAS for Oriental, Asian and African history) particularly useful.
4. Entering the Ivory Tower: though often applied to Cambridge University Library, the British Library is infinitely more forbidding. However, staff are friendly and welcoming so I encourage students to consider using their fantastic collections. As well as being even bigger than the Bodleian, the BL has many excellent History databases which are not available in Oxford. Check out our blog post about using the BL, how to get a reader’s card and so on. The recommendation is to register early in the morning or take a(nother) book as queues can be long.
The HFL and RadCam will of course remain open throughout summer, excepting August Bank Holiday. Just get in touch if you need help. If you need specialist help on British & Western European history, please feel free to email the History Librarian, Isabel Holowaty. There are subject librarians for other areas also.
Have a really great summer and see you all back in October!
Vacation hours start on Monday 12 March as follows:
Monday to Friday 9:00 – 19:00
The library will be closed over the Easter weekend 30 March-02 April inclusive
The HFL wishes all our readers a Happy Easter and we look forward to seeing you all again next term!