National Libraries Day 2014 – Behind the Scenes at the Law Library

By | 7 February 2014

As it’s National Libraries Day on 8th February, I’m taking you for a quick tour behind the scenes at the Bodleian Law Library so that you can see some of the work we do when we’re not helping out in the reading rooms.

This is the Information Resources office. When new books and journals arrive, this is where they go first. There are around 500,000 books in the collection and we receive hundreds of new items every month, so there’s always plenty of work to do! We have six members of staff working in the main office, two of whom are from Official Papers, and three more in the corner office (they’re a little camera-shy though, so they’ve asked not to be in the pictures) :

We use library management software called Aleph to manage the records for all of these items. All of the Bodleian Libraries and a lot of the college libraries use it too. It’s like a giant database that contains all the important information about everything in the collection, from title and author to the size of the book, what it’s about and where it’s shelved.

Aleph is linked to SOLO, so that when we add a record for a new book it will show up on SOLO when you search for it, but in a much more user-friendly format. This is what the records look like when we’re working on them. We have to be careful when working on the coding of records, as one typo could stop it from showing up properly on SOLO :

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When new books arrive, they go to our Graduate Trainee to be stamped, security tagged  and given an initial record check. Books that we’ve bought will have short ‘order level’ records, while books we receive through legal deposit should be given a basic record by the Legal Deposit Agency up in Edinburgh before they get to us. The coloured slips in the books tell us how detailed the Agency’s record is, so we know how much work we’ll need to put in before it’s up to standard.

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The record for each book has to be checked carefully in order to make sure it meets the correct standard and contains all the right information to make it easy to find on the system. Some are quite straightforward, but others can take a long time to sort out! We receive quite a lot of non-English language material, which can be particularly tricky to catalogue.

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Once the records are finished, the books can be labelled with the appropriate shelfmark and sent up to Academic Services for a final label check before going out onto the shelves for you to use. This whole process can take a few days, depending on the volume of material we’ve received, but we make sure that books in high demand (e.g.  Law Reserve books) get high priority.

The serials team in the corner office deal with journals and looseleafs. Each one has to be registered on Aleph, stamped, tagged and given a shelfmark before it’s ready to go out on the shelves for you to read. They also make sure that complete runs of journal issues get sent away to the bindery on a regular basis so that individual parts don’t get lost.

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This is just a small snapshot of what librarians get up to behind the scenes. If you’d like to find out more, please leave your questions in the comments box below, or get in touch via facebook or twitter.

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