Farewell from the 2020-21 trainees!

We, the 2020-21 trainees, know what you’ve all been wondering. Where did we go?! We admit, it’s been radio silence on the blog for a while, but it’s been a very strange year. After another winter lockdown which saw some of us working from home, some of us still working in libraries (many of which once again had to close their doors to readers) and only some of us in Oxford, things became a little more normalised in Trinity term. Unfortunately we were unable to hold our Trainee Showcase in person and held it on Teams instead, but it was still great to see what everyone had been up to this year. Below are several summaries, provided by trainees, of their presentations and projects. This is our final (belated!) blog post, and we’d like to take this opportunity to wish the new 2021-22 cohort of trainees the very best of luck – we hope you have a wonderful year!

 

 

Kick Stools, Queries & Other Quirks: A Year at the EFL

Katie Allen, English Faculty Library 

 

The EFL in glorious profile

 

Working as part of a small team at the English Faculty Library has meant that my role as a trainee this year has been varied and busy, despite the fact that the library was closed to readers (except for Click & Collect pickups) during Hilary term. I’ve processed new acquisitionshunted for missing books, been part of group efforts to wrangle Perspex screens into place, made a library tour video for the English Faculty outreach programmeconducted kick stool safety inspections, eaten many a doughnut from the Missing Bean Café… It was hard to focus in on one topic to talk about for my presentationso instead put together a list of the top ten quirkiest things I’d encountered while working at the EFL and used the list as a springboard to talk about my experiences this year.  

 

The EFL’s beloved mascot, Bill Shakespeare

 

 

 

Shakes, Breaks and Retakes: The Making of a Law Library Tour 

Ella Burrows, Law Library

 

The title slide from the PowerPoint presentation

 

Earlier this year, Naomi, the other Law Library trainee, and me were asked to make a video tour of the Law Library so that prospective trainees could get a feel for the space (they were not able to visit in person during their interviews because of the pandemic).

My presentation focused on the process of creating this tour, all the way from our initial planning through to uploading the tour on to YouTube. Along the way, I touched on the difficulties of filming, and having to re-shoot the video when the angles didn’t quite work; how we decided upon OpenShot, the free open-source software I used to edit the video, and the lengthy editing process that followed; and the advantages of YouTube as a platform to share content, particularly in terms of accessibility features such as closed captions and timestamps. To keep the talk interesting, I included some videos of my editing practice and clips from the original recording versus the re-shoot.

 

The title screen of the video tour, with pictures of the Library and the text: ‘Bodleian Law Library: An introductory tour’

 

I finished with a summary of the lessons learned from the project – we could have improved the sound quality, and a test shoot might have made our lives a bit easier. Overall, it was great to learn some new filming and editing skills, and several prospective trainees commented that the video had been very helpful, so it was definitely a worthwhile project – and the presentation went down well too!

 

 

 

Ethical Classification in St John’s College Library & Study Centre

Simone Gaddes, St John’s College Library

 

My project focused on the implementation of ethical classification within the St John’s College Library & Study Centre’s in-house classification system. I began developing this project when I was processing and classifying books for the new Diversity and Equality Collection, and I realised that many of the topics covered by texts in this collection were difficult to fit into the classification system. For example, the collection features several texts about Britain’s involvement in the slave trade, however the only classmark for slavery came under ‘North American History’. The Diversity and Equality Collection was formed as part of a wider movement across Oxford University to make the university and colleges more inclusive places to study. The collection seeks to amend the historical gaps within the library’s holdings, to ensure that the library represents the diverse community at St John’s College. In light of these motivations behind the collection, I felt it was necessary to alter the library’s in-house classification system through a diversity aware lens.

After submitting a proposal to my line manager, I conducted research to inform my approach. I was interested to find that most classification systems used in the UK, including at St John’s, are informed by western perspectives. Classification systems can appear to be neutral to the outside eye, but classmarks affect how information is presented to and accessed by readers. As a result, certain topics have been overshadowed or hidden within classmarks that do not represent them. During this research, I came across the term ‘ethical classification’, which seeks to enable librarians to make changes to classification systems and feel as though they are doing ‘the right thing’. The goal of ethical classification is the ethical and responsible management of classification systems that represent the diverse and multi-cultural society of today. Using this definition as guidance, I revised the library’s Modern History Classification scheme by looking at the 6446 texts in this section and subsequently altered existing classmarks and introduced new ones. To assist in the continuation of ethical classification at St John’s, I produced a guidance document to inform future reclassification projects.

 

 

 

Law Library Carrels: a User Feedback Survey

Naomi Hart, Law Library

 

The Law Library opened up sixteen of its carrels (study cubicles) to walk-ins during the pandemic, prior to which the majority of the carrels were either reserved to named individuals or had to be booked in advance. In future more “normal” times, the Law Library wanted to know whether to revert to that previous system or introduce something new, i.e. maintaining an increased number of walk-in carrels. The carrels feedback survey gathered information from readers to help inform this decision-making.

My trainee presentation described the purpose behind the survey, timeline and process of creating it, a report of the results to each question (overwhelmingly in favour of opening up the carrels), challenges faced and lessons learned for the future. The presentation ended by sharing some of the lovely comments readers wrote on their forms. Some favourite quotations: “the carrel openness has been glorious in the past few months”; “it’s very nice to feel like I have an ‘office’ to come to work in outside my room”; “they have been an absolute boon in this pandemic.”

 

Slide from the PowerPoint presentation

 

 

 

Shakespearean ekphrasis in New College, MS 367: One manuscript and its story

Anna-Nadine Pike, New College Library

 

I have been the Library Trainee in New College Library this year, and the clear highlight of my role has been the opportunities to work closely with the Library’s remarkable Special Collections, which consists of over four hundred manuscripts, eight hundred incunabula, and several thousands of early printed books. I was keen to use my trainee project as a chance to examine one of the Library’s lesser-known manuscripts in more detail, calling it to light for a wider audience. Although the stars of our Special Collections are very well known, often appearing on websites, communications, social media, and even postcards, many of our manuscripts have not yet had their time in the limelight. This might be because we don’t yet have a complete English manuscripts catalogue; the last full catalogue was completed by Henry Coxe in 1852, in Latin, which is not only quite inaccessible if you don’t happen to know Latin, but is also over 150 years out of date. In fact, the manuscript which I chose to look at, MS 367, has never been catalogued, having only been acquired by New College late in the twentieth century. MS 367 is a presentation manuscript containing a unique and previously unknown poem entitled ‘The Visions of William Collins’, written in 1792 by the poet and playwright, Thomas Powell (1735-1820). Both poem and manuscript mark the publication of a new edition of Shakespeare’s works which had been overseen by Sir John Boydell (1719-1804), printmaker, engraver, and curator of the London Shakespeare Gallery. Boydell wanted to establish what he called the ‘English School of Historical Painting’, and he turned to the works of Shakespeare for his subject matter. Boydell’s own edition of Shakespeare’s plays forms just one aspect of his larger project; he commissioned well-known artists to paint scenes from Shakespeare’s dramas, which would all be exhibited in his Shakespeare Gallery, which was established in an exhibition space in Pall Mall, London, standing there from 1789 to 1805. In time, these paintings were turned into engravings, which were bound and sold, and Boydell’s own edition of Shakespeare’s plays was illustrated with smaller versions of these same engravings.

 

MS 367, a presentation manuscript containing a unique and previously unknown poem, ‘The Visions of William Collins’

 

The focus of my project was, firstly, researching and understanding the contexts for this manuscript’s production, and its wider literary significance. I then presented my findings in a variety of formats, mindful of their different audiences. I got involved with the Taylor Digital Editions project to make the text of the manuscript available online, which felt worthwhile as Powell’s poem, the manuscript itself declares, has never been printed, and seems to survive uniquely in the New College copy. I also made and edited a short film about this manuscript, which I hope will be part of a wider video series which the Library can continue to produce. This was a useful learning curve, as I did not have previous experience with video editing, but the Deputy Librarian and I have since filmed two additional manuscript videos, and our series will launch on our website and social media in Michaelmas 2021. Finally, I also wrote a scholarly article about MS 367 which was recently published in New College Notes, the Library’s journal. The article included my transcription of Powell’s poem, together with a detailed exploration of its literary and cultural contexts. I researched the life of the poet William Collins, Powell’s protagonist, who had himself been a student at Winchester College and intended for New College in 1740. I also considered how far the individual stanzas of Powell’s poem, each of which describes a scene or moment from one of Shakespeare’s plays, related to a painting which hung in Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery in 1792, the year of the manuscript’s composition. Through access to the Weston Library’s Special Collections, I set MS 367 alongside the catalogues printed to accompany Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery, and against the early editions of Boydell’s illustrative Shakespearean prints. I used this to argue that MS 367 works almost as a microcosmic, textual version of Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery; its stanzas are ekphrastic, offering written counterparts to the paintings which Boydell commissioned, and which also illustrated his edition of Shakespeare.

I am glad that the trainee project afforded the opportunity to look at this manuscript, and it was encouraging to see what new work can be done with our Collections items. I am now looking forward to a further year working in New College Library as their Curatorial Assistant, and hope that I can continue some of the research and work which this project inspired.

My New College Notes article: https://www.new.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2021-07/15NCN11%20%282021%29%20Pike%20on%20MS%20367.pdf

The full journal issue of New College Notes: https://www.new.ox.ac.uk/new-college-notes?page=0

 

Still from the manuscript video

 

 

Welcome to our new trainees!

Our new 2021/22 trainees joined us on the 1st September and we have 13 trainees this year in total. We have 8 trainees based in our Bodleian Libraries, and 5 trainees based in our colleges. Last year was very different for our trainees due to the pandemic and so we are hoping normality will return for this year’s trainees. We held the Welcome session in person, albeit socially distanced and in masks, but it was great to meet everyone. We may still have to occasionally do sessions and work online, but the plan is for our trainees to be in our libraries helping our readers.

Our trainees will be introducing themselves on the trainee blog over the next week or two, so do follow their progress throughout the year. We wish them a happy and successful year with us in Oxford!

Library Provision During a Pandemic: A Day in the Life at Christ Church (Michaelmas 2020)

8am: Arrive at the library and wash my hands! Since we are a lending library (unlike the Law Library and Old Bodleian), I come in an hour before we open so I can shelve the previous day’s returns and start gathering Click and Collect requests before the students arrive. This is because our bookshelves are in close proximity to the study desks, and it becomes much more difficult to navigate around students for books while maintaining a 2m distance once it starts filling up.

The previous night’s library clerk will hopefully have arranged the books on our returns trolley in sequential order so I just have to run them back in through the self-issue machine. This is the first substantial adjustment we’ve had to introduce because of the virus – instead of returning books themselves, readers must leave their loans with us to be quarantined overnight before I return them the following morning. I then separate the returns according to their location (e.g. East or West Library, Upper Library or the Orangery). At this point, I usually log into the library inbox, open the Aleph report for Click and Collect requests, organise the shelfmarks to my liking and then print them out so that I can collect students’ requests and re-shelve returns simultaneously.

While moving around the library to shelve, I’ll also complete any outstanding tasks as I encounter them, for instance replacing the daily track and trace form, checking that the Upper Library is unlocked and de-alarmed for student arrivals at 9, and removing any student belongings that have been left overnight.

 

9-10.30: Once I’ve fetched the day’s first batch of Click and Collect requests, I spend the morning at the enquiry desk. Students start filing in from 9 and I answer any questions they may have while issuing out their requests and notifying each reader via email that their loans are ready for collection – a lengthy process, and one that is unique to pandemic times. I also remove any uncollected requests from previous days (we retain books for 24 hours only) and make a note of repeat offenders so I can see if they need another nudge, or extra assistance with getting books – occasionally these have not been collected because the student in question is self-isolating.

Then I’ll work through our inbox and answer emails, making note of quarantine deliveries and chapter scan requests. Our wonderful senior library assistant and the colleague I work with most closely, Georgie, will also check in with me to see what our plan for the day is, and leave book post with me to unwrap and print invoices for the new arrivals.

 

10.30-11: Coffee break!

 

11-12: Back on the enquiry desk, I spend this time processing and issuing out new books that have been recommended for purchase by students. We are fortunate to have a generous book budget so there is always a huge pile of books in various stages of processing that need covering, adding to Aleph and so forth.

Students can also request books they need by simply coming to the enquiry desk and asking, so I usually spend some time fetching and loaning out books on demand. This feels more personal than the Click and Collect service and sometimes leads to interesting conversations about students’ research. I believe that I have gotten to know our students more quickly and comprehensively this year than I otherwise would have since I’m now (perhaps to their chagrin) an intermediary figure between them and their reading.

If it is a quiet morning, I also do a little work on our reclassification project. We are moving towards Library of Congress, however a significant amount of our collections are still classified via our Roman numerals in-house system. I’ll grab 20 or so books from the Classics section (currently IX), switch them over to LoC on Aleph, print new shelfmark labels and shift them over to their new home in the PA’s in the West library.

 

12-1: Lunch! The librarians at colleges get free lunch and I take full advantage of this. We are big fans of the bread rolls.

 

1-2: More enquiry desk, more processing, more emails.

 

2-3.15: Georgie takes over the desk, so I am free to complete my tasks outside the library building. Throughout Michaelmas, my afternoons were dedicated to following through on delivering books to self-isolating students – mostly within college grounds, although I have also cycled to an accommodation site in Cowley for a book delivery. I’ll also swing by the lodge for more parcels, boxes and post, and fetch the more obscure books (usually requested by fellows) from our off-site locations.

 

3.15-4: The second Click and Collect report arrives, so I do another round of fetching and issuing books. Georgie and I might brainstorm a tweet for the library account, I’ll spend several minutes lamenting that we don’t have library cats like St. Hugh’s (the cornerstone of any truly decent social media presence), and finish my work day at 4pm.

Library and Information Studies MA – courses, funding, links and interesting things to research further !

Many of us on the Bodleian Libraries traineeship may be considering undertaking the MA or PG Diploma in Library and Information Studies at some point in the future. I hope that this article will be interesting and useful for the current cohort, as well as any future trainees who may be reading this (or anyone engaged in a relentless Google search regarding doing a Library Masters, or related, course).

The first thing to consider is which institutions in the UK actually offer the MA degree. The main ones are: 

In England:

In Wales: 

In Scotland:

All of the above are accredited by the UK’s Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

There are also other courses which have a focus on different aspects of librarianship: for example, Library and Information Management at Manchester Metropolitan University has a specialist option unit focusing on Health Librarianship, “devised in conjunction with the NHS Library and Knowledge Services North to address a specific industry need for more library and information professionals in this sector.”

I found this quite interesting because it allows you to consider how dynamic different aspects of librarianship can be outside of the academic and public spheres:

https://www.cilip.org.uk/news/436963/Career-Challenges-starting-in-Health-Care-Librarianship.htm

 

Some other slightly more unconventional programmes of study that might also be of interest:

The Institute of English Studies (part of the School of Advanced Study, itself a postgraduate wing of the University of London) offers an MA/MRes in the History of the Book. It’s specifically geared towards those with an interest in the rare book trade and has an internship with an antiquarian bookseller as one of its components. They also run the London Rare Books School (LRBS), a series of five-day, intensive courses on a variety of book-related topics taught in and around Senate House, University of London. This can be attended as part of the MA or separately (it’s also possible to apply for a bursary to cover some of the cost of attending).

Similarly, the University of Edinburgh has a one-year taught MSc in Book History and Material Culture, which is run by the Centre for the History of the Book (CHB), founded as an “international and interdisciplinary centre for advanced research into all aspects of the material culture of the text, from manuscripts to electronic texts.” It is accredited by CILIP and seems to have a particular focus on special collections management in terms of conservation, digitisation and display.

The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing have a comprehensive listing relating to these types of courses, which you can find here. 

 

Funding

When we think of funding a postgraduate course, the first thing that comes to mind is usually:

a) There isn’t any or b) I’ll need to take out loans, loans and more loans !!

It is true that the main source of funding available is through loans (including the Postgraduate Master’s Loan, which is maximum about £11,000).

However, I have discovered that although there is certainly a scarcity of funding, there are in fact several options available to supplement a loan/savings.

A lot of the institutions above offer PG scholarships and will have them available to search on their site. Once you have accepted an offer, you will often be given the option of opting in automatically to be considered for certain scholarships, and others you may need to apply for separately.

Museums Archives and Libraries Wales (CyMAL) offers library staff working in Wales up to £3,000 to undertake the MA by Distance Learning. There is also funding available from CILIP, mainly for attending conferences. 

The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding Online is a funding resource for current and prospective postgraduate students studying at UK universities, focusing on unusual or obscure sources of funding from private charities that offer bursaries and grants to students to fund PG study. It was founded by students who themselves won many of these charity awards as a mean of funding their PG education, and contains a database of nearly 1,000 sources of this type of funding. The database is constantly being updated and added to. It also promises to be “a methodology rather than simply a finding tool,” containing reams of information on not only how to find funding that is applicable to your circumstances, but also the best way to go about applying to be considered for it. Oxford has a full subscription to the AGO, so trainees can set up an account and access the information for free.

The Book Trade Charity also provides grants to support those under the age of 30 who want to enter the book trade in terms of supporting apprenticeships, internships etc.

The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, also known as the Stationers’ Company, offer postgraduate bursaries to students who have received an offer to study on a list of specific degree programmes at particular institutions, which range from conservation to publishing to photojournalism. In terms of Library and Information Studies, you can apply for this bursary if you are doing the MA at University College London. The bursary is for up to £6,000 and as well as this, the applicant “will be offered the opportunity to receive mentoring during their studies from a member of the Stationers’ Company, taking into account the specific interests of the student.”

The criteria states that “Applicants must normally be under 25 on 1st September 2020, resident in the UK, and classified as paying UK tuition fees.” However, if you are between 25 and 30 and want to apply, it says to “please discuss your application with the relevant Course Director and Administrator,” so it seems as though someone who is 25-30 may still be in with a chance !

They also have a really useful PDF which gives a listing of many other places to look for funding and can be found at the bottom of this page.

There are way more options and resources out there than you might think at first glance, and I hope that anyone reading this has found it helpful as a starting point.

 

A Day in the Life: Ella and Naomi in the Law Library  

Hello! We have now been in our roles for over two months and thought it would be a good time to share what a typical working day might look like for us both. Aside from daily desk duties and the Wednesday afternoon training sessions that are a brilliant feature of the graduate trainee scheme, we largely have the freedom to structure our days as we please. While no two days are typically identical, this ‘A Day in the Life’ timetable offers a flavour of how we organise our time…

 

A door leading to the Information Resources office
The mysterious IR office…

08:40

Naomi: Arrive at the library, put things away in locker and walk up to the Information Resources (IR) office where my desk is.

Ella: Arrive at the library, make a cup of tea, get myself sorted and head upstairs to log in.

 

08:45-08:55 

N: Sign into Microsoft Teams, check emails, write a to-do list for the day.

E: Log in to the computer, sign in on Teams and check emails for anything urgent. I’ll also check for Law Bod 4 Students (LB4S) requests at this point – LB4S is an online site available for law students with extra resources, and they can submit requests for material that they can’t find online to be added to it. If any requests have been submitted, I make a note to deal with the request later that morning.

 

08:55-09:20

N: Shelving books left on the trolleys throughout the library overnight and opening windows.

E: Whizz round the library opening windows (very important at present – helps ventilate, which limits the spread of coronavirus) and shelving books from the day before.

 

09:20-11:00 

N: Morning desk duty. The library opens to readers at 09:30. Sitting at the Enquiry Desk involves signing in readers who have booked seats through the online Space Finder system, answering readers’ enquiries (e.g. explaining where certain books are located, lending power banks, giving directions to other parts of the St. Cross building), and working on other tasks that can be done at a computer, such as building ORLO reading lists (or writing this blog post!).

GIF of Ella demonstrating the mobile shelving unit
Using the mobile shelving

E: I carry on dealing with LB4S requests, double-checking SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online) and ORLO (Oxford Reading Lists Online) to see if the material is available online and they’ve just not spotted it. If it isn’t, I email our Research Support Librarian, who has to go through various copyright checks to see if we can make the material available on LB4S. (She also sometimes finds resources I’ve not been able to, as she has more experience dealing with tricky legal databases!)

I’ll also do a bit of scanning for Scan and Deliver, the Bodleian scanning service. I’ll then edit them and send them through to readers.

 

11:00-11:30

N: Quick socially-distanced tea break in the staff room with Ella… potentially a trip to buy a coffee. Then a brief session stamping Official Papers.

E: Tea Break! An essential part of the morning. Naomi and I occasionally visit The Missing Bean Café in the building (great coffee, friendly barista, sweet treats always look delicious too) but mostly have tea and a socially-distanced natter about our mornings (Bake Off is also a popular topic of discussion – I have strong views about this year’s hosting choices). Then I’ll do some book processing – stamping and tattling if Naomi wants help, or shelving serials. I might also spend some time stamping Official Papers (OP) and attempt to shelve some OP documents (a daunting task as shelf marks can be exceptionally complex). This will usually take me through until lunch.

 

Rows of shelving which are part of the Official Papers collection
The Official Papers collection

11:30-13:00

N: Book processing tasks such as counting, stamping, labelling and updating spreadsheets to record deliveries of purchased and legal deposit books. We are currently making headway with processing the many books which could not be delivered during the first lockdown, seeing as the Law Library was closed.

 

13:00-14:00

N: Lunch break. Ella and I eat together in the staff room and then go for a walk around the beautiful University Parks – we love how close they are to the library.

E: You’ll find Naomi and me in the staff room at lunchtime. Sadly, we don’t get a free lunch – the trainees at the college libraries do, and from what I’ve heard the food is delicious, and there’s usually dessert. Although our kitchen boasts a hot water tap, two microwaves and numerous coffee machines, so…

 

14:00-15:00 

N: Time to scan some book chapters and journals for the Scan and Deliver service. After scanning them to a memory stick, I edit the PDFs at my desk and email them to readers.

E:  This hour might be spent carrying on with the tasks above, digitising a resource for ORLO, updating an ORLO list or doing some of the other tasks that pop up on an irregular basis. I also help out with the LRMSP (Legal Research and Mooting Skills Programme) which is a module to help undergrads get to grips with finding legal resources and using them in a moot 1 . In the past couple of months it has involved looking over some students’ submissions and figuring out strategies for moving parts of the course online, and we’re currently preparing for online moots, which I might get to help clerk at.

 

15:00-15:30 

Naomi stands at a PCAS machine scanning a book
Doing some scanning

N: I shelve some new serials. These can often be a little trickier to find and shelve correctly than books.

E: Desk duty until 17:00. Naomi has described the main tasks we do while at the enquiry desk. In the background, I’ll be updating the Spanish and Latin American Law LibGuides – online guides to the Bodleian Law Library’s resources.

 

15:30-16.55

 N: Another tea break! Afterwards, I unpack some book deliveries in the post room and fill a trolley to take back to the office. The rest of the afternoon is spent making a start with processing them.

 

16:55-17:05 

N: Tidy things away, say goodbye on Teams, close any open windows in the office, and go down to the staff room.

E: Time to pack up and head home!

 

 

1. Moot = a ‘court competition [which] simulates a court hearing (usually an appeal against a final decision), in which participants analyse a problem, research the relevant law, prepare written submissions, and present oral argument’ according to the Oxford Law Faculty.

Mushrooms, Cheese, and Other Challenges

As part of the Library Graduate Trainee Scheme here in Oxford, we trainees take part in weekly sessions covering a variety of aspects of work in the library and information sector. This year the sessions have been conducted remotely over Teams, and so far have included topics such as reader services, working safely, resource discovery and supporting disabled readers.

A few weeks ago, we took part in two back-to-back one-hour sessions, with the first focusing on conservation and collection care and the second on special collections. I found both sessions so interesting that I thought it would be worth writing a short post about just some of the things the conservators and collection keepers at the Bodleian Libraries get up to.

First, we were given an overview of the Bodleian Libraries’ conservation work, including the different drivers behind collection projects and the three areas within which the conservation teams operate: paper conservation, book conservation, and preventive conservation.

Next, one of the preventive conservators talked us through a little of what their work entails, including IPM (Integrated Pest Management, to keep an eye on those sneaky insects who like books as much as we do), the environmental monitoring used to maintain stable conditions in libraries such as Duke Humfrey’s Library, and, finally, some of the more peculiar conservation challenges the team has faced over the years – including how to preserve a book made of mushrooms!

Then it was time to head over to the conservation workshop. In previous years, trainees visited the workshop at the Weston Library in person. This year, the workshop held their first ever virtual tour, delivered via tablet video call. The workshop itself is a large, airy, open-plan space, and we were shown around and introduced to several of the conservators and some of their current projects. (Did you know that you can use enzymes to separate pages? I definitely didn’t!)

After a short break, we “visited” the Special Collections, and had a “show and tell” of some of the more eclectic items held by the Weston Library, including a book of processed cheese (another left-field challenge for the preventive conservation team!).

Even though we were unable to visit the Weston Library in person, it was still a real privilege to be introduced to this side of the Bodleian Libraries and to get a flavor of the kind of expertise and care that goes into curating and taking care of its vast collections. A big thank you to everyone who made it possible!

You can learn more about conservation at the Bodleian Libraries by following @bodleianconservation on Instagram or finding them on Twitter (@BodCons), and you can take a look at the Special Collections blogs here: https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/weston/finding-resources/scblogs

Freddie Hankin & Miriam Kunin, Old Bodleian Library

Hello! Our names are Freddie and Miriam and we are the new Graduate Trainees for the Old Bodleian Library aka the Old Bod, Old Schools, Schools Quadrangle. We spend much of our time in the Upper Reading Room, Lower Reading Room, and Duke Humfrey’s, but we also sometimes venture underground to the Gladstone Link to fetch books and scan requests.

From left to right: Freddie; William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke; Miriam

 

What were you doing last year?

MK: I’d just finished an Oxford undergrad, studying Medieval English Language and Literature, and I decided to spend more time living here in the wake of that. I worked a variety of jobs with the university’s Temporary Staffing Service and Disability Advisory Service, as well as working part time in technically-three Bodleian libraries, and in direct disability care. After the pandemic hit, I was doing some of that but from home, but largely had a lot of unstructured time, which I spent remotely attending Jewish studies courses and Medieval studies conferences, and also going on long walks and swimming in rivers.

FH: I did Geography at Durham University, and graduated last year. I did a few library odds and ends while I was at university; I volunteered for a bit at the County Record Office, and was music librarian for a few of the university orchestras. Since graduating last year I moved to Manchester for a bit to see what it was like, and volunteered in the Portico Library. Manchester is a really good place for libraries! Oxford seems a very good place for libraries too…

 

Why did you apply?

FH: I love organisation, I love books, I love helping people. I mostly love being in libraries; why not get paid to be in one?? I also really enjoy being in an academic environment without actually doing the academic part. This is partly schadenfreude, but it is also about enjoying eclecticism; I like variety, and being able to dip my toes in lots of different pies while helping out with research enquiries. 

MK: Very similar to Freddie, actually! I was looking for jobs that would let me do a mix of physically moving things around, problem-solving, being adjacent to academia, talking to people, and being concretely helpful. I also really like putting things in satisfying and correct Orders, whether that be shelving or sorting files in our scan repository. So, yes, I loved that this role gives us a variety of tasks using a variety of skills, plus opportunities to talk to people and be concretely useful to them.

 

What is your favourite shelfmark? (see Appendix)

FH: I like the Lower Reading Room ones, they are probably the easiest to comprehend. A shelfmark like C.Gr.H.15 or C.Lat.A.302 has a comforting air to it.

But I also love Nicholson because it is so chaotic. 2345.e.123 is a standard shelfmark; there is a decimal point after the 2 in the first number, but it is invisible just to make it hard. The shelfmarks run from 900 (read 0.900) via 100 (1.00) to 399 (3.99), apparently because Nicholson was a sadist. Shelfmarks are divided into subjects, but reading the index is like looking into the mind of a madman, though one who was admittedly rather organised. The number of zeroes after the imaginary decimal point also matters: 124 = Christian evidence, general; 1240 = Christian evidence, documentary; 12400 = Christian evidence, miracles. It’s a mess, but it’s historical, so it stays.

MK: Oh, the LRR shelfmarks make zero sense, but I also really like them. I find it endearing that they end with simple numbers which just indicate where in the sequence they are, like, C.Lat.15/25 being next to C.Lat.15/26. There aren’t that many steps between it and just, someone placing their books in vague subject order and then numbering them, and I respect that.

I’m also biased in favour of them because Freddie and I have spent the most time working with them, and because I love patristics. In a similar vein, any time I get to shelve or scan something related to Old or Middle English I am immensely happy about it, so there’s a special place in my heart forthe  A.4.23 run in the Upper Reading Room, where the Early English Text Society books live.

In terms of least favourite shelfmarks, returning to the Lower Reading Room, I do hate the C.Per situation with all my heart.

 

What’s your favourite view in the Old Bod?

FH: I like the view of New College Tower on the east side of the Upper Reading Room. Dreaming spires, blah blah blah. 

New College Tower beyond Hertford College

 

I also like the view of the Exeter College gardens from Duke Humfrey’s. The trees are lovely, and you can watch the poor gardener walking endlessly round with a leafblower.

View from the office in Duke Humfrey’s of Exeter Garden with leaves (gardener not featured)

 

MK: I really like the windows in the Tower Room of Upper, with the brightly-coloured stained-glass birds in the windows! There’s a painting in the staff area of one of them which depicts the windowsill area there, which I enjoy a lot, and the colourfulness of the birds really adds to the multicoloured wall and ceiling painting charm of the whole room. If we’re allowed Duke Humfrey’s ones, I like the big arch-shaped ones in Selden End when the light streams through them. I know it’s cliche, but also, look at them.

Duke Humfrey’s Windows, being absurdly beautiful

 

Duke Humfrey’s Windows, being absurdly beautiful from a different angle

 

That’s the end of our Q&A, and hopefully you now know some random facts about shelfmarks in the Bodleian. We are really looking forward to the rest of the year working in this beautiful building!

 

Appendix 

Shelfmarks in the Old Bodleian and the Gladstone link:

Lower Reading Room:

Shelfmarks beginning with B., C., T., Th., Pat. and Phil.

B, C.Gen, C.Lang, C.Num, C.Gr., C.Lat to C.Lat.V, C.Gr to C.Gr.Z, C.Hist, C.Hist.Gr. C.Hist.Rom, C.Epig., C.Index, C.Ref.A-D., C.Dict, C. Per; Th.Ref.A-B, Th.B, Th.Dict, Th.H, Th.J, Th.Liturg, Th.P to Th. W, Th.Y.A-Z, ​Th.Text; Pat.Gr. and Pat.Lat., T.Atlas, T.Bibl., T.Bible.D to T.Bible.H, T.Gen., T.Text., T.Text.Gr. and T.Text.Lat.; Phil.Ref., Phil.A-H, Phil.Text 

Plus some Library of Congress (otherwise it would be too easy)

Upper Reading Room:

A1-8 or K3 and 5-10

Lower Gladstone Link:

Library of Congress;  eg. AA123.A1 SMI 2011

Nicholson; 12345.e.21

General Lower Gladstone Link shelfmarks; M04.e.1234

Upper Gladstone Link:

History Faculty Library of Congress; DA, HQ etc

History Faculty Library S.Hist

Duke Humfrey’s:

Priceless manuscripts we’re not allowed to touch, marked with their original bay numbers

Periodicals etc e.g. R. Top. 436

C.Acad (unsure what this one is)

 

 

 

Simone Gaddes, St John’s College Library

Hello! I’m Simone, and I’m the trainee at St John’s College Library & Study Centre this year.

I’m currently finishing off my MA in English Literature which I’ve been studying with Newcastle University for the past year, having graduated with a BA in English Literature and French at Newcastle in July 2019. I work as an intern with Newcastle University’s Special Collections and completed temp work with the university library throughout my degrees. Before that I worked in retail, tutored French in a local school, and worked as an English Language Assistant in France during my year abroad.

I’ve been working in the College Library since the start of September, and I’m really enjoying it so far. Unlike some of the other trainees, I’ve been working on site since the start of my traineeship so I’ve had some extra time to ease into my role. As is the case in many work environments, due to COVID-19 regulations St John’s Library & Study Centre is functioning slightly different from usual. However, there has still been plenty for me to do and learn (albeit at a 2 metre distance!). What could have been an overwhelming experience has been rendered enjoyable by the lovely library team at St John’s. So far, I have been getting to grips with Aleph and classification, learning about the library’s history, and helping to make the Library & Study Centre as safe as possible for incoming and returning students.

My typical day begins with fetching and circulating any Click & Collect requests we may have received from staff and students, and then moving on to other tasks I have to do. These include collecting post, shelving, reviewing reading lists, managing the library’s social media pages, and classifying and processing new books. I have plenty to keep me busy! Throughout this year I will also create a digital exhibition with my colleagues and be involved with St John’s new Diversity & Equality Collection – both of which I’m very excited to be a part of!

Overall, I’m enjoying working at St John’s (and taking advantage of the free lunch!) and I’m looking forward to seeing what will be in store for the rest of the traineeship.

The Founder’s Chest and Cannonball in the Old Library
The Founder’s Chest is a strongbox that belonged to Sir Thomas White who founded St John’s College in 1555. Next to it rests a cannonball that was supposedly fired at the College during the Siege of Oxford in the Civil War. Both can be found in the Old Library, which is unfortunately closed to visitors due to refurbishments.

 

 

Chess Law, Christ Church Library

Hi! I’m Chess, the 2020/21 trainee at Christ Church College. I’ve just completed a Masters in eighteenth-century literature here in Oxford, previously based at Wolfson, and worked as a shelving assistant in the English Faculty Library throughout my degree. Before that, I worked in a medieval cathedral, assisting the Verger team and providing guided tours. Christ Church is therefore the ideal marriage of both environments and is an incredibly beautiful, historically resonant place to work.

Unlike most of the trainees, I have been lucky enough to work full-time on site since August. This has given me the time to familiarise myself with book processing procedure and using Aleph before the influx of student arrivals; to witness what happens in a library behind the scenes in preparation for a new academic year; and to develop a feeling for this particular college’s life with its unique mix of students, fellows and clergy. It has certainly been a distinct learning curve to be involved in the transition of Covid-regulating the library during an unprecedented period of closure, from assisting with remote learning (posting books to students, providing scans, etc.) to once again functioning as an open library. I anticipated librarianship to be fairly repetitive or sedentary by nature, but the job thus far has varied widely, including enquiry desk work, collecting post, handling Click and Collect requests, collating book offers, posting on social media, navigating between our main library and separate Law library, and fetching books from our various off-site locations. I also work some evenings as a clerk in the gorgeous Upper Library, home to our special collections and uniquely open as a study space for students this year in an effort to increase our seating capacity. It is both surreal and thrilling to work here at night surrounded by rows of leather-bound volumes and illuminated manuscripts – a hat case belonging to Horace Walpole rests within metres of my desk, a rather absurd recent discovery for me as a former Gothic literature student.

The Upper Library at Christ Church, complete with socially distanced individual desks and cleaning supplies

 

Especially on my mind this year is how to support students trying to navigate studying in incredibly difficult and isolating circumstances, many of whom are encountering academic libraries for the first time. For me, helping them to avail of resources irrespective of their personal circumstances is of foremost importance – delivering books and library goody bags to self-isolating students has become the priority task of my afternoons. The most rewarding part of this job so far has been meeting Freshers, especially those coming from abroad, and introducing them to the library as well as hearing about their experiences of Oxford. I wanted to work in a college (rather than faculty) library precisely to be involved in such a community, and to encounter a variety of people researching an eclectic range of subjects. I’m gradually getting to know our library regulars and hope to provide a welcoming and reliable presence for our students in an otherwise challenging year.