Trainee Showcase – Andrew Bax’s Guest Lecture

Thank you very much to everyone who came to our Trainee Showcase on 12th July.  We really appreciated your support.

One of the highlights of the day was the guest lecture by publisher Andrew Bax.  For anyone who missed it, or would like to revisit it, the full script is below.  Many thanks again to Andrew for preparing this interesting and informative talk.

The trainees’ presentation slides will follow soon!

 

Oxford, as we all know, is an extraordinary place. The Bookseller, the UK’s trade magazine for publishers and booksellers revealed, some years ago, that the city of Oxford had the greatest density of published authors in the world. It also discovered that over 200 publishing companies were registered in Oxford, including my own.

I got into publishing by accident. In 1965 I was young, irresponsible and in Oxford without a job. A friend told me that there were always vacancies for science graduates at a firm called Pergamon Press. I had only five ‘O’ levels but applied anyway – and was accepted. I joined a team of about ten handling the production of academic journals from offices in Headington Hill Hall, now part of Brooke’s University. Initially, my working space was a windowsill and the top of a filing cabinet in the attic above the boss’s bedroom. The boss was called Robert Maxwell.

Robert Maxwell acquired his name by deed pole in 1948. His real name was Jan Hoch and he originated from that turbulent part of eastern Europe that changed from Czechoslovakia to Hungary and is now part of Ukraine. His family were Jewish cattle dealers and, after the Nazis invaded, most of them were taken to Auschwitz, where they died. Young Jan had escaped however, and joined the Czechoslovak Army in exile and, later, the Royal Staffordshire Regiment. He saw active service across Europe, was awarded the MC and, at the end of the war, was promoted to the rank of Captain. He was then sent to Berlin as part of the mission to revive the German economy, and was appointed to the publishing house, Springer Verlag. Springer was sitting on valuable scientific research and, recognising the opportunity, Maxwell had it translated into English and published it through a company he formed for the purpose. That was the beginning of Pergamon Press. In preparation for this talk I discovered that Pergamon began as a collaboration with a certain Paul Rosebaud who had been a senior scientist in the Nazi hierarchy. Throughout the war, however, he had been secretly spying for Britain.

When the world finally emerged from the devastation of World War II, governments and universities began to invest heavily in scientific research. Then, as now, it was vital for those involved in such work to be aware of what was happening in other centres. Then, as now, there was competition and collaboration, often fuelled by personal ambition. The established publishers were slow on the uptake and communication was often achieved through correspondence and international conferences.

Enter Robert Maxwell. One of his techniques was to use an international conference to launch a new journal. After a visit by Maxwell, often at the conference itself, the host academic was persuaded to continue his good work by editing a new journal in the subject, and the conference papers would provide the first issue. Everyone working in the field wanted to have their work published in the journal and library funds were used to pay for it. Thus it was that a pile of manuscripts was delivered to my desk for a new journal to be called Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer. Maxwell had brought them with him from a conference in Rio de Janeiro. That journal, I see, is now in its 200th volume and has an in-print price of £6742. This was happening all the time and journals were being launched in subjects we’d hardly heard of. Editors, usually unpaid, competed for the best papers, frequency of publication was increased and, of course, the price. Then Maxwell introduced page charges so that contributors had to pay for the privilege of publication, and their library for the privilege of subscribing. For a while he took advantage of currency fluctuations so that customers might he invoiced in US dollars one day and Japanese yen the next. In books he invented a series called the Commonwealth Library for which he received a guaranteed order from the Commonwealth Office for 500 copies of each title published. As you can imagine, that series grew very rapidly, often from material culled from the journals. While all this was going on he was also Labour MP for Buckingham. And all that happened during the 18 months I was with Pergamon.

Eighteen months was about average. If you stayed any longer you were liable to be sacked or relocated anywhere in the world. I was getting married and this kind of uncertainty was just too exciting. Maxwell was a tyrant, a man of immense dynamism and creative energy and, eventually, a fraudster on a massive scale. There is no time here to cover the Maxwell story but, towards the beginning of the 1990s his empire began to unravel and, in desperation, he plundered his employee’s pension scheme to the tune of some £440million. He died by falling from his yacht off the Canary Islands and debate still rages about whether he jumped or whether he was pushed. Afterwards, he was found to have some 300 companies, most of which only he knew about. He had also been involved in arms deals between eastern Europe and Israel, and it is probable that he had been an agent for Mossad. He is buried in Jerusalem.

After Pergamon I joined part of the Blackwell empire. There were about a dozen of us in offices next to The Bear in Alfred Street. I was with the firm for 20 years during which time it expanded rapidly, moving to its own purpose-built premises in Osney Mead which are now part of the Bodleian and, eventually, employing over 200 people in offices in five countries. It was run by another big character, Per Saugman, who I got to know quite well. As a young man he was employed in the bookshop as part of an exchange scheme with the firm of Munksgaard in Copenhagen. It seems he quickly outgrew the challenges of bookselling so, in 1957, he was invited to revive an old publishing imprint, Blackwell Scientific Publications, which had been dormant for years. It was suggested that, with the growth of the NHS, he should consider medicine.

Per knew nothing about medicine but he thought he would start with blood. So, like Maxwell, he went to a conference in London where he announced his intention to launch the British Journal of Haematology. The leading lights in the field were anxious to become involved and it is now on Volume 177 with an in-print subscription price of £1777. It was the beginning of a substantial journal portfolio. With books his technique was to ‘seek advice’ from the highest authority on what topics are inadequately covered and who might be best to write them. Ego and ambition drove these men and, in those days it was usually men and, in the end, these chaps recommended themselves, which is what Per wanted all along. However, for authors, the financial rewards were modest. The international expert on Megaloblastic Anaemias told me that his fat, expensive monograph had ruined his health and his marriage and that on calculating his royalties he had earned just 4p an hour.

Whereas Maxwell got his way be terrifying people, Per did it with charm. He was articulate and terrific company; if he was speaking here instead of me he would do so without stumbling and without notes. He had his frailties though; there was a bit of Swiss bankery and he was a terrible womaniser.

Blackwell provided me with a series of lucky breaks. After a short time in journals I took on publicity, sales and marketing. Except we weren’t allowed to call it that because the patriarch of the firm, Sir Basil Blackwell, believed that ‘good books sell themselves’ so anything advertised was automatically deemed to be suspect. After a few years the director to whom I was reporting became ill and was off work for a while. I stepped into his shoes and, apart from one big mistake, I did quite well. The big mistake caused an almighty row with our partners in North America, the C.V. Mosby Company and I was dispatched to St Louis, Missouri to be eaten alive by their management team. In the end it was quite a tame affair. I was ushered into the president’s suite, where everyone was hushed and deferential, and then into the office of the great man himself, in which the carpet was so think you almost waded through it. We talked about this and that and, after a decent interval, he considered that honour was satisfied and the meeting was over. Years later I bumped into him at the Frankfurt Book Fair; he was working as a sales rep. So whatever mistake he made, it was bigger than mine.

C.V. Mosby was one of a number of US publishers for which we were stock-holding agents for Europe, often with reciprocal arrangements in America. One of these was CRC Press. CRC stands for the Chemical Rubber Company and their business began in manufacturing rubber valves and tubes for use in laboratories. One of their best-selling items was a rubber apron with a pocket into which they inserted a free booklet called the Handbook of Chemistry & Physics. That booklet proved to be so popular that people were buying the apron just to obtain the Handbook. Eventually they gave up the rubbery stuff and became publishers. By the time we were involved that Handbook was published annually with over 2500 pages, and had spawned many others.

All this meant that we had a lot of books to sell. No-one in the firm had taken on the role before but, through trial and error, I managed to hold down the job and eventually headed up a marketing department of 12 which, at one point included Robert Maxwell’s son, Kevin.

One thing I managed to do quite well was to sell books in bulk to the pharmaceutical industry. Books seemed less like a bribe than the lavish hospitality that such companies gave to those doctors who prescribed their drugs. I was negotiating one particular deal as the board of Blackwell Scientific Publications was in the throes of succession planning. It was a very big deal, and complicated, requiring the directors to sign up to something new. But they were too distracted by other concerns and rejected it. So I reported back to the pharmaceutical company that Blackwell wouldn’t do it, but that I would. Somehow I got away with it. I had six days to register a company, find an office, print some visiting cards and sign the contract. That was on 6 June 1987 and was the beginning of my own company, Radcliffe Publishing. I didn’t have a shadow of Maxwell’s dynamism or a fraction of Per Saugman’s personality, but those guys taught me a lot.

At that time Margaret Thatcher was overhauling things as prime minister and Kenneth Clarke, as her Minister for Health, was embarking on a radical reform of the NHS. Part of this involved upgrading the quality of primary care. GPs had little on-going training, were rarely supervised and were badly paid but suddenly they found themselves under great pressure to improve their service, with the prospect of greatly increasing their earnings. My Blackwell days had opened doors to a lot of useful contacts, including the British Medical Association, the doctors’ union. Soon after Radcliffe started I had a call from the BMA asking me to attend an urgent meeting in London that same morning. Within an hour I had agreed to publish a series of books on the Business Side of General Practice; the BMA’s senior negotiator wrote the first one in nine weeks and we published it in another nine weeks. That was very fast, it sold in huge numbers and put us on the map. Another in the series sold 47,000 copies even though there were only 25,000 GPs at the time; that was because I had sold it to four pharmaceutical companies, working in competition. As the marketing manager of Glaxo told me ‘all’s fair in love, war and pharmaceutical advertising.’

Radcliffe started life in a single room in the Jam Factory in Park End Street; we expanded into a second room then moved to a light industrial unit in Osney Mead, then into a second one. In 1995 we moved again, into a beautiful Victorian house in Abingdon. By then we were employing about 15 people, many of them former colleague from Blackwell. They were strongly motivated by the success we were enjoying. We had found our niche in primary care; it was a very big niche and we were providing serious competition to the established publishers. Their reaction was to try to buy us; I had enquires from OUP, Churchill-Livingstone, Taylor & Francis and my old employers, Blackwell. They were talking millions and I rejected all offers; we were having just too much fun. It was too good to last though.

The first problem was the internet which undermined all the traditional publishing models and caused confusion throughout the industry, not just for us at Radcliffe. We did, however, invent something called Radcliffe Interactive. This hosted several consumer-related portals, including Divorce Online which is still going. It was financed by someone I first knew as a stationery salesman when I first joined Blackwell. He had gone on to become a publisher himself, and like Radcliffe, made himself troublesome to his rivals. However, when Routledge offered to buy him out, unlike me, he said yes. With the proceeds he became a business angel, financing start ups from an office he rented from us in our Abingdon home. Sadly we have lost touch now but when we last met he had a manor house in Berkshire, a house in California and a vineyard in South Africa.

Our second problem was that, having rejected all takeovers, our rivals decided to close in on us and, eventually, we ceased to be unique. So from around 2000 onwards we plateaued. I was also becoming aware of my own limitations; I had an inadequate grasp of financial management and I didn’t understand the internet so I decided my time was up. I felt we needed new blood at the top but that view was not shared by my colleagues; we had worked together for a long time and we all felt a strong loyalty to the company and to each other. In the end I promoted our marketing manager to managing director and elevated myself to chairman.

In 2010 Radcliffe was acquired by a firm called Electric Word whose owners seemed only interested in manipulating the price on the Stock Exchange and publishing suffered as a consequence. After a few years they sold Radcliffe to Taylor & Francis which, by then, had itself become part of a huge international communications conglomerate called Informa which included Routledge and CRC Press, names I have mentioned earlier. However, I am pleased to be able to tell you that the Radcliffe imprint continues but for reasons I cannot begin to understand, it publishes from the CRC offices in Boca Raton, Florida.

And that is where I was going to end this little talk but, in her biographical notes Jessica mentioned Bombus Books. This is the imprint of Oxford Inc, a group of writers to which I belong and which has self-published a few books of fiction and non-fiction. Last year we launched a writing competition for stories based on the No 13 bus which plies between the station and John Radcliffe Hospital. The best entries appeared in Double-Decker, available from Blackwells and other good bookshops, and three of the stories are by Jessica. That is how we came to meet and, I guess, why I am standing here today.

 

Graduate trainee training continued: the end of Hilary Term and the start of Trinity Term

Our training afternoons are scheduled in line with the eight-week terms of Oxford, the names of which can bemuse newcomers to the university, though now, at the end of Trinity Term, I think that I have assimilated it. Since the last update in February, there have been many more training courses, including lots of library visits—everyone likes a library visit.

First, though, there were several talks by people working elsewhere in the Bodleian and even in other sectors, such as the session on the book trade, where we heard from people who work at Blackwell’s and the antiquarian dealer Quaritch. This was an interesting look into a different, though related, area of work. Talks by those who worked at Osney in the Collections and Resource Description department, which is a central Bodleian Libraries department, were also very interesting. This covered areas such as the processes of acquisitions (ordering, processing, and all the many and diverse tasks attached, on behalf of the main Bodleian and several smaller libraries), electronic resources (the only element of the Bodleian that is completely centralised), legal deposit operations (including developments in electronic legal deposit), resource description and open access. Much of the information here was on things that I already knew about tangentially through my work at the Law Library, or explanations of mysterious processes that I know of but didn’t know the background of. It made me feel part of the community, however, being able to nod wisely at the mention of Swets’ demise or the fact that legal deposit books beginning with ‘M’ are catalogued at Osney as part of the Shared Cataloguing Programme run by the British library.

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Blackwell’s bookshop, where much of my trainee wages have been spent this year.

In Trinity Term we have also had talks from subject librarians on the role of subject consultant, and talks by the Head of Assessment and the Head of Heritage Science for the Bodleian Libraries. We learnt that a liaison librarian, a reference librarian and a research support librarian may be a similar job to a subject consultant, but that by the same token, a subject librarian’s role is very particular to their institution and their department. The various responsibilities were covered, from those to do with the subject collection and library management duties, to reader services, library projects and outreach and conferences. We then had an exercise on handling budgets, which saw my team – in charge of the slightly larger budget for science – overspend by £14,000. Before any future employers bury their heads in their hands, I’d like to point out that the game was rigged! It was pre-ordained that science’s budget would be the one greatest hit by expensive e-journal packages and VAT increases, no matter how conservative we were with our money initially. We definitely kept our readers happy with lots of resources though, even though the central finance department probably wouldn’t be best pleased. In the later set of talks, Frankie Wilson, Head of Assessment, told us all about how to gain meaningful feedback on library services, while David Howell showed us round his bespoke lab in the Weston Library in order to tell us a bit about the role of science in uncovering library treasures, a unique aid to research and one that hit the headlines when David’s hyperspectrometry revealed an ancient Mexican codex palimpsest.

Then there were the library visits. First, to the digital archives and then to All Souls’ Codrington Library, which was a striking contrast between the old and the new: the latest in digital archiving systems at the Bodleian Electronic Archives and Manuscripts department and the long tradition in All Souls’ Codrington Library, founded in the fifteenth century. At BEAM, we learnt that a hard drive has roughly half the lifetime of a cassette tape, and digital archiving seeks to preserve many types of slowly obsolescing technologies. The challenge of collecting and storing data from diverse electronic mediums, including floppy disks, CDs and flash drives, is considerable, and we learnt about the various strategies that are in place for each of them. There is also the task of archiving the web, and the Bodleian has several areas of interest that are regularly crawled and archived, a process that is also not without its challenges. By contrast, at the Codrington, the weight of centuries lingers in the air. The beautiful hall and the wonderful librarians’ office (with its spiral staircase and wall-to-wall books, it’s every bookworm’s dream) have a history all of their own, and we had a talk from the librarian, Gaye, on both the library and some of its collections. We heard about our fellow trainee and her role in the small library team, and had the chance to ask some questions.

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The main hall of Codrington Library.

Next there was the Alexander Library of Ornithology, the Sherardian Library and the Radcliffe Science Library, which were fascinating, despite not having a single science degree among us. In the Sherardian, we heard about the Herbarium, where pressed plants that act as authority records for plant types, and are accompanied by the print collections which are used alongside the library of plants in order to support current and historical research in botany. We saw a first edition of Charles Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’, and William Dampier’s account of his circumnavigations of the globe which brought a wealth of knowledge back to Britain (as well as being the inspiration for books such as R.L. Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’), and we also learnt about figures such as Sherard, Druce, and Fielding, important for the Oxford collections. At the RSL, after a quick tour, the pièce de résistance was clearly the 3-D printer. Having been sceptical about when I first saw it on the itinerary, I went away understanding how such technology services fit into the RSL’s ethos and enthusiastic about what we’d be shown. By offering access to such technology early on, as they did with e-book readers and will be doing with virtual reality hardware, the RSL is able to grant students and researchers access to technology that would be hard to find elsewhere, and facilitate learning through their services—in other words, exactly what a library is there for.

Vol. 01[1], t.4: Fraxinus Ornus

A page from the Flora Graeca at the Sherardian Library, digitally available.

More recently, in Trinity Term, we have branched out from academia and visited Summertown Public Library and the Cairns Library at John Radcliffe Hospital. Both gave us insights into these areas of librarianship, public and medical, which bring different daily tasks, rewards, and challenges. In particular, I was impressed by Summertown library’s collaboration with the local council, where council workers and careers advisors came to meet people in drop-in sessions to get involved in two-way training with library staff, meaning that access to computers and internet – needed for everything from job applications to housing and benefit forms – could be coupled with some of the necessary context from professionals. It just goes to show how essential libraries can be. Meanwhile, at the Cairns library, a particular added feature of medical librarianship that I enjoyed hearing about was the literature searches conducted by the librarians—yes, for free—on behalf of the doctors.

Finally, there were a few extra courses that I went on, Advanced Searching: overview of Google and alternative search tools, Annual Review Training for Reviewees, and Practical Skills: minute taking. These were all relevant for my work in the Law Library, and in particular the course on advanced searching with Google, run by Karen Blakeman, was very interesting and has affected the way that I search online. The final run of training in Trinity Term will mark the end of our afternoon sessions, and it will culminate in the Trainee Showcase, where we give presentations on the projects that we have undertaken throughout the year.

A day in the life of a Graduate Trainee:

As we are now approaching the final months of the Graduate Trainee year, I thought I’d write a quick post detailing what I’ve been up to throughout the last twelve months! Although my work has changed throughout the year, in this post I have tried to describe a “typical” day in my library; detailing both the routine activities I do virtually every day and giving a snapshot of the individual projects that have changed throughout the year.

Here it is:

9.00 – Arrive at work and prepare the library for opening at 9.30. This involves switching on the Desk and SOLO quick search computers, setting out the cash boxes ready for collecting fines, and opening some windows in the main reading room and computer room to let some air circulate. I will also normally do a spot check of the library; tidying up anything left from the previous evening and shelving any books left on tables.

9.10-9.30 – Once the library is ready to open, I then start Aleph (the University’s Library Management System) on both desk computers, and open my email inbox. Afterwards, I download the daily “Lapse List”, which contains a list of both the Bodleian and PTFL books that need to be returned to the Book Storage Facility in Swindon every day. I then find these books on their shelves by the main desk, process them, and place them in the box to be collected by the delivery van at lunch time. If my colleague has not already done so, I will also check the Book Returns Box to check whether any books have been returned to the library outside of opening hours, and then return them to the shelves.

9.30-11.00 – Now that the library is open, readers start to enter and I therefore start my everyday desk duties. As it is now close to exam time, several readers are entering the library returning or borrowing books, but there are also regular questions from readers both in person and on the telephone, and I advise them on a case-by-case basis. This week, for example, I have answered questions about the payment of fines, the use of the Bodleian wide printing system (PCAS), the location of resources both in the PTFL and in the wider Bodleian libraries, and had to chase up books for readers that had not been returned on time.

When readers are not at the desk, I also start to reply to any emails that come through either to my own inbox or to the generic library inbox. These can be from readers asking questions about resources, or from colleagues asking me to complete specific tasks. Additionally, I help to process any fines payments coming through from the online store and reserve places on information skills sessions run by the library.

11.00 – Tea Break!

11.10 – 13.00 – In addition to my regular desk duties and answering email enquiries, as the day goes on I normally take the opportunity to work on one of my individual trainee projects when the desk is quiet. These have been varied throughout the year, and have changed depending on the individual needs of the library. So far, I have written a blog post advertising the library’s collections to a wider audience, created a new PowerPoint presentation for the Library Information Screen, and taken part in a project to reclassify the remaining Theology classification to Library of Congress (more details to follow in my presentation for the Trainee showcase!).

13.00 – 14.00 – Lunch!

14.00 – 15.00 – Shortly after 2pm, the Bodleian delivery van usually comes to collect the outgoing Closed Stack Books and to drop off any books that have been ordered in the last 24 hours from the Book Storage Facility in Swindon. After they are delivered, I process any new books with colleagues and then place them on the reservation shelf at the Enquiry Desk. When they are processed, a reader gets an email informing them that their request has arrived and they can then come to the desk to collect it. After processing the stack books, I normally continue on the desk, answering any further enquiries and shelving any returned books once I have any spare time.

15.00 – Tea Break!

15.10 – 16.45 – For the past few months, in the afternoons I have often been in the back library office as we are currently completing a weeding project. As we are trying to make space in the library for new acquisitions, I have been selecting low use books from the open shelves and processing them ready for ingest into the Book Storage Facility. I therefore need to replace the barcode on these books and update their catalogue record to reflect their new location. Once they have been processed, these books are placed in a special ingest box and collected by the Bodleian delivery van the following day.

16.45 – 17.15 – If it is not term-time, in the last half an hour of the day I help other colleagues to prepare the library for closing at 5pm. This process is basically the reverse of the opening procedure, but we always make sure that we check all areas of the library for any stray readers before we close the building! As it is currently term-time, I normally hand over to the evening staff at this time at the moment, unless I am on an evening shift myself of course. The library then closes at 7pm.

Graduate Trainee Showcase Programme

Sami Anderson-Talbi | New College Library
Though my time in Oxford has been shorter than most, I have found it to be a very rewarding experience. At New College, we have a fantastic team who have kindly put up with me for the past year, and I will be quite sad to leave. The support I have received from colleagues has been great, and I have had the opportunity to take an active role in most aspects of the running an academic library. No day is quite the same in a College library, whether you are dealing with interesting queries (bringing rowing oars into the library is not acceptable) or working with antiquarian texts, there is always something going on. The highlight of the year has been the many visits to other libraries, my favourite being the trip to the Codrington (where my camera frustratingly refused to work). Having said that, I greatly enjoyed discovering a handwritten note hidden within a book, from the author to a prominent politician.

Chantal van den Berg | Bodleian Social Science Library
I had a fantastic time at the SSL and I will be sad to leave! I’ve learned so much and I feel grateful I was given the opportunity to work in such an amazing library. My highlight of the year has been spending time with all my lovely fellow trainees! Next year, I’ll be studying for a distance learning MA in Library and Information Service Management at the University of Sheffield and hopefully I’ll be staying in Oxford!

Connie Bettison | St. John’s College
I’ve enjoyed my year at St John’s Library very much and will be sorry to say goodbye. I feel very lucky to have got the chance to gain valuable experience both in working with readers in the day-to-day running of the library and in working with special collections. Next, I am going to Edinburgh to study for an MSc in Book History and Material Culture and gain more experience working in libraries.

Stephanie Bushell | All Souls College Library
The past year has given me a sense of the diversity of the LIS sector as a whole and the training has allowed me to explore areas of librarianship which I was not familiar with at the start of my traineeship. I particularly enjoyed the talk on the book trade, although if I had to pick a highlight of the training I must admit it’s probably our weekly meet-ups in the Punter post-session! I’ve had an incredible time working at All Souls College and I have met many lovely people over the course of my employment here. The Codrington Library is a really special place and I know I’ll always be in touch with the wonderful people who keep it ticking over. Now that the year is coming to a close I’ve received offers to study Library and Information Studies and Book History at UCL and Edinburgh respectively, and I am looking forward to seeing where the knowledge I’ve picked up here in Oxford will take me in the future.

Tom Cook | Lady Margaret Hall Library
I am currently the graduate trainee at Lady Margaret Hall, having previously worked at the English Faculty Library and St. Catherine’s College. I am also a poet and literary critic: my writing has appeared in the New Statesman, Spectator, Times Literary Supplement, P. N. Review, Ambit, Partisan and elsewhere. I am the chair of the English Faculty’s Twentieth-Century Poetry Reading Group. I am currently compiling and designing The Ash Anthology – a book of poems drawn from Ash, the magazine I have edited for the last two years – which will be available from all good bookshops later this summer.

Tim Dungate | English Faculty Library
I’ve completely loved working in the EFL this year. I arrived from down the road at the SSL, where I was a Library Assistant while I finished my Master’s degree, and it’s been delightful to join the EFL as a Trainee and learn much more about working in academic libraries. Everyone was very welcoming when I began the year, and I’ve been able to take on a pleasingly varied array of duties, with some longer-term projects alongside.
Recently I’ve been shadowing Pip Willcox at the Centre for Digital Scholarship, and I am assisting her in organising a conference jointly hosted between the Bodleian and the Folger Shakespeare Library (which unfortunately means I cannot attend this showcase!).
While I will be extremely sad to leave the EFL, I’m happy to say that I will be remaining in Oxford as a Digitisation Assistant with BDLSS, starting this summer.

Anabel Farrell | Oxford University Archives
One of the many highlights of my year at the University Archives has been researching and responding to the broad range of enquiries that we receive every day. It has enabled me to explore the University’s fascinating records and acquire a good knowledge of the University’s history. It is always particularly rewarding to be able to help an enquirer trace an ancestor who once studied here. I’ll certainly miss the views over Oxford from my office at the top of the Tower of the Five Orders, but I’m not sure I’ll miss the 142 steps it takes to get up there!’

Ashleigh Fowler | Digital Archives
It’s been a non-stop year, but it’s been very enjoyable. I have been working as a digital archives trainee in the Weston Library and studying for a post-graduate diploma in Archives Administration through distance learning, so I’ve been quite busy! There have been many highlights over the year, from my first completed cataloguing projects and working on the conversion project for Benjamin Disraeli’s online catalogue to being able to attend training and talks in different parts of the country and meet archivists from many different institutions, as well as understanding the sacred role of Tea And Cake in an archivist’s workday.

Olivia Freuler | Sackler Library
As my year at the Sackler Library is slowly drawing to a conclusion, I’m looking forward to my next adventure and I hope that I can put some of what I’ve learnt to good use. I am especially grateful to the team here for being so welcoming and taking the time to show me the ropes and teach me what they know. I think the main highlight of this year was delving through a collection of artists’ books for my project. It was great to work with such interesting material and discover new artists that I hadn’t heard of before and learn more about the context in which these books were created. I also really enjoyed visiting other libraries in Oxford and the Book Conservation department in the Weston Library. As for the future, I’m quite interested in continuing to work in Art Libraries, Special Collections or for an Antiquarian Bookseller.

Laura Kondrataite | St. Hilda’s College Library
It’s been an amazing year working at St Hilda’s Library. I have learned a lot about the everyday running of a college library, and have had a chance to assist with and organise exhibitions from the library’s special collections. The knowledge I have gained about the management of special collections and the cataloguing of rare books will come in handy at my new post as a rare books administrator at an auction house.

Amy McMullen | History Faculty Library [Radcliffe Camera]
My year in the Radcliffe Camera team as a trainee has been such an interesting and valuable experience – it is a year I will never forget! As well as working in one of the most beautiful and unique buildings in Oxford, one of my highlights this year has been spending time with the other trainees, getting to know them and sharing our experiences to learn from one another. In September I will be moving to the capital and starting a full-time postgraduate masters degree in Library and Information Studies at University College London, and I am looking forward to making use of all the skills my year at the Bodleian has given me.

Hannah Medworth | Sainsbury Library
In my former role as a teaching assistant, I had the privilege of introducing children to the world of reading in their very first year of school. At the Sainsbury Library, I can’t believe how much I’ve learnt myself in just one year! I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to work alongside dedicated colleagues on a diverse range of projects and tasks, and to take on new responsibilities and expand my skills. Looking ahead, I’m very happy to be continuing as a member of the Sainsbury Library team, in the post of Collections and Instructional Materials Assistant for Executive Education.

Fiona Mossman | Bodleian Law Library
A graduate of English Literature, I’ve been thrown into the Law Library where suddenly I’ve had to become very familiar with folk such as Chitty on Contract or Wilson on Wills (my alliterative favourites), with the structure of the courts and why it matters for referencing, and with a lady called Elizabeth Moys. The Moys reclassification project is ongoing at the library, and it’s been a big part of my year. The Law Library is a great place to work and I’ve enjoyed the variety that being a graduate trainee there brings. Come September I’m planning on continuing my literary education with a Master’s degree at Durham for a year.

David Phillips | Bodleian Social Science Library
My traineeship has been a page turner, and an enlightening introduction to the profession. The Wednesday tours/talks have been a treat and have touched on everything from virtual reality to multi-part items. I have had the privilege of working at the SSL, a wonderful library that never stops trying to innovate (and stir my creative side). I have enjoyed the friendly and supportive working environment and the breadth of work available to me and my fellow SSL trainee. At the end of my traineeship, I hope to remain within the university’s network of academic libraries and sometime thereafter take on a librarianship MA by distance learning.

William Shire | Taylor Institution Library | Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library
This year has been an amazing experience and I’ve loved getting to know the Bodleian Libraries! The highlight of my year at the Taylor and the PTFL has definitely been working in two fantastic teams. I’d never worked at a Faculty Library before and have therefore had to learn a lot throughout the year – a process made a lot easier by both my patient colleagues and the fantastic Wednesday afternoon sessions. Next year I will be staying in Oxford and studying for the distance learning Library MA offered by the University of Sheffield, which I’m very much looking forward to.

Sophie Welsh | Bodleian Library | Reader Services
The highlight of my year has been answering the wide variety of enquiries at the Main Enquiry Desk – we keep a record of the wackiest ones for future amusement. I have especially enjoyed the mini research projects that have come out of some of the enquiries; I’ve researched inter-war shoe catalogues and 19th Century French pharmaceutical periodicals, to name just two. I’ve also been very lucky to have lots of shadowing opportunities, such as a week based in the Collections & Resource Description department (learning about cataloguing processes, acquisitions of monographs and serials, the Legal Deposit operations and e-resources), as well as afternoons shadowing a college librarian and the English & Film subject librarian. I’m hoping to find another library job in Oxford at the end of the trainee year, then in the next few years I would like to do a Master’s in Library Studies and in English Literature (but I haven’t decided which one should come first yet).

Jessica Woodward | Taylor Institution Library | Mansfield College Library
This year has been wonderful and I feel very lucky to have taken part in the trainee scheme. I entered librarianship via part-time jobs at Corpus Christi and St Peter’s Colleges, began the trainee year navigating the Taylorian’s labyrinthine book stacks, and in May 2017 embarked on the new challenge of a maternity-cover Assistant Librarian post at Mansfield College. There have been many highlights, but I’ll particularly value having met so many friendly librarians, handled the Taylorian’s amazing manuscripts, and indulged in Mansfield’s delicious lunches! I’ll be at Mansfield until February 2018 and am excited for the months ahead‘

Harry Wright | Jesus College Library
Having come from a Graduate Traineeship in a busy secondary school library, Jesus College has been a comparative haven of calm! I have particularly enjoyed the higher-level nature of research enquiries, and learning about students’ and researchers’ information needs. I’m currently looking for library work around Oxford and will be spending the next year gaining more experience, hopefully in a slightly different, more specialised role, before going on to qualify.

10:45 | PART I

10:45 – 10:55 | Welcome

10:55 – 11:05 | David Phillips | Bodleian Social Science Library
Visualising the SSL

I use data visualisation to tell you a story about the SSL.

11:05 – 11:10 | Chantal van den Berg | Bodleian Social Science Library
Can Inductions be Made More Interesting

My trainee project focuses on how to make library inductions more interesting for students. Readers receive a lot of information on how to use the library during these sessions, and we hope that short videos made with PowToon will make it easier to digest the information and to keep the reader’s attention.

11:10 – 11:15 | Stephanie Bushell | All Souls College Library
You shall not pass’: Or, an attempt to survey, shift and deaccession collections in two not-so-accessible areas.

My project will involve managing two collections under the jurisdiction of the Codrington Library to which we have (very) limited access. This project will involve surveying and rearranging the existing collections with a view to deaccessioning extraneous material. I also plan to cover some highlights of my time here in the Codrington.

11:15 – 11:25 | William Shire | Taylor Institution Library | Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library
A Year at the Bodleian – A Comparison of Two Libraries

Throughout my Trainee year, I have worked at two different Bodleian Libraries – the Taylor Institution Library and the Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library. The projects I have been involved in throughout my year have therefore been varied – ranging from the creation of a blog post and a Powerpoint presentation for the Library Information Screen to an extended reclassification project. My presentation will therefore detail these projects and reflect on how the similarities and differences between the two libraries I have worked in have affected them.

11:25 – 11:35 | Jessica Woodward | Taylor Institution Library | Mansfield College Library
Two Taylorian Projects and a Term at Mansfield

In this presentation, I will discuss the trainee projects I undertook at the Taylorian: creating a flow chart to help staff process donated books, and writing a blog post on some fascinating hidden treasures from the Rare Books Room. I will then take attendees on a virtual tour of the Mansfield College Library – where I currently work – and explore some of the differences between college libraries and Bodleian libraries.

11:35 – 11:45 | Questions

11:45 – 12:00 | Morning Break

 

12:00 | PART II

12:05 – 12:15 | Amy McMullen | History Faculty Library [Radcliffe Camera]
Reading List Provision in Undergraduate History

Serving one of the largest faculties at Oxford and meeting the demands of hundreds of varied and often complex reading lists that make up our undergraduate History degrees is a challenge to the staff at the History Faculty Library. With growing popularity of Reading List management software, I wanted to help our library assess its current procedure by investigating how other academic libraries deal with reading list provision and whether we can use that to improve our practice.

12:15 – 12:25 | Hannah Medworth | Sainsbury Library
From Eureka to Egrove: A journey into embedded library provision for Executive Education

A year of change at the Sainsbury Library has provided me with some exciting experiences. As I share snapshots of several projects and tasks, from managing research repository submissions to providing copyright clearance for reading lists, I will reflect on the skills I have learnt along the way. Finding myself in the unique world of an Executive Education library, I investigate what makes this type of provision distinctive, and explore some recent and ongoing developments to meet the evolving demands on library services.

12:25 – 12:35 | Sophie Welsh | Bodleian Library [Reader Services]
Relegating the Bodleian Library’s Handlists

Methodically adding information and detail to ALEPH records for Bodleian open shelf items so that the handlists (card catalogues) are no longer required.

12:35 – 12:45 | Fiona Mossman | Bodleian Law Library
Just keep moving: Moys, moves, and miscellanea at the Bodleian Law Library

Between renovation work and reclassification work, the library and its books have been on the move lately. My part in that has been in my contributions to the moving of the Reserve collection, early on in my post, my ongoing reclassification work, and the upcoming ‘mega-Moys’ move in the summer. These will be the main focus of my talk, together with some mini-projects that I’ve undertaken throughout the year.

12:45 – 12:55 | Questions

12:55 – 13:25 | Buffet Lunch

 

13:25 | PART III

13:30 – 13:50 | Guest Speaker | Andrew Bax

Andrew Bax has had a long and successful career in publishing, culminating in the creation of his own medical publishing house, Radcliffe Publishing.  Since the sale of that company, he has been producing fiction under the imprint Bombus Books and has been involved in various charitable ventures.  He will be sharing some entertaining stories from his professional life, with a focus on his experiences of working with some big names of 20th-century publishing.

13:50 – 13:55 | Questions

 

13:55 | PART IV

14:00 – 14:10 | Ashleigh Fowler | Digital Archives
The Archives of Hilary Bailey and of The Macirone Family

A talk on the process of cataloguing two different archives; one of the science fiction and general fiction writer, Hilary Bailey, the other of the Victorian middle class Macirone family.

14:10 – 14:20 | Connie Bettison | St. John’s College
Working with Modern Literary Papers

Over the past year at St John’s, I have spent part of my time working with the library’s modern literary special collections. In an ongoing project, I am cataloguing some personal papers of A.E. Housman and uploading the records onto ArchivesHub: an update from a typescript card catalogue of basic information. Using the broader collection of literary papers, the exhibition I arranged for the start of Trinity Term showcases a collection of the Library’s literary letters.

14:20 – 14:30 | Olivia Freuler | Sackler Library
Artists’ books at the Sackler Library

A brief look into the world of artist’s books and an introduction to the collection originally donated to the Taylor Institution Library by W.J. Strachan and now housed in the Sackler’s Archive Room.

14:30 – 14:40 | Questions

14:40 – 14:55 | Afternoon Break

 

14:55 | Part V

15:00 – 15:10 | Laura Kondrataite | St. Hilda’s College Library
The Golden Age of Children’s Literature

The presentation will give an insight to the organisation of and topics covered in an exhibition on Victorian children’s literature from St Hilda’s College library’s special collections.

15:10 – 15:20 | Harry Wright | Jesus College Library
Creating a Welfare Collection in 10 Easy Steps

This presentation will outline the expansion and development of Jesus College’s Welfare & Student Support Collection, an ongoing project which I have led. Issues of privacy and confidentiality are crucial to such a collection, but how feasible are they in the context of a busy working library?

15:20 – 15:30 | Sami Anderson-Talbi | New College Library
Proposals on Space and Collection Management for the Law Reading Room of New College Library

An investigation into the current configuration of the Law Reading Room, with proposed changes to how both space and collection management can be improved. Also including results of a recent survey of our readers, which focused on the provision of study space in the library

15:30 – 15:40 | Tom Cook | Lady Margaret Hall Library
The Literary Treasures of LMH

An account of planning, compiling and launching a successful exhibition from our comparatively limited rare-books collection. This culminated in a sold-out evening event, with guest talks from Simon Armitage and a DPhil researcher called Noreen Masud, which was open to the public and packed out the Old Library hall here in college.

15:40 – 15:50 | Questions

15:50 – 16:00 | Thanks

Enquiries:jessica.woodward@mansfield.ox.ac.uk or david.phillips@bodleian.ox.ac.uk
This programme may be subject to change.

The Edible Book Festival 2017

Our prize winning cake! Photo by Chantal van den Berg.

On Thursday 2nd March, the 2nd Annual Edible Book Festival took place at the RSL to mark World Book Day. To take part in the festival, participants enter “bookish” art pieces that need to be mostly edible. These pieces can therefore represent a book title, a book cover, a character, a plot element or theme. As this competition combined books and cake, several trainees were naturally eager to take part, and, over the course of several days, we came up first with an idea for a cake and then brought it to life!

To begin with, we decided to meet up in the aptly inspiring café in Blackwell Hall to discuss potential ideas. After much debate, we eventually decided on our book: The Maltese Falcon by Daniel Hammett. Published in 1929, this detective novel describes a series of murders connected with the Maltese Falcon – a valuable statue made by the 16th century Knights of Malta as a gift to the King of Spain. We therefore felt that this statue would be the perfect centrepiece for a cake. As the book is set in Malta, we decided that Maltesers would naturally be an excellent edible decoration for our book, and, as chocolate cake is always popular, we quickly had a sketched bake-off style design to work from. Now all we had to do was actually create our culinary masterpiece!

Law trainee Fiona watches as Chantal, Will and David decorate the cake with Maltesers. Olivia works on the falcon, the star of the cake, made entirely out of sugar paste. Photo by Jessica Woodward.

It became clear that the perfect venue for our big baking session would be the Trainee House in Iffley (a.k.a. the shared home of trainees from the Law Library, SSL and University Archives, plus Will, who recently morphed from Taylorian trainee into PTFL trainee). At our final preparation at the Blackwell Hall meeting, we allocated responsibility for the ingredients, agreeing who would purchase what, and who would brave the intricate task of sculpting the falcon in advance of the main baking session.  Luckily, we had Olivia – art-school graduate, former Downton Abbey costume-maker, and Sackler trainee – on the team.  She offered to build a feathery head and body, which would be complemented by delicious chocolate wings baked by David the SSL trainee.

Our delicious cake is slowly taking shape. We used a recipe from Nigella Lawson, called Devil’s food cake. Sinfully delicious indeed! Photo by Jessica Woodward.

The culinary evening arrived. With great festivity, we took the bus to Iffley, made a quick trip to the Co-Op, and we were ready.  As an all-knowing David recited each stage of a Nigella chocolate-cake recipe (which was Chantal his fellow SSL trainee’s recommendation), the kitchen filled with the chinks of stirring spoons and the bubbling of melting chocolate.  A dark, spongy mass took shape.  It needed to cook then cool, so we rewarded ourselves with well-earned pizza while we waited.  Finally, we gathered at the table to secure Maltesers in careful circles around the falcon centrepiece.

The final result! Photo by Chantal van den Berg.

The next morning, David and Olivia handed the cake over to the RSL staff, who put it on display alongside its competitors.  At 1pm, the RSL Lounge opened its gates to a gaggle of eager cake fans, including us!  Ideas were admired, photos were taken.  We were fascinated to see the other creations, with Far From the Madding Crowd, The Silver Pigs and The Bees proving particular favourites (if you’d like to see photos of these and more, click here).  We felt excited to observe that the voting sheet for our cake was filling up fast with audience approvals… and when the judges confirmed that we had won the People’s Choice Award, we were thrilled!

A selection of the other entries: In Search of Lost Time, Cider with Rosie, Silence of the Yams (behind the cider bottle), Grapes of Wrath and The Catcher in the Rye. Photo by Chantal van den Berg.

Jessica, Will, David and Chantal looking surpised and pleased. Sadly, Olivia couldn’t be there. Photo by Dawn Young.

The Edible Book Festival was certainly a wonderful experience; and a tasty one, seeing as we got to tuck into all the cakes after the judging was over!  Those of us who are around next year will no doubt be keen to do it again!

After the prizes were awarded, it was time to eat! After only a few moments, our cake was almost entirely gone. Our falcon is looking proud! Photo by Chantal van den Berg.

By William Shire (PTFL), Jessica Woodward (Taylor Institution), Olivia Freuler (Sackler), David Phillips and Chantal van den Berg (both SSL)

Summary of Graduate Library Trainee Training (so far)

As Graduate Library Trainee, I have had – since September – quite a lot of training. I’ve become very familiar with Osney Mead industrial estate, which is where a lot of Bodleian staff training takes place, as well as some of the more specialist cataloguing, the Bodleian Digital Systems and Services, and a few other departments. The mud spatters on my bike even time that I go down the tow path can testify to my journeys there, but the weekly trips with my fellow trainees are a chance to learn a bit more about the world of libraries, and can often offer knowledge or perspectives that are very welcome to me as a newcomer to the library world. This post will hopefully give you an insight into what kind of training we have as Oxford Library Trainees, every Wednesday afternoon.

Michaelmas term was orientation, an intensive few weeks of the systems that we use here. There was Circulation for Desk Staff, Customer Care, Resource Discovery, Working Safely, Supporting Disabled readers and discovering the mysterious workings of Aleph, our library software, all completed in September, allowing me to get up and running with the systems. October saw the start of graduate training proper, with sessions designed introduce us to the Bodleian as a whole and libraries more generally. There were visits to other parts of the Bodleian to help us to get a handle on the diversity of things that go on here and how they all hang together – from the dignified turrets of the Old Bodleian, to the Weston’s shiny new spaces, including Special Collections and Conservation, and also a trip to the leviathan behind it all, the BSF, where books go to be ‘ingested’. They are also circulated from there around all the libraries, the speed and efficiency of which was impressive. My fellow trainee David wrote a blog post on it, here. There was a session on e-developments at the Bodleian, too, which was particularly interesting. We were introduced to such things as open access, the Bodleian Digital Library, ORA as a digital repository for Oxford’s research, and some of the issues around e-Legal Deposit. (For those not in the know, Legal Deposit is an arrangement whereby five libraries in the UK are entitled to a copy of everything published here; e-Legal Deposit is the same principle for electronic works, but I am not really qualified to talk about all the complications of either system. However, there is a brief overview by a former trainee that you can read here.)

Duke Humphrey’s Library in the Old Bodleian. Credit David Iliff (Creative Commons licence).

The shiny Weston Library’s entrance hall. Credit Paul Hayday (Creative Commons licence)

Then there was training focussed more on our future as library professionals, such as the session on Professional Qualifications, which included some talks by former trainees who had completed or were undergoing their degrees. We got the low-down on what types of degree there are, where they are offered, and what to consider when applying. This term we’ve had a sort of follow up in the session on Career Opportunities and Skills Workshop, where there were some tips on CVs, networking and interviews, and some very good talks by former Law Library trainees, which were particularly interesting to me as the current Law Library trainee.

I’ve also been lucky compared to other trainees, because my supervisor lets me to do plenty of training in my role that not all of the trainees get. I’ve had training on serials and acquisitions, and these things tied into my role here, since I’m able to assist both teams: that is, I can process new journals which arrive periodically, and can help in the process of buying new things for the library. There was also a session that I attended more recently with two of my colleagues, entitled Preservation Advice for Library Staff, where we learnt about how to set up and maintain a library space that is safest for your books, plus some detail on the dangers ranged against them (the seven agents of decay, which sounds to me a bit like a fantasy book series waiting to happen). The seven agents of decay include physical forces – such as handling by readers – fire, water, pests, pollutants, light, incorrect temperature, and incorrect relative humidity. Oxford is an especially damp place (as I can testify to – I’ve already had an outbreak of mould in my wardrobe since moving here), so the everyday monitoring of collections is particularly relevant.

Humidity control is important. Photo credit to Alex Walker, Acting Head of Preventative Conservation.

This term’s training started off with a visit to Oxford Brookes Library, which was a fancy new building at their main Headington campus. We had a tour, learning about their use of space, which is divided into various zones of noise so that both quiet study and group work are encouraged, and a bit about their collections and processes. There was also a look at their Special Collections, which was quite eclectic (an artificial arm, a golden wok). Last week we had a session on effective training techniques, very useful for any kind of induction, training and indeed presentation that I may do in the future. There was also Libraries and Social Media yesterday afternoon, at which we learnt about the key principles of social media for libraries, and thought through a few of the possibilities and issues with social media in general and certain platforms for certain libraries in particular. From that session I’ve taken away a healthy appreciation of animated gifs when it comes to medical textbooks, and a newfound love of Orkney Library. (See the Wellcome Unit Library’s feed, here, and Orkney Library’s feed, here, respectively.)

Next up will be Talks on the Book Trade; Collection and Resource Description; and some visits to other Oxford libraries, including All Souls’ Codrington Library, the Alexander Library of Ornithology, the Sherardian Library of Plant Taxonomy and the Radcliffe Science Library. I’m also booked on to a minute-taking session, since taking the minutes at our staff meeting is one of my duties, and a session on Academic searching with Google and alternatives.

My favourite training sessions are definitely those that touch on librarianship as a whole, since what I learn every day here is about how this library works. Bernadette O’Reilly’s OLIS training course was particularly good in that respect, as was the E-Developments session by Michael Popham and Sally Rumsey. All of these looked outwards a bit, explaining, for example, how the publishing habits of publishers like Elsevier impact on the libraries’ and university’s open access policies. The tours can also contribute to this broader perspective, especially when we can find out a bit about the history of a library or, equally important, a particular librarian’s career. So training is definitely a very important and useful part of my role here, and something that is particularly special about the job of Graduate Library Trainee. I hope this gives a sense of the myriad of things that we get up to, and how it benefits us and our libraries.

Sophie Welsh, Bodleian Library Reader Services

With first term over and Christmas hovering invitingly on the horizon, it’s probably about time I introduced myself on here.

Hi! I’m Sophie and I’ve been the graduate trainee in Reader Services at the Old Bodleian Library since the beginning of August. It’s difficult to remember what it was like in the blur that was my first few weeks here, besides walking the wrong way, picking up a book to pretend I know what I’m doing, and turning straight back around again. I’d like to think I’ve got into the swing of things by now, but I’m still learning something new every day.

The Old Bodleian Library is unique, both as a building and as a library (which, ironically, is a statement which could be applied to all of the libraries in Oxford). I’m surrounded on all sides by beautiful architecture, and I’m glad to say that I still haven’t got used to it, especially now that there’s a Christmas tree in the quad.

bod-christmas-tree

I came to the trainee scheme straight from Exeter University, where I studied English Literature. My experience working in libraries before this has mostly been behind-the-scenes, having assisted a preservation/conservation project in the Devon & Exeter Institution Library and a digitization project working on the letters sent to Thomas Hardy in the University’s Special Collections. I’ve really enjoyed the front of house aspects of working at the Old Bodleian, especially because the front entrance and the Main Enquiry desks are often the first port of call for people coming to the University of Oxford’s libraries for the first time. Being able to find a “missing” book or provide an answer to a grateful reader or member of the public is very satisfying.

Now that term is over, the Library has become a lot calmer and I’ve had more time to work on the beginning stages of my project: phasing out the use of the handlists (aka the card catalogue). At the moment, I’m working through the handlists to decide what information is necessary and will therefore have to be put on to our digital catalogue, so that we no longer rely on the physical catalogue as a back-up. The hardest part is understanding what previous cataloguers have meant by certain abbreviations and anachronisms. I’m in desperate need of a dictionary that can translate words and phrases from Bodleian into English because at times it’s like solving a cryptic crossword. Having said that, putting my detective skills to work is quite fun.

The kind of thing I need

A page from one of the handlists (and the kind of book I need).

I’ve really enjoyed the training sessions and the scheme in general so far, and I’m looking forward to what is to come in the new year. Merry Christmas!

Book Storage Facility (BSF) Tour, 9 November

On Wednesday 9 November, the 2016-2017 Graduate Library Trainees (GLT) were  bussed to South Marston on the outskirts of Swindon and treated to a tour of the Bodleian Libraries’ £26-million strategic storage solution, the Book Storage Facility (BSF).

The BSF opened in 2010 to accommodate the Bodleian Libraries’ rapidly accumulating collection (expanding at a rate of approximately 170,000 volumes per annum). It has subsequently ingested over 8 million books, maps, manuscripts, music scores, microfilms, microfiches, newspapers, periodicals and other low-usage material from disparate storage locations in and around Oxford (including salt mines in Cheshire). It has the capacity to store 12-13 million items and potential for further expansion.

The Closed-Stack Delivery Service: The BSF retrieves and delivers requested material twice-daily to pre-selected Bodleian reading rooms. Requests are often honoured within 24 hours. On 6 October 2015, the BSF celebrated its one millionth book request (Aristophanes by James Robson to the Sackler).

bsf-1

A kickstool is just not going to cut it! The trainees are dwarfed by their surroundings. The  BSF comprises 31 aisles of shelving (11.4 metres high by 71 metres long)  designed to maximise storage density. It also has “planchests” (out of shot). These are tray-based shelves designed to store 1.2 million maps. Photo: Chantal van den Berg

 

bsf-2

The Room of (almost) Infinite Wisdom. The BSF’s wonderfully multifarious collection of books (from “the Art of Eating in” to the “Handbook of Phonological Development” to Alexa Chung’s memoirs) sit in special acid free, bar-coded cardboard crates with nylon grab handles and a design life of 50 years. Photo: Chantal van den Berg

Jessica Woodward (Taylor Institution Library) describes the BSF tour:

Hardly a day had gone by at the Taylorian when I hadn’t encountered the work of the BSF. Readers would come to my desk wanting to borrow or return books containing neat little white slips, my fellow trainee Will would tantalisingly allude to his activities with crates upstairs, and other colleagues would be glimpsed sifting through items for the leviathan facility to “ingest”.  You can imagine, then, that I was really intrigued to see the BSF, and our training session certainly didn’t disappoint.  

It began with several Powerpoint presentations on different aspects of the facility’s work: storage, logistics, packaging and book moving.  We learnt a lot about choosing the right conditions for books to live in and minimising the potential for wear and tear during transportation.  We were even given tea and biscuits to have while we listened, which was greatly appreciated!


We were then taken for a tour of the storage and processing areas.  Our group was fortunate to have extra time for this as our coach had arrived early.  We watched books being boxed up for delivery to our libraries, to the rhythmic accompaniment of ‘Ghostbusters’ (!). We observed a PhD student using high-tech equipment to research paper conservation, then a giant futuristic door slid open to reveal the incredible 10m-high shelving towers.  Many of us were eager to take photos to remind ourselves of the impressive scale of these.  As we wandered around, dodging the forklift trucks that were zippily picking up and depositing material, we learnt that all kinds of collections can be found in warehouse’s depths, from books to maps, paintings to toys!


Sadly it was soon time for us to take the coach home, but I came away with a lasting sense of how complex an organisation the Bodleian is and how hard its staff work to ensure readers have access to the greatest possible variety of educational materials.  I am very grateful to everyone involved in running the training session for providing such a fascinating insight into this awe-inspiring library outpost.

bsf-3

Again…the BSF is vast. Its shelves span 153 miles/230km (or the approximate distance between Oxford and Sheffield).  It is also temperature and humidity controlled to create an optimal environment for its book stock. We are informed that the warehouse is fixed at 18 degrees Celsius +/- 1 degree.  Photo: Chantal van den Berg

 

 

Chantal van den Berg, Social Science Library

Hi, I’m Chantal and I’m the other half of the trainee duo at the Social Science Library, one of the busiest lending libraries of Oxford.

David and I have a wide range of responsibilities, and we rotate between technical and reader services each week. When I’m on reader services, my tasks will include managing the SSL email account and answering a wide range of questions, using my detective skills to search for missing books, sorting the post, dealing with incorrectly returned books from other libraries, updating social media, invoicing readers for books they haven’t returned and much more.

ssl_shelves

Over 250,000 books live in the SSL

During the technical services week, I’ll mostly be processing new books, scanning chapters for the SSL eReadings (a service that provides scans of chapters through WebLearn, a digital learning environment), creating online readings lists, sticking new labels on books, covering books in plastic and assessing books for repair. Book repairs are one of my favourite tasks. I’m proud to say we’ve repaired almost a hundred books during Michaelmas term so far! A bit of glue and tape can fix almost everything, from broken spines to loose pages (though I’m no match for the conservation department). If you can’t fix it with glue, you’re not using enough glue!

27-3-30-bandages

As required, we both deal with the requested books from the Book Storage Facility in Swindon and we are on the issue desk several hours a day, where we issue and return books, but mostly we help readers with their queries. Our tasks are diverse, and we are never stuck behind our desks too long. Thankfully, we have very helpful and patient colleagues who helped us on our way during those busy first few weeks. The SSL is an amazing place to learn about the hustle and bustle of an academic library!

bodleian_libraries_10_222

The SSL’s main study space

On Wednesday afternoon it’s training time. We’ve had some very exciting and interesting sessions, such as customer service training, a tour at the conservation department in the Weston Library, and a trip to the Book Storage Facility in Swindon (where 8 million books are stored).

bodleian_libraries_10_225

Books waiting to be shelved

A bit about myself. I’m originally from the Netherlands, where I studied for a BA in English Language and Literature. During my BA I spent six months at the University of York at the English Literature department, where I had a wonderful time. I then continued to study for an MA in Medieval English Literature, again in Utrecht. After graduating, I worked as a medical secretary for a while, while continuing to look for a job in my field, and now I’m here! My love for all things British started from an early age, so to be able to live and work in the UK at one of the most famous libraries in the world is a true privilege!

Harry Wright, Jesus College Library

Hi, I’m Harry, and I’m this year’s Graduate Trainee at Jesus College Library, where I’ve been in post since June. Jesus is one of the more central colleges, whose students need access to a wide range of information, resources and study spaces, and it’s my job to help provide those things! My role this year involves assisting the librarian with the day-to-day running of the library, from removing damaged and superseded books to helping readers with all kinds of enquiries. I also help look after the beautiful Fellows’ Library and am enjoying learning about rare books.

Fellows' Library (Creative Commons)

Fellows’ Library (Creative Commons)

I’m currently in the early stages of planning my Graduate Trainee Project, focused on expanding our Welfare Library.

Prior to working at Jesus, I did a similar traineeship in a secondary school library in Hertfordshire, after studying English Literature and American Literature & Culture at Cambridge and Leeds respectively. Teenagers are a lot of fun to work with (but exhausting at times) and over the course of my two traineeships, I’ve learned a lot about different demographics’ information needs. While I was there, I helped Sixth Formers with their university applications, which opened my eyes to their desire for good-quality information and differing levels of knowledge on how to acquire it. As a result, I am becoming more and more interested in access to information, and hope to specialise in information management within the academic sector one day.

That’s all from me, but I look forward to seeing how this year progresses and finding new areas of interest as I discover more and more about the library world.

 

Upper Meyricke Library, copyright Jesus College Oxford.

Upper Meyricke Library, copyright Jesus College Oxford.