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

10:45 | PART I

10:45 – 10:50 | Welcome

10:50 – 11:00 | David Phillips | Bodleian Social Science Library
Visualising the SSL

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

11:00 – 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

Hannah will talk about library provision for executive education, perhaps touching on a couple of smaller projects too.

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

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).

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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).

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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.

William Shire, Taylor Institution Library

Hello! I’m Will and I’m the second of the two trainees at the Taylorian this year. Before coming to Oxford, I studied German and Spanish at Durham and therefore working at the Taylorian – Europe’s biggest Modern Languages Library – is a really great experience! It means I can use my language skills on a day to day basis and (attempt at least) to learn the basics of new ones, especially as the Slavonic Library has now moved into the Taylorian as well.

As my fellow trainee Jessica mentioned in her post a few weeks ago, the two trainees at the Taylorian are split between the Issue Desk and the Enquiry Desk. For the first half of the year, I will be working on the Enquiry Desk and so I thought I should write a short post about my duties and the first few weeks at work here!

As I am on the Enquiry Desk, my work is completely different every day as we never know what a reader may want! Most days I have to help readers (especially freshers!) find books in our labyrinthine Research Collection, but I also have to answer queries from academics, process new books, and handle some donations.

The Enquiry Desk

The Enquiry Desk

Additionally, I am in charge of the daily delivery from the BSF in Swindon. As the Taylorian has around 500,000 books but only enough space for around 150,000, this means that a lot of readers order items from the Book Storage Facility! We get two deliveries every day (one at 9 and one at 2), and I collect these books, process them, and then put them ready for collection in the Main Reading Room – a beautiful room and easily my favourite in the library!

The Main Reading Room

The Main Reading Room

My first two months at the Taylorian have gone so quickly but I’ve really enjoyed them – I feel very lucky to be here. We’ve have had a lot of training, and then library inductions to give to the new cohort of freshers so I’ve always had a lot to do! I look forward to spending the rest of my year as a trainee here, and hope to post on the blog sometime in the future – especially as I might be helping to organise an exhibition next year!