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

 

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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.

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.

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!

David Phillips, Bodleian Social Science Library

Hi, I’m David and this is my overdue introduction.

I am one of two trainees at the Bodleian Social Science library (SSL). The SSL occupies the first storey of the Manor Road Building (pictured below) and opened in 2004, unifying a collection of smaller social science subject libraries around Oxford. It is a modern, accessible, Green Impact Award winning lending library. It may not have splendorous architecture draped in 16th Century tapestries or keep maps of Middle-earth, but it does boast the largest refugee studies collection in the world and is the main research centre for social scientists.

Bodleian Social Science Library

An Autumnal Shot of Manor Road Building

Comfy Seating Area

Comfortable Seating (& Penguins) at the SSL

My role at the SSL covers a catalogue of “technical services” tasks such as book processing, assessment and repair, “reader services” tasks like mailbox monitoring,  post filtering and contributing social media content  (check out our twitter feed) and serial Issue Desk duty. I also had the opportunity to lead library induction tours during 0th Week.

 

Book Repairs at the SSL

Book Repairs at the SSL

My time at the SSL is supplemented by awe-inspiring tours and informative training courses on everything from conservation to cataloguing to customer care, during which I have the opportunity to meet up with my fellow trainees.

A bit about me. I graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a Bachelor of Laws and a Master of Laws in International Criminal Justice. After a brief sojourn as a legal assistant in local government, I fell into IT for a few years in Information and Knowledge Management. I could not envisage being confined to a long-term career in IT and wanted to apply my experience in Knowledge Management to an academic/learning environment with the possible aim of becoming a legal librarian – hence the library traineeship. Plus both my parents were librarians so it’s probably ingrained in my blood!

The traineeship has so far served as a novel insight into librarianship (and potentially a platform for a library related career) for which I feel privileged to have been selected. I look forward to what the next chapter holds.

Hannah, Sainsbury Library

Hi, I’m Hannah, and I’m the Graduate Trainee at the Sainsbury Library, part of the Saïd Business School. With its distinctive green ziggurat tower, the Business School is an interesting contemporary addition to Oxford’s classic skyline. The library provides study space and resources to support the School’s various programmes, including the MBA, MSc in Finance & Economics, MSc in Law & Finance, BA in Economics & Management and Executive Education courses.

Autumn colours at Oxford Said Business School

Autumn colours at Oxford Said Business School

The start of my traineeship was relatively quiet, as the lower reading room was closed to readers whilst refurbishment took place. During the replacement of the carpets, venturing out of the office was like entering a maze, as furniture kept shifting to different positions and you never knew where it was safe to walk! As well as a new carpet, reading room now has a new layout, power cubes on all the group tables and some smart red dividers to screen off group work areas from individual study desks.

The portrait of Lord Sainsbury oversees the library refurbishment

The portrait of Lord Sainsbury oversees the library refurbishment

Since then, the library has reopened and welcomed in a new cohort of students. I have now started working on the helpdesk, which has become increasingly busy, but this means that I am learning a lot about how the library works and getting to put it into practice straight away. My Sainsbury Library colleagues have been incredibly supportive in answering all my questions and helping me to settle in! Alongside desk shifts, I’ve been involved in library induction events (also known as the iChallenge – read a report I co-wrote about this here), processing new books, assembling welcome packs for faculty members, creating new signage, carrying out book repairs and updating the online research repository. All this alongside a range of full- and half-day training sessions with the other trainees, I can’t believe how much has fitted into just eight weeks!

MBA students discover library resources through competing in the iChallenge

Before moving to Oxford to start the traineeship, I worked for several years as a teaching assistant in a busy primary school and nursery, following a combined honours degree in Social Sciences at Durham University. As a TA, I had the privilege of helping children take their very first steps on their journey as readers, learning the basic skills that, once acquired, we often take for granted, but which open the door to a vast wealth of information about the world. This also involved the daily administration and care of the reading scheme, which I got to know extremely well (some texts off by heart!), and selecting the right books to meet individuals’ needs. My final project before I left was a grand tidy-up and reclassification of the entire reading book collection – a daunting but somewhat satisfying assignment! I think it was these combined experiences of working with books and helping readers which led me to apply for the trainee scheme. Now I just have to get used to readers who are a little taller, books which are a little weightier, and shelfmarks that say HD59.2 OXF 2012 instead of Purple Ladybird or Blue Star…

One quality that four-year-old school beginners and university students seem to have in common (at least, on a good day…) is a readiness to learn new things through all the channels available to them. This year I will endeavour to imitate this myself, and absorb as much knowledge as I can as the year progresses. I’m excited to see where it will take me!

Connie Bettison, St John’s College Library

Hello, I’m Connie, and I’m the trainee for 2016-17 at St John’s College Library.

I’ve been working at St John’s since August. Back then, the library was closed to students for the summer vacation and I became introduced to the library through the annual stock check. This meant I very quickly familiarised myself with the layout of the library which was particularly helpful as one of my first projects was to create a guide to the library for new students, and once term started, I needed to be able to help users with their enquiries.

img_7063The entrance to the Laudian Library

In the run-up to term, the library received reading lists from various departments and some large donations of books from retiring fellows. One of my jobs was to check titles against SOLO and then process the new books, from classification (using the college’s unique, home-grown system) through to shelving via holdings, bookplates, stamps, stickers and plastic covers.

At St John’s I’ve also had the opportunity to work with the library’s special collections, such as preparing materials for exhibitions, writing about specific items for the Special Collections blog, and assisting the librarian in photographing some of the library’s most precious items for the website. The Special Collections at St John’s include

manuscripts….

ms61lion

A plate showing lions in MS61, York Bestiary (13th century)

early printed books …

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The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, William Caxton printing (c. 1483)

and notable individuals’ papers…

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A letter from Jane Austen to her niece, Anna. (1814)

It is currently a time of change in the library as an extension is under construction; the new Study Centre is set to open in the next academic year. Lots of aspects of the library are subject to change before the construction is finished and the related conversations surrounding the practicalities of the move are particularly interesting for someone new to the world of libraries.

I came into the traineeship almost immediately after graduating from Durham University where I studied English Literature. This was a quick turnaround from full-time study to full-time work, and my previous experience of working in a library was solely through volunteering opportunities: regularly volunteering at the Bill Bryson university library at Durham, and undertaking a brief spell of work experience at Leeds College of Music’s library.

As for the rest of the year, I’m looking forward to further training and visits to libraries with the other Oxford trainees as well as getting to know more about the collections here at St John’s.