A glimpse of the Sackler’s special collections

More than a month into my time at the Sackler, I am still discovering obscure but delightful aspects of its collections. One of my newly-acquired responsibilities is to fetch items from the closed stack areas of the library. Readers can consult these special collections items in a dedicated corner of the ground floor under the watchful eye of the desk staff, as these books are often old/rare/generally difficult and expensive to replace. These fascinating resources and gems from times gone by are kept in a variety of hidden places around the library.

One of these repositories is the Rare Books Room. Here a multitude of old volumes are kept under lock and key (read: sophisticated modern alarm system) in rolling stacks.

 

Inside the Rare Books Room [all photos taken by me]

Items in the Rare Books Room include:

  • folios and books containing accounts and drawings by 19th-century travellers to sites of interest such as those in Egypt;
  • accounts of famous archaeological excavations, such as Arthur Evans’ excavation of Knossos on the Greek island of Crete, some of which used to belong to the Ashmolean Museum Library collection;
  • drawings of artefactsheld at the British Museum in its early days.

Excavation reports

View of Petra in Jordan by Victorian Scottish artist David Roberts

Curious visitors to the Sackler Library may have noticed an intriguing room set back from the edge of the main reading room on floor 1 called the Wind Room. Though this may sound like a reference to something classical or elemental, it is actually named after Edgar Marcel Wind. Wind was a German academic who became Oxford’s first Art History professor in 1955, after a stint as a lecturer at All Souls. More information about Wind and his time at Oxford can be found here . The Wind Room itself mostly contains books about western art printed between 1500-1900. Because of their age, the books are treated as special/rare books, and are locked inside caged shelves that I think are actually rather attractive.

Caged books in the Wind Room

There is also an Archives Room containing archives of various Classicists and archaeologists, along with MPhil and DPhil theses, and miscellaneous pamphlets. I’ve only been in that room twice ever, and I suspect there is more to be uncovered during future visits!

The Sackler Library also houses a major research centre for Egyptology, including papyrology , and the work being done here warrants its own blog post (or even entire blog), so watch this space…

 

Holly Marie, All Souls College

Hi everyone! I’m Holly, and I am the graduate trainee at All Souls College, in the Codrington Library. It was whilst studying for a Master’s in English Literature at Newcastle University, where I worked closely with early printed materials, that I became inspired to pursue a career in librarianship (once you start learning about how to care for and handle books you never look at one in the same way again, which I find to be both a blessing and a curse)… So, after graduating I sought to develop my customer service skills within an information-based environment by working in a public library, a Cathedral library, and as a museum guide and a tourist information officer (amongst many other things)! Even a month on, I still cannot quite believe how fortunate I am to be situated in such a beautiful library and city, and I fully intend to make the most of the experience.

I’ll begin with a brief-ish introduction to All Souls College, as it has a fascinating history that is well worth knowing. The college was founded in 1438 by Henry Chichele, the Archbishop of Canterbury, along with Henry VI as its co-founder, and was initially built as a war memorial for those who died in the battlefield at Agincourt, where Henry VI’s father, Henry V, broke the laws of chivalry and massacred his prisoners of war. Hence, it became ‘the college of All Souls of the faithful departed’, where fellows celebrated divine service for those lost to the war. In fact, one of the most memorable parts of the college has to be the chapel, with its incredible reredos and ornate chapel screen.

(All photographs used in this blog are courtesy of All Souls College)

Its other purpose was to serve as a place of advanced study, with fellows primarily studying or teaching theology, law and medicine, and what really distinguishes All Souls from other Oxford colleges is that, apart from a few exceptions, we have never taken in our own undergraduates. I have been informed that this is in keeping with medieval practice, when fellows lived in college and students would go to them for teaching. Eventually, colleges realised that they could charge students to live on site which many began to do, yet All Souls maintained the medieval custom (can’t say I blame them).

Now on to the library… stepping out into the Great Quadrangle is a sight that one cannot easily forget, with the Radcliffe Camera peering over on the left, the immense two towers to the right, and the long library – the longest library in Europe – and its stunning sundial straight ahead. I will always remember the first time I stood in front of the library as I was walking with the librarian to my interview, trying to act cool and as though I was totally used to seeing such spectacular architecture – no biggie- and to not just stand there paralysed, with my mouth open in utter awe.

The building of the Great Library began in 1716, to a plan by Nicholas Hawksmoor, and was finished in 1751, and we now have around 185,000 volumes. We are a reference only library, though fellows are allowed to borrow, and I must admit, I do feel privileged to be one of the select few who holds a key to access the books! Our strengths are in law and history, and we have our own law reading room, the Anson Room. Knowing very little about law and being slightly (okay, very) intimidated by the sheer number of law reports and journals in there, I did treat it rather like the third floor corridor in Harry Potter and avoided it for a while, but I’d say I’m more than confident with where everything is now.

Hoping that this winter will bring snow so I can re-create this image…

This is the first ‘official’ week of term, which is exciting, although I must say I was glad to have the first month to get over the initial shock of merely working in such a magnificent library, and to ensure that when readers came in, I wasn’t wandering around looking like a lost little lamb. The pace has definitely picked up a lot (and our working hours have increased), but I am enjoying facing new challenges and taking on different jobs each day. My main roles, to list but a few, are inducting and assisting new readers, locating and delivering books to them, managing our journals collections and generally being the first point of call in the library office. I love it when I am able to help someone with an enquiry, and it is a genuine pleasure to witness readers fully appreciating and using the library.

The winding (and very creaky) spiral staircase in our office

All Souls does seem to hold a sort of enigmatic presence within Oxford, and a common assumption seems to be that we are entirely closed to readers– this is definitely not the case, and we are a very welcoming – albeit ‘unique’ – bunch here! (We also have excellent taste in biscuits). That being said, I do enjoy walking past the giant black and gold gates on Catte Street and listening in on the absolute rubbish that tour guides tell tourists about us – for example, that we are a college for retired fellows, or that we do not allow in women. I really have no clue as to where they get this information from!

The Great Library

I cannot wait to see what the rest of the year brings us all, and though I could quite happily keep writing, I must get back to work as someone has very kindly left a huge pile of books for me to shelve…

Megan Holly Burns, Oxford Brookes Library

[all photographs mine — one of the displays at our Headington Library]

I’m Megan, and I’m the Graduate Library Trainee at Oxford Brookes. Before this, I worked in my university library alongside my studies (I graduated this summer with a degree in English Literature from the University of Glasgow). This is the first time Brookes have offered this scheme, so I’m a bit of a guinea pig of sorts! Though I’m undergoing my own training program here at Brookes, I’ve been attached to the Bodleian trainee program in order to attend some of the broader training sessions — best of both worlds! 

I’ve noticed a lot of other trainees talking about working in small teams, and I think this is just one of the ways my experience at Brookes is quite different! I’m currently based in the Customer Services department at Headington (I’ll be moving throughout the departments across the year); here in this department alone we have at least sixteen daytime staff, with an additional group working during out-of-hours periods (the library is staffed until nine o’clock, but is open twenty-four hours a day with swipe-card access). Our building was also built just three years ago lots of open plan spaces, bright colour and glass panelling so I’ve already noticed a huge contrast with the Bodleian buildings we saw on our tour in my first week!

[the Forum, with platform above — very shiny!]

My days are very varied at the moment, which is something I really enjoy. I’m regularly shipped off to other departments to do odd jobs, and at the moment I’m attending lots of different training sessions, too; aside from the Bodleian training program I’m also attached to the Brookes Intern Development Program which is keeping me busy (yesterday we were learning about the Myers Briggs Type Indicator; I thought for sure I was an introvert but I scored a measly nine introvert points compared to seventeen extrovert, so all I really took away from that session was a mild personality crisis).

In a normal day in Customer Service, however, I’ll typically work on the reservation list, collecting and processing (start-of-term horror stories have seen it reach seventy pages!) and then do a couple of hours on the welcome desk, with lots of odd jobs in between. This morning was a bit different I attended a ‘Welcome to Brookes’ training session, in which lots of new staff got to put questions to one of our Pro Vice-Chancellors, and find out more about the ethos of Oxford Brookes (more importantly, there was a free lunch and I ate three varieties of sandwich. Genuinely very exciting). My question was about inclusivity and widening participation at Brookes; I came to university from your average working-class background — first in the family/local girl done good — and found the experience quite daunting for a bit, so it was great to learn that Brookes are doing really good work in this field. It reminded me of a great training session we all attended last week on supporting disabled readers — these principles of inclusivity are ones I’m really hoping to put to good work in the library over the course of the year ahead!

Ivona Coghlan, Bodleian Law Library

 

[Image taken from the BLL page: http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/law/about/building ]

Hi, I’m Ivona and I am this year’s graduate trainee at the Bodleian Law Library. I have a Degree in English and French from the Open University and later studied a Masters in Children’s Literature at the University of Reading.  I’ve worked in a variety of jobs from bingo halls to banks but have yet to find my nook. So, on the basis that I love books of all shapes and sizes I applied for this scheme and [SPOILER ALERT] I got in.

Now my nook for this coming year is the Bodleian Law Library. As Dom mentioned in his earlier post, we are also in the St. Cross Building. The Law Library was opened back in 1964 and has four floors of interesting material in a wide variety of languages. From our impressive Official Papers collection on the ground floor to The Supreme Court: A Guide for Bears coming soon to our ‘Just In’ corner, we have something for everyone.

One of the things I am most excited about is that as the trainee I’m going to be helping out with all three departments in our library including Information Resources, Academic Services and Official Papers. For someone starting with no real library experience it seems like a golden opportunity.

So what do I do in a typical day? I’ve been here for a whole month and I still don’t think I’ve had two days that were identical.

One of my most regular duties is processing the books. This involves stamping them, adding security devices with my wand (if you want to believe I mean a magic wand, I certainly won’t dispel that notion. Hah hah) and then labelling them. This is especially important when it comes to the books we receive via Legal Deposit. It is my job to help process these as soon as possible and to make sure that any books destined for Law have not wandered off to the Book Storage Facility in Swindon or even worse…another library!

I’m also in charge of the new journal display. This means making sure we have the most up to date law journals readily available for our readers. This seems like an absolute piece of cake until you are trying to alphabetise something in the Greek alphabet!

Other than that I have the pretty standard shelving and desk duty. So far this has been a breeze but as the new term begins I expect I’m going to have to be ready to answer a lot of new questions. Hopefully I’ll be up to the challenge. If not, I am thankfully surrounded by very experienced and helpful colleagues.

I’m so excited about the upcoming year, not only to learn about librarianship but also getting to know Oxford and my fellow trainees better. For now though, I better head off to give my first tour to the undergrads. Hope I don’t get lost!

Oliver Miller, Jesus College Library

Hi, I’m Oliver and I am the Graduate Library Trainee at Jesus College. I have just completed my MSc in Security Studies, having previously studied Ancient History (both at UCL) and I am one of three trainees to have made the transfer from working for Buckinghamshire County Council’s Libraries to Oxford (all of us somehow unaware at the time that we were simultaneously applying to become trainees). After working briefly for a public library, I decided that a career in librarianship would afford me the chance to interact with many different people with varied and interesting requests, and felt that the Oxford Libraries Trainee Scheme would be the perfect place to start such a career. I managed to convince Jesus College that I could be trusted to help run their libraries, and am now preparing to help all the new and returning students and researchers.

The Second Quad of Jesus College

Jesus College has three libraries: the Meyricke, the Celtic and the Fellows’ Libraries. As Jesus has historically been the ‘Welsh college’ in Oxford, it consequently has a unique Celtic Library that houses a collection covering (perhaps obviously) Celtic languages, culture and history. As I come from a family with strong Welsh and Scottish ancestry, the college’s heritage particularly appeals to me (and is a source of considerable pride to my Welsh grandfather). However, years of holidays in Pembrokeshire and the Brecon Beacons seemingly did little to improve my Welsh, and I am forced to rely on Google Translate when attempting to classify books with titles such as ‘Pwy fydd yma ‘mhen can mlynedd?’

Perhaps the most ostensibly impressive of my duties is helping to look after the Fellows’ Library. The library, dating from 1676-77 and having been refurbished to its full glory in 2008, houses the college’s antiquarian books, and each morning I conduct a small patrol to check that the library is in good order and that no leaks have suddenly sprung from the roof. I have been taught how to handle the collection properly, with every care being taken to ensure the books will both be preserved for future generations, but also still be of use to scholars studying them in the present day. Regardless I still feel slightly nervous when handling some of the collection; it’s not every day that you find yourself carrying a Greek Bible from 1545 signed by Philip Melanchthon!

The inside of the Fellows’ Library (© Jorge Royan, Creative Commons)

Most of my time is spent looking after the Meyricke Library, which is the main library for students at the college. Often this involves reshelving books, tidying desks at the beginning and end of the day, processing new books for the library, and numerous other small jobs that are essential to the library’s day-to-day running. I have also used my first month here to create a new signage system for the library, in the hope that new (and perhaps even old) students will be able to find books more easily. Later this week the new students will receive their library inductions, so we will soon find out whether I have helped ease their task or simply sent them on wild goose chases around the library!

George White and Jennifer Bladen-Hovell at Reader Services

The Old Bodleian Library lit up as part of Night of Heritage Light 29-09-2017 (Photograph by George White)

Hello, we are George and Jennifer and we’re the two Graduate Trainees who are based at Reader Services in the Old Bodleian Library this year. We thought we’d do a joint blog so we don’t repeat any information. We’ve been working here a month, which has flown by. As with any new job, there is an awful lot to learn and we have attended a fair few training sessions already, to get us up and running with the library systems. Things are starting to make a bit of sense now – but we are still relying on our very supportive team of colleagues to help us out with the more complicated reader enquiries. Term starts next week, so the new students are starting to descend – wish us luck over these next few weeks of chaos!

George says: Before my traineeship started, I studied English Literature and History at Sheffield University – where I spent a lot of time reading in the library! After graduating, I worked in public libraries for a few years- in Rochdale, where I grew up. I loved uni and working in my local library, so working at an academic library seems like the perfect place for me. I feel especially lucky to be working in one as beautiful as the Bodleian (I keep finding excuses to visit Duke Humphrey’s, the oldest part of the building, which is particularly lovely!).

Jennifer says: Prior to becoming a trainee, I completed an MA (Medieval History) and BA (History) at the University of York. After graduating, I worked in retail for a while, alongside volunteering in my local library and applying to a range of Graduate Trainee Schemes. I’m really looking forward to my year in Oxford, and at the Bodleian specifically, with the range of activities organised for us and the responsibilities I’ll have.

The Bodleian Library is one of the oldest libraries in the Europe; it was first opened in 1620, although it includes a much earlier library (Duke Humfrey’s Library) which dates to the 15th Century. The library has a long-standing tradition that none of its books are lent to readers – even to royalty. Charles I was apparently refused permission to borrow one – it’s good to mention this to readers, should they complain! The Bodleian is a Legal Deposit Library, which means we’re entitled to a copy of every book published in Britain. As you can imagine, this means we have an awful lot of books (around 12 million, last time we counted…) so the vast majority are housed at our Book Storage Facility in Swindon. Books can be ordered in by readers and will likely arrive the next day. As a result, staff are kept busy with twice daily deliveries from Swindon.

George in very fetching (i.e. mandatory) Hi Vis whilst doing the van delivery

Van delivering books to the Old Schools Quad

In addition to being a working academic library, the Old Bodleian is also a tourist attraction; running daily tours of the Divinity School and Duke Humfrey’s Library. It is also, occasionally, a film set. Duke Humfrey’s Library was used as Hogwarts Library in the Harry Potter films. It holds special collections which may be looked at, but which must be consulted in the Special Collections reading rooms over at the Weston Library. These books are alarmed and there is a member of the security team in the library at all times. Although they don’t actually scream at you, these books are about as close as you’re going to get to the Restricted Section at Hogwarts.

As Graduate Trainees, we float between the several teams that ensure that the library functions. So far, this has included:
• Stints on the Proscholium (fancy Oxford term for reception) which has involved a lot of nice conversations with tourists and directing nervous-looking undergrads and postgrads around the maze that is the Old Bodleian.
• Covering the Main Enquiry Desk, answering telephone calls and email enquiries (these vary greatly!)
• Processing deliveries from the BSF.
• Re-shelving items used by our readers (there are lots of classification schemes used it the Old Bodleian, just to keep us on our toes!)
• And, perhaps the most useful skill in a librarian’s repertoire, helping readers connect to the library’s Wi-Fi.

Another great aspect of the Bodleian’s Library Graduate Trainee scheme is that we’ve started the job at the same time as 23 other trainees. It’s nice to be part of this network and find people with similar interests- especially having just moved to a new city, where we don’t know many people. We expect our weekly training sessions, will soon become a highlight of each week (especially if we keep up the tradition of heading to the local pub afterwards… speaking of which, we’ll say goodbye for now.)

 

Dom Hewett, English Faculty Library

Hi! I’m Dom, and I’m the Graduate Trainee based at the English Faculty Library. I did my undergraduate degree in English here at Oxford, and then studied for a Masters at Bristol, focusing mainly on British literature from the 1920s and 30s. I am in the slightly unusual position of having used the library I work in as a student, though when I arrived for my interview the front door was no longer where it used to be, so things do change!

The EFL is located just outside the centre of town, based in the St Cross building, which we share with the English Faculty, Law Faculty and Bodleian Law Library. The building is a Grade II* listed example of 1960s brutalist architecture, so a little bit different in style from the Radcliffe Camera or Taylorian Institute, though similarly confusing to navigate.

[Image taken from the EFL’s website http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/english/about/contact]

We have significant teaching and research collections for English Literature and Language, in addition to the imaginatively-named Rare Book Room (which is fun to poke around), and materials for the postgraduate degrees in Film Aesthetics and Women’s Studies. We are also a reading room for the wider Bodleian Libraries, which means that our patrons can request books to be delivered here from the Book Storage Facility in Swindon. The EFL is a busy library with a wide variety of things going on, which makes for an interesting place to learn about librarianship!

So, what might a typical day look like?

8.45-10am: arrive at the EFL; turn on the printers upstairs and check that they have enough paper and toner; make up the cash float for the till; process expired hold items and prepare them to be sent back to storage.

10am-11.30am: process the new delivery and take them out to the issue desk; perform a head count of readers; make a cup of coffee; shelve any journals which have been used and update the spreadsheet.

11.30-1pm: update twitter; check the enquiries inbox; go on the issue desk for an hour.

1-2pm: lunch break (the famous ‘Missing Bean’ coffee shop in our building is reopening today, which we’re all very excited about).

2-3.30pm: process the pile of new journals and books; look through our records to see if any journals have failed to arrive on time; update our New Books Display; escort a couple of readers to our Old Norse room.

3.30-5pm: fetch something for a reader from the Rare Book Room; work on a display for the library; go on the issue desk for another hour; help close up and shoo lingering readers; home.

Apart from vastly understating how many biscuits are consumed in a working day, this is a fairly representative picture of what I do. So far I have been here for a month, which has gone extremely quickly. It has been reasonably quiet as most of our students have been away from Oxford, giving us time to make progress on the ongoing reclassification project (which I will do a post about in the future, get hyped). Fingers crossed it doesn’t get too hectic when they all return their vacation loans at once! Luckily my colleagues are on hand to help out (also when I get confused about our concurrent classification systems). Plus they’re a lot of fun to work with!

 

Sam Ryan, History Faculty Library

 

The Camera itself

Hello, my name is Sam and I am this year’s Graduate Trainee at the Bodleian History Faculty Library. In terms of background I graduated from Northumbria University with a History degree a couple of years ago. I am relatively new to librarianship. What experience I have is chiefly from the related area of special collections, so naturally starting off in such an environment as this is a bit daunting! But I am slowly getting to grips with it.

The library is based in the quite iconic Radcliffe Camera. The place is instantly recognisable, and one of the principle tourist attractions in Oxford. It holds an important place in the popular culture of Oxford, and I have seen it portrayed in everything from postcards to birthday cakes. Consequently the outside area is swarming with tourists on a day to day basis. To some this is quite annoying, but to me I do not mind it so long as they are respectful; after all it is nice that they take such an interest. It is certainly a unique aspect that comes from working here.

The faculty is quite new to the building. Up until a few years ago it was housed elsewhere and the Camera was used  for the holding of Bodleian reference collections. Now however three of our four floors possess at least some amount of HFL lending materials organised mostly according to Library of Congress. Generally both floors of the camera retain their feel as traditional silent reading rooms, while the more modern Gladstone Link below serves the role of a more social study space. Overall the library is quite large and possesses an enormous amount of resources; it’s quite something as a former history student to see the sheer scale of material on offer concerning almost exclusively the study of history.

During the previous few weeks there has been a steady flow of readers frequenting the library. Being a faculty library our reader base is especially diverse, and includes Oxford academics, visiting academics and visiting students. However like other libraries we are now about to face the onset of term and mass arrival of Oxford students, who constitute the largest share of our users. In preparation for this a number of little projects are taking place, for example the production of induction booklets and giving of library tours this week. These are the kind of miscellaneous tasks that get thrown up from time to time here!

Indeed no week is the same. Nevertheless, below I will try to give a very brief summary of some of my more regular duties (which aren’t necessarily carried out in this order)

830 – 9- Time to open. I may be responsible for setting up the till, which means checking Z reports and maintaining the float. I may also be involved in opening up, which includes switching on lights and computers, checking signage is correct etc.

9- 11- Reception. One of the two front facing customer service desks, the other being circulation. Here I generally deal with enquiries of a generally less technical nature. Often things to do with university cards, opening times and tourist matters. Also I check the book returns box and carry out other odd jobs.

Then tea

11.20- 1- Odds and ends. There is always shelving to do. I generally enjoy this, I like being able to wander about and roam around the stacks. The lower Gladstone link though remains a fascinating challenge with its various classification systems.  Then I will collect books from the trolley and process them for return to Swindon, or perhaps look for missing books.

Then lunch

2-4- BSF delivery. Twice a day we get deliveries from the Book Storage Facility in Swindon. At this time I would assist the delivery team with the unloading of boxes. The material is then scanned into Aleph and made available to the relevant readers through the self-collect points. The numbers of boxes is steadily rising as term beckons. Most likely I will finish a little early and have time for other miscellaneous work.

4-5- Circulation. The other front facing desk. Here I generally deal with more technical library enquiries, often regarding things such as hold requests and renewals, and also help with searching the catalogue, locating material, and accessing IT equipment and resources.

 

 

Emily Pulsford, Sackler Library

Stepping through the neoclassical facade of the Sackler Library and into the library beyond must feel for some like entering the TARDIS. It is hard to get a sense of the interior’s size from the street outside this building, which is nestled up against the back of the Ashmolean Museum, just around the corner from some of the main tourist spots in Oxford.

Entrance to the Sackler with bikes for scale [all photos taken by me, hence bad contrast]

The Sackler Library opened in 2001, making it a relatively new kid on the block in Oxford terms. It brought together a range of previous collections (including the Ashmolean Museum’s library) and now houses resources for several subjects: Classics, Archaeology,  Egyptology, Art History and some Architecture. Readers range from Faculty professors, to undergrads and postgrads, visiting academics with specific research interests, and even curatorial staff from the Ashmolean Museum. The latter have special borrowing privileges and access to a secret magic portal (ok, it’s a door) between the library and the museum! There are also some special collections, including 18th-century art books, archaeological records and ancient papyri (more on these in future blog posts).

I’m very excited to have the opportunity to work in this wonderful research environment as the graduate library trainee this year. My name is Emily Pulsford and I studied Classics at Cambridge a few years ago. Against the odds, my degree subject now feels relevant and useful! My previous job was for a small publishing firm that made textbooks and information books for primary schools. As part of that, I visited school library services and communicated with school librarians, which is what inspired me to explore the possibilities of a career in librarianship/information.

Sackler ground floor reading room, featuring columns. Because that’s what the Greeks and Romans are famous for, right?

So far at the Sackler, I have spent much time trying to familiarise myself with the library layout and collections. Two aspects of the library itself make this a harder task than it sounds. Firstly, because the library contains collections that came from all over the place originally, many different shelf marks and classifications systems are in use and the organisation seems illogical at times. Secondly, the library consists of five circular floors, with few distinctive landmarks to help get your bearings. Add in my sub-par sense of direction and spatial awareness, and you can see why this has proven more of a challenge that it first appeared.

To aid new readers (aka the fast-approaching freshers) who may have the same problem with orientation, I have been printing out and making up booklets with library information and, most importantly, floor plans!!

When I’m not wandering around the library trying not to look too lost when shelving books, I spend time at the issue desk. Here I do the basics of loaning and returning books, as well as helping readers answer their (varied) enquiries. The Sackler is also a pick-up point for books from the Bodleian’s remote storage facility at Swindon, so I help unload delivery crates and get books on the shelves ready for readers to use, reversing this process when it is time for them to go back to Swindon.

What with the build-up to the start of term, getting used to the library layout and workings, and lots of centralised training sessions with my lovely fellow trainees, it’s been a hectic first few weeks for me here at the Sackler. However, I have enjoyed getting stuck in with library life and getting to know the large and experienced team here, and I look forward to all the other opportunities this year brings!

Alex Pound, New College Library

[New college Library. Photo provided by me. I should point out that the spire is not part of the building…]

Where to start.

Well, my name is Alex and I am the graduate trainee at New College. The above picture is my home for the next year. (It just had to be an overcast day for it, didn’t it?) Before this I worked for nearly two years  in the Swindon Borough Council public library service as a general library assistant, and prior to that I studied History at the University of Lincoln.

New College (1379) has quite the history to it, having part of the original town wall incorporated into the College. The founder, William of Wykeham agreed on the upkeep of the structure when he acquired the land. All things considered it’s in very good condition. You’re all very welcome to bug me for a tour should you want one. The Harry Potter fans among you may be interested in the cloisters of the chapel, which featured in at least one of the films.

The rest of the college is comprised of ‘newer’ buildings, but those are by no means less beautiful than the older architecture, apart from some of the student accommodation that is hidden away out of sight. I find that it is nice to have keys to certain gates around the college, giving me several routes in and out of the college (And an excuse to swagger past tourists!) I find that I am always looked upon like some sort of mythical gatekeeper: “Look! He has access to part of the college that we do not. Let’s try and follow him.” Free lunch is also a college plus, and the food here is amazing.

I believe that I have been introduced to all of the other staff now, such as the porters, I.T, and the bursars, but I cannot even begin to remember all of their names. It’s more of a polite nod and smile job. I think that is one of the benefits of being part of a smaller team in the library. The office only has four of us. Three names I can just about cope with: Naomi is the head librarian. Helen is her deputy. Jason is the assistant librarian. Easy enough, right?

Like many of you, the first few weeks have been filled with learning. Information about this, and that, and needing to learn 20+ other trainee names. I believe I know all of them now, but I do apologise if I ever call you anything else. Please, do not take offense. It appears that my days will be filled to the brim with varying jobs and tasks, so I am looking forward to being kept busy. So far I have put most of the Osney training to good use, whether it’s checking reading lists with SOLO/OXLIP+, or cataloging books (and hoping that I do not make a mistake), and generally feeling safe and secure around the workplace thanks to Wednesday’s session. (I am definitely not bringing my toaster to the desk now)

For the past two weeks we have been bringing some of our antiquarian stock over from its safe, snug dwellings in the bell tower, over to the library. It’s a journey of three or four minutes, easy right? Well when I returned with two manuscripts packed in their respective boxes, my manager looked over her computer screen and asked me: “What do you think the value of what you’ve just carried over is?” I had very little idea. I won’t go into specifics, but it was a lot of money. My fear of accidentally dropping anything has increased ten-fold. So, if I suddenly disappear and one day I resurface in a small, rural hamlet in Nepal, you’ll all know why.