Daniel Haynes — Weston Library

Hello! I’m Daniel, the Quaritch graduate trainee at the Weston Library, which houses the Bodleian’s Special Collections. I’m based in the Rare Books and Early Modern Manuscripts department, which handles a range of projects, enquiries, and outreach. I studied English here at Oxford, and worked part-time in several Bodleian libraries after graduating in 2018, picking up a range of technical skills along the way and working with some incredible people. One month into the traineeship, I’ve got my own messy desk (very libraryish, I’m told), a mountainous card catalogue to sort through, three floors of underground stacks to memorise, and more analytical bibliography to learn than I can hope to remember — and I’m more certain than ever that I want a career in rare books.

‘…and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.’ [photo: Jo Maddocks]

At the Weston, subject specialists mingle with polyglots and techies; there are always exhibitions to prepare for, just as there are always researchers to assist; there are all kinds of lectures, seminars, and hands-on workshops. In short, behind the studious solemnity of its two Reading Rooms, the Weston is constantly moving (and not just because of Trinity College’s building works next door). It’s a truly phenomenal place to work.

From day one, I’ve had the opportunity to handle early printed material, such as Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica (1543) and Hooke’s Micrographia (1665) for an overseas author writing about ‘remarkable books’. Another research enquiry involved comparing bindings in our Edmund Malone collection (including rebound volumes containing the earliest Shakespeare Quartos!) to identify the trademark tools of the German binder Christian Samuel Kalthoeber. One morning, I was deep in the Weston’s labyrinthine underground stacks, wrapping up original Tolkien watercolours in polythene for transport to the Bibliothèque Nationale. This week, I’m hunting down Samuel Johnson’s signature in a book that the Bodleian may or may not possess. It’s surreal, and sometimes challenging, to be working with material as special as this in quite ‘normal’ contexts such as stamping, barcoding, wrapping, or photographing, and really reflective of the methodical, technical skills that form an essential part of working in special collections.

Blackwell Hall in the Weston, with the Centre for the Study of the Book above the open shelves. [photo: Paul Hayday]

When I’m not on training courses or learning cataloguing in the office, I’m moonlighting in the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, assisting the Librarian with item-level captions for her upcoming exhibition in the Treasury. Exhibitions at the Weston channel the wealth of academic expertise from all kinds of fascinating subject areas, and I’d love to curate my own some day.

In the meantime, my own traineeship project for the year is to lay the groundwork for digitising some 3000 fine bindings in the Broxbourne collection, from private press books to manuscript genealogies of the kings of England. I’ll be talking more about this, and the importance of widening access to collections in the digital age, in future blog posts. Until then, you can check on the progress of the project here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhiannon Hartwell – Old Bodleian Reader Services

Hi everyone, I’m the other Rhiannon! What are the chances that there would be two in the same year? I’m a trainee at the Old Bodleian Library (also known as Bodley, after its founder, Thomas Bodley), alongside Evie. The Old Bod is a copyright library, so we don’t get first hand experience of loaning books to readers, but we get to do pretty much everything else!

 

The Old Bodleian library from the Old Schools Quad.

 

My days at work can include shifts on the Main Enquiry Desk, answering all sorts of questions from readers, ‘roving’ in the Lower Reading Room to re-shelve books and make sure everything is in order, spending time tagging and stamping books for our New Books Displays, or helping readers gain access to Interlibrary Loans, or books held at the Staffed Desk in the Upper Reading Room. A huge part of our day at the Old Bodleian is the deliveries each morning and afternoon from our Book Storage Facility in Swindon. We have to dress in fluorescent jackets to guide the delivery van into the Old Schools Quad, unload the boxes of books, and process them all so that readers can come in and pick them up to read (as long as they don’t take them out of the library, of course). Visiting the Book Storage Facility is one of the highlights I’m most looking forward to in our training programme over the next few months!

Before I was offered a place on the Bodleian’s Graduate Traineeship scheme, I volunteered in a community library in Cheshire, and worked as a room guide at a National Trust property in North Wales, after graduating my MPhil in Modern and Contemporary Literature back in 2018. The community library was very small, staffed mainly by volunteers, and had no acquisitions, so it was quite a different experience from the Old Bodleian – but the core elements of reader service and making sure that everyone who visits the library is made welcome and given the right support are all the same.

I’m really looking forward to the academic year ahead – even though everyone I work with keeps saying “wait till term starts!” very ominously – and all the opportunities this traineeship will bring.

 

Laura Lewis- Bodleian Law Library

Hello! My name is Laura and I am a graduate trainee at the law library, along with Rhiannon! I graduated in June from the University of St. Andrews, where I studied Theology and Biblical Studies, which I enjoyed very much!

While I was a student librarian in my school, and spent quite a lot of time studying in the King James Library in St Andrews, I didn’t have any experience of working as a member of staff in an academic library before starting the traineeship. So, there has been a lot of new information and it has been interesting to see what happens behind the scenes in a library that you may not be aware of as a reader. I decided to do the traineeship to find out if librarianship was something I would like to do long term and, so far, Oxford has been the perfect place to start thinking about it!

I’m based in Information Resources in the Law Library, so Rhiannon and I do slightly different tasks on a daily basis. I do a lot of book and serials processing, labelling, shelving, creating the new journal display and spend time on the desk. I am excited to learn a lot more over the next few months, in particular, further information on cataloguing, how the Oxford libraries all work together with the BSF, and the reclassification of certain books in the Law Library into the Moys classification system.

I’m really looking forward to this year in Oxford, it seems like a lovely city (almost as pretty as St Andrews!), with so much to see and do! Everyone in the Law Library has been so welcoming and helpful and it has been great to get to know some of the other trainees during training sessions and by visiting colleges and other libraries together on the way back from training and during our lunch times!

Tom Vickers – Sainsbury Library

Hi everyone, my name’s Tom, I’m the trainee for the Sainsbury Library in the Saïd Business School.

I’ve done plenty of things prior to being a trainee in librarianship – work in hospitality and the arts – and I’ve been living in Oxford since 2012 when I came here to study my MSt in Creative Writing. I was lucky enough to meet an alum of the traineeship a few years back and got to see what their life was like and hear about what working in the discipline was like first-hand. It turns out that misconceptions about what librarians do cuts both ways – I’d not really considered the role before since I’ve always wanted to work with people and the role seemed an isolated one. This isn’t the case at all, as my first few weeks have definitively proved. The sessions at Osney One with my fellow trainees are getting us all up to speed on so many systems, and I’ve been expanding my horizons outside of training as well – having admitted to my supervisor this is the first time I’ve set foot in a business library I’ve been finding books on all kinds of subjects I wouldn’t expect while re-ordering the stacks. Good lesson for a librarian: never make assumptions about a subject, they all have their depths and surprises. Being at the business school is a great place to learn fast – the students are entirely unafraid to ask questions and have high expectations, and the school plays host to events on a regular basis. I’ll also be working on the Wayfinding project Madeline mentioned in her first post on here, and I’ll be travelling to London as the Sainsbury Library’s representative for a conference on website archiving at the start of next month. The team here wanted me to know from day one how important they think it is to support each other and I really feel able to say yes to all sorts of opportunities as they appear. They’re a tight-knit team here and they all work flat-out, but have still found time to make me feel really welcomed. Everyone connected to the traineeship has been friendly and supportive, and it feels like every time I turn a corner I meet another previous trainee who’s found a role with the university. The traineeship alum who started this all for me is still in Oxford and was able to introduce me to plenty of other’s who’ve chosen to stay – some of whom were there to greet this year’s intake at the welcome tour and drinks!

When I was considering a change of role back in late 2018 I wanted to find something that wouldn’t just be a job but a career for me – if there’s anywhere I’m going to find out what life as a librarian is like, I think it’s here.

A few of the tools of the trade, as well as some of my favourite surprises/discoveries so far – a retro version of the orginal economic sci-fi, a great 1970s example of graphic cover design, and a beautiful clothbound copy of a study on the management of US forestry service.

Anastasia & Mary- Social Science Library

Hello!

Our names are Anastasia and Mary and we are the new Graduate Trainees for the Social Science Library (commonly known as the SSL).

Anastasia (right)- I have recently finished my M.Phil in Medieval History at Trinity College Dublin and prior to that I worked in university admin at the University of Exeter and received a BA in History at the University of Nottingham. Whilst I have no previous experience working in a library, I spent hundreds of hours in my university libraries as a student and was a frequent visitor of the library services desk, with my endless questions and obscure book queries. Whilst in Dublin I was fortunate to visit a variety of libraries and archives weekly for seminars and I have volunteered in a number of different archives up and down the country . Being a medieval historian I love old documents, artefacts, pretty buildings, and historical facts, so naturally am very excited to be living in Oxford. I love being in a university environment and am looking forward to the variation that this role will provide, where (hopefully) no one day will be the same.

Mary (left)- As it happens, I also studied history at university and am similarly fascinated by all things historical. It was while studying for my degree that I realised how much I (weirdly) enjoyed searching for resources, both through online library catalogues and physically on library shelves. (Sometimes it does feel like detective work!) My library experience before starting the trainee scheme was purely through voluntary work – whilst at university I volunteered at my local public library, then, after a short work experience placement at the Royal Engineers Museum archive, I volunteered once a week at Canterbury Cathedral library for a year. Although the SSL is very different in terms of the building and its collections, the knowledge and skills I learnt through my various experiences have definitely come in useful. Besides which, I love getting a flavour of each different type of library. I am looking forward to helping readers with their enquiries and welcoming new students when term begins – though maybe once I’ve got my head around the library system myself first!

So far in the first few weeks we have done a variety of library activities – ranging from relabelling and processing new books to scanning chapters for reading lists, and from checking and reprinting library shelf signs to watering the plants and blowing up balloons for  the open day. We have definitely been making the most of the glorious weather, making the most of our lunch breaks to explore the Botanical Gardens and several of the colleges and museums. It has been an enjoyable, but very busy first few weeks, preparing for when the students arrive in 0th week!

Madeleine Ahern – Taylor Institution Library

Hi everybody I’m Madeleine, one of two trainees based this year primarily at the Taylor Institution Library with shifts at the Sackler and Oriental Institute as well. I just graduated this spring with my BA Honours degree in History and Art History from Queen’s University in Canada, and after working in archives and museums previously I am now keen to pursue a career in academic librarianship.

A book from our special collections

 

Being a trainee at the Taylorian has been wonderful so far in part because of the extensive collections it encompasses. The Western and Eastern European languages, Linguistics, Film Studies, and Women’s Studies collections make for not only a fascinating range of library resources here but also some neat research going on at any minute. Most people gravitate towards our beautiful reading room adjacent to the main research collection stacks it seems!

 

The main reading room

 

I am primarily based at the issue desk so far, fielding reader inquiries, doing some book processing, shelving, and most recently preparing for inductions week. A favourite moment of my traineeship so far was when I got to work with Dalí, Matisse, and Picasso prints from the Strachan Artist Book collection all in one afternoon. I am really looking forward to all that is to come this year, in part because of an exciting new Navigation and Wayfinding Project that I am undertaking with my fellow trainee Chloe and a team of librarians across the Taylorian and Sackler to improve reader experience.

Rhiannon Perrin – Bodleian Law Library

Hi my name is Rhiannon (Rhiannon P as we have two Rhiannon’s on this year’s trainee scheme – although luckily not in the same library!) and I will be spending the year working in the Bodleian Law Library. The Bodleian Law Library is based in the St. Cross building on Manor Road, the English Faculty Library is also in this building and next door to us is the Social Science Library, with the old Bodleian Library less than a ten minute walk away.  So far in the past two weeks I have spent my time meeting and talking to all the different staff within the Law Library and learning about their areas of expertise. This year there are two trainees at the Law Library, Laura who is based in Information Resources, and myself in Academic Services. Being based in AS means that alongside my usual tasks like shelving and staffing the enquiry desk I am also involved in scanning resources to go online both on our internal page LawBod4Students and for ORLO reading lists.

Gladstone’s Library

 

Before coming to Oxford I was working in a small residential library in North Wales called Gladstone’s Library. In many ways this was great preparation for coming to the Bodleian as every day I spent time on the enquiry desk, helping readers, cataloguing and circulating books and journals, as well as working on specific projects being undertaken at Gladstone’s Library. However, Gladstone’s Library only had 150,000 volumes whereas the Bodleian Law Library has over 550,000 so far more material for me to familiarise myself with over the next year! Before that I had just completed my LLM in International Law at the University of Sussex where I got to visit The Hague and see incredible places like the Peace Palace which is home to numerous bodies of International Law including the International Court of Justice, but most importantly (to me anyway) the Peace Palace Library, an amazing building that holds over a million volumes on International Law. Finally, before that I was doing my BA in History where I spent part of my second year working in an archive, and I enjoyed it so much I then spent the whole of my third year working in the university library.

A few of us trainees outside Christ Church College

 

I am really looking forward to spending a year in Oxford, so far it seems like a fantastic city with lots of things to do and places to visit. I am excited for term to begin and to start seeing the Law Library in full flow, with postgraduate inductions beginning in less than two weeks and undergraduates the week after that. It has been really nice meeting my fellow trainees, we’ve already had a few training sessions together and the drinks reception in the Divinity School was a great way to be welcomed to the Bodleian.

Chloe Bolsover- Taylor Institution

Hello!

I’m Chloe, and I am currently working as one of the two trainees at the Taylor Institution Library, this year. In the past two weeks, I have been mainly working on the enquiries desk, helping readers find their away around the labyrinth that is the Taylor! Other duties include processing books coming from and returning to the Book Storage Facility in Swindon, shelving, and responding to readers over email and telephone. I am also involved in one of the Navigation and Wayfinding projects taking place this year, where as a team I will be helping to improve reader experience of navigating the Taylor and Sackler Libraries. A challenge, I am sure you will agree, if you have ever been to the Taylor or the Sackler! Alongside Evie, I will be helping to manage the trainee blog, so am welcoming any suggestions and volunteers for blog posts from current trainees.

Myself and the Taylorian

Before the Taylor…

I have had a bit of a career change, as I was working as an archaeologist before. I worked on numerous sites, many rural and a few urban in Oxfordshire and Lincolnshire. I would say my best find was a fully articulated horse skeleton, which had a human skeleton right next to it! I got very excited, believing it to be a horse and rider burial. As I investigated, though, I realised that the burials were actually separate events, with the horse having been buried before. Such is the life of an archaeologist, as coin hoards and treasure troves are very rare finds, not what Time Team would have you believe!

You may have to really look to see it, but the human skeleton is just below the horse and the small stripey bar.

Before that, I was doing an MA in Classics and Ancient History, as well as volunteering for Exeter Cathedral. There, I assisted with rooftop tours and stewarding. I enjoyed doing extensive research on the cathedral, as it was so useful when dealing with public enquiries about the history of the building. My BA was in Archaeology and Ancient History, and at the end of my degree, I worked full time as a laboratory assistant for my local archaeological unit. I cleaned archaeological finds from a huge Roman site and prepared them for museum storage. The best part of that role was cleaning and preserving Roman painted wall plaster, as uncovering the colours and pigments of the plaster was amazing!

Finally,

I am very happy to be back in Oxford, as it truly is a great city to live in. I do have a lifetime love of libraries, so cannot believe my luck that I get to work in a beautiful, 19th century library for a year! I am excited to learn new skills, improve my employability in more fields, and just to see where this year will take me.

 

Emma Jambor, English Faculty Library

Hello I’m Emma the new English Faculty Library Trainee! I did my degree in Classical Literature and Civilisation at the University of Birmingham, after which I worked for a year doing administrative work at AQA and some seasonal work at Waterstones. I have had a little experience working in a library as I volunteered in my classics department library for two years whilst I was at university, but otherwise I’m very new to the experience of working in a larger library.

The EFL on a sunny day

 

The EFL is located on Manor Road in the St. Cross Building which also hosts the Law Library and is next door to the Social Sciences Library. The library has various special collections including the Icelandic collection which is held in the Turville-Petre room. Previously the library hosted the Wilfred Owen Collection which was donated by Mrs Harold Owen in 1975 and consisted of Owen’s personal library displayed exactly as it had been on his shelves. The library is also in the process of reclassifying the old in-house system to LCC so I have been helping shift books before term starts.

Our banned and challenged books display 

 

I have now been working at English Faculty Library for just over a month and I’ve already learnt so much about the different tasks and processes within the library such as; the BSF deliveries, working on the issue desk, processing new books and journals, whilst also drinking lots of tea! Recently as part of my trainee role I created a display on banned books which was really interesting to put together and helped me refresh my knowledge of English Literature. Everyone I work with is really lovely and helpful, as well as our readers, which has helped me settle in. It has been lovely to meet the other trainees and I look forward to the year ahead.

Evie Brown, Bodleian Reader Services

Hello!

I’m Evie and I am one of the two new graduate trainees at the Bodleian reader services aka the Old Bod. So yes I get to work in the building Harry Potter was filmed in – pretty cool!

The Duke Humfrey's Library in Oxford

Duke Humphrey’s Reading Room – also the Hogwarts Library

I am a very recent graduate, having only finished my BA Anthropology degree in June of this year. Anthropology at the University of Bristol was an amazing experience, such an interesting subject and I cannot wait to make a visit to the Tylor (anthropology) library in Oxford.

During the last year of my degree and over the summer I worked in my local public library, which is the reason I decided to go for the traineeship here at Oxford. My experience at the public library has already been vastly different to the Bodleian – I have not had to sing nursery rhymes to babies yet or try to explain to an elderly person how to turn a computer on… I did love my experience there though, and I think it has set me in good stead for what may be to come in this new role.

So, I have been here at the Bod for two weeks now, and it is already flying by. I am finally starting to feel like I know what is going on and what I should be doing at any given moment of the day. Working in such a historic building is amazing (despite the stairs) and the Duke Humphreys reading room is definitely my favourite! I also have met all the other trainees several times thanks to several training courses we have had, and the Divinity Drinks reception we were invited to this week. Everyone is super kind and interesting – I think we are in for a fun year ahead of us!

I am excited for the undergrads to arrive in a couple of weeks, I think the phrase I have heard the most over the last couple of weeks is ‘just you wait till term starts’ every time I comment on the quietness or say something is easy! Its going to be an amazing experience, working in Oxford, and I still can’t quite believe I am here!

So that is my little hello post, I look forward to everyone else’s and to keep the blog up to date with my year 🙂