The St Cross Building, home of the Faculties of English and Law, the English Faculty Library and the Bodleian Law Library, is currently undergoing major building works. Due to the nature of the work on the EFL including constructing a new accessible entrance for the library, we have had to close for the summer vacation. As my traineeship comes to a close I thought I would write a post reflecting on the building project and closure as it has made for a really interesting and at times challenging year!
Preparations for the building project began with our collections. As the English Faculty needed space for the construction of a new reception area on the ground floor, we had to consolidate the contents of our three stacks into just one. This huge task started back in 2013, when my colleagues began sending material from one of our stacks to be stored at the BSF to free up space. Last year, my predecessor Sarah measured the stack space taken up by each journal in Stack 1 (home of our older periodicals) and our Librarian and Senior Library Assistant for Collections weeded out our least-used journals in consultation with the Faculty. Then, over Hilary and Trinity terms this year we split the rest of the close access periodicals between our remaining stack and the shelves in one of the Faculty’s seminar rooms. Luckily we also had the assistance of the Bodleian Libraries team of book movers, who shifted our rare books into the refurbished stack. This year also involved seemingly endless building project meetings for our Librarian and Deputy Librarian, and planning how to help our students during the closed period.
The end of Trinity Term sped past with exam deadlines and students checking books out for the summer, and before we knew it there was only a week left for our final preparations. The EFL staff offices were consumed by a whirlwind of dust and long-forgotten stationery as we packed everything up to be stored upstairs in the Gallery: about 50 crates of office equipment, files and miscellaneous stuff. Some essentials we set aside to transfer to our temporary office, including my mascots: Thomas the Tank Engine and a hippo pencil sharpener with a little Christmas tree hat. Meanwhile, our issue desk, card catalogue and display shelves and cases were dismantled and removed. We moved all of our office furniture upstairs as well, although we saved the kettle for last. Finally, exhausted but on schedule, we handed over control of the EFL to the builders and went to explore our summer hideout.
So my year as a trainee at the English Faculty Library is ending in an unusual fashion: holed up with my four colleagues in a little office in the Upper Reading Room of the Old Bodleian Library. We’re very grateful to the staff who have very kindly hosted us for the summer, and also to the Social Sciences Library for accepting book returns for us! Although we miss our kettle, our office is located a short wander to the cakes of the Headley Tearoom, and comes complete with a view of the Quad, 18th Century graffiti on the wood panelled walls, and a weary-looking portrait of author and politician Sir Henry Wotton.
Even without students and books around we still have work to do! This summer is a good chance to catch up on bits of admin before the new academic year begins. My colleagues are working on tasks such as updating the Bodleian’s collections of American Literature, and planning inductions and training sessions. We are also fielding email, telephone and Live Help enquiries from students and researchers. My daily tasks are as varied as ever; last week the Deputy Librarian and I conducted tours of the Radcliffe Camera for this year’s English UNIQ summer school students. Also on my current to-do list is to make a virtual display on a 17th century playhouse, create a series of lists on Library Thing to promote our collections, and to update the EFL trainee manual for my successor. My year at the EFL has been so enjoyable, and I feel it’s been a really valuable experience to be part of a library undergoing such a major change. I will definitely be returning for a visit to see the final outcome of the building project!