Hello! My name is Jessica and I’m one of this year’s Taylorian trainees. For those unfamiliar with Oxford, the Taylorian is a vast maze of a library that specialises in European languages, Women’s Studies and Film Studies. (The languages used to be Western European only, but this summer the Slavonic and Modern Greek Library reintegrated with our collections, so some of the shelves now look very exotic, with Я’s, Λ’s and Σ’s everywhere.)
Each trainee at the Taylorian gets to try two distinct experiences: working at the upstairs Enquiry Desk (used mainly by readers in search of lesser-known or more specialised books) and working at the downstairs Issue Desk (used mainly by undergraduates borrowing the key texts for their course). I’m sure my fellow trainee, Will, will have lots to say about life upstairs, but here is my take on starting work downstairs.
It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks so far, with about half the time spent at training sessions and the rest spent practising new skills at the desk. I have learnt intriguing things such as how to give a book a new barcode (this involves more than putting a sticker on the cover!), how to add a security tag to a book, and how to register an external reader for membership of a Bodleian library. It has also been really fun to meet essential non-human members of the team (Louis the shelving trolley and Xavier the Xerox photocopier!), decorate the Issue Desk whiteboard ready for the start of term, and discover that as staff members Will and I get the same borrowing privileges as academics – meaning we can borrow large numbers of foreign books and DVDs and keep many of them for a long time!
To finish off, a bit about my background and how I came to do the traineeship: I studied French and Spanish at Keble College here in Oxford, then did an MA in Translation at Surrey University, which I loved. During the Master’s, I managed to set up as a freelance translator, and I came out with the idea of continuing with that part-time while finding another, more stable career path to pursue alongside it. As I am an avid reader and enjoy studying and learning, I could imagine being happy working in a library.
I found a part-time job as a Library Assistant at Corpus Christi College in Oxford and was later given the opportunity to do extra hours at St Peter’s College. I absolutely loved discovering how the library world functions behind-the-scenes and learning to perform all sorts of exciting book-related tasks, so decided to build on my experience by applying for the traineeship – and now here I am! I still translate, but am lucky enough to know I am also part of another very enjoyable profession, and this has taken away the nerve-inducing unpredictability of freelancing. What’s more, I’m working with language books, which can’t do my translation skills any harm!
All in all, the first couple of weeks of the traineeship have been exhausting but very exciting. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring.