Amy McMullen, History Faculty Library

Hello! I’m Amy and I am this year’s History Faculty Library trainee.

I graduated in 2014 with a degree in English Literature from Cardiff University. Since then I’ve done all kinds of jobs and volunteering whilst living at home in Solihull near Birmingham – working on a busy airport check-in during summer, dog walking, working in a bookshop, and most recently I was a barista at a popular coffee shop chain. As you can imagine, working in a library has been quite the change of pace!

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Not a bad view at work…

Although I have some experience volunteering in libraries years ago, this is my first proper job working in one, and so far Oxford has been a great place to begin my possible career. I feel very lucky to be here!

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The impressive roof of the Upper Camera

Somewhat appropriately given the subject, the History Faculty Library is a place where old and new buildings meet. I am mostly based in the Radcliffe Camera, AKA. the huge pretty circular stone building on all the postcards from Oxford. It’s easy to see how it got its iconic status, and is just as stunning on the inside as it is on the outside – it’s a shame most people don’t get to see it! Its intricate domed stone ceilings, spiral staircases and super tall wooden bookshelves make it really unique, even though it can be a bit eerie arriving in the library alone first thing in the morning. It is truly a privilege to come to work here everyday – everyone is always jealous when I tell them!

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The Radcliffe Camera staircase

However, most people don’t know that underneath the Camera are the space-age basements and hidden tunnels of the Upper and Lower Gladstone Link, which hold more of our collections (turns out a lot of people have written about history) and links to the Old Bodleian, so we can walk underground rather than dodge all the tourists in the Quad. If the Rad Cam represents the past, then the Gladstone Link represents the future. Some people say it looks like something from Star Trek – I think it looks more like a Tube station.

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The Oxford Underground…the tunnel from the HFL to the Old Bod

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The hidden treasures of the Upper Gladstone Link, with original sliding shelves designed by William Gladstone

Although I have only been here a few weeks, I have already settled into a routine at the HFL. Early morning and afternoon are usually when we receive deliveries of books in big blue boxes, ordered by readers from the Book Storage Facility in Swindon, and these are sure to increase as term begins. In between I have shifts on the reception and circulation desks – issuing books, helping students, or just dismissing tourists! I also have to fit in the training sessions with the other graduate trainees. The rest of the time is often spent processing new books (I still haven’t got the hang of the sticky back plastic) or trying to decipher the Library of Congress classification system whilst shelving returned books.

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The view from the desk in the Lower Cam

Michaelmas term starts properly next week, and as one of the biggest lending libraries in the university, we are sure to be busy! I’ve been told that working in the library during term time is completely different compared to how it is now. However, I’m enjoying the calm before the storm ie. being able to race around the city on my bike without bumping into too many lost looking students! I’m looking forward to the coming year, getting to know the university, the library and its readers, as well as my colleagues and fellow trainees. I feel very lucky to have a fantastic opportunity to experience such an integral part of the world’s top university, and I hope to take advantage of everything Oxford has to offer me!

All photos taken by me in October 2016 🙂

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