Sophie Welsh, Bodleian Library Reader Services

With first term over and Christmas hovering invitingly on the horizon, it’s probably about time I introduced myself on here.

Hi! I’m Sophie and I’ve been the graduate trainee in Reader Services at the Old Bodleian Library since the beginning of August. It’s difficult to remember what it was like in the blur that was my first few weeks here, besides walking the wrong way, picking up a book to pretend I know what I’m doing, and turning straight back around again. I’d like to think I’ve got into the swing of things by now, but I’m still learning something new every day.

The Old Bodleian Library is unique, both as a building and as a library (which, ironically, is a statement which could be applied to all of the libraries in Oxford). I’m surrounded on all sides by beautiful architecture, and I’m glad to say that I still haven’t got used to it, especially now that there’s a Christmas tree in the quad.

bod-christmas-tree

I came to the trainee scheme straight from Exeter University, where I studied English Literature. My experience working in libraries before this has mostly been behind-the-scenes, having assisted a preservation/conservation project in the Devon & Exeter Institution Library and a digitization project working on the letters sent to Thomas Hardy in the University’s Special Collections. I’ve really enjoyed the front of house aspects of working at the Old Bodleian, especially because the front entrance and the Main Enquiry desks are often the first port of call for people coming to the University of Oxford’s libraries for the first time. Being able to find a “missing” book or provide an answer to a grateful reader or member of the public is very satisfying.

Now that term is over, the Library has become a lot calmer and I’ve had more time to work on the beginning stages of my project: phasing out the use of the handlists (aka the card catalogue). At the moment, I’m working through the handlists to decide what information is necessary and will therefore have to be put on to our digital catalogue, so that we no longer rely on the physical catalogue as a back-up. The hardest part is understanding what previous cataloguers have meant by certain abbreviations and anachronisms. I’m in desperate need of a dictionary that can translate words and phrases from Bodleian into English because at times it’s like solving a cryptic crossword. Having said that, putting my detective skills to work is quite fun.

The kind of thing I need
A page from one of the handlists (and the kind of book I need).

I’ve really enjoyed the training sessions and the scheme in general so far, and I’m looking forward to what is to come in the new year. Merry Christmas!

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