Julia Dallaway – Wolfson College Library

Hello! I’m Julia and I’m this year’s Graduate Library Trainee at Wolfson College Library.

Looking out of Wolfson College onto the Harbour Lawn

I started this trainee programme in September thinking I was already very familiar with Oxford as both a city and a university, having just graduated from here this summer with a BA in English Language and Literature. Yet I soon discovered a stark contrast between the medieval cottages and hallowed traditions of Worcester College, where I previously studied, and the 1960’s architecture and ‘egalitarian ethos’ of Wolfson College, where I now work. The collegiate system of Oxford University allows each college to develop a unique atmosphere, so I had to adjust to Wolfson’s quirks as I settled in. Meanwhile, the Bodleian-run training sessions I attended in Osney introduced me to a beautiful corner of Oxford I’d never encountered as a student!

Before I started my role at Wolfson, Sally (my wonderful predecessor) told me that being a trainee in a college library—as opposed to one of the larger Bodleian or faculty libraries—has real advantages, which has proved true in my time here so far. I feel involved in almost every part of the running of the library. As part of a team of only two librarians, I am in charge of processing new book acquisitions (invoicing, classifying, cataloguing, and labelling them) and ensuring the Common Room is stocked with the latest periodicals, as well as daily library tasks including re-shelving books and answering reader queries.

Starting the trainee year was definitely a case of being thrown in at the deep end. In my first week, I was watching the Librarian give induction talks and tours to new students; by the end of my second week, I was giving these inductions myself! Giving talks to groups of sometimes 15 or 20 students pushed me outside of my comfort zone (especially when the projector didn’t work!), but I was pleasantly surprised to witness myself developing a public-speaking persona capable of this challenge. I loved getting to know the names and faces of new students and, as Wolfson is a graduate-only college, getting to hear about the weird academic niche that each student is researching.

New acquisitions from the Poetry Book Society, ready for National Poetry Day
One treasure from the Stallworthy collection: an entirely handwritten poetry book, entitled Manuscript

Being a librarian has already had its funny moments, such as when I bumped into a Wolfson student at a local Tesco’s, who recognised me as his college librarian and promptly asked me where the tinned tomatoes were! There have also been creative moments, including my #LibraryTakeover of Wolfson College’s Twitter account for National Poetry Day, which encouraged students to come to the Library and pick up one of the poetry books I’d scattered around for the occasion. And there have been surprising moments: I’m currently enjoying labelling new donations to the Library—including large collections from the philologist Anna Morpurgo Davies and the poet and former Wolfson Acting President Jon Stallworthy—because of the obscure treasures I come across.

My future plans are still uncertain, as I’d love to return to academia. But I know that, at the very least, this year is teaching me an abundance of practical skills that could help me to get a part-time library job to support myself during my future studies. I also think that learning how to assist readers in finding relevant resources will make me a better researcher.

The year so far has already immersed me in the theoretical and practical training necessary for good librarianship, and I’m excited to keep learning. If you’d told me two months ago that I’d be using Aleph to catalogue new acquisitions almost from scratch, I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about!

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