Although our traineeships are based at the Bodleian Law Library, we also get to spend a day each per week at the Sainsbury Library, part of the Saïd Business School. Since it’s been a couple of years since the Sainsbury team had a trainee of their own, we thought this would be a good opportunity to share what business library life is looking like these days.
Jess: I turn on my computer and leave it slowly loading in order to do some shelving to start the day. I clear my emails, reading updates on SBS, flagging any ORLO reviews for my time at the Law Library, and making sure I’m up to date with all new info on Slack.
Josie: My Sainsbury day is a Thursday, so while I’m waiting for my computer to wake up enough to catch up on emails and Slack messages, I check my desk for any sticky notes bearing updates on ongoing projects or unfinished bits and pieces from earlier in the week. Sometimes there’s a bit of book processing to do – this is always a bit of a novelty for me, since I’m not very involved with that side of things at Law.
Jess: I’m on desk for the morning shift today. In between answering reader enquiries, I get to work on the Sainsbury Library’s benchmarking spreadsheet. We search other university library holdings for a long list of business databases, which lets the SBS see if it has a competitive number of databases for its students and to identify any gaps our holdings might have. Today I’m starting a new column and working my way through LSE’s catalogue.
Josie: Once I’m up to date on everything, I check in with one of my colleagues to see if there’s anything in particular they’d like me to do today. Quite often, this just means working on the Futures Library- crates of books, papers, and assorted Stuff from the collections of significant figures in scenario planning. Formerly based at the Egrove Park campus, it is now being transferred to offsite storage, so one of my jobs has been boxing up the non-monograph collections. This is always a bit of a mystery dip – it turns out “non-monograph” can mean anything from journal issues and presentation notes to projector slides, diaries, and pretty much anything else that can be put on a shelf. Rather than cataloguing each individual item, we fill numbered archive boxes according to a master spreadsheet, keeping track of which items end up in which box, and then create an ALEPH record for each completed box. I quickly discovered that the boxes fill up much faster than the BSF vans will collect them – the office has been in an increasingly precarious state since mid-November.
Jess: Break time! I head into the office for a bit of reading time, before returning to the desk at about twenty past. On today’s menu: Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
Josie: At some point the person on desk will take their break, so I’ll step out and cover for them. This is a good opportunity to sign into the desk computer, getting all the slow loading out of the way ahead of my afternoon desk shift, before going back to the morning’s tasks.
Jess: I’m also keeping an eye on the library inbox for the second half of my desk shift. Whilst more complex enquiries still have me poking my head into the office to ask someone for help, I’m getting the hang of doing database account requests. There’s also a new project in tow to make sure each of the data tags in our books are up-to-date. I gather up a trolley of books, removing old tags as gently as possible, and reprogramming new ones.
Josie: I take my lunch break at twelve, so I can be ready to take over on desk at one. I’m pretty sure that the SBS building was entirely designed for networking – I could find a new spot to sit and eat my lunch every week for the rest of the year.
Jess: Time for lunch! When the weather allows, I love wandering to the amphitheatre-like seating in one of the SBS’s quads and enjoying my lunch there. I crack open my book to read for the rest of my break.
Josie: I settle down at the enquiry desk for the rest of the day. I keep an eye on the library email inbox, responding to those I can and forwarding others on to better-informed colleagues. The library itself is usually pretty quiet, but I’m getting familiar enough with the usual questions about printing, toilet locations, and (occasionally) finding a book. I have yet to be asked about the Bloomberg terminals and their alarmingly colour-coded keyboards, and I’m hoping it stays that way – although help is always only a frantic Slack message away.
Jess: The Sainsbury Library Annexe is currently closed to readers as material from the SBS’s Egrove Park library is relocated across the Bodleian. Today, I’m looking at print journals! At the SBS, we keep print journals for a limited amount of time before they are withdrawn from the library collection to keep current issues on the shelves. Issues are distributed to fill gaps in other library holdings or taken out of the Bodleian’s collection entirely. My first task is to make individual piles of each of the 14 journals for checking with over 300 individual issues. There are several large crates for the Futures Library project – which Josie has told you about above – so I feel like I’m dodging my way around a jungle gym as I fire up a philosophy podcast on my headphones.
Josie: The Sainsbury is a lending library, which means I occasionally get to do a bit of circulation – another novelty! However, students prefer to use the self-checkout machine beside the desk, so circulation enquiries mostly tend to be of the “something isn’t working” variety- it’s usually the RFID tags (see Jess’s explanation above). Another quirk of the SBS is that some courses run intermittently throughout the year, and these students will often only be in Oxford for a few days at a time. It’s a little jarring to go from the strictly reference-only Law Library to lending several books to a reader who then tells you they’re about to fly back to Chicago for the next month!
Jess: Nine large bags, two boxes, two-and-a-half podcast episodes, and one exceptionally well-hidden box later, I have all my journal issues sorted. I start with The Economist, as it’s teetering dangerously, beginning to sort issues for checking. I have a spreadsheet that tells me the earliest and latest issues I should have, alongside a list of ones marked as missing. Each journal is out of order, so I work on putting each pile into publication order and noting any missing issues as I go.
Josie: When I’m not dealing with readers, I work on one of my LibGuide assignments. At the start of the year, Jess and I were each given a set of LibGuides to work on- checking links, updating the date range on pre-set searches, and finding new resources to add. Before Christmas I was working on adding recent reports to a guide on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals; now I’m looking at a guide on South America, part of a series on “Doing Business” around the world.
Jess: I retreat to the office for my final Dostoyevsky fix of the day, accompanied by some dried pineapple for a sugar boost to my afternoon.
Josie: If we’re expecting a delivery of Bod books from the offsite storage facility, I’ll head down to the secret cupboard in the car park to drop off any returns, retrieve the new delivery, and process them back at the desk. Unlike most Bodleian libraries, readers need a separate SBS card in order to get into the building, so I double-check the requestors’ permissions on ALEPH in case there might be any issues with that – people do occasionally click the wrong library in the drop-down menu. Around this time, I’ll also take my break from desk, popping down to the cafeteria to take advantage of the daily free tea or coffee we’re allowed as SBS staff.
Jess: Back into the Annexe I go! Whilst I’m continuing with serials today, there’s another ongoing project to withdraw from the library’s collection any book that hasn’t been borrowed for 10 years or more, starting with the stack (as regularly borrowed titles on reading lists are kept on the ground floor). I check each book to ensure it has the matching shelfmark and barcode, usually taking three large stacks down to the office. Opening up our library cataloguing system, known as ALEPH, as well as using Oxford’s online catalogue SOLO, I make sure each book is held somewhere else in the central Bodleian libraries where it’s available to all students (sorry colleges). If it’s the only copy, I place it on a new pile to go back up to the stack. If not, weed away!
First, we delete the item record – this is a record that is specific to a particular book, versus all books with the same title, author, etc. The next step is to delete the holding record, if the library has no other copies of that particular book at that location – for example, in the SBS, there are separate holding records so the catalogue will tell a reader if a book is in the stack, the annexe, or the main reading room! Each of these books goes through a special secret process to stop it from beeping at the gate, and then gets a nice red ‘WITHDRAWN’ stamp on the inside. They’re then boxed up (with a very fun roller of packing tape) and go on to a second-hand book provider so they can be read and loved.
Josie: At some point I’ll try to have a quick chat with Hal, the Business Librarian – I have some questions about the guide I’m currently working on, and I also want to talk about potential topics for building my own LibGuide from scratch. Current options include banking, financial technology, or another piece for the “Doing Business” series – all a bit daunting, considering I had very little idea of what a business degree involved before starting here. However, I’m finding that the LibGuides, along with all the other day-to-day library tasks, are providing ample introduction, and things are finally beginning to make sense.
Jess: Home time! I’ll often quickly nab a book I’ve spotted the previous week to enjoy over the weekend.
Josie: The library follows the same opening hours as the main SBS building, so there’s not much in the way of opening/closing routines. Since it’ll be a week before I’m back, I make a note of any LibGuide progress for my future self, say goodbye on Slack, and then hand over the desk to the person taking the evening duty.