As a College Library trainee my days can vary a lot. During term time our Library is always busy, with students coming in and out all day (literally – we are open 24/7) to study, to find and borrow books, and to make use of our other Library services – such as our wide selection of borrowable board games!
As I’m writing this it is fourth week – almost half way through term! This is a pretty typical term time day, though with more chocolate than is normal…
9am – Sorting, Shelving, Socials
I start by scanning my own and the shared Library email inboxes for anything which needs urgent attention. I’m part of a team of three here at Teddy Hall (me – Heather, Emma – Assistant Librarian, and James – Librarian); we all share responsibility for monitoring the Library inbox and responding to queries which come in there. I then process the returns which come in overnight. In the middle of term there are rarely huge piles of books: I’d guess around 20 each morning.
Next I turn to our Click and Collect requests. The Library started offering this during 2020 to support students who were in isolation but needed to access books from the Library. Students submit a request either via email or SOLO (the University’s book-finding-website – literally, Search Oxford Libraries Online), and we find the book and deliver it either to their pigeon hole or directly to their room. Then it’s time for some shelving! I actually find shelving books a nice way to start the day: there is something very grounding about sorting everything into its rightful place. Shelving also gives me a chance to have a walk around the Library and do some general tidying – I’ll also check there is paper in the printer, free period products in the bathroom, pens in the pen pot, and staples in the stapler.
My final morning task is to check the Library social media accounts: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I’ll check whether we have any planned content to go out today, or which I need to prepare for later in the week.
10am – Blind Date with a Book
On Monday this week (7 Feb 2022) we launched Blind Date with a Book – Teddy Hall students, staff and Fellows request a book, telling us a little bit about what they like to read, and we set them up with something we think they’ll love. To celebrate Valentine’s Day and LGBTQIA+ History Month, we are selecting books with themes of gender, sexuality, and romance. Blind Date is always extremely popular, and on Monday alone we had 15 requests! This morning Emma, James and I shared ideas for what to give people who had requested books from poetry, to fantasy fiction, to a humorous and fun-to-read non-fiction. This is a really fun part of the day, and I inevitably end up with a list of books I want to read!
We wrap the books, affix a Valentine’s chocolate to the cover, and pop them in pigeon holes to await their dates…
11am – Desk Duty
I enjoy sitting at the Issue Desk, as I can help students with any queries they may have. Sometimes this can feel a bit like detective work! For example, today a student came to the desk with two items on her reading list which she and her classmates were struggling to find. The only information provided was an author name, a date, and a mysterious acronym… After some SOLO-searching, some googling and some guess work I found both articles – one of which we had in a physical book in the library. If you’re interested, the acronyms were the names of the journals in which the articles were published! Students are always really grateful for any help you can give, and so even when I feel stumped, I remember that any progress I can make in searching something out is time saved for them, and that is a good thing.
12.30pm – Lunch
You may have heard it before, but it’s worth reading again: college library jobs mean a free college lunch. These are consistently yummy, and because we all eat together, lunch in college is a really great way to chat to the rest of the Library team and also to other college staff. Today this chat covered the important topics of planetariums, dodgy ideas for fusion food, and Cadbury World.
1.30pm – Books, Books, Books
By lunchtime we’ve usually had some new books delivered, which I’ll collect from Porter’s Lodge and process. As these are often student requests, I will then almost immediately take the books back to the Lodge to put them in student pigeon holes!
2pm – Book Shopping (yes, seriously)
One of the best parts of my job is going to Blackwell’s for books. We are so lucky to have Blackwell’s as a resource and it is just a short walk from Teddy Hall, so when we can, we buy our books directly from there. This also means we can turn any requests around as quickly as possible! Today, as well as picking up a student request I am keeping my eyes open for anything which might be a great Blind Date book! I do find a personal favourite lock down read of mine: Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. As it’s a LGBTQIA+ love story, a Teddy Hall Blind Date requester should be expecting this in their pigeon hole soon!
3pm – Ticking off Tasks
This afternoon I’m sat up in my office, working on some ongoing tasks. This week I’ve got three balls which I am juggling. First, I’m preparing a book display and blog post celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science by showcasing the work of our own college Fellows.
Second, I am working through a donation of books we received over Christmas vacation – over 2,500 of them! When they arrived, we spread the books out over the thankfully-student-free desks and then organised them roughly into subjects, before putting what we could onto available shelves. The rest were boxed up and are currently living at the very top of the Teddy Hall Library tower…! We have started making lists of the books in the donation, and will decide what we want to keep and what we will offer to other libraries. If it’s a quiet day during term I might spend some time on this, but mostly this will get picked up properly again at Easter.
Third, I am planning my own Trainee project. As part of the Traineeship, we all work on an individual project which we then present about at the end of the year. My project is all about making the Library more sustainable… I’m really looking forward to working on this – so watch this space!
5pm – “Home” Time
One of the best things about living in Oxford is just how much there is to do in the city – and I love to take full advantage of that! From catching up with the other Trainees for a drink, to attending a seminar about medieval culture (I did a Masters in Medieval English Literature!), to meeting friends for dinner, or playing in orchestra (optional seminars and orchestra?! Yes – I am a bit of a nerd), Oxford is a great place to be. And there is loads to do which won’t break the bank! Today, though, it’s straight home for a hot chocolate and to continue reading Ali Smith’s wonderful book ‘Spring’.