Here’s a typical term-time day as the Trainee at St John’s, involving posters, returns, acquisitions, processing, and maintaining the Library’s daily Twitter updates. A day in the life here varies based on whether it’s term-time or the vacation. Over the holidays, we have very few readers, so I work on jobs which involve spending longer away from the desk, such as updating the Special Collections inventories, or minor book moves on the reading room shelves.
Working as part of a small team, the Trainee is based on the library enquiry desk. Rather than moving between shifts on different stations, I work on various tasks from my desk, and answer the occasional reader query as and when they arise!
Without further ado, join me for a day in the life of the St John’s Trainee…
9am: Get settled
It’s a three-part process:
- It’s always quiet when I first arrive. I’ll check my email, the Library inbox, and the shared calendar. The contractors are still finishing up the new building, so often we’ll have an electrician or decorator scheduled to sort one specific issue.
- Next, I empty the returns box and check items back in using Aleph, the library management system. Books can be borrowed for a whole term/break, so big rushes are fairly infrequent.
- Most importantly: make a coffee!
After emails, my next desk-based check is our Special Collections Twitter. Sometimes there will be a popular hashtag or event, so I like to check our feed for inspiration.
This term, my tweet days are Tuesdays and Thursdays. If I’m working on a Tweet from scratch, I’ll find the shelf mark of the item I need, locate it in the basement store, and then take some photos. Then I’ll come back to my desk to draft the optimum 280 characters.
10:30am: check on the Law Library
It is somewhat a mystery to me why this should be the case, but if a College Library has a separate area for one subject, it’s usually law. The St John’s Law Library is on the nearby Kendrew Quad site, whilst the main Library is on the original site. It’s too small to have it’s own staff, so one of us heads over to take any acquistions or work through any shelving left by the students.
11am: sandwich collection!
One of the perks of working in a College is absolutely the lunch: I can either pick-up a pack-up at 11am, or go for a hot meal when the canteen opens at noon. Walking through the historic quads on the way to the kitchen servery naturally involves nattering with the other hungry Library staff members too.
11:15am: updating the posters
Given the changing Covid-19 regulations in College, I’ll regularly update our signage about mask guidance. There are also endless other posters to make, be it a withdrawn book giveaway, or a reminder about KeepCups next to the new hot drink machine.
When it isn’t raining, I enjoy eating lunch in the College gardens. Like many of the trainees, I’m conveniently located to pick up groceries or go for a walk at lunchtime.
1pm: re-classification work
Like many other Oxford libraries, St John’s has it’s own classification system. This has both positives and negatives! Recently, I noticed that part of the Theology section was in an unclear order, so I proposed to the Librarian that we rearrange this into a chronological order. Although we only reordered or renamed about ten headings within Theology, this meant that around 150 books had to be reassessed, and potentially reclassified. I am working through these about 25 titles at a time, updating the classifications on Aleph, relabelling, and then re-shelving the books.
3pm: collect the post and process acquisitions
St John’s seems to be quite late on the postie’s route, so I usually wait until the afternoon to swing by the Porters’ Lodge and collect the day’s deliveries. At the moment, we tend to receive between 4 and 8 new books a day, which I will process and classify. We are never short of books to process as we are working on a donation given to the Library by a former fellow!
5pm: Homeward bound
If I’ve finished my book, I like to end the day by checking out the recent literary fiction shelf, and choose a new title to borrow for my own reading. I tidy up my desk in order to pass the space over to the Student Library Assistant on duty that evening.