Alice Shepherd, Radcliffe Camera

Hello, my name is Alice and I’m this year’s trainee for the History Faculty Library, more commonly referred to as the Radcliffe Camera (or Rad Cam).

An external view of the Radcliffe camera showing the staff entrance
The Radcliffe Camera
A view of a shared desk with chairs for readers running down towards a large window with bookshelves on either side. There is an ornate stone ceiling above.
Lower Camera desks

Because the Radcliffe Camera is so close to the Old Bodleian, some staff here work across both sites. So, I can often be seen hanging around with Charlie, the Old Bodleian trainee for this year!

As one of our more historic and beautiful libraries, the Radcliffe Camera is almost always busy. Even outside of term-time we have a steady flow of dedicated readers which means that no matter the time of year there’s plenty to be done. So far, my days have consisted mainly of:

  • Desk work – helping readers to enter the library and borrow books.
  • Scanning – finding and digitising texts for readers to reference remotely.
  • Self-collect – adding and removing books from our self-collect shelves for readers to reference in the library.
  • Bankspersoning – guiding the van as it arrives for its daily deliveries from the off-site store in Swindon then sorting all the new books.
  • Book processing – taking new books and working all
    Two desks sit next to a balustrade looking over the library floor. The gallery opposite has bookshelves lining the walls and large windows line a domed roof above.
    Upper Camera desks
    A domed roof with blue and white mouldings in geometric patterns studded with gold centrepieces. Around it are a row of windows and then large arches below that.
    Upper Camera ceiling

    kinds of magic on them to get them ready to be put on our shelves and lent to readers.

  • Shelving – making sure our books go back where they belong so all our readers can find them.
  • Training – the Graduate Trainee Scheme provides regular training sessions to help us all become familiar with the many aspects of librarianship.

As someone with no prior library experience it has been a bit of a steep learning curve but all my colleagues at the Radcliffe Camera and the trainees from other libraries have been amazingly patient and kind in helping me understand the ins and outs of working as a librarian!

Although I have no prior library experience, Oxford itself isn’t new to me. I studied here back in

A basement room with armchairs and tables for working dotted about surrounded by shelves.
The Gladstone Link

2016 as an undergraduate law student so I have a basic familiarity with at least the location of some of the Bodleian’s key libraries. After graduating I realised that a career in law wasn’t really for me, so I took up some part time work at a pub. Then of course Covid hit, and I decided to up sticks and move halfway across the world to Japan to teach English (we all cope in different ways)! While I was out there, I had the chance to self-reflect a little and realised that Librarianship was something I wanted to have a shot at, and that’s how I ended up back in Oxford working at (in my humble opinion) one of the world’s biggest and most beautiful libraries!


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