Farewell from the 2021-22 Trainees

Dear readers – and we know you’re out there, this blog’s statistics have doubled in the past year, thank you very much – it’s that time of year again. We’ve been wrapping up projects and working on handover documents, and with many of us now disappearing to use up annual leave or begin new contracts, it seemed like an appropriate time to make our formal farewell to the traineeship. From setting up an official trainee Twitter to meeting some library-endorsed llamas and alpacas, it’s been a busy and exciting year, and a pleasure to share what we could of it on here. For this final post, we wanted to share some reflections and a brief summary of our future plans, as well as taking the opportunity to wish the incoming trainee cohort all the best for the year ahead – we really hope you have a good one.

Katie Ross, Social Science Library: I have loved my experience as the graduate trainee at the SSL – my highlights have been the people I work with and our regular readers who say hello every morning/afternoon! The building is also nice and cool in a heatwave… I still can’t quite believe I get to be part of the Bodleian team and have thoroughly enjoyed participating in events across the different libraries and colleges, like alpaca cuddling (!) and the Staff Conference. I think some of my most useful experiences have been giving library tours and supervising a work experience student, as these have given me confidence in taking the lead. I have also had the valuable opportunity to try out working with social media. After my traineeship, I am moving over to the Weston to do a Digital Imaging Apprenticeship with the Digital Bodleian.  

Heather Barr, St Edmund Hall: Being part of the trainee cohort has been a real highlight of my traineeship this year – it has been wonderful to share our experiences of learning-the-library-ropes! I have also loved how varied work is in a college library. From spending a week knowing a lot about Medieval Irish saints (after helping a PhD candidate), to introducing secondary school students to our beautiful seventeenth-century atlases, I have found working closely with students especially rewarding. I am delighted to be staying on at St Edmund Hall for another two years while I complete my MA in Library and Information Studies at UCL. 

Emily Main, St Hilda’s College: My first taste of library work in September was at the Bodleian History Faculty Library and I evidently enjoyed it so much that I applied for a permanent position at St Hilda’s College Library! I’ve loved being part of both teams and am extremely grateful that St Hilda’s and the Bodleian team have allowed me to continue and complete the year as a trainee. I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to explore library work with hands-on experience in a faculty and college library and by visiting other libraries, such as the local public library, during our Wednesday sessions. 

Lizzie Dawson, All Souls College: I have enjoyed being part of a college during my year at All Souls, and the lovely trainees I have met. I feel I have had a great range of experiences this year and have enjoyed the variety of the training sessions. I revamped the blog as part of the blog team and co-edited the excellent posts by the trainees. I am grateful to those who wanted to participate in the new @OxLibTrainees Twitter when I pitched the idea. It is rewarding to have the chance to start something that will develop our skills and encourage future applicants to the traineeship. I feel I have gained more from the traineeship by creating something together. I have relished investigating the background of the benefactors of All Souls and using the excellent resources of the library for my research. It has caused reflection on the history of enslavement and its continuing impact.

Juliet Brown, Old Bodleian Library: Working in the Old Bodleian Library this year has been an incredibly rewarding experience. The role has allowed me to complete a variety of core library tasks, interact with a diverse range of readers, as well as taking on significant responsibilities across the wider library system. Being able to share these experiences with other trainees, as well as developing my knowledge of the wider library sector through regular training sessions, has been incredibly valuable. I am thankful for the opportunity to have spent this year training and working within the Bodleian Libraries, developing a myriad of new skills that will benefit me in future roles, and to have worked as a member of such an incredible team. 

Jess Ward, Bodleian Law Library: One of my favourite things this year has been reclassifying the jurisprudence section – who knew hours of listening to plain-text philosophy podcasts would mean that I could occasionally understand some small concept related to jurisprudence? The biggest highlight, however, was putting together a display on the English legal history of queer rights for LGBTQ+ History Month. It was something that really helped to put into perspective how recent many of these rights are, whilst also gaining an appreciation for the extensiveness of the law library’s collections – I could (gently and carefully) grab a 1760s book with a 1553 statute off the open shelf! After my traineeship ends, I’ll be making my way to the other side of the enquiry desk as a DPhil student at New College (and far beyond the enquiry desk, making a full return to coxswaining boats).

Jemima Bennett, New College: A highlight of my year in the library at New College has been working so closely with our special collections. I feel as if I’ve been given the opportunities and space to really learn a lot about manuscripts and early printed books in a way that I think not many other jobs would facilitate. I’m keen to continue working with manuscripts next year as I side-step within libraries to a PhD at the University of Kent with the Bodleian, focusing on manuscript fragments here in Oxford. My favourite elements of the traineeship have been the training sessions spent looking at different types of libraries. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about the breadth of librarianship, as well as how different libraries cater to their readers. It’s also been wonderful to have in the trainee cohort such a great support network, and just a lovely group of people.

Izzie Salter, Sackler Library: Being the Sackler Library trainee this year has been a brilliant experience. Undoubtedly, my highlight is working with our special collections, alongside the help of our former Art and Architecture Librarian. Most notably, I was able to present The Japanese Box (a facsimile edition of seminal photographic works produced in post-War Japan) to History of Art undergraduates; this was an amazing opportunity to both test my speaking skills and discuss an area of art I had come to love through my time at work. After my traineeship, I will be returning to university to study Legal and Social Research, now with an enriched appreciation for academic libraries and all that they offer. I am incredibly thankful to my colleagues, across the Sackler Library and the trainee cohort, for sharing this year with me, and will miss Oxford hugely.

Josie Fairley Keast, Bodleian Law Library: I’ve had an incredible year with both the BLL and Sainsbury teams – highlights include helping to pull off the first round of in-person undergraduate mooting exams since 2019, reaching the end of the Futures Library relocation spreadsheet, and peering behind the walls of so many of Oxford’s iconic streetfronts. Although the traineeship has confirmed my intention to pursue a career in libraries, I’ll be taking a brief detour for the next year as I make use of a scholarship to study an MPhil in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic. I hear the Other Place has plenty of libraries – hopefully one will take me on while I’m there! 

Georgie Moore, Weston Library: Recently, I’ve joined the Bodleian’s Public Engagement team and the Old Bod Reader Services weekend team. Taking on two part-time roles is keeping my work-life varied which suits me as I like to have different things going on. Public Engagement involves interacting with various audiences, from school children to academics, but a constant is helping enthuse visitors about library collections. Aside from everything I learnt as a trainee, an unexpected benefit of the programme has been that everywhere I go in the Bodleian libraries I seem to bump into people I’ve met through the training sessions and former colleagues from St John’s, making me feel right at home.

Ben Elliott, Pembroke College: My year at Pembroke has been brilliant. I have loved managing Bishop John Hall’s collection, curating displays of artefacts (the Notebook of Thomas Atkinson, Master of HMS Victory, 1805 is my go-to object to ramble on about), working with conservators and inventorying the college archive where I found letters by John Ruskin, D.G. Rossetti and William Holman Hunt. It was also fun to meet Thomas Atkinson’s relative and show her the HMS Victory notebook; as well as, working with the Bannister family and a film crew who were filming a new documentary involving the college’s Sir Roger Bannister collection. I’m now trekking up to the Yorkshire Dales to start a new chapter as an auction assistant at a fine art auctioneer, where I’ll assist in artwork/collections/artist research, cataloguing, auction sales and curating exhibitions. I’m swapping the spires of Oxford for rolling hills, drystone walls and sheep. Next goal: appear on Antiques Roadshow. 

Sophie Lay, English Faculty Library: Working with the English Faculty Library has been a delight year-round, but the highlight of my traineeship has been getting to flex my creative writing skills with displays, blog posts, and working on the twitter account – especially helping to establish the @OxLibTrainees account, which I hope will form a key part of the traineeship in future! I have learned more than I can summarise this year, from developing my digital and customer service skills to getting to try out an antique printing press! The newest and most useful experience for me (and probably one of my favourite things about working in the EFL) has been getting to work with rare books and special collection items. Thanks to these wonderful experiences, I am delighted that I get to continue working within the Bodleian as a Library Assistant at both the Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library and the English Faculty Library.

We leave you now with a limerick, penned by an anonymous trainee from this year’s cohort.

There once were a group of trainees
Who took to their libraries with ease
But with contracts soon done
And despite all their fun
Onward now to new opportunities!

a llama in front of the Old Bodleian

2021-22 Graduate Trainee Showcase!

Well, we’re into the final month of our trainee year, and our trainee showcase has been and gone. Here are some of the things the organising team did to get everything in place for the big day.

  • Arranged a guest speaker. Making libraries more inclusive and accessible has been a recurring theme of our year, so we were really excited when Helen Worrell (Archaeology & Anthropology Librarian and Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity Coordinator) agreed to speak to us about her work leading the EDI project ‘Changing the Narrative: Championing Inclusive Collection Development.’ We were also lucky to have Antony Brewerton (Associate Director for Academic Library Services and Keeper of Collections) speak to us about the traineeship and beyond at the end of the day.
  • Invited everyone we knew – or at least, everyone the trainees had worked closely with over the course of the year, as well as any former trainees remaining in Oxford. We also had space to offer each trainee an invite for a non-Oxford guest – one brought a friend who was interested in librarianship, and another invited the former colleague who had helped them apply for the scheme. The showcase took place on what was otherwise a normal working day, so we knew we couldn’t expect everyone to join us for the whole day – to help accommodate this, we collected all the trainees’ presentation titles well in advance so we could send out a draft programme along with the initial invitations.
  • Used RSVPs to plan refreshments. We included a question about dietary requirements in our RSVP, and kept track of this information alongside who was coming and for how much of the day. This meant that we had a clear understanding of what would be needed on the day, and liaised with Craig at the SSL to place an order with the Manor Road Building’s catering team. Unfortunately there were some issues with how this turned out on the day – we’re looking into it, and will come back to this post if we find a way to avoid this in future.
  • Scoped out the location. We visited the Manor Road Lecture Theatre ahead of the big day in order to have a look at the size and layout of the room, where the refreshments would be located, and to explore the logistics of holding the showcase both in-person and over Teams. This was a really useful thing to do – although we’d advise remembering to communicate what you find out to the rest of the trainees before the entire organising team goes on annual leave for part of July. Sorry, guys.
  • Designed a programme – with trainee contributions! Since not everyone in the audience had worked with us all, each trainee wrote a short paragraph reflecting on their year to give some introduction to the new faces. We decided to use a panel-type structure for the showcase, with three or four presentations followed by a round of questions and discussion. This allowed us to find some common ground between what was an incredible variety of projects – key themes of the day included institutional memory and the passing-on of information and skills, and various experiences of working with and presenting special collections materials. Encouraging the trainees to have questions planned for each other seemed to help with getting the ball rolling on the discussion segments.
  • Hosted a hybrid event. This was easier than we expected and proved to be a useful option for colleagues who couldn’t attend in person – we’d recommend taking some time ahead of the day to get to grips with how everything works. We collected everyone’s presentation slides on a USB in advance of the showcase, and one of us was on tech duty during each session, transitioning between presentations and ensuring the Teams call was running smoothly. Another of us introduced each speaker and handled the question sessions, and we tried to also have someone situated at the back of the room, ready to run to the IT office to find out what was going on when things didn’t go to plan (like when the entire building’s internet gave up mid-presentation). Our trainee twitter team also live-tweeted throughout the day, and we even had a guest tweeter from the Bodleian social media team in the morning!

A huge thanks goes out to everyone who helped out in advance or on the day, and to everyone who came to support us. Click the read-more for a roundup of this year’s trainee projects, with links to blog posts by those who were unable to present on the day.

Read more 2021-22 Graduate Trainee Showcase!

LRMSP – a trainee’s perspective

One of the rooms used for mooting; it is furnished with facing rows of wooden seating, with a lecturer's desk at the far end of the room.
‘The Cube,’ former economics library and present-day mock courtroom.

One of the more unusual aspects of my role in the Law Library’s Academic Services team this year has been my involvement in the Legal Research and Mooting Skills Programme, or LRMSP. Although a lot of libraries offer some sort of research skills classes, especially at the beginning of the year, the LRMSP is a very different beast: a compulsory course for first year law undergraduates, involving assignments and a pass/fail practical exam. If students don’t pass the course at some point in their degree, they will not graduate with a qualifying law degree. The course is entirely run by Kate and Nicola, the Legal Research librarians – I’m based in their office, so I was inevitably going to hear a lot about it over the course of my traineeship. At the beginning of the year I’d only heard of moots in the medieval sense (which at least is still law-related; they were a form of early law-keeping through community debate) – but I was keen to find out more about the programme and what I could do to help out.

Read more LRMSP – a trainee’s perspective

A Day in the Life (Bodleian Law Library)

Looking down on the law library's main reading room - there are rows of large wooden desks, with bookshelves in the background. This photo was taken earlier in the year, so some areas are blocked off with red and white tape due to Covid restrictions.

If you’re familiar with this blog, you’ve probably gathered by now that there are two Law trainees. Law is a large library, with a team working in three subsections: Academic Services (where Josie is based), Information Resources (where Jess is based), and Official Papers (technically a separate collection housed within the library, with a small team of its own). Although we share some tasks and both spend time out on the enquiry desk, there are some general differences between the two positions – the IR trainee is generally surrounded by various stages of book processing, while the AS trainee shares an office with the librarians responsible for delivering the LRMSP, an undergraduate legal research course. With that in mind, here are two days in the life at the LawBod!


Josie: I arrive at the library and make my way up to my office on the second floor, opening any windows I pass along the way. Depending on who’s already here, there may be some reshelving to do as well – although restrictions have eased a lot since the start of our traineeship, we still have some variable working patterns going on, so the division of opening-up duties changes from day to day.

Jess: I pack my things away in my locker, hanging up my coat and heading out to open some of the Law Library’s many windows. I keep an eye out for any shelving before heading up (or down) to the Information Resources office.


Josie: The first thing I do after catching up on emails and messages is check the scan request queues. Although I’m not involved in triaging requests for the library, I do a lot of the scanning, so it’s useful to know if much will come my way later in the day. Beyond this point, the shape of my day is largely determined by my fluctuating ability to sit still and focus on spreadsheets. I really appreciate being able to manage my own time here – I work on a variety of long-term projects, so once I’ve accounted for things like meetings and desk shifts, I can play it by ear and go wherever I’ll be most productive for the next while.

Jess: I clear any new emails and Teams messages, checking to see how much is on each of the shelves in the WIP (work-in-progress) room I have responsibility for, as well as the enquiry desk rota, before drawing up a schedule of tasks for the day.


Josie: I’m currently working through a trolley of jurisprudence books, part of our ongoing reclassification project. This is a good task to fill an hour or so, as there’s only so much legal philosophy I can google or translate my way through before everything starts turning to word soup.

Jess: Schedule in hand, I start the day by gathering up any books ready for labelling on the designated shelf. We have two different labels types, depending on whether a book is likely to be reclassified in the somewhat near future (more on that later) or not. I fill in the shelfmarks for the new books before printing two sheets of labels. I affix each new label to the relevant spine or the front cover if a shelfmark is particularly long (looking at you EuroComm) or a book is particularly short. Any shelfmark we expect to be correct for some time has a label protector placed over it to keep it legible for years of readers to come. These then go on yet another shelf where someone from Academic Services checks them in order to catch the (hopefully occasional) errors that seep in despite my best efforts. They are then shelved for our readers to find.


Josie: Every Monday the AS staff have a short meeting over Teams, catching everyone up on the past week’s activities and giving a heads-up for any upcoming absences or unusual occurrences. I take minutes for these and upload them to the Teams channel shortly afterwards. Once a month, I go straight from this to taking minutes for the Bodleian’s ORLO Operations Group meeting, which lasts through to lunchtime and involves many more acronyms. (ORLO = Oxford Reading Lists Online, interactive reading lists which link directly to access points for online resources). 

Jess: We usually have the Law Library staff meeting on a Thursday, where Helen Garner – the fabled Law Librarian – updates us on all the relevant changes and goings-on in both our own library and the Bodleian at large. This year, there has been plenty of information about the various changing COVID procedures and restrictions as well as questions around journals, online resources, and more. 


Josie: I keep working on the jurisprudence books for now, as I’ll be going over my suggested new shelf marks with the IR librarian tomorrow. However, being part of AS means that it’s not unusual for someone to drop by the office or message me on Teams with a quick job to do instead – getting ahead on admin for next term’s LRMSP sessions, fixing glitchy columns in the tea room budget spreadsheet, and testing out new hiring or induction materials are all part of a day’s work.

Jess: A quick stop for tea and a book. At present, I’m (very happily) weighed down with the tome that is Shamsur Rahman Faruqi’s The Mirror of Beauty


The Bookeye scanner and a computer sit on a wooden desk. There is a large journal resting on the scanner, and a scanned image on the computer screen.
The Bookeye scanner (and an unusually large journal)

Josie: There are few scan requests ready and waiting, so I make a note of the details and go searching for books. Most issues get ironed out by the triage team, but a little detective work is occasionally needed – I once spent most of a desk shift using an incomplete citation to track down a Scottish law report from 1807!

We’re lucky to have a high-tech Bookeye scanner, which can split double pages, crop messy edges, and automatically makes files OCR accessible. Once the scans are done, I use a PDF editor to double-check for missing pages and reduce the file size, then fill in our record of completed scans and add the file to our repository in case it’s requested again. When the same scan is requested by multiple people, it’s often related to a particular course, so it’s useful to already have a good-quality scan that can be sent out again or potentially go straight onto ORLO or LB4S (LawBod 4 Students – more on that later).

Jess: I take an hour to complete various smaller tasks that need managing around the office. I stamp, add security, and label any books that have arrived via purchase or donation – often much smaller than our copyright deliveries. I print some new bookplates for our generous series of donations from the Supreme Court of Korea, which have their own unique design and are possibly the only thing I print in colour. I check up on the status of books that have not arrived from previous copyright deliveries, making sure they are still on their way to us and haven’t ended up at the BSF. I fix any incorrect labels, and make new ones for books that have been spotted with theirs peeled off. 


Josie: I’ll be on desk at one, so – depending on how long the scans take, and how many times the PDF editor crashes in the process I aim to take my lunch at around noon. It’s easy to spend the whole day inside, so I’m making more of an effort to take my book and lunch outside as the weather improves.

Jess: Since Thursday is Josie’s day at the SBS, I gather up the day’s scan requests so far to avoid them returning to a large stack.


Josie: Time for my desk shift! Most enquiries tend to be about navigating the library, although as we’re currently in a vacation period, the number of students in search of PCAS machines and reading list materials has somewhat decreased. I give a quick summary of the library’s layout to a visiting researcher, direct someone asking about Ted Hughes across the building to the English Faculty Library, and take another reader down to the ground floor to help them find a report in the Official Papers collection.

Jess: Thursday afternoons often hold cataloguing lessons. I’m learning to create basic records for a variety of items, known as Minimal Level Records. These records contain key information about the item’s title, author, publisher etc., allowing it to be located by any reader looking specifically for that item, or items by that author, but miss a lot of the detail in a full record (such as Library of Congress subjects) that are helpful for resource discovery when researching. However, they are an ideal place to start learning to catalogue! I create new records for a small stack of Official Papers material; going through the first few record creations in detail with Tanya before leaving me to finish the rest of the stack without supervision to check for errors later (is this homework?). 


Josie: Between enquiries, my usual desk task is an LB4S checking project. Since it’s important that law students learn to find their own resources, a lot of the undergraduate courses don’t get ORLO lists. However, we still need a way to supply digitised versions of required readings that aren’t widely accessible (the Law Quarterly Review, for example, has a 35-year gap in its online provision), so there’s a designated LB4S section on each course’s Canvas site. Since it’s been a chaotic couple of years for online resource provision, my job is to work through each course and make sure that everything is in order on the copyright side of things, as well as generally tidying up the pages and checking for any resources that have become available online since being uploaded.

A kickstool and trolley filled with books sits between aisles of rolling shelving. Some of the shelves are full, some are empty.
Moving books in the rolling stacks

Jess: A late lunch today, as I find that keeps my energy up for my evening shift. I occasionally drop by the EFL, just a staircase away, in order to exchange my poetry reads. 


Josie: After desk, I take a tea break and check the post room for blue BSF crates before deciding how to spend the afternoon. It’s been a few days since I got round to one of my other ongoing tasks, so I find an empty trolley on the ground floor and start moving some books. As a legal deposit library, we keep all the up-to-date publications on the upper floors, but also hoard superseded editions and early journals down in the rolling stacks. Inevitably, there are some overcrowding issues, so we’re working through a several-step plan to get what space we have into a more useful location. There’s something very satisfying about closing up the shelf space left for a report series we haven’t received in hard copy since the mid-2010s, but metal shelving is unforgiving of clumsiness – the clanging occasionally attracts a lost reader.

A trolley full of new Law books. Each book has a different-coloured paper slip inserted.
VBD books, ready to be processed

Jess: Usually by this point of the day, the post has arrived! The ‘Virtual Book Display’ is a list of all the legal deposit books the Bodleian has received that week, and Felicity, head of all things in Information Resources, selects the law-relevant titles that then arrive on a Thursday. I record which ones have arrived using a traffic light system on my spreadsheet, having a weekly check of any missing titles to see if they have found their way to another library or the BSF – and sometimes the shelves! Each book receives stamps and security measures before being placed on the designated VBD shelf where the library’s cataloguers – Tanya and Rebecca – pick them up. Whilst the size of this delivery varies week-on-week, it’s usually sizeable – I often process several hundred books a term!


Josie: Law books tend to be heavy, so I’m careful to leave off the book moving before overdoing it. For the last part of the day, I head back to the office and clear up any leftover tasks – shelving in the main reading room, another scan or two, or working on a blog post like this one.

Jess: Break time! I devour a quick chapter of my book and a fortifying snack


Jess: I tie up any loose ends at my desk before prepping my trolley for my evening desk shift.


Josie: Once a week I stay on for an evening shift, but not today! I finish off whatever I’m currently working on, make a quick note of anything I ought to prioritise tomorrow, then sign off for the day and head home.

Jess: Late shifts are shared out between members of library staff, and Thursday is my anointed day. There are often fewer reader enquiries at this hour, so I head to the Jurisprudence section to pick up the thirty-two titles on my sheet. My temporary stealing of books from the shelves is part of the MOYS reclassification project – the library is changing over from its old shelfmark style to a new one (MOYS, hence the name) which is a Library of Congress style system designed specifically for law books. I check over tables of contents, introductions, and skim over a few chapters to get a sense of which shelfmark is right, going outside of jurisprudence where neededand if a book is particularly opaque, I’ll dig further. The library has many foreign language holdings, so I also have a bookstand at the ready to use DeepL to supplement my language skills –French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese are most common, with some surprises! I keep a running Word document with various keywords in an attempt to improve my language skills and I like to think I am starting to get a foothold in my incredibly specific vocabulary – I cannot tell you what the verb for ‘to eat’ is in German, but I can recognise the word for ‘constitution’ about 50% of the time…


Jess: Time to go home! As my longest day of the week, I usually reward myself with pizza – and get my hours back in exchange by way of an early 3PM finish on Tuesdays.

A page of of circular test stamps, with the words 'Bodleian Law Library', various dates from September 2021, and a letter P for Purchased Copy in the centre,


A Day in the Life (Sainsbury Library)

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.

We’ve run out of archive boxes (for now…)

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!

Several stacks of sorted serials


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.


UKWA Conference 2021

I was recently able to attend the third annual UK Web Archive (UKWA) Conference, which took place over Zoom on November 18th. I found it really interesting, and since it’s a topic which hasn’t come up too often in day-to-day library work, I thought I’d turn my notes into a blog post. UKWA is a partnership between the six UK Legal Deposit Libraries, which are permitted to take a copy of any UK digitally published resources under the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013. This is done through a combination of annual “capturing” of all .uk websites, ongoing “crawls” of certain sites and subjects, and the rapid formation of collections in response to current events. These copies are then preserved in perpetuity and made available on Legal Deposit Library premises. Captured sources range from official publications to social media posts, and sites can be nominated via an online form. However, it is not technically possible to capture everything – for example, Facebook currently cannot be harvested, and Twitter can only be captured through manual intervention. The conference featured presentations about a range of recent collections and projects, offering a broad insight into UKWA’s work over the last couple of years.

The first guest speaker was Joe Marshall, Associate Directions of Collections Management at the National Library of Scotland. He spoke about the Archive of Tomorrow, a new collaborative collection focusing on the impact of Covid-19. The collection aims to tell both the official and unofficial story of the pandemic, featuring government guidance, public dissent, and consequences for communities and industries. An interesting point here was the issue of metadata: as the project intends to avoid retrospectively labelling anything as ‘true’, ‘false’, or similar, there is a small possibility of someone encountering the collection and mistaking old captures for current guidance. However, this neutral attitude towards a huge breadth of content is crucial to the collection’s sense of completeness: to select and record an “official” version of the pandemic would not tell the full story. The Archive of Tomorrow is an ongoing project, and is currently recruiting web archivists across the Legal Deposit Libraries to continue curating and preserving the pandemic.

After a short break, the next two talks focused on specific collections within the UKWA. Nicole Bingham, Lead Curator of Web Archiving at the British Library, spoke about the Covid-19 collection, which can be found as a subsection of the pre-existing ‘Pandemic Outbreaks’ collection. There are obvious challenges in attempting to record global events through UK-centric sources, and so this talk also featured UKWA’s collaborative work with the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC) Content Development Group, a partnership which enables researchers to combine and compare the Covid-19 collections of various national web archives.

Saskia Huc-Hepher and Xiao Ma then spoke about two diaspora collections focusing on French and Chinese speakers in London. Their presentation discussed archives in a more theoretical sense, exploring how the concept of a “community web archive” might be conceptualised differently according to varying connotations of the term “community” within the relevant groups. They also highlighted the importance of including these “microarchives” as a way of broadening UKWA’s scope beyond an Anglophone-centric perspective.

The next presentation was from Teagan Pyke, a PhD researcher currently working on the preservation of New Media Writing Prize (NMWP) entries. The NMWP is a competition for pieces of writing which cannot be expressed through “old media” alone; shortlisted entries from 2020 include several different styles of games and interactive webpages. Like the earlier talk from Joe Marshall, Teagan’s work involves the idea of completeness, focusing on the criteria for attaining a “good capture” of these works. Some of these factors are purely technical, such as attempting to ensure that links follow through correctly, while others are more abstract; Teagan determined that if some element of the work’s narrative, themes, or atmosphere were missing from the capture, it had not been preserved in full.

The final speaker was Tom Storrar, Head of the UK Government Web Archive (UKGWA). The UKGWA comprises captures from over 800 government-related websites and social media accounts, and, unlike much of the rest of the archive, can be accessed outside of the Legal Deposit Libraries. One project which stood out from UKGWA’s work in the last year was the EU Exit Web Archive. As the National Archives are responsible for publishing legislation, a decision was taken to capture all content published on Eur-Lex (the European legislation website) ahead of 11pm on December 31st, 2020. The result is, as described on the archive itself, “a comprehensive and official UK reference point for EU law as it stood at the end of the implementation period.” Future UKGWA plans include continuing to capture the government’s response to Covid-19, the integration of Instagram archives into public services, and generally improving the archive’s functionality as a research resource.

The conference was hosted by Jason Webber, Engagement Manager at UKWA, who also gave two talks during the morning. The first was a basic introduction to UKWA, while the second demonstrated how to access and navigate the available resources. As someone new to web archiving in general, I particularly appreciated this extra context to the various presentation topics, and found the conference as a whole to be a fascinating introduction to the area. As well as the annual conference, the UKWA also runs online training for staff and readers at Legal Deposit Libraries, and I would certainly recommend keeping an eye out for upcoming sessions.

Josie Fairley Keast, Bodleian Law Library

Further reading & links

Josie Fairley Keast, Bodleian Law Library

Hi, I’m Josie, the current Academic Services trainee in the Law Library. Earlier this year I graduated from the University of Aberdeen, where I did a joint MA (undergrad MA, it’s a Scottish thing) in Celtic & Anglo-Saxon Studies and English alongside a sustained study in jazz saxophone. At the beginning of 2021 I knew I was definitely interested in some sort of postgraduate study, but wasn’t sure which area to pursue, and was also keen to get some practical experience after a year of mostly-remote learning. Although I’ve been interested in librarianship for a while, I didn’t know about these traineeships until a friend who’d previously done one suggested I apply- that conversation happened just a couple of weeks before the Bodleian deadline, so I feel very lucky to be here at all! My previous experience comes from volunteering in my school library, various customer service positions, and assorted musician shenanigans; surprisingly, I think the thing that’s been most relevant to my new role so far is the music librarianship work I did for student ensembles. That job mostly involved un-breaking the photocopiers (I swear they can tell when you’re doing something at the last minute) and getting a lot of sheet music to the right place and time in the right order, so wrangling the Bookeye scanner into fulfilling scan-and-deliver requests feels reassuringly familiar at times.

As someone whose prior law knowledge is either medieval or minimal, the first few weeks of the traineeship have been a big learning curve: so many law reports! so many abbreviations! so many tiny hidden staircases that somehow never come out quite where I expect them to! The Law Library involves an incredible range of resources and services, and my role as the AS trainee currently feels like a strange race as I attempt to get enough of a head start on the freshers to actually understand what I’ll be helping out with. However, I enjoy a challenge, and I’m really looking forward to getting into term-time activities as we welcome students back to the library. Once I get to grips with things like the difference between Halsbury and Hansard, learn how to read case citations, and stop getting lost in Official Papers, I think that this is going to be a hugely rewarding year.