Hi! I’m Caitlín, the Graduate Trainee at New College Library. The college itself was founded in 1379 by William of Wykeham, and still features a lot of the original medieval architecture, as well as a section of Oxford’s city wall. As a Medieval Studies graduate, one of my favourite things about working here at New College is getting to work so closely with the library’s collection of around 400 medieval manuscripts. Of all the Oxford colleges, more manuscripts remain from New’s medieval library than from that of any other Oxford or Cambridge college.
When I get free time, you can find me in the Bell Tower poring over manuscripts, trying to find the strangest marginalia to post on our social media. My favourite volume has to be the “New College Apocalypse”, an early fourteenth-century illuminated Anglo-Norman prose translation of the Apocalypse of St. John, which I had heard about through the grapevine in my undergraduate and postgraduate studies at UCL.
I hadn’t seriously thought about librarianship until I began researching medieval universities and their libraries, and in doing so developed an interest in the day-to-day running of the contemporary university libraries I spent so much time in as a student. As a medievalist, New College Library seemed like the perfect place to apply for the traineeship. Though my research has mainly concerned late medieval Italian women, there are plenty of incredible volumes to keep me occupied here in a range of different languages: French, Spanish, Greek, German, English, Italian, Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Welsh, Anglo-Norman, Dutch — the list goes on!
My day-to-day work includes processing new acquisitions to the library, setting up exhibitions, helping run our social media accounts, invigilating readers who come to see our special collections, and updating our new books display. It’s also been lovely to attend training sessions, which have given me the confidence to face Aleph — our cataloguing system. It’s been great to meet the other trainees in person and hear about what everyone else is getting up to in their libraries. With new freshers pouring in this month, I’ve been giving induction tours and praying our self-service borrowing machines don’t break. I’ve also been helping write labels for a couple of new exhibitions we’ll be putting on at the end of the month and in November, so there’s a lot to keep me busy for now!
It’s also worth noting that trainees at college libraries get free lunch, and the bar here at New isn’t half bad either — I’ve heard Hugh Grant likes to stop by for a pint or two every now and then…