Library Provision During a Pandemic: A Day in the Life at Christ Church (Michaelmas 2020)

8am: Arrive at the library and wash my hands! Since we are a lending library (unlike the Law Library and Old Bodleian), I come in an hour before we open so I can shelve the previous day’s returns and start gathering Click and Collect requests before the students arrive. This is because our bookshelves are in close proximity to the study desks, and it becomes much more difficult to navigate around students for books while maintaining a 2m distance once it starts filling up.

The previous night’s library clerk will hopefully have arranged the books on our returns trolley in sequential order so I just have to run them back in through the self-issue machine. This is the first substantial adjustment we’ve had to introduce because of the virus – instead of returning books themselves, readers must leave their loans with us to be quarantined overnight before I return them the following morning. I then separate the returns according to their location (e.g. East or West Library, Upper Library or the Orangery). At this point, I usually log into the library inbox, open the Aleph report for Click and Collect requests, organise the shelfmarks to my liking and then print them out so that I can collect students’ requests and re-shelve returns simultaneously.

While moving around the library to shelve, I’ll also complete any outstanding tasks as I encounter them, for instance replacing the daily track and trace form, checking that the Upper Library is unlocked and de-alarmed for student arrivals at 9, and removing any student belongings that have been left overnight.

 

9-10.30: Once I’ve fetched the day’s first batch of Click and Collect requests, I spend the morning at the enquiry desk. Students start filing in from 9 and I answer any questions they may have while issuing out their requests and notifying each reader via email that their loans are ready for collection – a lengthy process, and one that is unique to pandemic times. I also remove any uncollected requests from previous days (we retain books for 24 hours only) and make a note of repeat offenders so I can see if they need another nudge, or extra assistance with getting books – occasionally these have not been collected because the student in question is self-isolating.

Then I’ll work through our inbox and answer emails, making note of quarantine deliveries and chapter scan requests. Our wonderful senior library assistant and the colleague I work with most closely, Georgie, will also check in with me to see what our plan for the day is, and leave book post with me to unwrap and print invoices for the new arrivals.

 

10.30-11: Coffee break!

 

11-12: Back on the enquiry desk, I spend this time processing and issuing out new books that have been recommended for purchase by students. We are fortunate to have a generous book budget so there is always a huge pile of books in various stages of processing that need covering, adding to Aleph and so forth.

Students can also request books they need by simply coming to the enquiry desk and asking, so I usually spend some time fetching and loaning out books on demand. This feels more personal than the Click and Collect service and sometimes leads to interesting conversations about students’ research. I believe that I have gotten to know our students more quickly and comprehensively this year than I otherwise would have since I’m now (perhaps to their chagrin) an intermediary figure between them and their reading.

If it is a quiet morning, I also do a little work on our reclassification project. We are moving towards Library of Congress, however a significant amount of our collections are still classified via our Roman numerals in-house system. I’ll grab 20 or so books from the Classics section (currently IX), switch them over to LoC on Aleph, print new shelfmark labels and shift them over to their new home in the PA’s in the West library.

 

12-1: Lunch! The librarians at colleges get free lunch and I take full advantage of this. We are big fans of the bread rolls.

 

1-2: More enquiry desk, more processing, more emails.

 

2-3.15: Georgie takes over the desk, so I am free to complete my tasks outside the library building. Throughout Michaelmas, my afternoons were dedicated to following through on delivering books to self-isolating students – mostly within college grounds, although I have also cycled to an accommodation site in Cowley for a book delivery. I’ll also swing by the lodge for more parcels, boxes and post, and fetch the more obscure books (usually requested by fellows) from our off-site locations.

 

3.15-4: The second Click and Collect report arrives, so I do another round of fetching and issuing books. Georgie and I might brainstorm a tweet for the library account, I’ll spend several minutes lamenting that we don’t have library cats like St. Hugh’s (the cornerstone of any truly decent social media presence), and finish my work day at 4pm.

Library and Information Studies MA – courses, funding, links and interesting things to research further !

Many of us on the Bodleian Libraries traineeship may be considering undertaking the MA or PG Diploma in Library and Information Studies at some point in the future. I hope that this article will be interesting and useful for the current cohort, as well as any future trainees who may be reading this (or anyone engaged in a relentless Google search regarding doing a Library Masters, or related, course).

The first thing to consider is which institutions in the UK actually offer the MA degree. The main ones are: 

In England:

In Wales: 

In Scotland:

All of the above are accredited by the UK’s Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

There are also other courses which have a focus on different aspects of librarianship: for example, Library and Information Management at Manchester Metropolitan University has a specialist option unit focusing on Health Librarianship, “devised in conjunction with the NHS Library and Knowledge Services North to address a specific industry need for more library and information professionals in this sector.”

I found this quite interesting because it allows you to consider how dynamic different aspects of librarianship can be outside of the academic and public spheres:

https://www.cilip.org.uk/news/436963/Career-Challenges-starting-in-Health-Care-Librarianship.htm

 

Some other slightly more unconventional programmes of study that might also be of interest:

The Institute of English Studies (part of the School of Advanced Study, itself a postgraduate wing of the University of London) offers an MA/MRes in the History of the Book. It’s specifically geared towards those with an interest in the rare book trade and has an internship with an antiquarian bookseller as one of its components. They also run the London Rare Books School (LRBS), a series of five-day, intensive courses on a variety of book-related topics taught in and around Senate House, University of London. This can be attended as part of the MA or separately (it’s also possible to apply for a bursary to cover some of the cost of attending).

Similarly, the University of Edinburgh has a one-year taught MSc in Book History and Material Culture, which is run by the Centre for the History of the Book (CHB), founded as an “international and interdisciplinary centre for advanced research into all aspects of the material culture of the text, from manuscripts to electronic texts.” It is accredited by CILIP and seems to have a particular focus on special collections management in terms of conservation, digitisation and display.

The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing have a comprehensive listing relating to these types of courses, which you can find here. 

 

Funding

When we think of funding a postgraduate course, the first thing that comes to mind is usually:

a) There isn’t any or b) I’ll need to take out loans, loans and more loans !!

It is true that the main source of funding available is through loans (including the Postgraduate Master’s Loan, which is maximum about £11,000).

However, I have discovered that although there is certainly a scarcity of funding, there are in fact several options available to supplement a loan/savings.

A lot of the institutions above offer PG scholarships and will have them available to search on their site. Once you have accepted an offer, you will often be given the option of opting in automatically to be considered for certain scholarships, and others you may need to apply for separately.

Museums Archives and Libraries Wales (CyMAL) offers library staff working in Wales up to £3,000 to undertake the MA by Distance Learning. There is also funding available from CILIP, mainly for attending conferences. 

The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding Online is a funding resource for current and prospective postgraduate students studying at UK universities, focusing on unusual or obscure sources of funding from private charities that offer bursaries and grants to students to fund PG study. It was founded by students who themselves won many of these charity awards as a mean of funding their PG education, and contains a database of nearly 1,000 sources of this type of funding. The database is constantly being updated and added to. It also promises to be “a methodology rather than simply a finding tool,” containing reams of information on not only how to find funding that is applicable to your circumstances, but also the best way to go about applying to be considered for it. Oxford has a full subscription to the AGO, so trainees can set up an account and access the information for free.

The Book Trade Charity also provides grants to support those under the age of 30 who want to enter the book trade in terms of supporting apprenticeships, internships etc.

The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, also known as the Stationers’ Company, offer postgraduate bursaries to students who have received an offer to study on a list of specific degree programmes at particular institutions, which range from conservation to publishing to photojournalism. In terms of Library and Information Studies, you can apply for this bursary if you are doing the MA at University College London. The bursary is for up to £6,000 and as well as this, the applicant “will be offered the opportunity to receive mentoring during their studies from a member of the Stationers’ Company, taking into account the specific interests of the student.”

The criteria states that “Applicants must normally be under 25 on 1st September 2020, resident in the UK, and classified as paying UK tuition fees.” However, if you are between 25 and 30 and want to apply, it says to “please discuss your application with the relevant Course Director and Administrator,” so it seems as though someone who is 25-30 may still be in with a chance !

They also have a really useful PDF which gives a listing of many other places to look for funding and can be found at the bottom of this page.

There are way more options and resources out there than you might think at first glance, and I hope that anyone reading this has found it helpful as a starting point.

 

A Day in the Life: Ella and Naomi in the Law Library  

Hello! We have now been in our roles for over two months and thought it would be a good time to share what a typical working day might look like for us both. Aside from daily desk duties and the Wednesday afternoon training sessions that are a brilliant feature of the graduate trainee scheme, we largely have the freedom to structure our days as we please. While no two days are typically identical, this ‘A Day in the Life’ timetable offers a flavour of how we organise our time…

 

A door leading to the Information Resources office
The mysterious IR office…

08:40

Naomi: Arrive at the library, put things away in locker and walk up to the Information Resources (IR) office where my desk is.

Ella: Arrive at the library, make a cup of tea, get myself sorted and head upstairs to log in.

 

08:45-08:55 

N: Sign into Microsoft Teams, check emails, write a to-do list for the day.

E: Log in to the computer, sign in on Teams and check emails for anything urgent. I’ll also check for Law Bod 4 Students (LB4S) requests at this point – LB4S is an online site available for law students with extra resources, and they can submit requests for material that they can’t find online to be added to it. If any requests have been submitted, I make a note to deal with the request later that morning.

 

08:55-09:20

N: Shelving books left on the trolleys throughout the library overnight and opening windows.

E: Whizz round the library opening windows (very important at present – helps ventilate, which limits the spread of coronavirus) and shelving books from the day before.

 

09:20-11:00 

N: Morning desk duty. The library opens to readers at 09:30. Sitting at the Enquiry Desk involves signing in readers who have booked seats through the online Space Finder system, answering readers’ enquiries (e.g. explaining where certain books are located, lending power banks, giving directions to other parts of the St. Cross building), and working on other tasks that can be done at a computer, such as building ORLO reading lists (or writing this blog post!).

Ella demonstrates the mobile shelving unit
Using the mobile shelving

E: I carry on dealing with LB4S requests, double-checking SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online) and ORLO (Oxford Reading Lists Online) to see if the material is available online and they’ve just not spotted it. If it isn’t, I email our Research Support Librarian, who has to go through various copyright checks to see if we can make the material available on LB4S. (She also sometimes finds resources I’ve not been able to, as she has more experience dealing with tricky legal databases!)

I’ll also do a bit of scanning for Scan and Deliver, the Bodleian scanning service. I’ll then edit them and send them through to readers.

 

11:00-11:30

N: Quick socially-distanced tea break in the staff room with Ella… potentially a trip to buy a coffee. Then a brief session stamping Official Papers.

E: Tea Break! An essential part of the morning. Naomi and I occasionally visit The Missing Bean Café in the building (great coffee, friendly barista, sweet treats always look delicious too) but mostly have tea and a socially-distanced natter about our mornings (Bake Off is also a popular topic of discussion – I have strong views about this year’s hosting choices). Then I’ll do some book processing – stamping and tattling if Naomi wants help, or shelving serials. I might also spend some time stamping Official Papers (OP) and attempt to shelve some OP documents (a daunting task as shelf marks can be exceptionally complex). This will usually take me through until lunch.

 

Rows of shelving which are part of the Official Papers collection
The Official Papers collection

11:30-13:00

N: Book processing tasks such as counting, stamping, labelling and updating spreadsheets to record deliveries of purchased and legal deposit books. We are currently making headway with processing the many books which could not be delivered during the first lockdown, seeing as the Law Library was closed.

 

13:00-14:00

N: Lunch break. Ella and I eat together in the staff room and then go for a walk around the beautiful University Parks – we love how close they are to the library.

E: You’ll find Naomi and me in the staff room at lunchtime. Sadly, we don’t get a free lunch – the trainees at the college libraries do, and from what I’ve heard the food is delicious, and there’s usually dessert. Although our kitchen boasts a hot water tap, two microwaves and numerous coffee machines, so…

 

14:00-15:00 

N: Time to scan some book chapters and journals for the Scan and Deliver service. After scanning them to a memory stick, I edit the PDFs at my desk and email them to readers.

E:  This hour might be spent carrying on with the tasks above, digitising a resource for ORLO, updating an ORLO list or doing some of the other tasks that pop up on an irregular basis. I also help out with the LRMSP (Legal Research and Mooting Skills Programme) which is a module to help undergrads get to grips with finding legal resources and using them in a moot 1 . In the past couple of months it has involved looking over some students’ submissions and figuring out strategies for moving parts of the course online, and we’re currently preparing for online moots, which I might get to help clerk at.

 

15:00-15:30 

Naomi stands at a PCAS machine scanning a book
Doing some scanning

N: I shelve some new serials. These can often be a little trickier to find and shelve correctly than books.

E: Desk duty until 17:00. Naomi has described the main tasks we do while at the enquiry desk. In the background, I’ll be updating the Spanish and Latin American Law LibGuides – online guides to the Bodleian Law Library’s resources.

 

15:30-16.55

 N: Another tea break! Afterwards, I unpack some book deliveries in the post room and fill a trolley to take back to the office. The rest of the afternoon is spent making a start with processing them.

 

16:55-17:05 

N: Tidy things away, say goodbye on Teams, close any open windows in the office, and go down to the staff room.

E: Time to pack up and head home!

 

 

1. Moot = a ‘court competition [which] simulates a court hearing (usually an appeal against a final decision), in which participants analyse a problem, research the relevant law, prepare written submissions, and present oral argument’ according to the Oxford Law Faculty.

Mushrooms, Cheese, and Other Challenges

As part of the Library Graduate Trainee Scheme here in Oxford, we trainees take part in weekly sessions covering a variety of aspects of work in the library and information sector. This year the sessions have been conducted remotely over Teams, and so far have included topics such as reader services, working safely, resource discovery and supporting disabled readers.

A few weeks ago, we took part in two back-to-back one-hour sessions, with the first focusing on conservation and collection care and the second on special collections. I found both sessions so interesting that I thought it would be worth writing a short post about just some of the things the conservators and collection keepers at the Bodleian Libraries get up to.

First, we were given an overview of the Bodleian Libraries’ conservation work, including the different drivers behind collection projects and the three areas within which the conservation teams operate: paper conservation, book conservation, and preventive conservation.

Next, one of the preventive conservators talked us through a little of what their work entails, including IPM (Integrated Pest Management, to keep an eye on those sneaky insects who like books as much as we do), the environmental monitoring used to maintain stable conditions in libraries such as Duke Humfrey’s Library, and, finally, some of the more peculiar conservation challenges the team has faced over the years – including how to preserve a book made of mushrooms!

Then it was time to head over to the conservation workshop. In previous years, trainees visited the workshop at the Weston Library in person. This year, the workshop held their first ever virtual tour, delivered via tablet video call. The workshop itself is a large, airy, open-plan space, and we were shown around and introduced to several of the conservators and some of their current projects. (Did you know that you can use enzymes to separate pages? I definitely didn’t!)

After a short break, we “visited” the Special Collections, and had a “show and tell” of some of the more eclectic items held by the Weston Library, including a book of processed cheese (another left-field challenge for the preventive conservation team!).

Even though we were unable to visit the Weston Library in person, it was still a real privilege to be introduced to this side of the Bodleian Libraries and to get a flavor of the kind of expertise and care that goes into curating and taking care of its vast collections. A big thank you to everyone who made it possible!

You can learn more about conservation at the Bodleian Libraries by following @bodleianconservation on Instagram or finding them on Twitter (@BodCons), and you can take a look at the Special Collections blogs here: https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/weston/finding-resources/scblogs

Freddie Hankin & Miriam Kunin, Old Bodleian Library

Hello! Our names are Freddie and Miriam and we are the new Graduate Trainees for the Old Bodleian Library aka the Old Bod, Old Schools, Schools Quadrangle. We spend much of our time in the Upper Reading Room, Lower Reading Room, and Duke Humfrey’s, but we also sometimes venture underground to the Gladstone Link to fetch books and scan requests.

From left to right: Freddie; William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke; Miriam

 

What were you doing last year?

MK: I’d just finished an Oxford undergrad, studying Medieval English Language and Literature, and I decided to spend more time living here in the wake of that. I worked a variety of jobs with the university’s Temporary Staffing Service and Disability Advisory Service, as well as working part time in technically-three Bodleian libraries, and in direct disability care. After the pandemic hit, I was doing some of that but from home, but largely had a lot of unstructured time, which I spent remotely attending Jewish studies courses and Medieval studies conferences, and also going on long walks and swimming in rivers.

FH: I did Geography at Durham University, and graduated last year. I did a few library odds and ends while I was at university; I volunteered for a bit at the County Record Office, and was music librarian for a few of the university orchestras. Since graduating last year I moved to Manchester for a bit to see what it was like, and volunteered in the Portico Library. Manchester is a really good place for libraries! Oxford seems a very good place for libraries too…

 

Why did you apply?

FH: I love organisation, I love books, I love helping people. I mostly love being in libraries; why not get paid to be in one?? I also really enjoy being in an academic environment without actually doing the academic part. This is partly schadenfreude, but it is also about enjoying eclecticism; I like variety, and being able to dip my toes in lots of different pies while helping out with research enquiries. 

MK: Very similar to Freddie, actually! I was looking for jobs that would let me do a mix of physically moving things around, problem-solving, being adjacent to academia, talking to people, and being concretely helpful. I also really like putting things in satisfying and correct Orders, whether that be shelving or sorting files in our scan repository. So, yes, I loved that this role gives us a variety of tasks using a variety of skills, plus opportunities to talk to people and be concretely useful to them.

 

What is your favourite shelfmark? (see Appendix)

FH: I like the Lower Reading Room ones, they are probably the easiest to comprehend. A shelfmark like C.Gr.H.15 or C.Lat.A.302 has a comforting air to it.

But I also love Nicholson because it is so chaotic. 2345.e.123 is a standard shelfmark; there is a decimal point after the 2 in the first number, but it is invisible just to make it hard. The shelfmarks run from 900 (read 0.900) via 100 (1.00) to 399 (3.99), apparently because Nicholson was a sadist. Shelfmarks are divided into subjects, but reading the index is like looking into the mind of a madman, though one who was admittedly rather organised. The number of zeroes after the imaginary decimal point also matters: 124 = Christian evidence, general; 1240 = Christian evidence, documentary; 12400 = Christian evidence, miracles. It’s a mess, but it’s historical, so it stays.

MK: Oh, the LRR shelfmarks make zero sense, but I also really like them. I find it endearing that they end with simple numbers which just indicate where in the sequence they are, like, C.Lat.15/25 being next to C.Lat.15/26. There aren’t that many steps between it and just, someone placing their books in vague subject order and then numbering them, and I respect that.

I’m also biased in favour of them because Freddie and I have spent the most time working with them, and because I love patristics. In a similar vein, any time I get to shelve or scan something related to Old or Middle English I am immensely happy about it, so there’s a special place in my heart forthe  A.4.23 run in the Upper Reading Room, where the Early English Text Society books live.

In terms of least favourite shelfmarks, returning to the Lower Reading Room, I do hate the C.Per situation with all my heart.

 

What’s your favourite view in the Old Bod?

FH: I like the view of New College Tower on the east side of the Upper Reading Room. Dreaming spires, blah blah blah. 

New College Tower beyond Hertford College

 

I also like the view of the Exeter College gardens from Duke Humfrey’s. The trees are lovely, and you can watch the poor gardener walking endlessly round with a leafblower.

View from the office in Duke Humfrey’s of Exeter Garden with leaves (gardener not featured)

 

MK: I really like the windows in the Tower Room of Upper, with the brightly-coloured stained-glass birds in the windows! There’s a painting in the staff area of one of them which depicts the windowsill area there, which I enjoy a lot, and the colourfulness of the birds really adds to the multicoloured wall and ceiling painting charm of the whole room. If we’re allowed Duke Humfrey’s ones, I like the big arch-shaped ones in Selden End when the light streams through them. I know it’s cliche, but also, look at them.

Duke Humfrey’s Windows, being absurdly beautiful

 

Duke Humfrey’s Windows, being absurdly beautiful from a different angle

 

That’s the end of our Q&A, and hopefully you now know some random facts about shelfmarks in the Bodleian. We are really looking forward to the rest of the year working in this beautiful building!

 

Appendix 

Shelfmarks in the Old Bodleian and the Gladstone link:

Lower Reading Room:

Shelfmarks beginning with B., C., T., Th., Pat. and Phil.

B, C.Gen, C.Lang, C.Num, C.Gr., C.Lat to C.Lat.V, C.Gr to C.Gr.Z, C.Hist, C.Hist.Gr. C.Hist.Rom, C.Epig., C.Index, C.Ref.A-D., C.Dict, C. Per; Th.Ref.A-B, Th.B, Th.Dict, Th.H, Th.J, Th.Liturg, Th.P to Th. W, Th.Y.A-Z, ​Th.Text; Pat.Gr. and Pat.Lat., T.Atlas, T.Bibl., T.Bible.D to T.Bible.H, T.Gen., T.Text., T.Text.Gr. and T.Text.Lat.; Phil.Ref., Phil.A-H, Phil.Text 

Plus some Library of Congress (otherwise it would be too easy)

Upper Reading Room:

A1-8 or K3 and 5-10

Lower Gladstone Link:

Library of Congress;  eg. AA123.A1 SMI 2011

Nicholson; 12345.e.21

General Lower Gladstone Link shelfmarks; M04.e.1234

Upper Gladstone Link:

History Faculty Library of Congress; DA, HQ etc

History Faculty Library S.Hist

Duke Humfrey’s:

Priceless manuscripts we’re not allowed to touch, marked with their original bay numbers

Periodicals etc e.g. R. Top. 436

C.Acad (unsure what this one is)

 

 

 

Simone Gaddes, St John’s College Library

Hello! I’m Simone, and I’m the trainee at St John’s College Library & Study Centre this year.

I’m currently finishing off my MA in English Literature which I’ve been studying with Newcastle University for the past year, having graduated with a BA in English Literature and French at Newcastle in July 2019. I work as an intern with Newcastle University’s Special Collections and completed temp work with the university library throughout my degrees. Before that I worked in retail, tutored French in a local school, and worked as an English Language Assistant in France during my year abroad.

I’ve been working in the College Library since the start of September, and I’m really enjoying it so far. Unlike some of the other trainees, I’ve been working on site since the start of my traineeship so I’ve had some extra time to ease into my role. As is the case in many work environments, due to COVID-19 regulations St John’s Library & Study Centre is functioning slightly different from usual. However, there has still been plenty for me to do and learn (albeit at a 2 metre distance!). What could have been an overwhelming experience has been rendered enjoyable by the lovely library team at St John’s. So far, I have been getting to grips with Aleph and classification, learning about the library’s history, and helping to make the Library & Study Centre as safe as possible for incoming and returning students.

My typical day begins with fetching and circulating any Click & Collect requests we may have received from staff and students, and then moving on to other tasks I have to do. These include collecting post, shelving, reviewing reading lists, managing the library’s social media pages, and classifying and processing new books. I have plenty to keep me busy! Throughout this year I will also create a digital exhibition with my colleagues and be involved with St John’s new Diversity & Equality Collection – both of which I’m very excited to be a part of!

Overall, I’m enjoying working at St John’s (and taking advantage of the free lunch!) and I’m looking forward to seeing what will be in store for the rest of the traineeship.

The Founder’s Chest and Cannonball in the Old Library
The Founder’s Chest is a strongbox that belonged to Sir Thomas White who founded St John’s College in 1555. Next to it rests a cannonball that was supposedly fired at the College during the Siege of Oxford in the Civil War. Both can be found in the Old Library, which is unfortunately closed to visitors due to refurbishments.

 

 

Chess Law, Christ Church Library

Hi! I’m Chess, the 2020/21 trainee at Christ Church College. I’ve just completed a Masters in eighteenth-century literature here in Oxford, previously based at Wolfson, and worked as a shelving assistant in the English Faculty Library throughout my degree. Before that, I worked in a medieval cathedral, assisting the Verger team and providing guided tours. Christ Church is therefore the ideal marriage of both environments and is an incredibly beautiful, historically resonant place to work.

Unlike most of the trainees, I have been lucky enough to work full-time on site since August. This has given me the time to familiarise myself with book processing procedure and using Aleph before the influx of student arrivals; to witness what happens in a library behind the scenes in preparation for a new academic year; and to develop a feeling for this particular college’s life with its unique mix of students, fellows and clergy. It has certainly been a distinct learning curve to be involved in the transition of Covid-regulating the library during an unprecedented period of closure, from assisting with remote learning (posting books to students, providing scans, etc.) to once again functioning as an open library. I anticipated librarianship to be fairly repetitive or sedentary by nature, but the job thus far has varied widely, including enquiry desk work, collecting post, handling Click and Collect requests, collating book offers, posting on social media, navigating between our main library and separate Law library, and fetching books from our various off-site locations. I also work some evenings as a clerk in the gorgeous Upper Library, home to our special collections and uniquely open as a study space for students this year in an effort to increase our seating capacity. It is both surreal and thrilling to work here at night surrounded by rows of leather-bound volumes and illuminated manuscripts – a hat case belonging to Horace Walpole rests within metres of my desk, a rather absurd recent discovery for me as a former Gothic literature student.

The Upper Library at Christ Church, complete with socially distanced individual desks and cleaning supplies

 

Especially on my mind this year is how to support students trying to navigate studying in incredibly difficult and isolating circumstances, many of whom are encountering academic libraries for the first time. For me, helping them to avail of resources irrespective of their personal circumstances is of foremost importance – delivering books and library goody bags to self-isolating students has become the priority task of my afternoons. The most rewarding part of this job so far has been meeting Freshers, especially those coming from abroad, and introducing them to the library as well as hearing about their experiences of Oxford. I wanted to work in a college (rather than faculty) library precisely to be involved in such a community, and to encounter a variety of people researching an eclectic range of subjects. I’m gradually getting to know our library regulars and hope to provide a welcoming and reliable presence for our students in an otherwise challenging year.

Jessika Brandon, Social Science Library

Hello, I’m Jessika, the graduate trainee this year for the Social Science Library. Upon graduating from University College Dublin in 2018, with a BA in Celtic Civilisation and Irish Folklore, I considered pursuing further study and a career in academia. However, as I was not sure exactly what I wanted to do I instead ended up applying for a position as a Library Assistant in the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dublin, which I was extremely fortunate to get. This experience made me consider working in libraries as a long-term option for me.

I’ve had a fascination with Oxford since I was young and always wanted to visit, and so when I saw the opportunity to further develop my skills and career prospects while also living here, I decided to go for it.

I started my role working remotely in Ireland for the first three weeks while I consulted the ever-changing situation until I was able to move to Oxford finally. Tomorrow (first Monday of term) will be my first day fully onsite, although I have been doing half days for the last couple of weeks, so I am slowly becoming more familiar with how everything works.

My main duties at the moment include processing the new stock to get them ready to go out on the shelves, as well as answering emails, reviewing reading lists, assisting readers on the Issue Desk and helping with all the new procedures in place at the library at the moment such as Click & Collect and Scan & Deliver. It’s definitely going to get a lot busier now that the term is starting and I am really looking forward to the year ahead, getting to know the city and surrounding areas, seeing all the historic sites/finding things off the beaten track, and finding out what aspects of library work interest me the most. It’s incredibly exciting and I am really grateful to be here.

Arabella Drake, History Faculty Library

Hello! I’m Arabella, the graduate trainee for the History Faculty Library, based within the Radcliffe Camera and Gladstone Link. Previously, while studying BA English at the University of Exeter I volunteered within Penryn Campus library, an experience I enjoyed so much that I decided to work within both school and council libraries after graduating. The Bodleian Library Graduate Trainee Scheme, which offers regular training sessions alongside the chance to work within a prestigious university library, seemed like a wonderful opportunity to expand on this experience and discover what specific aspects of librarianship I find most interesting and wish to pursue further. Also, who wouldn’t want to work in a city as beautiful and historic as Oxford?!

Throughout my first month within the Radcliffe Camera I have been learning lots of new procedures, such as Scan and Deliver, Click and Collect and how to navigate and process items on the library management system. I’m also regularly timetabled on the reception and circulation desks, where I help to sign readers into the building and deal with enquiries. Fortunately, my lovely colleagues in the Camera are always nearby to help should I require it.

Now Michaelmas Term has commenced the library is beginning to get busier, however, I am continuing to learn new things. This week I have been assigned the task of selecting and processing the HFL books that are being sent off to binding to be repaired.

I’ve really been enjoying my Oxford experience so far and I’m very excited to see what the rest of the year has in store!

The Radcliffe Camera

Naomi Hart, Bodleian Law Library

Hello! I’m Naomi, one of two graduate trainees in the Bodleian Law Library, based in Information Resources. I’m a recent graduate, having finished my BA English degree at the University of Exeter this year, so working with legal resources has been a learning curve!

The Law Library is a reference only library located on Manor Road in the St. Cross Building, which also hosts the English Faculty Library. With 1960s architecture, a high ceiling (and a new roof), original wooden desks complete with beautiful marks of wear, leather seats and brass lamps, a gallery, narrow staircases tucked among the bookshelves, and a hushed quiet, it’s an atmospheric building to explore with a wealth of resources – although slightly disorientating to navigate at first.

Beginning this role amidst the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging at times. Having started the traineeship by working virtually from home, it’s both exciting and reassuring to now be working onsite for most of the week. When onsite, we begin the day by preparing the library for readers, who can book seats for particular time slots as part of the library’s phased reopening. Being based in IR means the tasks I do often differ slightly from Ella’s (the Academic Services trainee in the Law Library). My role involves processing books and serials, building reading lists, cataloguing, labelling and shelving, as well as more front-facing work such as being on the enquiry desk and scanning requests for the Scan and Deliver service. Usually, on Wednesdays, we have training sessions with the other trainees, though these are taking place virtually for the time being. During our tea breaks, Ella and I are utilising our Bodleian keep cups and becoming regulars at the Missing Bean cafe in the St. Cross Building. Over lunchtimes, we’ve been exploring some of the green spaces near the library too – and making the most of the sunshine when we can.

I’m looking forward to the library being able to increase its capacity for readers and the energy of the new term starting. There couldn’t be a better introduction to life behind the scenes in an academic library, especially at a time when it is adapting to provide the best service it can to readers under extraordinary circumstances.