Greetings from me, Emilia, one half of the dynamic trainee-duo at the Taylorian! The other excellent half, Philippa, will tell you more about her experiences soon, I have no doubt. Though we spend them in the same building, her days probably differ more than you might expect from mine, as should soon become clear.
Though I originally hail from Sweden, this June I completed my BA in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at the University of Cambridge (at the same time as Lee, whom you’ve already met). During the long vacation between my second and my final year at Cambridge I gained my first ‘proper’ library experience (though already an ardent user of various libraries in and around Cambridge) as a Library Assistant for the International Summer Schools programme at Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education. But for nearly two months now I have found myself at The Other Place getting my loyalties confused and learning the ropes at the Taylor Institution Library, a.k.a. the Taylorian.
The factors that make the Taylorian special and lend it its charm are, more or less, the same things that make it rather confusing as a newcomer. Taking its name from architect Sir Robert Taylor (1714-1788), the Institution was established in 1845 as a result of his generous bequest, and was from the start meant to occupy one wing of the yellow neo-classical building which is mostly taken up by the Ashmolean museum (though, this does lead some visitors aiming for the museum astray and they occasionally end up in the Taylor instead). In the early twentieth century, the University’s Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages was established and regular teaching and provision for its students still takes place in the Taylor Institution building. At present, there are therefore two main collections: the Research Collection (which has been assembled and added to by numerous donations throughout the Taylorian’s lifetime), for the research of modern languages and literature, and linguistics; and the Teaching Collection, which focuses on providing material for undergraduates and other taught students of the modern languages faculty. As a result of this history, the library (particularly the Research Collection) has amassed numerous shelfmark systems over time with varying levels of idiosyncrasy.
To add to both the confusion and its particular charm, the building was extended in 1938 making the library consist of two main physical parts as well as two main collections. However, since they do not always line up with each other in a straightforward way, this is a greatly contributing factor to the labyrinthine feeling of the Taylorian. It also makes directing people from one part of the building to the other fraught with potential for confusion. For example, the Teaching Collection starts on the ground floor (of the extension to the original building) whereas you get to the Research Collection via one of two grand staircases. However, the first floor of the Teaching Collection is not on the same floor as the Enquiry Desk and the Lower Stack of the Research Collection, making terms such as ‘downstairs’ and ‘upstairs’ relative concepts… Unsurprisingly, it took me the better part of my first month to learn how to most efficiently navigate the building (not to mention learn where the various shelfmarks are kept!), which I tend to tell new readers to reassure them whenever they are apologetic about feeling confused.
So far, I have been mainly stationed at the Enquiry Desk of the Research Collection. It is aptly named since one of my main tasks is answering various reader enquiries. There is also various admin to be done on a daily basis, such as book processing (the daily transfer of items from the Book Storage Facility and back again, new acquisitions, book donations and so forth), monitoring the Taylorian enquiries and renewals-email account together with Philippa, and fetching books for first and second year undergraduates who need to wait until their final year before they can roam freely in the Main Stack of the Research Collection.
However, since my biggest passion is for manuscripts and other rare books I am happiest whenever I get a chance to go on an errand to the Rare Books Room. The Taylorian’s collection of rare books and other special items, while humbled by the size of equivalent collections housed in some of the other libraries in Oxford, is impressively varied nonetheless. It includes such disparate items as a tiny(!) fourteenth century copy of the Magna Carta, a wealth of sixteenth century Luther pamphlets, and a neatly framed lock of Goethe’s hair (which I only learned of by accident the other week when it was being returned from a teaching session). For more on the Taylorian’s special collections I highly recommend visiting the Taylor Institution Library blog.
My most impressive personal achievements so far include naming and baptising the only still unnamed member of the fleet of faithful trolleys which help us each day, and designing the layout of the print-out of this year’s milk rota. I am also in the process of taking over a previous trainee’s project, which will (all things being well) help dispel some of the future shelfmark-confusion, in the Teaching Collection at least. The traineeship and my time at the Taylor has been brilliant so far, with constant opportunities to learn more about various aspects of librarianship and the information profession, and I look forward to soaking up as much of the abundance of knowledge around me as I can!
 However, since the 1960s the Slavonic and East European collections have been housed at a different location, currently on Wellington Square.