Day in the life of a History Faculty Library trainee

08:30

I’m out the door and on my bike. I’m lucky enough to have a genuinely enjoyable ten-minute cycle to work in the mornings, which is a great way to start the day.

08:40  

I arrive at the Rad Cam. After putting my things away, I start the opening routine for the Lower Camera – this involves opening windows, turning on computers and PCAS machines, shelving, and making sure work spaces are tidy for readers. This morning I find a sports bra on one of the radiators, which I put in lost property!

View from above of two stacks of blue plastic boxes. The top box on each stack is open to reveal piles of books inside.
Lapsed books in their boxes ready to head back to the CSF

08:55

Using Alma, the library management system software, I create today’s lapse list: a spreadsheet with details of self-collect books which are due to be returned to the CSF. By the time doors open to readers at 9am, I’m starting to collect these lapsed books onto a trolley. Once I’ve finished, I return them all on Alma and then box them up to be taken back to the CSF this afternoon on the delivery van.

09:30

There weren’t too many books on the lapse list today, so I have time for a background task. I find a few books whose shelf mark

labels are beginning to fade, and print and attach new labels.

10:15

Break time – a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits in the reader common room, while listening to a podcast.

Two images of the same stack of books. In the first, the shelf mark labels are faded. In the second, there are new, clear labels.
Relabelling books – before and after!

10:35

I’m on fetching duty now. This means I’m collecting books from around the Rad Cam and Old Bod which have been requested for scanning by readers. Today this takes me into the Duke Humphrey’s Library, the very oldest part of the library, which is always exciting! Then, I identify the sections that need scanning and put in bookmarks ready for my colleague who will be scanning them this afternoon.

11:30

I decide to do some shelving. Maybe not the most exciting part of working in a library, but always satisfying!

12:00

Today I have the early (12pm) lunch slot. It’s lovely weather so I head along to the Botanic Gardens (free entry is a great perk of the job) to eat my packed lunch. I take a book and enjoy sitting and reading in the sunshine.

13:00

I’m back at the Rad Cam, and have an hour slot on the reception desk. It’s an extremely quiet shift – I issue books to one reader, give a couple of tourists directions to the Old Bod, and send a reader who has forgotten her card to Admissions.

Partially completed data input form from an Excel sheet. There are fields for language of resource, ISBN, title, subtitle, statement of responsibility, edition statement and more.
Inputting metadata to the spreadsheet

14:00

I get on with some project work. My project covers a collection of uncatalogued materials at the History of Science and Medicine Library – the aim is to identify items that are unique across the Bodleian and record their metadata so that they can be added to the library catalogue and ingested. When I was there this week, I took photos of some of the items, so this afternoon I use these photos to finish entering the details of these items into a spreadsheet created by the Resource Description department.

14:30

Break time – after sitting to work on a computer it’s time to stretch my legs, so I put on a podcast and go for a short walk.

14:50

An email has come in from ARACU (Accessible Resources Unit) requesting a book for them to scan for a student. I fetch the book, issue it on Alma, and box it up to send to ARACU on the delivery van. Then I get on with some more shelving, starting with the Upper Camera and working my way down to the Lower Gladstone Link.

15:30

It’s my final desk shift of the day – this time I’m on the circulation desk in the Rad Cam. I help a couple of readers connect to the internet, and take a student down to the Gladstone Link to locate a book in the tricky Nicholson sequence. I issue and return books, provide directions to the toilets, and answer questions about loan periods and shelf marks. It’s always nice to be able to help readers out – definitely a rewarding part of the job!

17:00

It’s the end of my working day. I’m off to the gym (another perk of the job is discounted membership at Iffley Road Sports Centre) and then home!

 

 

A Day in the Life of a Law Library Trainee

8:25      My journey to work begins with a, thankfully, short walk into work. This morning I am rather precariously carrying two cakes which I have made for a work party.

 

8:50      After making my way into work, my morning begins by unloading the dishwasher. We do this on a rota and this morning is my turn.  Alongside the dishwasher, I make the morning’s pot of coffee, which is very much needed. After that’s finished, I head up to my desk, where I sort through my emails and send off a few scans which I didn’t get round to yesterday afternoon.

 

Shelves for books to be labelled.

9:30      I take a few books that I have now finished with from my desk and head upstairs to reshelve them. Our lift is currently out of order so I am finding that I am climbing many, many more stairs than usual.

Returning to the workroom, I check to see if there any any books on the shelves I have responsibility for. Books for me are any ones which need processed, labelled or sent out to the floor. I collect any for me and bring them to my desk, where I work through them all. After finishing, I drop the books up to Academic Services for shelving, in a series of journeys which take much longer than normal (broken lift + manual handling training = frustratingly slow book moving process).

 

10:30     Tea party!! I head down to the staff room as we say goodbye to one of our colleagues, whose last day is today. We have some snacks, some cake and hand over a goodbye gift.

 

11:15        More scanning to do now. Accompanied by a list of all the requests, I gather up the books required and head to the scanning room. Our scanning room is a very small, out of the way room in the library, but it has a fantastic big window which looks out over the New College sports grounds. Unfortunately, today the scans are not as simple as I would like. A reader has requested a set of pages which don’t appear to make much sense, starting on the last page of one chapter and finishing mid subsection of the next chapter. I send a message to the Scan & Deliver triage team, who will confirm with the reader what exactly they want. Another scan is for a book which does not appear on the shelf. Thankfully, it has not travelled far, only to the shelf below. I decide to stay and tidy up these shelves while I’m here, as I’ve found a couple books in the wrong sequence. This is quite a satisfying task, but one that at least I, can only do for so long, before the dust generated from moving all the books makes me start sneezing uncontrollably.

 

12:45       I send off the completed scans and head downstairs to sort today’s post.

Today’s haul!

We receive a range of items in the post, mostly journals and purchased books, but sometimes mysteriously packaged parcels with donated books, sent by either the author or publisher. We also receive post for Official Papers, which may be Statutory Instruments or Acts published by the UK governments or documents from intergovernmental organisations, such as the United Nations. After collating and stamping any invoices and packing slips, all the post is brought up to the Information Resources Workroom where I sort it onto its respective shelves. Journals and books all have different shelves depending on whether they are purchased, donated or copyright material.

 

13:15         Lunchtime! I now have an hour for lunch, so I make myself up a bagel and have a cup of tea. I have a number of books on the go currently, as I read different books depending on what mood I’m in, but today I have only a few chapters left of Agatha Christie’s The Secret of Chimneys and I am determined to find out if I have guessed the murderer correctly. Tonight, I’m on the evening shift until 7pm, so I head outside for a short walk to stretch my legs and get some sunshine before heading back to work.

 

Official Papers post ready to be shelved.

14:15         It is now time to process the pile of Official Papers post which has been slowly building over the past couple of weeks. All the post has to be stamped with the correct date and type of stamp (C for copyright, P for purchased and D for donated), before being counted, noted down and shelved. It is a long process, but the upside is that there are some very interesting documents to read through. Today, I process 77 pamphlets and 8 Acts and Explanatory Notes.

 

16:00       I head downstairs for a break, grabbing a cup of coffee and the final one of my sister’s hot cross buns, which she had sent back with me when I visited home last weekend.

 

16:15         By now, the VBD books have arrived. The VBD stands for Virtual Book Display, and every week the Information Resources Librarian sends me over a spreadsheet with the picks for the Law Library. This week there are not too many, so only two runs up and down the stairs. Once at my desk, I have to check the books off on my spreadsheet, process them and send them to the copyright shelves for cataloguing. I also take this time to track down any missing VBD books from previous weeks, looking to see where they have got to.

 

16:45        I head down to Official Papers to grab some boxes of material to be barcoded and then head up to the desk for my 5pm evening shift. While on the desk, I answer queries from readers and give (hopefully useful and easy-to-follow) directions.

Home Office Research study from 1975 on homicide statistics.

When my attention is not required by readers, I work through barcoding the OP material. Currently I am working through series from the Home Office, which includes some very interesting reads, such as Absconding from Open Prisons and Homicide in Britain, 1967 – 1971. 

 

17:30        Time for the count. I grab the clipboard and head round the library to count the number of readers inside.

 

17:45         Mental maths done, I return to barcoding. When finished, I begin work on this blog post!

 

18:40         I ring the first bell to alert readers we will be closing soon. The bell is very loud and always makes unsuspecting readers jump (readers – I’m sorry!!).

 

18:50          Second bell.

 

19:00          The bell is rung for the final time to signify the library is closed. We switch the lights off and I drop my work to my desk before heading to the staffroom. Both cakes are finished and someone has kindly washed my plates, so I pack up them into my bag and head off to enjoy the rest of the sunshine!

 

 

A Day in the Life of a Sainsbury Library Trainee

Anna Roberts – Sainsbury Library

08:40 

Whilst sipping tea from my KeepCup on the bus, and glaring at the traffic ahead, I email my supervisor because I think I may be a little late!

09:03

 I arrive in the library. My opening shift is made a lot quicker and easier because my supervisor starts work a bit earlier than everybody else. This means she usually does most of the opening up. However, if she is not starting early then these are some of the tasks that we do: folding up blankets on our blanket shelf, returning books on the library system that were in our library return box, walk around the library floors turning the lights on and tidying up the desks and chairs (students and staff at the school can use the library outside of staffed hours), check and replenish paper levels in the printer, and check our IT equipment loan folder. The library is embedded within the Saïd Business School which means the building is already set up before staff come in and business students can still use our library after we go home too!

09:10 

We had a mystery wire on our enquiry desk this morning which may have been lost property, but it does look like some of the HDMI cables that are connected to our docking stations. So, I went to investigate whether there were any missing cables.

The PC area cables and wires in our lower reading room were a complete mess like vines all curled up together. So, I decided to tidy the area up a bit.

09:20 

Part of desk duty is to monitor our library email inbox. So, I checked the enquiries that we had. Usually, they will involve a mixture of readers asking for business-related research help, some asking for help accessing library resources both online and offline, and others will be requesting access to databases. Some of our databases require staff to create accounts for students, others have a limited number of IDs that we issue to students for a set number of days. Due to high demand, there is often a waiting list for these IDs.

We also welcome and grant access to library visitors, usually non-Saïd Business School students, occasionally others, into the library. Reception rings us to say that a visitor is here and wants to use the library. Often the visitor is already racing up the stairs so you must get an access card ready and hopefully meet them at the door before anyone else enters and leaves-otherwise the visitor will be trapped in the library!

09:30 

As the library was quiet, armed with blue tack, a pen and sticky notes I went around our PCs checking if they had the ‘how to log in’ labels on the monitors. I re-tacked some of them and recorded the number that didn’t have any and the docking stations that require their docking labels too. I plan to update those without another day.

09:50  

My colleague, who also works at the library’s Egrove site, gave me a book which had been requested for scanning. Egrove Park is the location for the business school’s Executive Education services, which includes some residential courses. We have a small collection of roughly 955 books which can be borrowed by users at Egrove and by members of the university.

I check ALMA for any other requests to triage and fulfill. I then wrote a post-it note for the part to be scanned and placed the book on my desk in the office.

I also checked the SBS intranet to keep up to date with news within the school. I read an article giving the Dean’s message about International Women’s Day (IWD) the next day. Internal communications were also requesting staff to send along a picture and a couple of words for IWD. I created a book display for IWD and a window display for the Oxford Africa Business Forum. As I was planning to write a blog post about my book display, I decided that I would also send a picture and some words along for this. You can read the blog post ‘Celebrating in True Library Fashion’ and see a list of the books on our Sainsbury Library News page.

A selection of cakes with lots of heart designs
A picture of part of the bakery display that the catering put on for Valentine’s Day

11:00 

My colleague who was covering my 20-minute morning break came along to cover. I went to the school’s café/common room to help myself to a free tea in my KeepCup. Staff at the school get subsidized food at the common room and dining hall which means a 50% – 60% discount on cakes, pastries, cheesecakes, and whatever other delights the café and catering team rustles up! I go to the tea stand where there are free teabags and an urn of hot water. I listened to some music and relaxed for a bit.

11:20

Back on desk duty after my break.

My colleague asked someone on site to check Harvard Business Review on SOLO as it appeared to have disappeared. I took a look and indeed it was an empty page. Whilst I was testing a different browser, I also assisted some readers with in-person enquiries and welcomed visitors in.

As part of my SOLO investigation, I tried searching in Journal Search and Harvard Business Review and came up with no results. I then tried searching for other journals, same result. I then tried searching with filters and nothing was appearing! Something was wrong! I then compiled an email for OLIS help with screenshots to report the problem. It is always useful to include precise information about the browser and what you are doing when asking for assistance. The team sent out an email to the library mailing list to inform all the libraries and staff that SOLO was experiencing problems, and they thanked our team for reporting it.

In a lovely gesture, a reader whom I had assisted with printing came to the desk especially to say thank you for my help before leaving. This is always very appreciated.

12:30 

Journal search is back up! We are lucky to have a fantastic OLIS team who work hard, often in the background, to make sure the Bodleian Library keeps running! A few of my colleagues on site were in a meeting whilst all this happened and didn’t even know that there had been a problem.

Tart and salad on a plate
Oxfordshire Blue and Mushroom tart, plus salad! -Keeping us healthy

13:00 Lunch break

My colleague for the afternoon comes to enquiry desk to changeover. It often seems to be the case that the phone starts ringing, someone wants to borrow IT equipment and something else pops up right when you are transferring. Anyway, I greeted the visitor and then went for lunch, leaving things in my colleague’s hands.

For lunch, I went to the school’s dining room and got an Oxfordshire Blue Cheese and mushroom tart plus the ambient salads that the kitchen provides- very yummy! Staff can get a good quality hot meal or ambient meal for around £2.50 each day- what a bargain! I listened to some music whilst eating and then read my book outside sitting on the school’s amphitheatre steps because it was finally sunny (if a bit chilly though).

14:00 

I had a few plans about what I wanted to do like completing the scan and deliver request and completing my blog post. I recently discovered ‘Bodley and the bookworms- Scan and deliver video which I can’t get out of my head when I hear or read‘scan and deliver’. I decided to focus on finishing my blog post as this was more time sensitive. It is often the case as a trainee that you will be juggling a few tasks at a time and that you may be producing blog posts or book displays to mark different events/themes in the year, either local to your library or subject, nationally or internationally. So far, I have done Business of AI, Financial Times ‘Book of the Year’ displays and now IWD and Business in Africa. I will consult with members of the team about future displays.

A stack of 4 large blue boxes and a trolley with 10 grey cardboard archive boxes
Blue crates and archive boxes-took me four trips!

15:00

I go to cover my colleague’s afternoon tea break. Just as I arrive on desk a reader who is doing Futures Library research informs us there should be more blue crates here for her. She has gone through most, if not all now, of the Pierre Wack library! So, I popped downstairs to check if the Bod book van had arrived yet. The van had arrived, delivering 10 blue boxes/totes plus an oversized archive box- I think this was a record for our library (or at least for me!) although I  know that is a tiny delivery in comparison with some of the other libraries. I ended up taking three trips in the lift to bring everything up. It was quite intriguing see some of what is inside the archive boxes- VHS tapes, cassettes, a briefcase folder. My colleague and I scanned in the archive boxes, including an oversized one with a briefcase in it and then my colleague finally went on his tea break.

15:30

A colleague who assisted with putting the book display up and organising kindly offered to be in a photo for the book display for IWD- I was very grateful that she was willing to be in it too! With the photo taken I then finished the blog post for IWD and the Africa Business Forum display and then edited the IWD part slightly to share it with the Saïd Business Schools Internal Communications Team. They very kindly added a bit of context to the library and created an article on Atrium to share with colleagues at the school.

15:45

I went for my afternoon tea break and once again got a tea from the tea station in the school’s common room. I also browsed the pastries and cakes but decided to skip it- they are always very tempting though!

16:05

I caught up on some emails and my to do list.

16:20

Sainsbury Library is currently running an assessment activity concerning where students are sitting and the noise levels of the reading room. We have a board and stickers for students to pick what they are in the library to do and where on our library map, they would prefer to sit to do that. We were also doing some observations in the afternoons where two of us walk around the library and noting where people were sitting and what they were doing e.g. group study, silent study. That afternoon I was doing the observation. Students sometimes looked at us a bit quizzically as we walked around and stood observing the tables.

16:40

Our circulation and customer services librarian showed me how the library records teaching statistics are recorded (this is sessions where staff members have delivered inductions, consultations, and lectures) and SCONUL counts (the SCONUL homepage has a picture of my old library so had to include a link!). Sconul counts are when we, along with other libraries, count the number of readers in the library at a specific time and date. Our circulation librarian is responsible in our library for recording these statistics this and it was good to see what is recorded, why it is recorded and how it is recorded. I have found that there are often opportunities in my day to observe and learn from other staff members about different tasks they do, even if I am not going to be specifically assisting them.

6 books with post-it notes on their covers
Books I need to sort out

16:55

I write a note in my notebook about some of the ‘book stuff’ I need to do: process new books, complete a scan, and a a plastic cover to the dust jacket. Here is a visual picture of it:

17:00

I head to the train station to wait for a bus home!

 

 

 

A Day in the Life of an Old Library Trainee

7:45: I hop on the bus to town, and get some reading in on my way. I am currently reading Femina by Janina Ramirez, after hearing her interesting insights on the women who embroidered the Bayeux Tapestry, on the history podcast ‘You’re Dead to Me’ with Greg Jenner. I’m really enjoying it and finding it very accessible, as someone who has never really been drawn to that period of history (cue the scandalised gasps from Oxford medievalists).

8:15: With an uncharacteristic lack of traffic on the way to work, I arrive in town in time to head to Black Sheep and get myself a coffee. I like Black Sheep because the coffee is STRONG.

8:42: I arrive at work. This week I have been rota’ed to open up the Duke Humfrey’s Library, which is always a nice space to begin my day in. I am greeted by the grotesques that decorate the walls, including these cheeky chaps, who are displaying two different degrees of excitement that it’s Friday:

TGIF!
This guy has seen some things…

Opening up this reading room includes reshelving, turning on the lights, and opening the blinds.

8:55: With the Duke Humfrey’s Library ready for readers, I head downstairs to the Main Enquiry Desk where I will be spending the morning answering enquiries.

This morning, I am expecting the arrival of some books from the Just William series, for an advance order request for someone who does not yet have their reader card. Because these are early editions, I want to check their condition to confirm that they can be read in the Old Library and don’t need to be flagged up with my colleagues in Rare Books.

The books arrive, and they’re in fine condition, so I give the self-collect slips a temporary ID, change their due date, and notify the reader that they are ready to be viewed.

12:00: Lunchtime. I wolf down a very basic sandwich I cobbled together whilst half asleep this morning, wondering what my housemate, who works in Christ Church library and who is provided an amazing dinner by the college, is probably enjoying at that very same time…

13:00: After lunch I’m stationed at the circulation desk in the Radcliffe Camera for an hour. Working on this desk means I issue books, collect returns, help people connect to Wi-Fi or to locate a book. There’s always loads of people to help here so I really enjoy it!

14:00: I head back over to the Old Bod to get some work done for my trainee project. I’m finding books from offsite storage and assessing whether they’d be suitable for a temporary wellbeing collection in the Bodleian. Today I am looking at some Choose Your Own Adventure books. One is outstandingly and straightforwardly titled You Are a Shark . I’m sure this is what Shakespeare had in mind when he wrote that “brevity is the soul of wit”.

15:30: After my afternoon break, I’m sat on the Proscholium (entrance to the Old Library) where I am writing this blog post whilst keeping one beady eye out for readers entering the library. It can get cold in this part of the building, but I have a small and handy heater that is at the very least keeping my knees adequately warm.

17:00: My workday is done, so I say hello and goodbye to the evening staff member who is taking over for me on the Proscholium. This evening, I am heading to the cinema with my housemates. One fantastic thing about Oxford is the number of cinemas there are with various showings, if only to aid me in updating my Letterboxd account.

A Week in the Life of a Trainee at the Oxford Union 

A view of the Oxford Union from outside.

My working week starts at 09:30 on a Monday morning. This is glorious as my fellow trainees have to start at 09:00 or earlier, mwah ha ha ha.  

Coming in early often means I open the library: unlocking, turning on the lights and emptying the dehumidifiers (and, after 6 months, I still haven’t mastered the art of pouring the water from our leaky dehumidifier without spills).   

Having opened up, I am often on shift at the reception desk (I have one shift a day). This means that I get to meet lots of lovely people – some members, some not.   

There are six staff members in the library: the Librarian-in-Charge, the Deputy Librarian, the Assistant Librarian, me (the Trainee), the Archivist, and Helga (the library printer, who works very hard). The Union has more than just library staff, but the team is still very small and you get to know everyone; the Bar staff even know my lunch order before I say it (despite me definitely not having a coronation chicken sandwich almost every day for the past six months).  

Mondays are fantastic; I take minutes at our Library Committee meetings. These are chaired by the Librarian, who is a student. They decide which books will be withdrawn and which will be purchased. Our Library’s collection is thus entirely dictated by the needs and wants of members and booklists are often a little peculiar as a result.  

On Tuesdays my cup runneth over; I come in late (for the evening shift, not because I have given up on punctuality by Tuesday), and do research for our displays, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. This also tends to be the day on which I do the most research for my project (which will eventually be posted on the library website).  

Wednesdays are usually training days for all Trainee Librarians – here you’ll learn to use ALMA, learn the nitty gritty elements of librarianship and visit other libraries (inside and outside Oxford).  

Thursdays at the Union are great; this is ‘Brew and Biscuits’ day, on which all staff, and sometimes student officers (President, Librarian and Treasurer), meet for an hour, first for business, and then a social chat (usually about rugby, at which point anyone who doesn’t watch it is bored rigid). The possession of a brew (tea, coffee, or hot chocolate) and the consumption of at least one biscuit is rigorously enforced (on pain of death). This is also the day when I leave early to go bouldering.  

Fridays are more relaxed, there are no minutes to write, no training to do (usually), and no threat of death for not partaking of the cookies. This is a day when reshelving and book processing are the priority and social media posts get scheduled.   

The blog post continues into Saturday! Fear not! At most you’ll only do two Saturdays a term, and you have a late start. Shock horror though… there are no free bar lunches. And on that cliff-hanger, I will leave you.  

Book Snakes and Library Ladders: a trainee plays the Bodleian board game

 

The board includes 6 libraries and paths between them divided into squares, against a background of a map of Oxford. On it are placed chance cards, catalogue cards and five coloured game pieces.
The game board during play.

Back in 1988, the Bodleian created a truly ingenious piece of merchandise: The Bodleian Game, an incredibly niche board game for those who feel they just don’t quite spend enough time in the Bodleian Libraries in real life. Sadly, it is no longer available to buy new, but when one of my housemates managed to procure a second-hand copy, we were all very excited. (Getting excited over a library-based board game is very normal, actually.)

You begin the game by picking a research subject – we went for Women in Society – and are given the first book you need to read on that subject. The premise is then that for each book, you need to first visit the Old Bodleian; consult one of three catalogues there in order to determine which library your book is housed in; journey across Oxford to the relevant library; locate the book in that library’s catalogue; “read” the book and use the references to determine what you need to read next; and roll the dice to determine how useful the book was to your research. Highest score at the end of the game wins, so there is an incentive to reread if you don’t score highly.

Three cards. They read "Book misfiled - find it next turn"; "Book in place" and "Caught eating and have your reader's ticket confiscated - go to Admissions to reclaim it".
Different cards you might face before you can read your book…

 

Sound like a convoluted process? It was! We’ve never been so grateful for SOLO and the fact that it is accessible everywhere. Impressively, the books in the game were all real items held by the Bodleian, which we were of course able to check from the comfort of our kitchen table.

The fun of the game came from seeing how the mechanics had been created to replicate the true Bodleian Libraries experience. For example, chance cards could banish you to the starting spot for getting caught eating in the library, or delay your reading due to your book being already on loan. By the third time one of us drew the card that says you have left your Bodleian card at home and need to go to Admissions, and had to trek back across the board, I was feeling a distinct twinge of guilt for all the readers I have said the same thing to. And if you landed on the same square as another player, you both had to head straight off to the King’s Arms together – I’ll leave our readers to confirm or deny the accuracy of that one.

 

Two score cards with columns of Reference, Shelfmark, Title and Score. One is significantly more filled out than the other.
Two of our score cards by the end of play – I didn’t get as much reading done as my housemate!

Gameplay was not particularly rapid, and was based more on luck than strategy; think Monopoly or Ludo. We ended up setting a time limit to mark the end of the game rather than work our way through all fourteen suggested books, and elided a couple of rules to speed things up a little. But at times, knowledge was rewarded: at one point my housemate deduced (correctly!) that as she was looking for a letter, she could head straight to the John Johnson collection rather than return to the Old Bodleian to consult the catalogue there.

 

Would I play The Bodleian Game again? If I had time to spare on a relaxed game, then absolutely. Am I glad that in real life the Bodleian Libraries function differently in 2024 than they did in 1988? Very much so.

 

 

Michaelmas term round-up

As the libraries empty out over the Christmas vacation, the trainees reflect on their first term.

 

A display including fact sheets and images of suggested titles such as Ableism in Academia and The Oxford Handbook of Disability History
The Disability History Month Display in the Old Bod Lower Reading Room

Christmas at the Old Bod has arrived, and although in the last week there have been fewer visitors, the reading rooms are still peopled with studious readers. I’ve put up some fabulous Christmas decorations (circa 1970), and the tree in the quad has drawn even more tourists in.

The past few months working at the Bodleian have been a lot of fun. One of my favourite activities has been making displays and advertising resources that the Bodleian has to offer, like my recent book display for UK Disability History Month . It means I get to interact with a wider variety of books from our vast collection. What it has fundamentally shown me is that my favourite part of working in a library is the opportunities you are given every day to help people!

Nia Everitt, Bodleian Old Library 

 

 

 

My first term at the Sainsbury Library has been busy with tasks varying from processing new books, weeding old journals, and creating and updating signs for the library (which sometimes involves warming up the laminator!). I have three main highlights so far:

  1. Creating a ‘How to Guide’ for readers with Sainsbury’s Circulation and Customer Services Librarian. The guide covers topics like setting up the university VPN, how to use PCAS services, and how to search, find, borrow and request books in our library. It is over 60 pages long and counting…
  2. Creating an AI book display which then led to creating an AI window display at the library entrance and now updating our Business of AI LibGuide to include books from the display and A visitor even came in asking about the display because they saw the post I wrote on our Sainsbury Library News blog.

Both projects have helped me to learn about the variety of support and services that the Bodleian provides. I have explored business databases, SOLO, ORLO, and other University of Oxford resources doing these two projects. I have realised that readers at Oxford have access to a wealth of resources but, through working on the enquiry desk, you come to realise how many readers do not know about it! So, the final highlight is:

  1. Helping a reader discover something they didn’t know before and helping them with problems they have accessing services.

The reader’s gratefulness after helping or even just visiting the library is like extra icing on a cake. The gratefulness is a reminder that helping someone in a way that, as staff we may feel is small or routine, such as scanning a chapter, telling someone about a useful LibGuide or just showing them where the printers are, can be quite significant for our readers.

Anna Roberts, Sainsbury Library

 

What a learning experience a term can be. ALMA, ORLO lists, law reports, legal databases, citation styles, serials processing, loose leaf binders: they were all quite new to me. Happily, thanks to the great training and brilliant support from library colleagues, they aren’t anymore. But never fear: the readers and the library keep coming up with new and intriguing conundrums (missing books, obscure queries, rare Bodcard colours…). I’ve loved assisting the students, faculty and visitors (there was one reader who was so enthusiastic when I showed them our bookable study spaces that I got the firmest handshake I have ever experienced!), but equally have come to really appreciate the mindful calm that can come from a book moving or filing spell (when not interrupted by an urgent scan request for use in court, or a group of new readers to guide round, or a puzzling mountain of books left somewhere seemingly at random – there’s always something going on!). And of course, our visits to the CSF, conservation studio and special collections were a real highlight. The term has certainly confirmed that I’d love a career in libraries, and I’m looking forward to the next term, when there will be a recurring display to organise, some more to learn about cataloguing, and a Libguide to write! Keeping busy…

Wanne Mendonck, Bodleian Law Library

 

A Christmas tree stands on a marble table in the Union Society Old Library. There are bookcases and decorative walls visible in the background.
Christmas tree standing on the mysteriously chimneyless fireplace in the Union Society Old Library.

Working for the Oxford Union Society Library is amazing! This term the Union was visited by Sir Roger Penrose, Nazanin Zaghari Radcliffe, Tom Hanks, etc and I have tried things I have never attempted before, such as creating displays – possibly my favourite task as I get to research everything from Victorian ichthyology to recreational drugs, Oxfordshire geology to gothic poetry, and medieval table manners to historical transgender figures. I had never used Twitter, never posted on Facebook, and had never run a professional Instagram account and this term I began running the Library’s (Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook). Training can be pretty interesting too; so far my favourite day has been the conservation day at the Weston Library where we learnt how books are fixed, what pests to look out for (we were handed round laminated insects e.g. silverfish), and about active and inactive moulds.

Connie Hubbard, Oxford Union Society Library

 

This term has been a wild ride. Alongside learning an incredible amount from my training process at All Souls, there have been some amazing events in the library such as a play, a visit from a youth orchestra and a formal dinner. We had over 700 new reader applications, over 1000 visitors to our open day and over 200 book requests. All in all, these first few months of my traineeship have been immensely positive. The day to day work has often been chaotic, but this meant I was rarely bored and always learning. I am very excited for the challenges Hilary term may bring, and feel ready to face them.

Elena Trowsdale, All Souls College Library

 

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three and a half months since my first day at the Rad Cam – the time has flown by! But when I stop and reflect, a lot has happened over this period, and I have learned a lot.

Besides some of the big stand-out moments from the training sessions, such as the tour of the CSF or our afternoon with Special Collections, I think the main highlights for me have been the pleasure of helping out readers and the variety of the work; my days regularly involve fielding enquiries at the circulation desk or reception, fetching and scanning books for Scan and Deliver, donning glamorous high vis and directing delivery vans through the quad, creating blog or social media content, processing new books, and more. I enjoyed getting to take on the responsibility recently of sorting out the HFL books for rebinding, and I’m really looking forward to getting started with my project next term.

Xanthe Malcolm, History Faculty Library

 

It’s safe to say that as my first full term as a trainee draws to a close, the experience has been jam-packed! From the day-to-day running of the EFL, to our weekly training sessions (not to mention the cheeky post-training pub trips) there’s always something going on, and always something new to learn. Looking back at my introduction post, I can easily say that I’ve enjoyed everything even more than I thought I would. Highlights being (of course) the tour of conservation studios; the opportunity to see incredible literary figures such as Philip Pullman; and learning more about the EFL’s collections through my project! Being a part of the traineeship has really cemented that I want to continue working in libraries and, having seen next terms’ training schedule, I’m even more excited for the new year.

Leah Brown, English Faculty Library

Happy Halloween (or autumn) from the Oxford Library trainees!

Whether you celebrate Halloween or not, it is hard to deny that autumn is an atmospheric, spooky

Radcliffe camera with a sunset illuminating its top half and shadow on the bottom. Blue cloudy sky behind.
Photo of the Radcliffe Camera at sunset.

time to be in Oxford. Walking around the city in October, the trees are turning auburn, the mist is setting in, and, as the clocks change, the orangey streetlamps lamps are illuminated earlier and earlier. The night sky turns a deep royal blue. The clamour of ghost tours resonates around Radcliffe Square, reminding readers in the Old Bodleian of the city’s ghastly and rather gory history.

To honour this, I thought that there was no better time to explore some of the more ghoulish stories from the history of the Bodleian (and Oxford College) Libraries. For a Library which can trace its history back to 1320, you can imagine that these stories are plentiful. Through periods of history such as the town vs gown riots, which saw a Brasenose student killed by a local murderous mob, Radcliffe square has a hidden gruesome history. Thanks to Old Bodleian trainee Nia Everett, I have been informed about an even more prolifically gory historical function of this beautiful square: the Old Bodleian Anatomy school.

Founded in 1617, the Old Bodleian Anatomy school was active in this location for over 60 years, with frequent dissections occurring to instruct students on all aspects of physical human anatomy, including the slimy bits! For a current student or librarian, only allowed to take liquids into the library if contained in a keep-cup or sealable bottle, such activities are impossible to imagine taking place within the walls of the current Bodleian. However, to 17th century readers in anatomy, this study formed a crucial part of their daily scholarly practice. Such readers were able to demand the body of anyone executed within 21 miles of Oxford for use in their dissections and examinations.

A particularly oddly-spooky story from the Anatomy school is the tale of Anne Green’s

Early modern woodcut reading 'behold god's providence' with an image of anne green being hung and her resurrected from her coffin.
Image of Anne Green’s hanging

resurrection at the hands of William Petty, the Reader in Anatomy at the time of her execution. Anne was hung in Oxford castle yard, accused of committing infanticide. On a cold December night, awaiting to be dissected on the operating table, Anne Green was resurrected by Petty and his colleagues after they detected a faint pulse. Though she was brought back to life, her story ends with arguably another early modern horror: being married off to a man.

 

Turning away from horrors carried out within the Bodleian building, and towards its collections, there are plenty of spooky, magical, occult and alchemical manuscripts within the Bodleian’s special collections. For example, the Ripley Scroll, almost 6 metres long, as illustrated in this excellent TikTok from the Bodleian libraries: The Ripley Scroll. This manuscript instructs the reader how to create the philosophers stone- an item which Harry Potter readers will know can grant immortality. Additionally, many grimoires used by medieval priests to exorcise demons still remain within the Bodleian’s collections, such as this manuscript whose facsimiles are hosted on Digital Bodleian: MS. Rawl. D. 252.

To finish, I would ask you to consider the history all around you. Students at many Oxford Libraries can look up and see hundreds of years of architecture and artistry. College libraries can be over four hundred years old (Corpus Christi), or can be moved to cloisters (Brasenose) or be so grand, like my library at All Souls, that there are metres and metres of intricate cornices, shelving and windows to gaze up into. At the time of Halloween, All Souls requiems and frosty mornings, the vale between the present and the past becomes ever thinner, and the weight of history ever heavier.

2023 Trainee Showcase

As a final goodbye from the Trainees of the year 22-23 we thought we’d share with you a look at some of the trainee projects which were presented at the showcase this year! These descriptions, each written by another trainee who viewed the original presentation, are designed to give you a flavour of what our year with the Bodleian and College libraries have been like.

Jenna Ilett: Creating an interactive map of the Nizami Ganjavi Library

By Alice S

Kicking off our Trainee showcase with a bang, Jenna’s presentation hit all the right buttons. With an amusing title and appropriately themed presentation, Jenna talked us through the ins and outs of coding an interactive map, complete with hoverable shelfmark labels!

The inspiration for this project came from a slew of wayfinding projects that have been taking place across the ‘Section 3’ Libraries (which include the Taylor, The Art Archelogy and Ancient World and the Nizami Ganjavi libraries) as well as Jenna’s own background in tech thanks to a GCSE in Computer Science and a module in Web Design during her undergraduate degree.

Using Inkscape, Jenna made the underlying vector graphic for the map itself, working off a previous design, but keeping the styling consistent with maps currently available at the AAAW Library. She used the feedback she received to refine her design before moving on to the coding itself.

The coding was done on a code editor called CodePen which allowed her to keep track of the HTML, CSS and JavaScript code all in one view. Jenna whizzed us through an impressive array of coding tips including running through how she used tooltips to enable the hoverable shelfmarks to display over the appropriate shelves.

Remaining humble throughout, Jenna also treated us to an inside look at her thought processes in the form of increasingly anxious WhatsApp messages she had sent about her project to friends and colleagues, as well as a demonstration of a particular bug that caused her map to flip itself over when zoomed out, both of which earned a hearty chuckle from the audience. But with the amount of skilled work Jenna has put in already, the audience and I are in no doubt that Jenna will soon have the kinks worked out, and the Nizami Ganjavi Library will have a swanky new interactive map!

The most interesting thing I learnt from Jenna’s presentation would probably have to be the benefits of scalable vector graphics. As someone who has all too often fallen foul of the perils of trying to resize images only to be left with a grainy and illegible mess, it’s great to know that using a vector graphic will allow me to scale an image to any size my heart could desire. Through the magic of mathematical graphing it preserves the shape and position of a line so that it can be viewed at any scale. Thanks to Jenna for a fabulous presentation and enlightening me to the wonders of vector graphics!

 

Alice Zamboni: Audio-visual archive of former Prime Minister Edward Heath

By Charlie

The second presentation of the day came from Alice Zamboni, one of the two Digital Archivist trainees based for two years with the Special Collections team at the Weston Library. Alice’s project was concerned with adding the audio-visual material donated by former Conservative Prime Minister Edward (Ted) Heath to our catalogue.

A black and white image of Edward Heath as Prime Minister standing outside of Number 10 Downing Street
Edward Heath outside No.10

As with most of his predecessors and successors in the role of Prime Minister since the Second World War, Ted Heath began his political involvement at Oxford, studying PPE at Balliol College and winning the Presidency of the Oxford Union in 1937. Therefore, it is no surprise that the Bodleian chose to purchase his personal archive in 2011 to add to its collection. Covering mainly the period from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s, Alice related how many of the cassettes and tape reels held information on music and yacht racing connected to the love of European culture which inspired Heath’s drive – and eventual success – to gain admission for the UK in the European Community in 1973.

Most of the material was held in analogue formats so Alice’s first step before cataloguing was to convert them into digital MP3 files. Then, one of the main challenges she faced was that the sheer scale of the material (481 tapes some up to ninety minutes long) meant that not every recording could be listened to in its entirety. An educated assessment on the contents, and how it should be catalogued, had to be made from listening to a portion of each. This allowed some of the material, such as recordings made from radio programmes, to be weeded out of the collection.

Perhaps the most interested thing I learned from Alice’s talk was the broad scope of Heath’s recordings, including some in foreign languages. One interestingly was in Mandarin Chinese, and of a children’s programme on learning languages.

As with most of the trainee projects, there is always more to be done after the showcase and Alice’s next main step is to place the original tapes back into boxes according to how she has catalogued them. An even longer-term plan for ensuring that the archive can be opened to researchers is acquiring the rights for many tapes recorded from musical recitals, for instance, where the copyright is owned by the composer or conductor rather than Heath himself.

 

 

 

Miranda Scarlata: Web archiving and the invasion of Ukraine.

By Jenna

Although the phrase ‘once it’s on the internet, it’s there forever,’ is common, Miranda’s talk highlighted the ephemeral and volatile nature of websites, and the importance of capturing and preserving information from these sites.

Although it would be impossible to capture every single website in existence, there are times when the digital archivists undertake a rapid response project – for example capturing information on Covid-19, or the ongoing war in Ukraine – the latter being the focus of Miranda’s talk.

Soon after the Russian invasion of Ukraine (on the 24th of January 2022), the Digital Archivist team launched a rapid response project to preserve information regarding Ukrainian life and culture, as well as the war itself, which was at risk of being lost. A campaign was launched that asked people to nominate websites that fit certain criteria.

Miranda discussed some of the challenges involved in a project like this. Although 53 sites were nominated, only 21 were deemed viable. Twitter accounts of Ukrainian citizens were also included, and additional news, cultural and war specific sites were crawled, leading to a total of 72 sites. There is a limit on how many sites can be preserved due to the strict data budget, which means that difficult decisions had to be made about what to prioritise. Another added level of complexity was the limited Ukrainian and Russian language skills within the department, which made it difficult to determine types of content and assign metadata tags.

The normal processes when archiving websites involves contacting site owners to obtain permission before beginning the capturing process, but due to the high risk of information loss, site owners were contacted after capturing the sites to gain permission for publication. With the help of a Ukrainian and Russian speaking intern, site owners were contacted, but there was an understandable lack of response given that many of the site owners would have been directly impacted by the war.

Miranda’s talk was a fascinating insight into the world of digital archiving and the challenges within, particularly with the more arduous and intricate rapid response projects, which are hugely important when it comes to capturing important events as they are happening.

The most interesting thing I learnt was that digital archiving involves capturing a functional version of the site that could continue to exist even if the original host site was removed, rather than a static capture, which leads to added complexity when it comes to external links and embedded content.

If you are interested in this project and want to nominate a website for archiving please fil in the nomination form here: BEAM | Nominate for archiving (ox.ac.uk)

 

 

Caitlín Kane: Maleficia: Curating a public exhibition at New College Library

By Alice Z

In her talk on the exhibition that she undertook as her trainee project, Caitlín focused on her experience of organising and curating the exhibition of rare books and manuscripts from the collection at New College. A chance encounter with the New College copy of Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), a well-known 15th century treatise about witchcraft, sparked in Caitlin the idea of organising a display of special collections about magic, witchcraft, and astrology.

The Maleficia exhibition at New College

The promotional material devised by Caitlín to advertise the exhibition on social media and in print was what stood out most for its originality and it is clearly something that contributed to making the exhibition a success in terms of visitor numbers. I think the most interesting thing I learned from her talk was how you can create moving graphics using services such as Canva and how these can be used on social media to promote events such as exhibitions.

 

Caitlín reflected on some of the logistical challenges of organising this kind of collection-focused public engagement event, such as the selection of material and collection interpretation. For one thing, identifying relevant material from New College’s collection of manuscripts was more difficult in the absence of an online catalogue. Without the benefits of a neatly catalogued SOLO record to guide her, she was required to rely on previous staff members’ handlists as well as serendipitous browsing of New College’s rare books shelves.

Another aspect of the exhibition she touched upon was the interpretation of the materials. It was important for the labels accompanying the items on display to strike the right balance between content and context. Providing insights into the objects themselves was key, especially as many were texts written in Latin, but so was giving visitors enough background on the early modern philosophical and theological debates underpinning witchcraft.

Caitlin’s work clearly resulted in a fascinating and well-attended exhibition, and she was able to make great advances in increasing awareness of some of the amazing collections held by her library.

 

 

 

Abby Evans: Professor Napier and the English Faculty Library

By Miranda

Abby’s trainee project concerned a fascinating collection of dissertations and offprints gathered by Professor Arthur Napier, a philologist and Professor at Merton College in 1885. Held by the English faculty library, this collection consists of 92 boxes

Three shelves full of dusty grey-blue boxes, each with gilded lettering detailing its number and contents. There are also two modern grey conservation boxes.
The Napier collection at the EFL

containing 1058 items that needed to be reassessed ahead of the library’s move to the new Schwarzman centre for the Humanities in 2025.

Her project showcased the speedy decisions and minute details that must be considered when working at a library as she had only two weeks to determine the content of the collection and assess what material was worthy of making the move to the new building. The process required lots of skimming through documents to understand their content, the deciphering of previous systems from librarians past, and a strong head for organisation!

The collection itself was also able to provide some insight into how the English Faculty used to operate. Many of the materials were annotated with small markings and references to an older organization involving different box numbers and labels.

The collection also surprisingly held works from female authors – a rarity for the time – but their work was clearly well-enough regarded that Professor Napier saw the benefit in collecting and preserving it in his collection.

The most interesting insight the Napier collection provided however is perhaps its demonstration of the of the workings of Royal Mail years gone by. The collection contained several items which bore evidence of travelling through the UK postal system, some which were simply folded up with the address written on the back – no envelope required! Additionally, a simple name and general neighbourhood were enough to get the letter to its intended location, postcodes clearly had yet to hit it off!

Overall, Abby’s talk demonstrated the myriad of small and large details that must be considered when continually maintaining library collections. And the efficiency with which she was able to work through the collection is an example to us all!

 

 

 

Morgan Ashby-Crane: Making Collections More Visible: Displays and Data Cleanup

By Caitlín

At the SSL, Morgan embarked on a mission to improve the visibility of collections, both in making items easier to locate within the library system, and in highlighting diverse voices in the collections.

During awareness months throughout the year they curated book displays which allowed them to improve the circulation and physical accessibility of collections such as those for Black and LGBTQ+ History. For Black History Month, they asked subject librarians to recommend a book with an accompanying caption. Morgan then curated the display, and added QR codes linked to e-resources that the subject librarians recommended. They then collated these into a post on the SSL blog to reach those who couldn’t access the display physically.

The SSL Display for Black History Month

For LGBT+ History month, Morgan organised another pop-up display, but this time the focus was on recommendations from readers in previous years. One of the most interesting ideas I gleaned from Morgan’s presentation was their approach in designing new recommendation slips for readers to fill in and recommend their own books to make sure the displays stayed relevant to reader interests. As books were borrowed and recommendation slips filled in, Morgan was able to track the circulation of items and provide evidence of engagement.

Another way in which Morgan improved accessibility to the collections was in cleaning up data on Aleph, our old library system. Over the past few months, the trainees have been busy helping our libraries prepare for the changeover to a new library system, Alma. With thousands of records being transferred across, a lot of data clean-up has been required to make sure records display correctly in the new system.

Some outdated process statuses, such as AM (Apply Staff – Music), can be left attached to records long after they fall out of use. Other books, that are on the shelves to be loaned, can be left marked as BD (At bindery). To single out any irregularities, Morgan made a collection code report to see if any items stood out as unusual. When items appeared under unusual process statuses, Morgan investigated them further to see if their statuses needed changing.

Similarly, some items without shelfmarks had slipped under the radar, and Morgan set about adding them back to the books’ holdings records. They worked backwards from potential Library of Congress classifications to figure out where the books might be on the shelves and, once they’d identified the physical shelfmark, restored it to the item’s holdings record. These data cleanup tasks will make it easier both for readers in locating the items they need and will help the collections transition smoothly from Aleph to Alma.

 

 

Ruth Holliday: Investigating the Christ Church Library Donors: Research and rabbit holes

By Abby

For her presentation, Ruth discussed her project to research donors to Christ Church’s ‘New Library’, with a particular focus on their links to slavery. The incongruously named New Library was constructed between 1717 and 1772, and over 300 benefactors contributed to the project! Given the time constraints involved, in this presentation Ruth chose to focus on just three:

A blue book with a black and white image of Christ Church Library on the cover, entitled "The Building Accounts of Christ Church Library 1716-1779' it is edited by Jean Cook and John Mason.
The book Ruth used to research the library finances

The first donor Ruth spoke about was Noel Broxholme, a physician and an alumnus of Christ Church, who during his time there was one of the first recipients of the Radcliffe travelling fellowship. This was a grant established by Dr John Radcliffe (a rather omnipresent figure in Oxford) that required medical students to spend years studying medicine in a foreign country. Ruth was able to establish that at one time Doctor Broxholme was paid for his services not in cash, but instead in ‘Mississippi stock’. As one might be able to deduce from the name, this was effectively shares in companies who had strong ties to the slave trade.

The next donor Ruth discussed was George Smallridge, Bishop of Bristol. Again, we have a man whose profession is seemingly at odds with involvement in the trade of human lives. However, as part of his donation for the foundation of the new library he included two lottery tickets. One of the prize options for that lottery was South Sea Stock – more shares with ties to the slave trade. It has proven difficult to determine whether the tickets he donated were, in fact, winning tickets, or whether they were ever cashed in, but once again the foundation of this library has found itself fiscally linked to slavery.

The final donor to feature in Ruth’s presentation was Charles Doulgas, 3rd Duke of Queensbury, whose financial investments included shares in the British Linen Company. Whilst British linen does not ostensibly appear to have clear ties to slavery – being both grown and manufactured domestically by paid labour – there is in fact a significant connection. Whilst cotton was becoming the more popular fabric for textile production in the mid-late eighteenth century, the fabric was seen as too good to be used to clothe the people forced to grow it. As such, linen, in its cheapest and least comfortable format, was exported in droves to be used to clothe the slaves labouring on cotton plantations.

What all these donor case studies in Ruth’s fascinating presentation showed, and probably the most interesting thing I learned, was how enmeshed slavery was in the eighteenth-century economy. Whether in the form of shares received in lieu of payment, shares won as prizes, or as custom to the textile industry it was growing to dominate, Ruth’s project demonstrated that making money in the eighteenth century was almost inextricably tied to slavery.

 

 

 

Rose Zhang: As She Likes It: The Woman who Gatecrashed the Oxford Union

By Morgan

 

Rose’s project and subsequent presentation touched on a captivating aspect of the history of women at Oxford. As the trainee for the Oxford Union, she undertook some first-hand research on an unusual event in the early history of women’s involvement in the Union’s debates.

A Union Poll sparked by the admission of women to the Society

Rose first gave us a summary of the Union’s history. Set up in 1823 (and therefore currently celebrating their bicentenary), The Oxford Union has been famous (and infamous) for its dedication to free speech over the years. As women were only formally admitted to the University itself in 1920, it is unsurprising that they were also barred from entry to the Union debating society. This restriction against women members continued until well into the latter half of the 20th century, although rules had become laxer by this point, allowing women into the debating hall itself, but only in the upper galleries.

By the 1960s, there was increasing pressure from female students who wished to access the main floor of the debating hall, rather than be confined to the gallery, where they were expected to be silent, and could not get a good view of the proceedings. The pressure built to a point in 1961, when two students achieved national press coverage for their successful gate-crashing of the debating chamber, which they did in disguise as men!

Rose gave us a captivating account of the gatecrashing, using newspaper clippings from the time and information from one of the gatecrashes herself, Jenny Grove (now a published journalist), to really bring this moment of Oxford History to life. One of the most interesting things I learned from Rose’s presentation was how library projects can handle, preserve and communicate data that’s less discrete – which tied in well with our keynote talk from Phillip Roberts, especially focussed on how heritage organisations have a power to preserve and convey stories that otherwise might be suppressed or overlooked.

Thankfully, the actions of Jenny grove and her co-conspirator Rose Dugdale were successful in bringing wider attention to the issue, and within two years successive votes won women the right to be full and contributing union members.

Rose’s presentation on this project was interesting not just for such a fascinating bit of history, told with good humour, but also for how it differed to most trainee projects methodologically in using first-hand oral histories to bring context to her library and its collections.

 

 

 

Grace Exley: Creating online exhibitions

By Ruth

One of the later presentations in the day, Grace kept the energy flowing as she discussed her experience creating online exhibitions. The inspiration for Grace’s project was accessibility. While Jesus College puts on termly exhibitions in the Fellows’ Library, not everyone can make it on the day, and having some kind of record of past exhibitions would be beneficial to many.

A screenshot of one of the pages of Grace’s ‘Botanical Books’ Exhibition

Taking the initiative, Grace sought out training on how to curate and manage online exhibitions. She worked her way through a course which introduced her to the platform Omeka. Using Omeka, visitors can scroll through photos of the exhibition items and read captions for each one, making it both a great way to experience exhibitions that you cannot make it to physically, and a way of preserving physical exhibitions in a digital space.

With this new knowledge at her fingertips, Grace set out to organise her own exhibitions that she would subsequently upload to the Jesus College website using the Omeka platform. The books that featured in these exhibitions were selected by Grace from the Fellows’ Library at Jesus College – a stunning 17th century room that holds 11,500 early printed books.

Grace told us about the botany exhibition she curated in Michaelmas term, which featured a first-time find of an inscription in John Parkinson’s Theatrum Botanicum. One of the most interesting things I learned from Grace’s presentation is that this is one of the very few books in the Fellows’ Library to have had its title page inscribed by a female owner, Elizabeth Burghess. From the style of the handwriting, we can tell that the signature is likely to have been penned near to the time of publication, though we don’t know for sure who Elizabeth Burghess was.

We were in a Jesus College lecture theatre for the showcase, and due to running ahead of our schedule we were able to sneak into the Fellows’ Library and look around. It’s a gorgeous space, and it was great to see where the exhibitions take place when they’re in 3D! If you’re interested, you can view Grace’s Botanical Books exhibition along with some of Jesus College’s other exhibitions on the website the Grace created here: Collections from the Fellows’ Library and Archives, at Jesus College Oxford (omeka.net)

 

 

 

Alice Shepherd: The Making of a Disability History LibGuide

By Rose

A screenshot of the draft Disability History LibGuide

A theme running through many of the trainee projects this year was accessibility, and Alice proved no exception. For her trainee project, she worked on creating a LibGuide on Disability History, to help people find resources relevant to researching that topic.

A LibGuide is an online collection of resources that aims to provide insights into a specific topic of interest. They are created across all Bodleian Libraries and often act as a launch pad for a particular subject to signpost readers to the plethora of resources available. The resources for Alice’s LibGuide were largely collated during a Hackathon event organised by the Bodleian Libraries team, during which 36 volunteers shared their expertise on Disability History and put together a list of over 231 relevant electronic resources on this topic.

Alice started by working through this long list of resources. She spent a considerable amount of time cleaning, screening, and processing the data collected at the Hackathon. Specifically, she removed website links that were no longer active, evaluated the quality of the materials, and carefully selected those that were most appropriate and relevant to the topic of Disability History.

With this newly complied ‘shortlist’ of scholarly resources, Alice then started putting them together on the LibGuide website, adapting the standardised Bodleian LibGuide template to better fit the needs of researchers by including resources grouped by date, topic, and format. With the resources carefully curated and added to the LibGuide, Alice put some finishing touches on the guide by doing her own research to fill in some of the gaps left after the Hackathon.

There will be a soft launch of the LibGuide in the Disability History month this year. Although this LibGuide is mainly created for students and scholars with research interests in Disability History, the LibGuide will be available to the public as a valuable educational resource.

 

 

Charlie Ough: Duke Humfrey’s Library Open Shelf Collections

By Grace

As the trainee for the Bodleian Old Library, Charlie gets the tremendous pleasure of working in the Medieval precursor to Oxford’s centralised Bodleian libraries, Duke Humfrey’s Library.

A view of Duke Humfrey’s Library

Whilst the setting and atmosphere may be one of academic serenity, after a few months of working there, Charlie identified that something ought to be done to make the organisation of its Open Shelves Collection slightly less chaotic. He had found that books were difficult to locate, some were physically difficult to access, the shelf marks were confusing, and certain volumes from the collection were missing entirely.

With a plan in mind, the first task in addressing this issue was to create a comprehensive list of everything on the shelves. Part way through this venture, Charlie stumbled across a file hidden away in an archived shared folder from 2017 and discovered that a previous trainee had already make a handlist for Duke Humfrey’s. This saved lots of time and allowed him to focus on making improvements to this cache of information by slimming it down, rearranging it according to area, and dividing it into different sections.

During this time Chalrie also designed and conducted a reader survey that was distributed within Duke Humfrey’s to determine who the main users of the library are, and whether they were there to use the Open shelf books specifically, or more because they enjoyed using the space. With the results of that survey to sort through and analyse, Charlie now has a permanent position working at the Bodleian Old Library and intends to continue working with the Duke Humfrey’s Open Shelves Collection. His plans involve new shelf marks, updating the LibGuide, a complete stock check, and barcoding the collection.

The most interesting (and mildly terrifying) thing I learned from Charlie’s talk is that the population of cellar and common house spiders in the Duke Humfrey’s Library ceiling were intentionally introduced at the beginning of this century, to combat an infestation of deathwatch beetle that was burrowing into the wooden beams and panels. In fact, the spiders still thrive there to this day! Not something to think about when you’re peacefully studying in the picturesque Duke Humfrey’s Reading Room…