Tuesday (17 January 2023) started with an online conference organized by Emma from the Bodleian Staff Development Team. Open to public, the conference introduced various career paths in the field of librarianship. I gave a short talk as a current trainee, sharing my day-to-day experience at the Union Library. I was happy to see some familiar faces and listen to my colleagues describing the projects they had been working on. I appreciate the Bodleian team for organizing these career events. Last year, as a student, I attended a similar event during which three Bodleian librarians shared career tips and personal insights.
12pm – 1pm: Isherwood Lecture
Access to free lectures is a huge reason why I love working in a university environment. At the beginning of each term, I check out the courses offered by the English department, a habit/hobby developed during my undergraduate years. Since I work evening shifts on Tuesdays, I could rearrange my hours to create a 90-minute window in the middle of the day to attend a lecture on Christopher Isherwood and have lunch afterwards (will explain how this works in more detail below*).
Reading literature is, in a sense, my way of constantly reaffirming my decision to go into librarianship. The pay is okay for now, as I don’t have kids or other expensive hobbies (but every once in a while, I also want to go to London and re-watch The Phantom of the Opera!); the work itself is not stress free (as a kid I imagined librarians just sitting at the help desk with a cup of tea and reading novels all day. Very naïve). But every day working at the Union Library has proven that the company of books and book-loving people is just priceless. Isherwood, for one, was an author I encountered while shelving books. I love books—if I haven’t mentioned this already. I love wiping dusts off their covers, putting them back on shelves next to their cousins, discovering bookmarks (and all the weird things people use as bookmarks) between pages. Who left you there, little pack of contraceptive pills?
1pm – 1:30pm: (Almost) Free Lunch
As a Union employee, I receive a £4 lunch allowance at the Union bar every day, and lunch at the Union bar is priced at, yes, £4.50. The coronation chicken baguette is delicious though, definitely worth that 50p.
1:30pm – 2:30pm: Random Small Tasks
Sorting out paperwork for the library committee meeting. The library committee members meet every Monday to discuss new books they’d like to buy and old books they’d like to get rid of. I take notes during the meetings and write some reports and agendas afterwards.
2:30pm – 4pm: Book Display
The Union is, after all, a debating society. During term time, the students here organize a debate every Thursday evening. This Thursday’s motion is:
‘This House Believes that the Future is Post-gender’.
The library staff put a few books on display based on the topic every week. This week, I searched for books on gender studies and queer theory, trying to find relevant materials for both sides of the argument. To prepare a book display project or a reading list, I usually begin by brainstorming relevant books I know. In this case, Judith Butler’s theory of performativity proved to be a good start. Then, I’d search on Google and SOLO for key words – it turned out that Rutgers had a very comprehensive reading list on queer theory, thanks, Academia. To narrow down my choices, I’d read the abstracts of the books and sometimes skimming through those that seem particularly interesting. This time, I settled on the following:
Undoing Gender by Judith Butler
Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’ by Judith Butler
Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive by Lee Edelman
Invisible Women: Exposing the Gender Bias Women Face Every Day by Caroline Criado Perez
I also create a simple poster to go along with the books. Here on the right is a poster I am especially fond of, designed for the Winter Reading List last year.
My hope is that these reading lists will give readers a glimpse into an area that may be new to them. This is certainly true for me personally. I find library work to be, in a sense, the opposite of academic research: in the latter you end up knowing a lot about one particular area, while in the former you learn a little about a wide range of topics.
4pm – 5pm: Shelving
Fun and satisfying work for someone with an obsession for orderliness.
5pm – 7pm: Evening Shift
Apart from sitting at the help desk and answering reader enquiries, I was mostly working on a blog post (not this one). The Union is about to launch its own blog soon. The article I have been working on is about a fascinating episode that took place in the 1960s at the Union.
*Normally I work from 9:30am to 5pm with a 30-minute lunch break; on Tuesdays I have evening shifts, so I work from 11:30am to 7pm instead. On this particular Tuesday, however, I started 90 minutes early at 10am, so that I could take some time off at noon to attend the Isherwood lecture. This Tuesday is rather unusual, but I chose it for my ‘Day in the Life’ post so as to show the blog reader the variety of activities you can engage in as a Bodleian trainee.
After forgetting to eat breakfast I start the brisk (and very cold) walk into college. It’s only a 15 minute walk, but I still manage to slip twice on the morning ice on Magdalen Bridge. The New College chapel and old Oxford city wall never fail to look beautiful in the morning. I get distracted and take some photos before heading into the library.
9:00 – 9:30
The start of the day at New College Library usually involves checking my calendar for scheduled events or visitors. I also check to see if anyone has requested items through our hold request system the night before and fetch the books for them ready to collect from the Click-and-Collect trolley in the hall. As it’s the start of the term, the list gets longer and longer every day – I enlist a couple of Sainsbury’s bags to aid me in my quest. I answer any email enquiries the Deputy Librarian didn’t get to first and check to see if anyone has booked our group study room.
We usually have one or two readers per week come to view our special collections. Requests are varied, from Peter Lombard’s 11th-century commentary on the Psalms to our 16th-century Isaac Newton Papers. It’s always exciting when a reader comes to view something that doesn’t often leave its shelf. Last term, a reader came to view an Italian 16th-century women’s beauty manual, which was nice to see go on a little holiday to the Special Collections reading room. If we have a reader booked in, I spend the morning invigilating, essentially making sure people are handling the books with care and not ripping out any pages as souvenirs. Today someone has booked to see our (possibly) 11th-century Harklean Syriac New Testament, which I fetched from the Bell Tower yesterday. It’s a beautiful volume. If anyone reads Syriac and wants to let me know what it says that would be wonderful.
9.30 – 12.30
I show our reader into our Special Collections reading room, make sure they have pencils and paper or a laptop (no pens allowed), and set the manuscript up on a cushion with snake beads. Invigilating today means I have time to work on longer-term projects, such as writing labels for any upcoming exhibitions, working on an article for the library’s e-journal, writing a script for one of our Curator’s Choice videos, helping run our trainee twitter account, or writing a blog post like this one. Next month we’ll be putting on an exhibition on Queer Love and Literature in our collections for LGBTQ+ History Month, so there’s a lot of preparation to be getting on with. We cannot under any circumstances leave a reader alone with a manuscript, so another member of the teams subs in throughout the morning so I can have tea breaks. Topics of tea-break conversation today: the finer points of the art of the pub quiz, the new Queer Britain Museum that’s opened in King’s Cross, and what if J.R.R. Tolkien stood for Jolkien Rolkien Rolkien Tolkien?
12:45 – 13:45
Lunch time! As I’m sure my fellow college trainees have already mentioned, one of the perks of working at a college library is the free hot lunch. While the medieval dining hall at New College is very impressive, we usually eat in the less-intimidating south undercroft. Today’s menu is mushroom & tarragon soup, followed by parsnips, wild mushrooms and smoked tofu with soubise sauce, and an apple frangipane. After eating I take a walk around the cloisters and gardens. Don’t ask what the mound is for, I genuinely have no idea. I then spend the rest of my lunch break in the New College café with my book club read: Bimini Bon Boulash’s autobiography.
13.45 – 15.30
After lunch I get on with everyday tasks such as processing any new acquisitions that come in. We received a couple of boxes of books over lunch from Blackwell’s that I begin unpacking. I immediately process any books requested by students or academics and notify the reader that their book has arrived. I then start to process the rest of the books. This involves attaching them to a bibliographic record on Aleph, choosing an in-house shelfmark for them and stamping them before adding a spine label, RFID tag, and New College bookplate. I then cover the book with a plastic cover – essentially a cutting and sticking job – and put it on the shelving trolley. Most of our new rare and antiquarian acquisitions don’t have an Aleph record, so I apologetically add them to the Assistant Librarian’s pile for cataloguing. I also update our new book display, temporarily rebranded as a ‘Goodbye 2022!’ display, featuring some of the most interesting reads from last year.
This week students are back from their vacation and the library is really quite busy. Our work in term time is therefore a lot more student-focused, and we invest our time in welfare initiatives as well as everyday tasks like ordering and processing new books for our students. On Monday, for example, we put together a display from our Welfare and Wellbeing collection and gave out tea and chocolates for Brew Monday (Blue Monday with a happier twist).
Unlike some of the other college or Bodleian libraries, we don’t actually have a reader enquiries desk, but rather an open-door policy for our office in the main entrance. There are only 4 of us in the office, trying our best to look as unintimidating as possible, so readers can poke their heads around the door if they need anything. One of the best parts of the job is being greeted with gratitude and relief when returning triumphant with a crucial book needed for an essay (usually due on Monday). As most degrees here require weekly essays, we try our utmost to buy and process books for students as fast as humanly possible if its not already in our collection.
15.30 – 16.00
If there are a lot of new books arriving, processing can take up a lot of my day, but today I have a little time to head back over to the Bell Tower to take a look at the final volume of a late-thirteenth-century Bible particularly rich in strange marginalia, such as fish with human heads. I also take a quick look at our 1512 copy of the Malleus Maleficarum, Hammer of Witches. I plan on talking about the book in one of our Curator’s Choice videos, writing an article on it, then perhaps even centring a small exhibition around it . . . Stay tuned. With so many funky manuscripts to look at, I pore through a couple more looking for marginalia and strangely drawn animals to post on our social media.
16.00 – 17.00
In the last hour of the day, I get on with creating content for our social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). We try to stay quite active on social media, both to showcase our special collections and keep our readers up to date with our new acquisitions, reader services, and any upcoming exhibitions. Our particular focus at the moment is promoting our LGBTQ+ History Month Exhibition, so do come along on 25th February to make my work worthwhile!
After getting distracted making a Twitter Header on Canva, I say my goodbyes and head over to the Rad Cam to get on with some non-library work before making my way to the pub.
A day in the life in Jesus College library is idyllic and peaceful, even though it is also busy. Most of my activity is based in the library office, rather than at a customer-facing library desk, so the support that I provide is primarily behind the scenes. The first thing that strikes me, as I stride through the quad to get to the library every morning, is that Jesus College is very beautiful. Historic buildings may not be of interest to everyone, but I love art history and I’m the type of person who likes to visit National Trust properties in my free time, so I get a lot of pleasure from my surroundings when I’m at work.
The first part of my day always starts with the same routine of tasks and after that it’s a case of reviewing where things sit on the ever-jiggling ladder of priorities, in order to plan the rest of my day. Task number one is to check the reading rooms. I make sure that everything is neat and tidy and that the computers are all ready to go. I quite often reshuffle a few chairs at this juncture, or reshelve stray books. Generally, things will already be in fairly good order and I’ll just be making sure of that, but every now and again I’ll find something out of the ordinary. Once, for example, I walked in to find that a strip light had fallen from the ceiling and crashed onto the table below (though thankfully no one was hurt) and another time, I found a pile of students asleep beneath a desk. They had pulled an all-nighter to get their work finished for a deadline, then promptly collapsed. I didn’t move them, I just opened a couple of windows…
Next I check the Fellows’ Library. Given what a fantastic setting this would make for a murder mystery crime scene, very little drama actually occurs here at all. This is where we house all of our rare, early printed books and only researchers with special permission really get to use it. Last term I was given the absolute privilege of curating a little exhibition here, of books on the theme of botany. I was so thrilled to be in there, hunting for fascinating specimens, researching them and writing up captions. I even made a couple of discoveries – one was a plant pressed inside the pages of a 300 year-old field guide to British plant life and the other was a signature, penned by the owner of the book on to the title page in around 1640, who, it turns out, was… a woman! (this is very unusual).
But back to my daily responsibilities, if there are no murder victims, then I make sure all the blinds are down (to prevent sun damage to the books) and move on to pick up the post from the porter’s lodge.
Something that I spend a fair amount of time doing on a regular basis is book processing. The librarian often orders in new books, and book processing is all the things that must be done to a book before it is ready to go on the shelf, such as, adding the bookplate sticker, that identifies the book as belonging to Jesus College; giving it a barcode sticker, so it can be tracked; giving it a security tag, so that it can’t be removed from the library without beeping. I also classify new books coming in, that is to say, I identify which subject they come under and give them a shelf-mark, accordingly.
On Wednesdays and Thursdays the librarian and I do elevensies with the archivist. We also do half-twosies. This involves coffee and biscuits around the fire, in an oak-panelled drawing room, full of ancient oil portraits and carvings of leeks and dragons (Jesus is traditionally “the Welsh college”), while the archivist tells us jolly good stories about the heroism or villainy of college members long gone. Lunch is served in hall just after midday.
On Wednesday afternoons I enjoy meeting with the other trainees for one of our varied and delightful training sessions. We’ve had workshops on cataloguing, customer service, digital collections; we’ve been to visit other libraries, we had a field trip to the Bodleian’s huge off-site book storage facility in Wiltshire… all sorts. Each time I’ve felt that the leaders were kind and friendly and had put a lot of thought and care into designing the activity and each time I’ve been struck by just how much goes on in libraries and how many different avenues there are within librarianship.
In my library there normally lurks a host of goals that require chipping away at over time, in between tending to more urgent tasks, so I’ll often make a little window for one of these in the afternoon. Projects of this nature include redesigning library signage, writing up reading lists or [building up to] cleaning out the stationary cupboard. At 5pm I go home.
Like Alice’s over at the Rad Cam, my day begins at 8.42 precisely. This week, I have been allocated to open the Lower Gladstone Link, turning on the computers and the printer (PCAS machine). Rather too often, one of the pesky History Faculty team get here before we do despite the fact that the Lower part of the link contains almost exclusively Old Bodleian books and is part of our opening rota! As much as I might want it to be in these instances, my work is, unfortunately, not done, with the LGL always seeming to have quite a bit of reshelving to do each morning. Perhaps it’s the fact it’s a little tucked away, perhaps it’s that it closes half-an-hour earlier than the rest of the library, or perhaps it’s due to the large number of book scans it seems to generate, but I quite often don’t make it through the whole replacing trolley before my 9am shift.
This subterranean segment of the Old Bodleian (named after nineteenth-century Liberal Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone who designed its distinctive rolling metal stacks when this was a staff-only, closed-stack space) also contains two shelfmarks endemic to it, and notoriously difficult to understand or explain (which I would, no doubt, fail to do adequately if I tried now): the “M” shelfmark containing all different types of Humanities material categorised by size and the year they entered our catalogue; and the “Nicholson” sequence named after a nineteenth-century Bodley’s librarian who designed it, presumably as a nasty trick to confuse readers for at least the next century-and-a-half. All I will say is that each digit after the first in the first part of the call number clarifies the first, so 3265 e. 46 is between 326 e. 567 and 327 e. 1308, not after both. And look out for the letter in between; despite being in the middle, this is the first way the books are classified so you won’t find a “d” and an “e” next to each other!
Well, enough of boring you with shelfmark explanations that took me weeks of hands-on practice to get my head around! Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning I help out on the Main Enquiry Desk (MED) which serves both as the first point-of-call for in-person enquiries about the Old Bodleian and as the place where all emails sent to the Reader Services address, regarding all of the Bodleian libraries, end up and our answered. I’ll head up there in the Lower Reading Room just before opening time at 9am on these days, help out with clearing the off-site books whose loans have expired (lapsed) from Lower’s Self-Collect and check the inbox. This will usually consist mainly of questions regarding access to the library, advance off-site book requests and technical issues. Updating myself with the latest emails landing in the junk folder can also be an entertaining way to start the day!
Today, after an extended correspondence, I am expecting a visit from television producer who has come to view past issues of University of Oxford student newspapers looking for information regarding a certain former PM who studied here (like all other university-educated Prime Ministers since the Second World War except for Gordon Brown). Much to my disappointment, and despite asking if I would be onsite to help, the producer doesn’t come to see me. I thought, perhaps, I might be interviewed for the documentary with a short video of the “librarian” and his views on said Prime Minister an invaluable contribution. But, alas, it was not be and my five minutes of fame are delayed to some other occasion.
Still, my morning on the MED did involve researching the works of amateur botanist and early photographer Anna Atkins (1799-1872) after an enquiry by an undoubtedly precocious Year 9 school student. Atkins is best known for her 1843 book Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, reputed to be the first published book illustrated with photographs and making her possibly the earliest female photographer in history. Though these facts are impressive, the prints themselves which she produced are even more so in the beautiful simplicity of the process used to achieve them and the beauty of the colour and pattern of the end result. Invented only a year earlier by a friend of hers, this is how the New York Public Library, which holds one of the extant copies of British Algae, describes the process of cyanotype:
“Herschel… discovered that colorless, water-soluble iron salts, when exposed to sunlight, form the compound known as Prussian Blue; unexposed areas remain unaffected and the salt rinses away in plain water, leaving a blue ‘negative’ image. Inexpensive and easy to use, the blueprinting process, or cyanotype, is familiar today as an artists’ medium as well as a popular children’s pastime…”
And so my morning, waiting for a brush with stardom that never arrived, was lightened by looking through the NYPL’s digitised, open access version of these cyanotypes, seeming to foreshadow the paintings of Yves Klein and Henri Matisse’s cut-outs in their brilliant, if incidental, use of the colour blue.
Finishing at the Old Bodleian at 12 for early lunch, I wolfed down my sandwich in expectation for a bit of a wander round town before the walk up to the Oxford Brookes Headington campus for this week’s training session. Deciding that a trip to the charity shops of Jericho might be a bit ambitious in the time I had, I opted instead for a quick jaunt to the Oxfam on Broad Street which, despite being the first and oldest branch in the world, I had always found rather disappointing. I was rewarded today though with some bargain vinyl to add to my collection and I started my journey up Headington Hill with a jaunty spring in my step while I chatted to my artist sister on the phone about the Atkins cyanotypes.
Trip to Brookes (1.30-4.30):
I then arrived at Brookes after the slightly-strenuous climb in time for our tour of the library kicking off today’s training. My first impression was that it could hardly have been more different than the Old Bodleian, mainly in its attitude towards readers which also informs its architectural style and physical layout. Throughout the afternoon, whether admiring its individual and group-study spaces, or learning about staff’s marketing initiatives, teaching, and reading list organisation, I was struck by how the student experience of using the library informed pretty much everything the librarians did. Although the Bodleian clearly must cater to a far larger number of academics and external researchers, contains an almost-infinitely greater number and variety of books, and appeals to those with a taste for the gothic over the metallic, I would say the University of Oxford as a whole has a lot to learn from Brookes in its emphasis on the importance of pedagogy as an indispensable discipline for all its lecturers and academic librarians. As I said, the physical space, set over six floors, was designed for comfortable, relaxed study with both quiet and group discussion areas and rooms while there were also several self-service borrowing machines spread throughout. From my perspective as a former Master’s student at St Antony’s College, Brookes was much more proactive too in using posters and social media to get students engaged and informed about the library while also pushing for lecturers to make their reading lists available through the university’s online platform. Subject librarians (in Oxford’s terminology) or Academic liaisons (in Brookes’s) also made sure they met students in lectures, and one-on-ones at dissertation level, to explain the different resources on offer and how to use and access them.
We had the chance too to visit the Special Collections part of the library, held in the basement, of course. Rather than medieval manuscripts and government files, however, their archives were devoted in part to collections around food and drink. These included the late Antonio Carluccio’s library, Ken Hom’s “golden” wok made to celebrate the sale of one million units and, most excitingly and tantalisingly for me, only part way through Dry January, the collections of the National Brewing Library. My appetite somewhat sated by the acquisition of a commemorative beer mat, we ventured back out to the rest of the library. Alice had very kindly invited us all round to her nearby flat for coffee and a chat afterwards where we then lingered for an hour or two before venturing back out to the depressing January drizzle and, eventually, home.
Although my day doesn’t officially start until 8.45, I’m usually at the Sackler a bit earlier to give me time to lock my bike and change out of my cycle gear. There’s usually time for a quick cup of tea, and today I drink it while doing the latest Sackler jigsaw, which is, of course, book themed.
I’m working on the desk from 9.00 today, so I spend the first fifteen minutes logging on to the computers (which involves battling with my nemesis Microsoft Authenticator), turning on the self-issue machine, and double checking the rota so I can plan my tasks for the day.
During term time, there’s usually a steady stream of queries from readers while I’m on desk, but at the moment it’s fairly quiet so I can get on with some other tasks. Today, I spend some time preparing for upcoming blog posts and then continue with some bibliographic checking. This involves checking SOLO (our online catalogue) to see if we hold certain items in our collections. We have to make a note of which libraries house the items and if there are any online or electronic legal deposit copies. This helps subject librarians know which books to prioritise when it comes to acquisitions. Bibliographic checking requires a fair bit of concentration, so it’s nice to take breaks to help the occasional reader.
Once my desk shift is over, I take my morning break. As I’ve spent most of the morning sitting down, I go for a quick walk and have just enough time to listen to a podcast episode (I’m currently relistening to the Magnus Archives because apparently cycling home in the pitch dark isn’t scary enough already).
My next task for the day is the trolley sweep. This is another daily task that helps us keep the library organised. Because the Sackler has five floors and houses books for multiple subjects, shelving can build up quite quickly. I start the sweep by taking a trolley up to the third floor and working my way round, picking up books from the reshelving points and desks. We also have a reservation point on every floor, where readers can leave up to 10 Sackler books so they can keep consulting them at a later date. I check the slips that the readers fill out to make sure none of the books have been left there for too long. I also make sure that the books are from the same floor as the reservation point they’re on. If books need to be reshelved on the current floor, I add them to the reshelving trolleys; if they are from elsewhere, I add them to my trolley and drop them off on the correct floor as I repeat this task on my way down to the basement. Today, the sweep doesn’t take too long, so I head back to the second floor to do some of the shelving that has built up.
I don’t have any tasks assigned until the delivery later this afternoon so I head back to the workroom. One of my ongoing tasks is to write some instructions for the BookEye scanner, which we can use to scan books or articles that people request. Although we can use the PCAS machines for this, the BookEye is better because it allows the book to rest in a V-shaped cradle, which helps to prevent books being damaged. It’s also easier to see what you’re doing as you go along, so you reduce the risk of doing a 50-page scan where half of each page has been cut off (as a completely hypothetical example, of course). I also keep an eye on our Microsoft Teams chat, to see if whoever is on desk needs any help, for example with fetching books for a reader. Once I’ve finished my first draft and inserted some images, I send it over to my supervisor.
Lunch time! I normally make my own sandwiches with my supplies in the staff fridge, but today I’m in the mood for some hot food. I head over to Italiamo Café for a calzone and a cannoli. Once I’ve eaten, I go for a stroll around the city centre, stopping off at Blackwell’s Art and Poster shop to stare longingly at The Wes Anderson Collection before heading back to the Sackler.
The delivery from the BSF has arrived! I wheel the crates into the workroom so I can start scanning the books, listening to music as I do so. When each book is scanned, an email is automatically sent to the person who requested it. I place a red flag inside that informs the reader that the book is confined to the library, and stack the books on the trolley in alphabetical order to save some time later. Because it takes a little while to go through the delivery, sometimes, especially if the reader is already in the library, they will head to the self-collect shelf before I’ve had a chance to put their books out, so occasionally I will get a message from whoever is on desk duty asking me to bring a specific book out! Once I’ve loaded up the trolley, I take the books out to the self-collect shelves.
We also received two crates of new books, so I head back to the workroom to do some processing. Although this isn’t difficult, it does require a lot of concentration, so I put some instrumental music on (I find that the soundtrack to The Grand Budapest Hotel is the perfect accompaniment to processing). I begin by dividing the books from the journals and periodicals and piling them up based on which floor they go on. We keep track of how many items arrive for each floor so I add a new row in our statistics spreadsheet. The majority of our stickering and stamping is done by the Cataloguing Team at Osney, so most of the time it’s just a case of double checking that everything matches the online record and adding ‘library use only’ stickers to confined items on the lower three floors and changing the statuses to ‘new book display.’ Books go on some shelves in the workroom to wait for the next update of the book display, and I take the journals out to the reshelving trolleys.
After finishing the delivery, I tidy up the workroom a bit and check the scanning dashboard. We’ve had quite a few requests pushed through, so I make a note of the floors and shelfmarks and go and collect the books so I can do multiple requests in one go. It’s easy for me to get swept up in scanning, so by the time I have transferred files, double checked that the correct pages have been scanned and uploaded them, it’s time for me to head over to the Nizami Ganjavi Library to cover my colleague’s afternoon break.
The NGL is only a few minutes away, which is useful when it’s raining or cold. Because I’m only on the desk for 20 minutes, I don’t really have time to start a more complicated project, so I look through the feedback on my BookEye instructions and make some edits, helping with the occasional reader query.
I decide to take my break as well, and head back to the staff room at the Sackler. There’s just time for a quick cup of tea and whatever snack I left in the cupboard and forgot about (Jaffa Cakes today).
I head back to the workroom and finish up any small tasks like replying to emails and editing a blog post. I had to email a reader for clarification about a scan request, and they’ve now replied so I do one last scan before shutting the machine off. I then have about 20 minutes left, so I head up to the second floor to do a bit more shelving.
Home time! I head back downstairs and get changed into my cycling gear. I say my goodbyes and pass on any relevant information to the evening team before heading out to the bike shed and making my way home.
[NB the Sackler Library has now been renamed to the Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library]
My work starts by cycling to work. I live in Cowley, a comfortable 10-minutes-long cycle away from All Souls (7 minutes if I am late and pedal hard enough). My first steps in the college lead to the Buttery to fill my water bottle before I enter the library via the magnificent Great Quad.
Today is the first day we are open to readers after Christmas. My line-manager, the Librarian-in-Charge is in for the first time after their leave, so we catch up before I start my morning duties. These include turning on the screens and the lightshow that contextualise the presence of the statue of Christopher Codrington in the library. Codrington was a former fellow of the college who donated a large amount of money for the building of the library; perhaps unsurprisingly for Oxford, this wealth derived from Codrington’s ownership of plantations in the West Indies. The college is hoping to address this complex legacy, and these installations are the first steps on the way (you can read more about this program here). Once I get these out of the way, I do the usual bits: I clean up any books left on desks, shelve books, update the ‘borrowing book’ which documents books taken out by Fellows, and check whether readers have put in any requests.
Time to open the main door for readers! We do not have an Enquiry Desk but since my desk is in the Great Library, I am often the one who takes the reader-focused role. Today, however, our first reader does not arrive until 11am which means that I have time to get on with some spreadsheets.
More catching up with my manager about what I did last week when I was in the library on my own, and what is on my to-do-list this week. They assign me a few tasks and then the conversation deviates into other work-related topics. Suddenly it is 11:30 and I realise that I have barely done any actual work, so I print out the reader book requests slips and go fetch them before it is time to pootle over for lunch.
Lunch! One of the most exciting things in the life of a college trainee. Today, the vegetarian option was a celeriac roulade with potato wedges, green veg, and salad on the side. I take the lemon posset for my tea break later in the day.
As there’s a lot to get done this afternoon and I want to head home on time, I finish my break early safe in the knowledge that I’ll get that extra half hour in lieu at a later date. My usual afternoon program includes sorting out the post, as well as processing new acquisitions, shelving, and book moving, most of which I do whilst sitting on the desk in the Great Library. I had done most of these tasks last week when I was in the library on my own, so this afternoon I will be moving outdated law volumes from our law reading room into the cellar.
Twenty 12kg-heavy crates later, I am in a dire need of a sit-down for a moment. I reply to e-mails before making a cup of tea and sorting out the incoming post, consisting mainly of new issues of printed law and history journals. I check these in, stamp, shelfmark and shelve them. I like this job a lot for its zen-like, meditative quality (and because I can drink tea whilst doing it).
I am currently doing an internship for the FAMOUS project, helping Dr Camillo Formigatti retro-cataloguing Sanskrit manuscripts in TEI. This is an exciting opportunity which allows me to join my academic specialism and develop my librarian skills, including learning cataloguing in XML. I spent half an hour today setting up a meeting with my supervisor and going through the manuscript catalogue to identify the volumes I will be working with from next week onwards.
As it is still vacation, the library closes at half past four. I am dreading the return of the term-time hours, 9:30-18:30. For now, however, I happily start my closing routine: I check whether all readers our out, turn off the interactive touchscreens and lightshow, and lock up various doors. By half past, I collect my backpack and coat, wave at my manager, close the main door, and head out to do whatever Oxford throws at me that day.
Most days I get to the library by 8.40am to start opening everything up. But as I get the train into Oxford (and even when not on strike, they’re not always the most punctual), it does vary quite a bit – it can be anywhere from 8.20am to 8.45am!
The first job of the day is to go around turning lights on, unlocking the computer room, and scooping up any books left on tables or trolleys for re-shelving. This is a nice job as the EFL is basically a circle, so there’s a satisfying ‘opening up’ loop starting and finishing at the office.
8.50 – 9.20 : Lapse list
With the library waking up, I make a start on the lapse list. This is the list of books from the Collections Storage Facility (CSF) which readers have finished with and are ready to be sent back. I check the list and pick the books off the self-collect shelf before we open the doors at 9am, just to make sure the books aren’t accidentally taken back into the reading room by eager readers! I then take the books into the office to scan and box them up in the blue totes we trainees talk so much about, and leave them downstairs ready for the van to collect this afternoon.
9.20 – 9.45 : Reading room shelf check
Once a week I also print a list of everything that’s supposed to be on the self-collect shelves and check everything is where it should be. As everyone starts ordering books for the start of term, it’s getting to be quite a long list! Fortunately, I’m yet to encounter a permanently-lost book, but there are a couple of reasons why a book that’s supposed to be on the shelf isn’t there. The most common reason is someone is using it in the library, which is why the first step in any book hunt is checking whether it’s magically come back after a couple of hours! Another possibility is that the book was sent back to the CSF without being scanned out properly, in which case it will be ‘found’ when it’s scanned by the offsite team. And although it’s rare, occasionally a reader will take home a book that’s meant to stay in the library. In these cases, a gentle email is all that’s needed to get the book returned safe and sound!
9.45 – 10.30 : Journals and periodicals
The next job for the morning is all things journals and periodicals. Although lots of journals are available online, we still get quite a few print journals delivered regularly to the library, and there are a couple of things I need to do.
The first job is to process any new journals that have arrived and get them out onto the shelves. Many titles trickle in slowly, published once a quarter or even once a year, but newspapers and reviews like Times Literary Supplement, London Review of Books and New York Review of Books arrive weekly or fortnightly, so there’s always something new each week.
Processing new journals is a job I tend to do in batches, rather than as each arrives. There are a few waiting today, so I mark them as arrived on our spreadsheet and check them in on the Library Management System, Aleph. Then they’re stamped and stickered before I put them out on the new journals display. I swap the old ones for the newer arrivals and take the older ones to start their new lives on the main periodical shelves.
With the new journals dealt with, I go back to the spreadsheet and check whether we’ve received everything we’re expecting. Because of the pandemic many journals delayed their publication schedules and are still catching up, so knowing when to make a claim for a missing journal is more of an art than a science. There’s only one outstanding today, so I submit a claim to the publisher and mark the date on the spreadsheet.
The last journals job is to check if any titles have been used in the library. There’s a shelf in the office where journals that readers have used are placed before they’re re-shelved, and I use a spreadsheet to record which titles have been consulted. That way, when we’re looking for more shelf space, we can see which titles are popular and which ones perhaps aren’t used so much and could be stored offsite.
10.30 – 10.50 : Break time!
With the journals done, I put the kettle on and have a quick break. Usually I’d get my book out but one of my new year resolutions is to brush up my French, so I spend some quality time with Duolingo.
10.50 – 11.30 : Scanning (and a brief interruption)
Next up is scan requests. The Bodleian offers a ‘scan and deliver’ service through which readers can request one chapter or 5% of a book to be scanned and sent to them (the limits are set out in copyright law). Each library does it slightly differently, but at the EFL we’re each rota’d a couple of mornings or afternoons during the week to keep an eye on the scan requests, and this morning it’s my turn.
When a request comes in, I first check to make sure we can complete the scan – this means checking whether it’s allowed under copyright law and checking that the book is actually in the library! If everything’s ok then I collect the book off the shelf and have a quick flick through the requested chapter to make sure there aren’t any (or at least, not too many) scribblings and markings on it. Most of the time there aren’t any, but sometimes it looks like readers have written their entire essay in the margins! The book I’m scanning today thankfully doesn’t have any extra writing in it, so I take it to the PCAS (Print, Copy and Scan) machine to scan the chapter. With that done, it’s back to the computer for a little editing to make sure the scan is of a good quality, and then I send it off to the reader.
It depends a little on how long the chapter is, but usually it takes 20 or 30 minutes from opening a request to sending it to the reader. Today, however, I had a brief interruption as a reader wanted to use the Turville-Petre Room. Also known as the TP Room and/or the Icelandic Room, it’s not actually in the library itself but downstairs near the Faculty offices. To access it, readers hand in their card at the enquiry desk and receive a temporary access card in return. As this is the first time today that a reader has asked to use the room, I pop downstairs to unlock it for them before returning to the scanning.
11.30 : Count
I finish the scanning just in time to do a quick headcount of how many people are in the library. We do counts four times a day, to keep track of when our busiest periods are. The 11.30 count is always my job, so I get to have a walk around the library while trying to remember that readers find it a little off-putting if I count out loud!
11.35 – 12.30 : New books
Now on to one of my favourite jobs: processing the new books. Just like with the journals, I tend to wait until there are a handful to do in one go. There are four waiting today, so I make a start. Each book gets an EFL bookplate on the first page and a yellow sticker on the cover, as well as stamps inside and around the edge. Then I add tattle-tape – the magnetic strip that sits in the book’s spine and makes the loud beeping noise if someone forgets to check a book out before leaving (or, more often, if I forget to de-sensitise it!). With that done, each book gets a final sticker on the spine for the shelf mark. It sounds like a lot, but I quickly get into the rhythm of it and the books fly by!
The final job to make the books shelf-ready is to cover them. Paperbacks get sticky-back plastic, and hardcover dust jackets get little plastic pockets to sit in. But the easiest ones are the hardcovers without dust jackets – they just need a protective sticker over the shelf mark and they’re ready to go!
There’s a little more to do before the books go out on the shelf, but first it’s …
The EFL is in the St Cross Building, which is a bit further out from the shops than some of the other libraries (looking at you, Old Bod!). But that’s ok – I always like having a little walk at lunchtime. If I’ve remembered to bring a packed lunch, I’ll often stop at the church yard near the library to eat and, if the weather’s nice, I might stay a while to read a book. It’s a little chilly today though, so I pop in to Pret (I definitely get good value out of the coffee subscription) before heading back to the library.
13.30 – 14.00 : Delivery
While I was out, the delivery from the CSF (Collections Storage Facility) arrived, so I head down in the lift to pick it up. We usually get one or two totes delivered each day, with a range of different items in them:
Bodleian books from offsite: these go out on the self-collect shelves for readers to pick up and use in the library.
EFL books from offsite: to keep our shelves from getting too crowded, some of the EFL books that aren’t used very often are kept offsite. Readers can place requests, then pick them up from the hold shelf behind the enquiry desk.
Transfers from other libraries: sometimes, if a reader places a request on a book from the offsite store while it’s being consulted at other libraries, it will be sent straight to the EFL rather than going back to the CSF first, so the reader gets their book quicker!
Returns from ARACU: ARACU is the Accessible Resources Acquisition and Creation Unit, and they sometimes ask us to send them a book so they can make a high-quality, accessible scan for a reader with specific access needs. When they’ve finished, they send the book back to us in the delivery.
New books: before they arrive at the EFL, new books are processed by the Acquisitions team then sent on to us with the delivery.
To help me keep track of which books need to go where, I start by sorting them into piles and work my way through them. It’s quite satisfying to get to the end of a stack of books!
14.00 to 14.40 : Shelving
With the delivery done, I’ve got time to do a spot of shelving. During term-time we have shelvers who help us keep on top of it, but as we’re still in the vacation we each do a bit when we’ve got time. It’s also a nice excuse to get up from behind the computer!
While the main goal of shelving is to get books back on the shelf (obviously!), I also take some time to tidy and straighten up the shelves and move books around if there isn’t quite enough space for them. If there are any real problem areas that would require moving a lot of books or that would need some planning, I make a note to pass on to my supervisor so we can dedicate some time to finding a bit more space for everything.
14.40 – 15.00 : Break
With all the books away, I have my second tea break. Now that I’ve satisfied the green language-learning owl for another day, I spend a happy 20 minutes reading my book.
15.00 – 17.00 : Desk shift
Last up today, I’ve got a desk shift. I spend two hours each day on the desk and, because there aren’t any self-issue machines at the EFL (I guess it’s something to do with the 1960s and their love of concrete!), there are usually quite a few loans and returns as well as other enquiries from readers. Today though, as it’s still just-about vacation rather than term time, the desk is quite quiet.
But there’s plenty to do during a quiet desk shift! I start by finishing up the new books I was processing earlier. Now that they’re all stickered, stamped and wrapped up in their cosy new jackets, all that’s left is to add them to the EFL’s LibraryThing. While all our books do of course appear on the main Oxford catalogue, SOLO, here at the EFL we also put our new books on LibraryThing so they can be found more easily. That done, everything’s ready to go out on the new books display!
I also have time to get on with some of the projects I’m working on. I’ve been going through reading lists and putting them online via ORLO (the imaginatively-named Oxford Reading Lists Online), so students can clearly see what they need to read for each class and where to find it in the library. This helps students, but going through the lists also helps the English Subject Librarian see where there might be gaps in our collection and which books we need to order.
I finish up the latest list I’ve been working on with half an hour of my shift left. That leaves just enough time to update the EFL’s Twitter to highlight our latest blog post, and finish writing up my day here!
At 4.45pm I ring the closing bell to let readers know they’ve got 15 minutes left and start tidying up the enquiry desk. There are always last-minute loans and returns but, as most readers have headed home already, I tidy desks and tuck in chairs while keeping an eye on the enquiry desk.
17:10 : Homeward
At 5pm I ring the closing bell again and the last few readers make their way out. I wash up my tea mug and collect my bag and coat. Most of us leave at the same time and walk together towards bus stops and the train station – it’s a nice sociable way to end the day!
I cycle to work and catch the glorious sunrise being reflected on the River Thames as I pedal over Folly Bridge and then past Christ Church and the beautifully illuminated Radcliffe Camera.
I start my day by checking each floor for any shelving. I also check the carrels on the third floor for any lost property, unplugged computers, or to move any chairs that have mysteriously meandered and found their way into other carrels overnight.
Once the shelving is completed, I head back down to the second floor for my first shift at the Enquiry Desk with a lonely phone charger that I found in one of the carrels. After updating the missing property book (hoping that the charger will be reunited with its owner later on), logging in to my computer and saying good morning to colleagues on Teams, I collect the keys to open the library and let in the eager readers waiting outside.
9.00 Enquiry Desk
Top of my list today is to finish making the ‘New Publications by Oxford Authors’ display which lives on the second floor of the library and showcases a list of books written or edited by law faculty members. I make sure that the document is neatly presented with photos of the new book, the author, sometimes a QR code for books that are only accessible online, and a little biography of the author. I hope to print and laminate these pages later on today so that I might put the display up before I go home for the Christmas break.
For the rest of my time at the Enquiry Desk I work through a couple of boxes I picked up from Official Papers on the ground floor, barcoding items that do not have barcodes. I also work on some reading lists – reviewing online reading lists to see if links to e-books are working, and to see if the Bodleian Law Library has the latest edition books. Every now and then I am also approached by a reader who would like to see a book from the Reserve Collection (which is kept behind the desk) or needs directions to find the PCAS (printing, photocopying and scanning) machines, or a specific book in the library, or the water fountains in the building or the bathroom.
Usually, I sit with my book in the staff room and have a snack. Today, however, I hurriedly make my way out of the library and speed-walk to Blackwell’s where I pick up a signed copy of the much talked about Babel by R.F Kuang.
11.20 Books, journals and more books!
Back at the library (with my new prized possession – the signed Babel!), I check the shelves in the WIP (work-in-progress) room that are my responsibility. These are the shelves that have donated or purchased books waiting to be processed, or books awaiting labelling. Processing involves updating our book statistics spreadsheet (marking down how many purchased, donated or legal deposit books we have received), edge-stamping the books, stamping the donated and purchased books with the appropriate stamps, tattling, labelling the books that are in need of labels, and then returning the books to the cataloguing shelves or the shelves for books waiting for their labels to be checked.
I also need to check the shelf in the WIP room where the journals for the ‘New Journals Display’ sit. I collect the journals and go through each one to find or create corresponding QR codes, and then laminate them. Using QR codes means that readers can access journals online with greater ease. This is one of my weekly tasks, and I will be putting up the display tomorrow.
The last shelves I need to check are the ones on my trolley. A collection of books have recently been donated to the Law Library. I process, download bibliographic records and create gift orders for these books in preparation to pass them on to a colleague so that they can be properly catalogued and then returned to me for labelling at some later date.
Readers can request scans of certain pages or chapters in books, just as long as their requests fall under copyright law. It’s important to keep on top of the scan requests to make sure that there is not too much of a build-up later on. Armed with information about which books and which pages need to be scanned, I make my way to the small room in the library where the Bookeye Scanner lives. Once the scan is completed, I check for missing pages, fill in our spreadsheet of completed scans, and then send the scan to the appropriate reader.
Lunchtime! Usually, I would try to sit outside but since it’s drizzling I decide to sit in the warm indoors and continue reading my newest bibliomystery.
2.30 VBD Books
Every week on a Thursday, the VBD (Virtual Book Display) books arrive at the Law Library – usually at 2.15pm on the dot! These are a selection of law-relevant legal deposit books that are chosen by the Information Resources Librarian. Once the books have been unpacked and brought back up to Information Resources, a number of spreadsheets need to be updated, and then the VBD books need to be processed. The size of the VBD book deliveries varies – sometimes there can be as few as five books and other times there can be over seventy!
I take a later break today because I find this keeps my energy up for the 5-7 evening shift.
4.00 Printing, Laminating and Book Processing
I print off and laminate the ‘New Publications by Oxford Authors’. I also fit in a bit of end-of-day book processing since there are some books on my desk that I need to expedite. This just means that the books need to be quickly processed (counted, stamped, tattled and labelled) usually for a scan, a reader, or so that the books can be shelved in the Reserve Collection.
4.45 Enquiry Desk Shift and MOYS
For avid readers of the blog, you might already be aware that the Law Library is undergoing a very large re-classification project. Essentially, we are re-classifying books from an old in-house classification system to MOYS – a classification system specifically designed to organise legal materials. With my sheet of 32 titles in hand, I head upstairs to the Jurisprudence section of the library and swap a shelf and a half worth of books with a small piece of paper telling readers where the books have disappeared off to.
I have an evening shift from 5-7 on Thursdays so, with my trolley, I head to the Enquiry Desk and work through the books I have temporarily taken from the shelves. I end my evening duty shift by ringing the library bell one final time to warn any straggling readers that the library is closing.
I head home – looking forward to finishing the last episode of the new season of His Dark Materials.
My day starts with a cycle into work and a quick change into library-suitable attire. Turtlenecks feature heavily.
8:00 Doors open
While the library is still pretty quiet I’ll see to turning on lights, printers and our self-checkout kiosk, straightening everything out and tidying away any books left out from the night before.
The library is open until 1am so I’ll also check the evening staff’s notebook to see if there’s anything they recorded that needs following up!
8: 15 Master of Tree Management
Over the festive period we have had a Christmas tree in the entrance hall of the library – it’s both an honour and a privilege to keep it fed and watered (well, mostly just watered). This task is one of my favourites. I do end up wearing quite a lot of pine needles, but I have simply made sure to plan outfits that go well with green accessories.
9:00 Enquiry desk
A staple of the job! This involves monitoring the library email for any updates for Aleph, our catalouging and circulation programme, overdue reminders, or people getting in touch about consulting books from our special collections. Must avoid spending too long looking at emails from Sotheby’s. That way madness lies, along with fantasising about a life in which I frequently buy rare vases at auction and cultivate my collection of modern art.
The desk is also a site for processing books and helping readers with any questions they might have. I secretly thrill at opportunities to find books for readers or, even better, use the ladders in our reading rooms when readers don’t fancy risking the climb. Talk about high-octane…
A corner stone of both life and the working day. I am blessed with some charming colleagues so tea often comes with both biscuits and a chat.
On sunnier days this room can be something of a suntrap! Such glorious weather feels a bit far away at the moment though…
I have noted a direct correlation between my degree of reclination on the tea-room sofa and time worked here. Some could argue I am getting a bit too comfortable.
One of the projects I’m working on here at Christ Church is a reclassification system overhaul. This consists of updating the shelf marks on our books from an in house roman numeral system to the more widely used Library of Congress system. A shelf mark is the notation on a book which tells you where it belongs – like library coordinates!
Right now, books will go back on the shelf where they came from when I’ve updated the shelf mark in the book and on our cataloguing system. I’m looking forward to the point when everything comes off the shelf for a reorganisation of biblical proportions.
I’m currently working on the linguistics part of our collection and finding some intriguing titles on my travels.
Words cannot express the beauty of the lunches at the staff canteen here. Bliss.
Sometimes followed by brisk stroll around Christ Church meadow in order to keep feast-induced sleepiness at bay.
Afternoons when I’m not on the desk can take many forms, but one project I’m chipping away at is a reshelving job in one of our storage spaces, called the Orangery. Now filled with books instead of oranges trees, it makes for a satisfying mission of putting the world to rights one book at a time where things have been mis-shelved in the past. Once again, I encounter many a delightful tome and have been enjoying collecting eccentric titles and beautiful cover foilings in my camera roll.
Finishing just before sunset in the winter is a blessing to be sure – from here I will slink off to enjoy the delights of Oxford at dusk which are many and varied, much like the delights of the Christ Church library!
The workday at the HFL starts at an oddly specific time, we get 18 minutes in the morning to ensure we have time to open up the library before 9:00. We might be asked to open upper camera, lower camera or the upper gladstone link. Today we’re a little short on staff so I tackle both lower and upper camera. I do a sweep of the rooms making sure all the computers, printers, and lights are switched on, and the library is ready for readers to use.
09:00-10:10 – Lapse
This morning I’m assigned to the “lapse list.” This is the list of items that readers have ordered up from the BSF that need to be sent back because their loan period is over. These items don’t leave the library and instead sit on our “self-collect shelves” so it’s the responsibility of the staff, not the readers, to return the books on time.
I print off the list. (This is not always a simple business, there are certain printers at the HFL with which I have a longstanding grudge.) Then, with the list and pencil in one hand and a book trolley in the other I make a start on the list.
The lapse is actually one of my favourite tasks as it gives me an opportunity to gain a little insight into our readers through their choice in literature. Some of my current favourite readers are the person who had a selection of cookery books from various cultures. The reader whose shelf is always filled with books on fairies, and the various readers with fantastic taste in comics. We’ve had some going through the Sandman series whilst another is making their way through Jane Foster’s run as Thor.
With all the books collected onto my trolley. I bring them back to the staff bay and scan them out ready to be returned to the BSF. Normally I would place them in our blue crates called ‘totes,’ but the only ones we have are full so instead I pile them up and let my manager know we might need to request some more crates.
10:10-10:30 – Break
It’s time for my break! First, I head to the staff common room to see if my card is working on the door yet. For some reason, this morning it wasn’t playing ball, but it works fine now so I pop inside and place my lunch in the fridge. Next, I grab a seat and send off a text to my sister who’s asking for some advice. I check the time. I have 10 minutes left, normally not enough time to read a chapter but my book at the moment is “Only on the weekends” by David Atta and written in verse so I settle down and have a quick read.
10:30-12:00 – Proscholium
It’s time for my shift on the Proscholium, the entrance to the Bodleian library. This week we have some construction work taking place on the north staircase so only 100 people (staff and readers) can be in the old Bodleian at once. For that reason, even I won’t be going above the ground floor of the Bodleian this week as technically I’m Radcliffe Camera staff. I can still man the entrance on the ground floor however, so for the next hour and a half, my job is to direct people to the reader entrance on the South staircase, and check passes for people who need to use the facilities on this staircase.
It certainly makes for an interesting shift on the Prosch as not everyone is entirely happy about the temporary rules and it’s tough keeping track of who should be where when, but I still have a little time to do some work on this post, a little admin for the trainee twitter, and work on my trainee project (at the moment that means sorting through some survey results)
12:00-13:00 – Lunch
Today I get the luxury of choosing whether to take my lunch at 12:00 or at 13:00 as I’m not scheduled for anything else until 14:00. Never known to be patient, I opt for the earlier choice and pop back into the staff common room to eat. After I finish my meal (last nights’ leftovers) I pack up my things and head out to Blackwell’s, conveniently found just a minutes’ walk from the Bod. I’m here to pick up a Japanese cookbook I’ve had my eye on. I collect the book, flash my staff card for that sweet 15% Bodleian staff discount and pay using one of my Christmas presents this year – a book token. It’s nice being able to run errands like this in my lunch break since the Bodleian is so close to the centre of town.
13:00-14:00 – Shelving
I return to the library and decide to spend my time until my shift on the Radcliffe Camera reception desk doing some shelving. During term we employ a team of dedicated shelvers to do this for us, but since reader numbers are much lower during the vacation, the everyday staff take up that burden.
Shelving is one of the most satisfying jobs a trainee can do in my humble opinion. There’s something soothing about putting books back in their rightful place! That’s not all there is to shelving however, there’s also a lot of making sure that shelves are neat and tidy, and books aren’t being damaged by the way we store them. Sometimes we might need to move a whole shelf or more of books to ensure there’s space where we need it.
14:00-15:30 – Reception
My second desk shift of the day, this time at the entrance to the Radcliffe Camera. With the Old Bod so restricted, extra tours are running through the Radcliffe Camera this week so I keep an eye out for large groups that need waving through. Other than that, however, reception shifts are often fairly peaceful, especially at this time of year. The most common issues to look out for are tourists trying to access the building and university members lending their cards to other people.
The Radcliffe Camera is a gorgeous building, so I do understand people’s desire to come and take a peek, but as it’s a working library we have to be strict about who can and cannot enter the building. Technically speaking, tourists shouldn’t even be coming past the gates outside, so I don’t feel quite so bad when I turn them away and I try to let them know about the guided tours they can book onto instead.
15:30-15:50 – Break
As my relief arrives at reception, I get to go on my second break of the day. It’s looking pretty miserable outside, so I decide to hunker down in a cosy corner and make some more progress with my book.
15:50-16:15 – Processing
I don’t have any set tasks for this afternoon so it’s up to me what I spend my time doing. I start by checking to see if there’s any book processing to do. There are two books on the shelf so I set about gathering the materials needed to process them. I know processing has been discussed many times on this blog, but as a quick recap: processing is everything we do to books we’ve purchased to make them ready to go on our shelves. This includes stickers, shelfmarks, tattle-tape and coverlon or jacket covers.
16:15-16:30 – Lapse (Part II)
I spot that with this afternoon’s delivery we received a whole set of new crates! I spend 15 minutes placing the books from this morning’s lapse list carefully into their new blue homes.
16:30-17:00 – Admin
For the last hour before home, I spend my time on the odd background tasks one tends to accumulate. I check my emails, write and edit this post, and then return to the spreadsheet I’m working on for my graduate trainee project. Time flies by and before I know it, it’s…
17:00 – Home
As the bells of St Mary’s start their hourly chime I log off, pack up, and head out. The evening team arrived about 15 minutes ago, so they’re primed and ready to go. With a quick wave to any colleagues still in the building I pop out to the High Street, ready to wait for my bus home.