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Emma Gregory, Sainsbury Library

Hi there! I’m Emma and I am the new trainee at the Sainsbury Library at the Saïd Business School.The Business School was opened in 2002, so the building and the library is one of the newest in Oxford. The Business School has two locations; Egrove Park and Park End, where I currently work.

At the Saïd Business School

The Business School offers a variety of courses in business, such as the MBA (Master of Business Administration), Law and Finance, Major Programme Management, and MFE (Master in  Financial Economics), to name a few. The library is split into two levels; the upper floor for silent study, and the lower floor (where the main library desk is) for a mixture of quiet study areas and group work spaces.

The Upper Reading Room

The library offers many textbooks on all areas of business, as well as several journals and a daily Financial Times. We also have a large number of databases that students can access to research different companies and their financial and economic data. The newer members of staff, myself included, are  currently undergoing training on these databases so that we can help students with their enquiries and research.

Some of the books we offer at the library

My days are really mixed and no two are the same! Here’s a quick overview of what I did yesterday:

8.45am – Arrive at work. Today, it’s my turn to set up the front desk for the day. I turn on the computer and the lights, check the photocopiers, re-shelve books that have been returned, and make sure the library is ready for our users.

9am – The day is split into two for the desk duty; the morning and afternoon shift. I usually work one of these a day. I’m working the morning shift today which is 9am to 1pm. The enquiry desk can be challenging at times, as I don’t always know the answers to the questions asked of me, but help is at hand! My colleagues are really patient and helpful, and I’m learning a lot from their answers and training. This morning I had enquiries about how to use the printing system, where to find particular books, and which databases were best to look at for researching different aspects of a certain company. We’ve recently finished welcoming this year’s under- and postgraduate students, so the library is pretty busy now.

1pm – Lunch time. The Saïd Business School has amazing facilities, lots of different options for lunch, and the students are well cared for by all the staff here. I have a free coffee every day too! Yum!

The Cafe offers a wide variety of snacks, and we also have a restaurant that provides hot and cold meals.

2pm – This afternoon, I received a new copy of the Economist and two other journals. As part of my role, it is my responsibility to prepare and process the journals so that they are ‘shelf – ready’. This involves registering the journals, attaching a bar code and preparing security labels for them. I then process the older copies and store them upstairs.

The Economist, one of our weekly journals.

3pm – The Saïd Business School is going through some re-branding so I’m working my way through changing the signs around the library. This week I’m working on changing the labels on the journal holders upstairs. I’m also going through them and making sure they’re all in the correct order.

Part of the re-branding involves me checking the journal labels upstairs.

4.30pm – Throughout the day I make sure all the books are correctly re-shelved and the library is looking tidy and suitable for our users.

5pm – Home time (already!). The days here zoom by for me. I feel like I blink and it’s the end of the day!

I love working here at the Sainsbury Library. It’s really modern with lots of green spaces available for both staff and students. When the weather permits, I like to sit outside for lunch and my breaks.

One of the courtyards around the Business School

I’m learning a lot about search techniques and understanding all the different databases that we have so that I can help the students the best way I can. The days are incredibly varied and I am encouraged and helped by my colleagues everyday. Everyone here has so much knowledge that they’re willing to pass on – I’m well looked after! I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year has in store for me!

One of the art installations around the School

Leanne Grainger, Christ Church Library

 

Hi! I’m Leanne, Christ Church Library‘s new Graduate Trainee. I have a background in Mathematics and Physics, and have moved to Oxford from Bristol where I had been a Postgraduate Researcher in Complexity Sciences. Over the past few years I had been finding that Academic research was not for me and started searching for careers I might enjoy. After doing numerous career quizzes, I found Academic Librarian and Public Librarian popping up as my top results. I have always loved books and reading, and I spent much of my childhood at my public library with my nose in a book or taking out as many books as I could! But that’s not really enough on it’s own to embark on such a career change – so I did some reading. From careers sites, job descriptions, to this very blog(!), I found myself really excited about making information accessible, maintaining the current and growing amount of information in the world and about how to approach the new challenge in the Library and Information Sector, of digital information.

The next step was to try it out and I began working as a Library Assistant at a Public Library;  Bristol Central Library. Here I fell in love with library work. I enjoyed the day-to-day tasks, I found assisting library users really rewarding and my colleagues were incredibly supportive and lovely. From there I wanted to continue to expand my experience and continue my journey to becoming an Information Professional. I am really excited and grateful to find myself working at Christ Church Library, and to be a part of the Bodleian Library Trainee Scheme which I know will do just that.

The Upper Library

Christ Church Library houses incredible Special Collections of rare books and manuscripts in its Upper Library. These collections are often consulted by Researchers from outside Oxford as well as within. The space itself is beautiful and still remains breathtaking to me. I have been awestruck to have come across first editions of Darwin’s Origin of Species, Newton’s Principia and Alice in Wonderland signed by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) himself, Queen Elizabeth I’s personal velvet covered Bible, a tiny 11th century manuscript Book of Psalms designed to be worn on a belt, and my absolute favourite – a pop-up human anatomy book from 1660! I’ll have the opportunity to work on a project involving the Special Collections over the coming year and I am interested to see what I’ll uncover!

View from my staff desk in the East Library

My time so far at the library has been fantastic and I felt a part of the team right away. It has included a big summer book move where we moved every single book in the modern collection (a very good way to get to know the books!), processing interesting new and donated books which are constantly arriving, and now that the students are back it’s gotten even busier and I have been making up welcome packs and showing them the library ropes. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the year, and I’ll be sure to add updates here as new and exciting things continue to happen at the library!

Sally Hamer, Wolfson College Library

Hello everyone. I’m Sally, and I am spending my Traineeship at Wolfson College. I am originally from Germany, but I moved to England five years ago to study History at the University of Essex. It was there that I initially thought I would aim to become an archivist. Over my time at Uni that goal became somewhat buried under the cumulative stress of studying and forging a path for myself, and I completely forgot this was something I had originally wanted to do. After my undergrad, I moved to Oxford and decided to pursue postgraduate study, settling on a Postgraduate Diploma in Anthropology from Oxford Brookes University. After the stressful last year I had had during my undergrad, my year at Brookes reawakened my passion for academic learning and the preservation of knowledge. This is when I realised that I wanted to work in Librarianship, and surround myself with the environments and people who had brought me so much joy while engaging with them.

I then undertook an internship at Magdalen College Library in order to find out whether Library work was really for me, and found that I loved everything about it. My supervisors there were incredibly kind and generous with their time and knowledge, and it is through their guidance that I arrived at Wolfson as part of the Bodleian Library Trainee Scheme.

The beautiful Wolfson grounds.
From the College website: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/colleges/wolfson-college

My team at Wolfson is very small, comprising only of me and the Librarian, and as such I essentially fulfill the role of Assistant Librarian. This suits me really well, as it means that I am entrusted with a fair amount of work and responsibility, while still being encouraged to engage as much as possible with any and all training opportunities that cross my path. In my first month here I have already attended talks on Open Access, assisted the Bodleian’s Education Librarian with teaching, and joined a Resource Workshop at the Social Sciences Library, alongside the official training sessions provided by the Bodleian. This is allowing me to gain a broad insight into Information and Library Sciences, and to understand what topics I am more interested in than others.

Our Jessup Reading Room.

Aside from my day-to-day tasks, I am largely responsible for project-managing the processing and storage of several large bequests made to the College, comprising several thousand books. It is my job to make sure these items are sent to external cataloging, then processed and stored at Wolfson. I understand that completing this project will take me the better part of my year here, as more books arrive from the external cataloging on a fortnightly basis for me to get on with as speedily as I can.
I’ll let you into a secret : this is my favourite job here at Wolfson! I find the processing of books very satisfying, and I get to have a look at dozens of fascinating volumes every day, so I could not be happier.

The boxes and shelves in my office holding items from bequests to the College waiting to be processed and shelved.

Wolfson is a Graduate College situated slightly outside the city centre, and as such benefits hugely from quiet roads and beautiful surroundings. Working at a Graduate College is wonderful, as everyone you engage with on a daily level is deeply committed and passionate about their research, making for highly interesting and varied conversation and engagement. Wolfson is committed to its values of community and egalitarianism, and I have definitely felt very welcome here. So far, I am really enjoying my time at Wolfson and at training with the other Trainees – I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring!

Katie Day, Taylor Institution Library


Me in the Enquiries Room

Hi everyone! I’m Katie, and I’m the new Graduate Library Trainee based at the Taylorian this year. I’ve only recently finished my Bachelor’s at the University of Chicago, where I’d been living for five years. I had some experience with the library work at UChicago, but confined to the Google Books Project rather than direct reader interactions, so my experience of work in the day-to-day ebb and flow of a library was pretty limited.

The Taylor Institution Library, or the Taylorian, as it’s also known, is on St. Giles, at kitty-corner with the Ashmolean, and the Sackler Library the next road over. It was established in 1845, when architect Sir Robert Taylor left a bequest for a centre for the study of modern European languages, which the university then placed in the east wing of the building built to house both the Taylor and the Randolph Galleries (which later became the Ashmolean); the library was officially opened in 1849.


Exterior of the Taylor Library in the early years

In 1938 there was an extension made along St. Giles’ in order to accommodate the increasing collections that had resulted from the official establishment in 1903 of the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, which have been centred around the Taylorian ever since. The latest growth of the library has been in the past five years, with its’ enveloping of the Slavonic and East European collections (previously housed in Wellington Square).

The Main Reading Room from the balcony

Here, amongst over 70,000 books, we now have both the Western and Eastern European languages collections, alongside the Slavonic collections and the collections for Linguistics, Film Studies, and Women’s Studies, all spread between over a dozen different cataloguing systems that have all grown on themselves. My previous library was all Library of Congress (LC), so learning them all has been rather a trial by fire! I’ve yet to get irreparably tangled, but I won’t get cocky just yet.

At the Taylorian, my tasks have been pretty split between the Circulation Desk on the ground floor (come say hello!) and the Enquiries Desk on the first, next to the Main Reading Room. Amongst many other tasks, so far I’ve processed the BSF (Book Storage Facility) deliveries from Swindon, processed incoming periodicals, prepped new DVDs for shelving, designed flyers for the new library tours, and (to my great excitement) gathered materials for an upcoming exhibition in the Voltaire Room on the White Rose group. All this alongside the day-to-day of the library, getting to know my co-workers and fellow trainees, and the group trainee training sessions out at Osney, where Bodleian departments like Staff Development, IT, etcetera, are based. There’s never been one day the same as the next yet, and now term has begun, that looks as though it will only continue. So far I’ve been having a wonderful time; here’s looking forward to a great rest of the year.

Emmy Ingle, Lady Margaret Hall Library

Me in the very intriguing Briggs Room, where the rare books live.

Hello, I’m Emmy and I’m the current graduate trainee at Lady Margaret Hall Library, one of the college libraries. For my first post, I thought I’d give an introduction to how our library and its unique personality fit into the 100+ Oxford libraries. I’ll also tell you a bit about my own interests and experiences within libraries and information, which are a little different from an academic library.

‘Filled with volumes of every kind, handsomely bound without, and full of useful learning within…’

 

…is how an early student described the original LMH library. It’s large for a college library, and there is a historical reason for this. LMH was founded in 1878 to allow women to study at the university; previously, colleges only admitted men. Early LMH students were heavily discouraged from visiting the Bodleian Library (where they might encounter boys!) and consequently they relied on a comprehensively stocked college library. One of the things I like about the college is how they continue their history of access and inclusivity, for example through the Foundation Year programme.

1879: the college’s first nine students. [Source: LMH]

This slightly larger collection includes  a rare books room (having lived surrounded by the history of the Pendle Witches for the last few years, I’m excited to meet the witchcraft books). However, we’re still smaller than the faculty libraries, and being part of a small team means I get to do a bit of everything – from the expected (turning the photocopier off and on again) to the more surprising (competing on the library’s Giant Jenga team and definitely not cheating).

LMH Library from across the wildflower meadow.

So how did I end up here? Saturday afternoons spent helping out at my local Sue Ryder shop were my introduction to systematising written materials: sipping tea in the stock room, I’d sort bin bags of dusty-smelling books into alphabetised piles. Later, I became interested in the information side of things. Between university lectures I volunteered with the student charity Sexpression:UK, who facilitate workshops in schools around PSHE topics. This made me reflect on where the young people I was working with sourced knowledge and information, and how they were (or weren’t) being encouraged to evaluate it.

Having developed this interest in information in health contexts, I looked for some work experience with Library and Knowledge Services at my local NHS trust. Besides trying out shelving, the label machine, and other more traditional library activities, a clinical setting presents more unusual opportunities. I found myself testing wet-wipes with nurses, learning my way around a forest plot, and listing as many synonyms as I could find for ‘hip operation’. Healthcare knowledge and information is an area I’m hoping to become involved in following the traineeship, so I’ll probably talk a bit more about what this entails in another post.

Freddy doing a bit of shelving.

Having looked at the past and the future, I’ll leave you with what’s currently going on in the library at this time of year. Students are about to resume their studies. This means there are inductions to prepare (which may involve jelly beans and our resident skeleton, Freddy) and the latest textbooks to process. Meanwhile, the library pages in my notebook are already filling up with events, meetings and scribbled ideas. I’m looking forward to sharing them on here as they happen.

 

 

Jenna Meek, Bodleian Law Library

Me! In front of our exhibition celebrating 100 years of votes for women. Photographed by Hannah Chandler (Official Papers Librarian), @thelawbod

Hello! I’m Jenna, and I will be spending my traineeship in the Bodleian Law Library. I am originally from a town in central Scotland, and have spent the last 6 years in Glasgow where I completed my degree in English Literature and History of Art at the University of Glasgow. While I have not travelled the furthest for the traineeship, as we have a few trainees from mainland Europe doing placements with us, Oxford certainly feels like a far cry from Glasgow! Most notably, having only experienced a blend of a city and campus university in Glasgow, getting my head around the collegiate system in Oxford has been difficult. Something I am coming to realise is that Oxford likes to do things VERY differently in many respects!

I was so pleased and grateful to have been offered a place on the traineeship, but also slightly intimidated! I have no previous professional experience of working in a library, but became very familiar with my university library spending (literally) every day there during my final year. I do, however, have around 8 years of customer service and retail experience which I think will come in extremely useful when on the enquiry desk and interacting with such a varied pool of readers in a library as busy as the BLL. Secondly, it was advised that it would be preferable if the BLL trainee had a decent grasp of a few languages, which thankfully I do. This has come in very useful when completing one of my integral tasks of organizing the weekly New Journal Display which boasts many foreign language texts. However, it had not aided when trying to decide which page is the title page when processing a text written in Chinese characters!

While the BLL interior seems very new after having a refurbishment in the last few years, the building itself was built in 1959-1964. As Bryony has stated below, it shares the St. Cross Building with the EFL and the Law Faculty and creates a series of three interlocking cubes. It has a very different feel from many of the college libraries dotted around Oxford, though it has definitely been built for purpose, with four floors of space for the 550,000 texts the Law Bod holds which are mainly on open access. Designed by Sir Leslie Martin (1908-2000) and Colin St John Wilson (1922-2007), the blocky exterior is juxtaposed with the light and airy atrium in the main reading room. Jeffrey Hackney, who was a law student at Wadham College when the building opened, describes:

“My first reaction to the building was that it had been modelled on an Aztec temple and it was a constant source of pleasant surprise that there were no human sacrifices at the top of the steps. “

However, during the exam period, I imagine many students are in as much terror and as helpless as the sacrificial lamb! In actual fact, Ruth Bird, (Bodleian Law Librarian 2004 – 2017) advises that there is notable influence from Alvar Aalto’s Säynätsalo Hall, and the external brick cladding intended to blend with the stone of the adjacent Holywell manor and St Cross Church.

The BLL in 1964: Donat, John, Bodleian Law Library, St Cross Building, University of Oxford, Photoprint, 1964, RIBA Collections

Säynätsalo Hall: Accessed September 2018, https://museot.fi/searchmuseums/?museo_id=9147

One of the most interesting parts of my introductory weeks has been seeing the Official Papers holdings in rolling stacks on the ground floor. 2.5 linear kilometres of texts were moved from the basement of the Radcliffe Building to the Law Bod in 2009. Seeing reports and materials that have changed laws and the lives of people living in the UK has been a real treat and I’m hoping to do a blog post on some of the most interesting finds in the near future.

At the end of my third week, I have already learned SO much and I can’t wait to continue learning and gaining new skills from the extremely helpful teams housed in the BLL, as well as training alongside all the lovely trainees on the scheme. So far I’m not feeling the terror the sacrificial lamb, but I’ll get back to you on that once the mass of undergraduates start in a couple of weeks!

References:

Hackney, Jeffrey in Ed. Bird, Ruth, Celebrating 50 Years of the Bodleian Law Library 1964 – 2014, Witney, Oxfordshire: Windrush Group, 2014, p.5

Ibid., p.138

University of Oxford, The Faculty of Law, Accessed: September 2018, https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/about-us/about-faculty/st-cross-building

Bryony Davies, English Faculty Library

Hi, I’m Bryony and I am the graduate trainee based at the English Faculty Library this year. I have just finished my MA in Classics & Ancient History at Durham University, where I have been based on and off since 2013 – living down south again has taken some getting used to! While at Durham I spent some time volunteering in the Classics Department Library, but other than that I am very new to the world of Librarianship.

Myself alongside our lovely bust of Tolkien – at the EFL we very much embrace hobbit dining culture… elevenses and afternoon tea breaks are very much encouraged!

The English Faculty Library can be found in the St. Cross Building on the corner of Manor Road. It shares the building with the Bodleian Law Library, and is also just around the corner from The Social Science Library so I can wave to my fellow trainees there on my way in to work. The English Faculty Library was founded in 1914 and functions primarily to serve all those reading and teaching English at Oxford, alongside other readers needing to access the collections held here. The Library holds over 110,000 volumes and subscribes to around 80 current print journals. The collection is catalogued on SOLO, and the majority of the books, except for those in our special collections, are available for loan to registered borrowers. Our special collections consist of the Wilfred Owen Collection, Pre – 1850 Collection, the Napier Collection, the Icelandic Collections, and the Meyerstein Collection.

Two of my favourite items so far in our special collections – an 1895 William Morris edition of Beowulf and our copy of The Elizabethan Zoo: A book of Beasts both Fabulous and Authentic.

So far no one day has been the same here. My duties range from staffing the issue desk, processing new books, processing new DVDs, periodicals management, managing and processing BSF material, banking, PCAS maintenance, creating displays, finding missing books, handling the post, social media (follow us on Instagram: @EFLOXF …. apologies for the shameless plug), shelving, minor book repairs and attending training sessions with the other trainees. The variety of tasks and jobs certainly keeps me on my toes, there is never a dull moment here that’s for sure.

Some books recently sent to repair that were subjected to my version of spinal surgery….

Although I am still only a few weeks in I already feel at home here at the EFL. Everyone here has been so welcoming and helpful, I can’t wait for what the rest of this year has in store.

Ross Jones, History Faculty Library

Hi! My name is Ross and I am this year’s graduate trainee at the History Faculty Library, though I’m not entirely new to the Bodleian Libraries experience. Last year, I returned from China to complete a part-time graduate programme in Historical Studies at the Department of Continuing Education here in Oxford. As I was quick to find out, the faculty library would be the first port of call for many of my research queries and most of the resources I’d need to complete my course.

The Radcliffe Camera and Gladstone Link

Situated in the Radcliffe Camera and parts of the Gladstone Link below, the History Faculty Library is an interesting example of an embedded library in the sense that it shares the space with another much larger library (the Old Bodleian Library) and is encompassed by a complex of historic buildings that make up the ‘central site‘. Occupying such a unique location means the ‘HFL’ enjoys an eclectic and beautifully eccentric mix of architectural features across its four floors, with stunning views over Radcliffe Square to boot.  Henry James’ quote about the peculiar air of Oxford really hit home when I walked inside; I immediately fell in love with the space and found myself wanting to spend as much time there as possible. So began a career with the Bodleian Libraries.

“the peculiar air of Oxford—the air of liberty to care for the things of the mind assured and secured by machinery which is in itself a satisfaction to sense.”          – Henry James, English Hours

Initially working as a shelving assistant, I eventually found myself involved with a veritable miscellany of library tasks. I processed incoming acquisitions, assisted with a book move at the Wellcome Unit, covered evening shifts and took an additional weekend job at the Sackler Library. It was through these experiences, and an increasingly large network of colleagues, that I became aware of the Graduate Trainee Scheme. I jumped at the opportunity. For me, the traineeship represented a chance to receive a more comprehensive grounding in a library-related profession, one that would hopefully contextualise my part-time experiences and provide a preliminary framework for studying an MA in Information and Library Studies.

Although it is still early days, I certainly feel that the traineeship is shaping up to be far more than just that. Less than a fortnight into our year-long programme, I along with my fellow trainees have been introduced to Oxford University’s discovery tools, library management systems, staff development programmes and support networks; whilst a varied workload with duties ranging from the routine to the bizarre (dissuading a tourist from flying a drone over the Camera!) has filled the time in-between.

But the icing on this splendid albeit busy cake has been the people I’ve met so far. Twenty one of us make up this year’s trainee cohort (college trainees included), and we have shared some of our introductory sessions with three foreign-placement students as well. A truly multi-national and friendly bunch, it has been fascinating hearing about past professional experiences and future plans from people who share my passion for libraries. As the year progresses, I am eager to learn how the operational and logistical challenges facing their libraries differ from my own.

Casting the net a little wider, I feel those colleagues I have come into contact with across the entirety of the Bodleian Libraries have also been very welcoming. Course Directors, Line-managers, Subject Librarians, Reader Services and Technical Services Staff have explained procedures, clarified any issues and gone to great lengths to ensure I’ve landed on my feet. I am grateful for their support and the opportunities afforded me by the Libraries.

 

References:
James, Henry, and Pennell, Joseph. English Hours. William Heinemann, 1905.

 

Welcome to our new trainees!

2018-19 TraineesWe welcomed our new 2018-19 trainees to Oxford last week and we have 20 trainees this year. Eleven of our trainees are based in the Bodleian Libraries, 8 in our colleges and we have 1 Digital Archives trainees. Wolfson College has recruited a trainee this year and is looking forward to being part of the scheme. They have a packed training programme this term to get them up to speed with the skills and knowledge they need for the start of Michaelmas Term. They are looking forward to their tour of the Bodleian and drinks in the Divinity School this week where Chris Fletcher,  Keeper of Special Collections, will welcome them to the libraries.

Our trainees will be introducing themselves on the trainee blog over the next week or two, so do follow their progress throughout the year. Do say hello if you happen to spot any of them. We wish them a happy and successful year with us in Oxford!

A Visit to Four Libraries in London

During the college’s Easter Break, I was fortunate enough to be able to arrange visits to some libraries that focus on the topics of military history and international affairs at four different institutions in London. Three of these institutions (RUSI, IISS, and Chatham House) are independent think tanks, whilst the other is a Private Members Club. As I had come to Oxford whilst completing my MSc in Security Studies, I was particularly eager to explore these libraries with which I felt an academic affinity.

RUSI
My first visit was to the Library of Military History at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a defense and security think tank established in 1831 with the Duke of Wellington as the founding patron. This library focuses primarily on military history and has some fantastic rare books and modern manuscripts that are unique in the U.K. RUSI’s Librarian, Jacqui Grainger, guided me round the building and explained how the library works at RUSI. The architecture of the library is amazing, and it was a real treat to see some of RUSI’s most prized holdings. Jacqui’s role, however, does not end just with books and printed material but also covers the art and artifacts that decorate the walls and rooms of RUSI. This was particularly interesting, as it has parallels with some of the duties a College Librarian may be required to undertake.

I found it incredibly useful talking to Jacqui about collection management, and the challenges that a library like RUSI’s faces. As the photo above shows, RUSI’s shelves are nearly full and if the library’s goal were to collect material covering future events then it would require much more space – possibly even including off-site storage. Therefore, difficult decisions need to be made: does the library attempt to comprehensively cover all future military developments, or does it focus on developing its historic collections and material relevant to its study. This brought to mind the collections decisions made with regards to Jesus College’s Celtic Library, and was a good demonstration of the challenges of collection management that are not always apparent to library users.

IISS
Next, I visited the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS). Established in 1958 with a primary emphasis on nuclear deterrence and arms control, the IISS also operates offices in Washington, Bahrain and Singapore. I was met by Kevin Jewell, IISS’s Head of Knowledge and Information Services, who explained how the IISS library has moved away from its previous role as traditional lending service and more towards information management. The library still has a core collection of books, though the emphasis is now on how it can actively support the researchers and their work. Given that the IISS employs researchers around the globe, it is perhaps unsurprising that the management of electronic resources has become increasingly more relevant.

Kevin showed me some of the strategies and tools they use to collate publicly available information and the methods they use to present this information to the staff in a relevant and easily accessible way. He also highlighted how the library signposts electronic resources (and more importantly how to access them), and Graham Ivory, the IISS’s Information Specialist, demonstrated how incredibly useful a well-designed intranet can be to supporting a group’s aims. He explained that not only is content important, but also how a clear and easy to navigate layout is vital to encourage users to make the most of the resources provided. This was very useful as it made me consider design from a user’s point of view: what features would make me more or less likely to interact with the environment?

However, printed material still plays an important role. Hilary Morris, the IISS’ Librarian, showed me how they are making a determined effort to collect material relevant to the IISS’ history in their archive, and the challenges that preserving these sources presents. Seeing these documents that stretch back to the IISS’ foundation was fascinating (especially considering how the IISS is approaching its 60th anniversary) and they will no doubt be hugely significant for future researchers. Having seen the importance of these archival documents, I was made aware just how vital strategies for collecting current electronic documents are, so it was interesting to hear how the IISS intends to tackle this issue.

Chatham House
My next destination was Chatham House, more formally known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Formed in 1920, this think tank focuses its attention on the world’s major international issues. Chatham House was, in a sense, the most ‘traditional’ of the libraries I visited. With a dual focus of supporting their research staff as well as its members (who range from students to retired professionals), the Chatham House library is very active in its collection of relevant books and journals. Talking to Binni Brynolf, the Digital Resources Librarian, gave me a really good impression of the library’s function and how it has adapted to meet its users’ needs. Due to size of their collection, only the most recent publications (i.e. within the last 15 years) are kept on site; the rest is stored off-site and must be called-up. This immediately made me think of the Bodleian’s Book Storage Facility in Swindon, and it was fascinating to hear how they deal with book requests. Having just helped plan the move of Jesus College’s lesser-used Celtic journals to an on-site storage space, I could well appreciate all the forethought required when preparing for off-site storage!

I really enjoyed learning about the library’s management system, and comparing it to what I am used to at Oxford. Due to the different scales of the libraries, both have different needs so it was interesting listening to Binni describe what system suits a specialist library like Chatham House. I was even more intrigued to learn about ebooks, and what role they may play in the future. Ebooks are not currently a big feature of Chatham House’s library, but a lot of thought is being given as to whether the advantages of these electronic resources would justify the (not insignificant) cost. Not all ebooks are created equal, and some texts are better suited than others are; consequently, it is really interesting to see how things will develop!

The Army & Navy Club
My final visit was to the library at the Army & Navy Club, a.k.a. ‘The Rag’. Unlike the other three libraries I visited, the Army & Navy Club is a Private Members Club with strong historic links with the British and Commonwealth Armed Services. As the library is for the members to borrow at their leisure, it does not need to be as comprehensive as a research library, nor does it require that the members have access to online resources. Yet even a cursory glance as the shelves reveals a wealth of interesting titles on military history that would well match the members’ interests.

I found talking to Jane Branfield, the Club’s Librarian who is a professional archivist by training, about her role and career progression incredibly useful. Her experiences made me realize that certain roles require the ability to balance many different skills. Furthermore, Jane explained how prior experiences in one role, such as creating a database on generals in a military archive, could easily translate into different areas, such as working on a project detailing historic barristers for the Inner Temple. The main lesson I took away was to take up different opportunities as they arise, even if they seem removed from what might be considered the core duties of a librarian; you never know when you may need to call upon different skills and experiences in future jobs.

Final Thoughts
Though similar in thematic content, each of the libraries felt different and unique, and each displayed real-world practices and challenges that we have been learning about on the Trainee Programme. A particular theme that ran through my visits was the importance of preserving archival material. Some places had inherited an abundance of material, whereas in others the gathering of material (much of which may have already been lost) was very much a current concern. However, all were deeply aware of the issues of what will happen now so much of our working lives are enacted digitally. What was once an easily filed letter is now an intangible email, and so without any intervention much useful material may be forever lost to future researchers. This is a particular point that we have learnt about at the Bodleian, so it was fascinating to see that these issues in settings external to Oxford.

I would like to say a huge thank you to Jacqui from RUSI, Kevin, Graham and Hilary from the IISS, Binni from Chatham House, and Jane from the Army and Navy Club for all the time they spent explaining their work to me and for giving me such a great insight into their libraries. The information and advice everyone gave me was invaluable, and will be a huge help to me as I plan my future career in librarianship.