I’ve said on previous occasions that the Bodleian is as much a museum as it is a library, with its ancient and delicate collections being the main exhibit. However, the buildings that constitute the Bodleian are themselves of great historical interest. Recently I found this out for myself when I volunteered my services as a tour guide to the Historic Venues Team. Although the Bodleian possesses a core team of paid staff who deal with tourists visiting the site, many of the guides are unpaid volunteers who do it as a labour of love. I saw this as an opportunity to combine my knowledge and skills as a librarian with my passionate interest in history. So, over the last few weeks, I have been giving tours on weekends to groups of interested visitors, eager to learn more about one of the biggest and oldest English language libraries in the world. I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I have decided to continue giving tours until I leave my job at the beginning of August.
I thought I would blog about this because I now wish that I had discovered the volunteer scheme sooner: I hope this post will alert future graduate trainees (and maybe other OU librarians) to its existence. Not only do you learn a great deal about the Bodleian’s history but you get really valuable practice at public speaking as well: this is a key skill but not one that is really developed by any library training courses. It can also be enormous fun, as I am sure the slightly tipsy group of seniors I had to show around last weekend would agree!